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Curricular Goals and pedagogy


  1. The aims of this document
  2. watch Helen and Lindsay explain our Curricular Goals
  3. The aims of our curricular goals
  4. How we teach and children learn - our pedagogy
  5. What children will experience
  6. What are our curricular goals?
  7. Why we teach this way
  8. Read the research

2-, 3- and 4-year-old ‘Curricular Goals’ and assessment

November 2022

Fourth edition

The aims of this document

Following the publication of the new EYFS guidance and Development Matters document in September 2021, FANS (Church Hill and Low Hall Nursery Schools) took the opportunity to look at the skills and knowledge we think the children in our nursery schools need to learn by the time they leave us for primary school, and the learning behaviours we can encourage them to develop in their short time with us to help them to become lifelong learners. We developed this document as a staff team using our wide expertise. We have revisited it over the year 2021-22 as well as in our September 2022 INSET, to ensure that we are assessing learning in a meaningful way for our children. We developed these ideas in partnership with other maintained nursery schools, in particular Sheringham Nursery School and Barnet Early Years Alliance, who have kindly shared their processes and thoughtful work around their curriculum and assessment. We have based this document on some of the practice we have seen when working together with them, but refined it for our schools to support the specific needs of our children.

Watch this video of Helen and Lindsay explaining about our Curricular Goals:

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The aims of our curricular goals

We have a clear intent for children as they leave our schools. These Curricular Goals have been created as an example of what a typical 3-year-old (leaving our 2-year-old settings) and 4-year-old will have learnt through our play-based curriculum, which is delivered through high-quality adult interactions and focused activities. It is a part of what we teach children, not all of our curriculum. We recognise that all children develop at different rates: some will take longer to develop these skills and may need extra support to do so. Some will exceed our expectations and work at greater depth during these activities. All children will be taught from their starting point, making progress from their beginnings. Our Curricular Goals are not the only experiences children will have in their time with us, but give us, their families and their transitioning primary schools a good indication of how they learn and when they developed these skills. Each Curricular Goal is based on the statements for 2-, 3- and 4-year olds from Development Matters 2021. For SEND children we plan achievable SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) targets as part of the support that they receive at FANS, and this is reported directly to their parents in regular meetings.

Recording each child’s progress will help us to plan for children from their interests and individual starting points. Each Key Person will reflect upon how much the milestone statements represent each child’s learning. They will note a date relating to the consecutive numbers in each milestone description when each child was working at this point; the first number symbolising that children are just beginning to display this learning, the median showing that children are doing this with help, and the last number signifying that this statement describes their learning well. Leaders will then collate this information so we can see who needs further support or experiences, and who will benefit from extension activities, working at greater depth in an area. Each child’s Key Person will also create a Special Book to record significant observations and collect drawings, stories and photographic evidence to build a picture of each child and their interests, skills, and learning development. From September 2022, families receive a termly email with a collation of statements of what their child is able to do in each Curricular Goal. This information will be discussed with the child’s Key Person. At the end of the year this will form a transition report which combines this information with a Key Person’s statement talking about the child’s interests and learning behaviours.

Leaders at FANs will measure the success of this in a number of ways:

By discussing the progress of groups of children to ensure everyone is making good progress from their starting points; by working with individual Key People to ensure they are planning for all their Key Children; through staff meetings when we plan for individual children and groups; by using the SSTEW (Sustained Shared Thinking and Emotional Well-Being) and ECERS (Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale) rating scales to make sure our practice and provision is the best it can be; by working with governors through learning walks and reports to committees; and most importantly, by listening and talking to our children about what they like and to our families about their experiences of our nursery schools. This information is collated on our School Development Plan, in the Executive Headteacher’s report to the Full Governing Body, and on the Self Evaluation Form for Ofsted.

What we assess when

How we teach and children learn - our pedagogy

What children will experience

What are our curricular goals?

 for 2-3-year-olds:

I have some favourite stories
I enjoy the company of other children
I can manage my body on low-level climbing equipment
I explore construction kits.

for 3-4-year-olds:

I can share my stories with others.
I can negotiate with my friends to resolve issues, bouncing back from challenging situations.
I can use big climbing equipment confidently while managing risks independently and safely.
I can make a model out of self-selected resources.
I can write two or more letters from my name.
I can follow a recipe.
I can make a family tree, talking about my family.
I can create music, dances, or songs independently.

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Why we teach this way

Pedagogy relates to the “how”, or practice of educating. It refers to:

that set of instructional techniques and strategies which enable learning to take place and provide opportunities for the acquisition of knowledge, skills, attitudes and dispositions within a particular social and material context. It refers to the interactive process between teacher and learner and to the learning environment. (Siraj-Blatchford et al. 2002)

It concerns the “how” of adult and child interaction, whilst recognising that how children learn and develop at this stage is not just subject to what is intended to be taught, but that it is also of particular importance how it is facilitated. Research has shown these interactions and experiences are one of the most significant factors explaining the effects of care and early education on children’s learning and development.

Certain pedagogical practices can better stimulate children’s development:

  1. Firstly, research suggests that the quality of interactions between adults and children plays a highly important role in stimulating early learning. In high-quality interactions, adults are genuinely interested in what the child is doing; adults are listening, are extending children's thoughts and knowledge (i.e. scaffolding), and implement sustained shared thinking methods where children co-construct meanings and interpretations of reality together with supportive adults. In settings where sustained shared thinking was enacted more frequently, children have been noted to make greater developmental progress. Scaffolding-focused learning environments, where the practitioner only attempts to help the child with tasks that are just beyond the child’s current capability, demonstrated greater overall positive effects on children’s development compared to children placed in more teacher-directed and child-centred environments.
  2. Secondly, play-based learning is found to be a highly effective method in enhancing children’s socio-emotional and academic development. Play has found to contribute most to a child’s development when it is regarded as meaningful, i.e. has the explicit purpose for a child to learn something such as a puzzle or constructional materials. Research indicates that unguided free play is often less effective in stimulating early learning as compared to guided free play.
  3. Different research findings suggest that, thirdly, pedagogy should neither be too staff-directed or staff-focused with a high share of staff-initiated activities, nor too child-centred where children decide on the activities. While studies on staff-directed approaches have revealed some advantages such as better letter and reading achievement, this approach negatively affects children's motivation to learn.

Read the research

Pedagogy in early childhood education and care (ECEC): an international comparative study of approaches and policies’ July 2015 Stephanie Wall, consultant, Ineke Litjens, OECD Miho Taguma, OECD, Published by the Department of Education

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