St Mary's School

Early Years – Nursery & Reception

Private Girls Nursery & Reception in Hampstead

At St Mary’s School, we have 3 classes in our Early Years Foundation Stage Department (EYFS).

Within the EYFS Department, we see the children as individuals. They learn at their own pace through extremely well-planned, focussed and purposeful planned play. As a school, we firmly believe that the foundations for learning are embedded from this early age. With the support of parents and carers, the children will flourish as they move through the School.

Explorers (Pre-Nursery and Nursery)
Explorers are for our Pre-Nursery and Nursery age children. Here, the timetable is flexible. The children access our programme according to their needs and stages of development and learning. Learning through well-planned, purposeful play is key in our Explorer rooms along with adult-led and child-initiated activities. We build these activities around the EYFS Prime areas of Learning and Development initially. As the year progresses, the EYFS team includes Specific areas of learning and development.

We offer two Reception classes for girls aged 4 years to 5 years. In our Reception classes, we provide the children with many purposeful play opportunities. But, the day is more structured with a mix of whole class, small group and individual activities in preparation for Year 1. These are planned around the seven areas of learning and development as detailed below.

The Early Years Department is extremely well-resourced. The EYFS Department includes different learning environments, experienced and highly qualified staff and access to specialist staff. The children have many exciting opportunities to experience the seven areas of learning and development from the EYFS Curriculum. We adjust these to meet the needs of the individual child or groups of children.

Within the Early Years Foundation Stage, we split the seven areas of learning and development into Prime and Specific:


  • Personal, social and emotional development
  • Communication and language
  • Physical development
  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Understanding the world
  • Expressive arts and design

Below is a brief overview of the new Educational Programmes of Study for EYFS:

Personal and social development – Children’s personal, social and emotional development (PSED) is crucial for children to lead healthy and happy lives. This is also fundamental to their cognitive development. Underpinning their personal development are the important attachments that shape their social world. Strong, warm and supportive relationships with adults enable children to learn how to understand their own feelings and those of others. Children should be supported to manage emotions, develop a positive sense of self, set themselves simple goals, have confidence in their own abilities, persist and wait for what they want and direct attention as necessary. Through adult modelling and guidance, they will learn how to look after their bodies. This includes healthy eating and managing personal needs independently. Through supported interaction with other children, they learn how to make good friendships, co-operate and resolve conflicts peaceably. These attributes will provide a secure platform from which children can achieve at school and in later life.
Communication and language – The development of children’s spoken language underpins all seven areas of learning and development. Children’s back-and-forth interactions from an early age form the foundations for language and cognitive development. The number and quality of the conversations they have with adults and peers throughout the day in a language-rich environment are crucial. Practitioners build children’s language effectively by commenting on what children are interested in or doing, and echoing back what they say with new vocabulary added. Reading frequently to children and engaging them actively in stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems will give children the opportunity to thrive. And, providing them with extensive opportunities to use and embed new words in a range of contexts is crucial. Conversation, storytelling and role play, where children share their ideas with support and modelling from their teacher are all encouraged. Sensitive questioning invites them to elaborate and children become comfortable using a rich range of vocabulary and language structures.
Physical development – Physical activity is vital in children’s all-round development, enabling them to pursue happy, healthy and active lives. Gross and fine motor experiences develop incrementally throughout early childhood. Starting with sensory explorations and the development of a child’s strength, co-ordination and positional awareness through tummy time, crawling and play movement with both objects and adults are encouraged. By creating games and providing opportunities for play both indoors and outdoors, adults can support children to develop their core strength, stability, balance, spatial awareness, co-ordination and agility. Gross motor skills provide the foundation for developing healthy bodies and social and emotional well-being. Fine motor control and precision will help with hand-eye co-ordination which is later linked to early literacy. Repeated and varied opportunities to explore and play with small world activities, puzzles, arts and crafts and the practice of using small tools, with feedback and support from adults, allow children to develop proficiency, control and confidence.
Literacy – It is crucial for children to develop a life-long love of reading. Reading consists of two dimensions: language comprehension and word reading. Language comprehension (necessary for both reading and writing) starts from birth. It only develops when adults talk with children about the world around them, read books (stories and non-fiction) with them, and enjoy rhymes, poems and songs together. Skilled word reading, taught later, involves both the speedy working out of the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) and the speedy recognition of familiar printed words. Writing involves transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech, before writing).
Mathematics – Developing a solid grounding in numbers is essential. Our aim is that the children develop the necessary building blocks to excel mathematically. Children should be able to count confidently, and develop a deep understanding of the numbers 1 to 10, the relationships between them and the patterns within those numbers. By providing frequent and varied opportunities to build and apply this understanding – such as using manipulatives, including small pebbles and ten-frames for organising counting – children develop a secure base of knowledge and vocabulary from which mastery of mathematics is built. In addition, it is important that the curriculum includes rich opportunities for children to develop their spatial reasoning skills across all areas of mathematics. This includes shape, space and measures. It is important that children develop positive attitudes and interests in mathematics, look for patterns and relationships, spot connections, ‘have a go’, talk to adults and peers about what they notice and not be afraid to make mistakes.
Understanding the world – Understanding the world involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community. The frequency and range of children’s personal experiences increase their knowledge and sense of the world around them. From visiting parks, libraries and museums to meeting important members of society, such as police officers, nurses and firefighters. In addition, listening to a broad selection of stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems will foster their understanding of our culturally, socially, technologically and ecologically diverse world. As well as building important knowledge, this extends their familiarity with words that support understanding across domains. Enriching and widening children’s vocabulary will support later reading comprehension.
Expressive arts and design – The development of children’s artistic and cultural awareness supports their imagination and creativity. It is important that children have regular opportunities to engage with the arts, enabling them to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials. The quality and variety of what children see, hear and participate in are crucial for developing their understanding, self-expression, vocabulary and ability to communicate. The frequency, repetition and depth of their experiences are fundamental to their progress in interpreting and appreciating what they hear, respond to and observe.

The best way to see what we have to offer in the Early Years Foundation Stage is to plan a visit to the School. We look forward to meeting you and your child.