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Our Approach

#325 Developing literacy and numeracy teaching in an EY setting – Nature Den Nursery

Crystal Stanley

What did we do?

As an Early Years Implementation Lead, I initially spent time collating information and evidence to accurately diagnose the specific challenges to children’s literacy & numeracy development, within my EY setting. Throughout this process I observed the children, colleagues and daily practice within the room. I reviewed our tracker information to identify areas that we could improve to further support children’s maths and literacy skills. I produced questionnaires for staff measuring their numeracy and literacy teaching confidence levels, to create a baseline to help measure progress throughout the project. This highlighted the following:

  • Staff’s lack of confidence and own knowledge of how to implement Mathematics within Early Years
  • Staff using limited and repetitive Mathematical language and staff not always recognising when there are opportunities to support mathematical learning working with the child or the environment. Mathematics present either from the child or within the learning environment. Witnessed through observations
  • Children’s tracking progress and attainment – the vast majority of children were in the expected or exceeding band at the end of summer term July 2021. However, there was small percentage that were emerging. These are the children that we need to support and to help narrow the gap and prevent that percentage by the end of next summer term, particularly EYPP in maths.
  • We need extend the range of genres in literacy to meet the requirements of the new ELG to teach a range of literacy and not just popular children’s stories – poems, rhymes etc.
  • We need to implement and extend activities and improve children’s learning outcomes by challenging their thinking by providing new and exciting awe and wonder play around mathematics and literacy
  • To extend home learning opportunities in both areas to make parents more aware of our expectations around mathematics and literacy and to improve their own confidence in teaching their children.

Based on this evidence, I wrote and redrafted a Securing Achievement action plan with feedback from an Evidence Lead in Education, based within the local Research School. I put this action plan into practice in the setting which included:

  • EYIL to research appropriate and extensive training opportunities via Suffolk CPD and Noodle Now
  • Peer observations to focus on maths and literacy for the next 2 terms
  • EYIL to run the next available staff meeting to introduce this plan and the focuses
  • EYIL to research and purchase appropriate resources to support this project
  • EYIL to identify (half termly) alongside key persons, tracking data, Wellcomm assessments etc who needs extra support and run intervention groups in both maths and literacy on a Mondays – Wednesdays.
  • All staff to give children maths and literacy opportunities within their group times daily
  • Staff to hold professional discussions with their colleagues to challenge their thinking around maths and literacy and to reflect – EYIL to lead, role model and allow time for staff to do this
  • The EYIL will support staff with their activities, carry out peer observations and offer any training and support necessary.
  • The EYIL will lead on supporting families with home learning and improving their confidence and skills plus intervention groups.
  • Staff will complete maths training and literacy training to help guide the earning opportunities that they provide children but also to help improve their own knowledge and confidence.
  • Used part of the £2,000 grant to purchase resources to support children’s early maths and literacy skills
  • Ensured that maths and literacy opportunities were present in all areas of the setting, including a new cosy corner literacy area with puppets, wooden story spoons, wooden story slices and a natural alphabet on the wall
  • Created borrow bag resource packs to be loaned to families including literacy and maths activities
  • Changed the books available on a weekly basis
  • Used part of the £2,000 grant to buy in training for all staff in the setting for a literacy course and a numeracy course

Within my role as an EYIL, I completed a comprehensive training programme with the IOA project including sessions on the following: principles of effective implementation, drafting action plans, early communication, SEND, supporting children’s early reading/writing, parental engagement, evaluation, improving children’s behaviour and supporting children’s early numeracy.

After completing training, I communicated key learning and best practice back to other staff in setting, during staff meetings and also shared the recorded videos on the Early Years Implementation Lead padlet, when I felt they would be beneficial. I regularly shared project plans and advice about how we could implement each strand through staff meetings and peer support, in the room. This enabled me to successfully cascade learning to other practitioners and colleagues, to help them to better support children’s literacy and numeracy development.

Being part of the EYIL project has really helped our setting to focus on maths and literacy. It was a great way to reflect upon daily practice, look at what our setting offered and identify effective ways to make improvements. I focused our numeracy and literacy activities around our children’s interests, which kept their focus and concentration maintained. The outcomes from these focused activities have shown improvement in the children’s maths and literacy skills.

“one of the activities she has been doing with one of the activity bags you let them take home. She has really enjoyed doing this and wants to try more.” (feedback from one of our parents)

“she is very happy! Oh yes she has shown everybody her bracelet today! We will definitely be using more of your activity bags! Thankyou” (feedback from one of our parents)

“Another activity we have taken home from the nursery. She has loved playing with the puppets and knew all the songs. Looking forward to collecting another bag this week!” (feedback from one of our parents)

“managed to do the Nature activity we took home from the nursery. She loved collecting things in her little bag. Her brother also helped too! We found sticks, pine cones, leafs and even an owl feather!” (feedback from one of our parents)

“Took another one of your library books home the other day. She really enjoyed this book. As she could play out the movements and play with the bear puppet. We will be taking another home tomorrow.” (feedback from one of our parents)

Summary of impact

The overall impact of this project has had a positive effect upon our setting, staff and children. We carried out staff questionnaires at the beginning and the end of the project and these were our findings:

  • Staff have shown increased confidence, knowledge and a greater range of strategies to support children’s numeracy and literacy development.
  • Peer observations highlight that practitioners are using more mathematical language and engaging better with the children when promoting literacy development, within their daily practice.
  • The children are spontaneously using mathematical and literacy language during their play more frequently compared to at the beginning of the project, with no prompting from staff unless it is to extend their learning.
  • The maths and literacy groups worked well in our setting. The activities engaged, challenged and extended the children’s learning.
  • Staff developed stronger relationships with the children and this helped with their confidence when communicating with adults as well as when talking in front of a small group of other children or to an adult.
  • Children are better prepared for activities they will face when they begin school.
  • Wellcomm data shows improvements in children’s language skills and understanding skills.

Families shared positive feedback (from handover discussions and questionnaires) about the borrow bags we created, commenting on the learning achieved in their home environment.

Steps taken

I created a Securing Achievement Implementation Plan for our setting. One of the first stages involved identifying problems to improve upon, including data from last year’s trackers which showed there is limited progress and attainment in early literacy and numeracy. Through supervision and staff observations, I noted that some colleagues needed to expand their subject knowledge and confidence. Practitioners were not always extending children’s learning and language development, instead missing some opportunities in their daily practice. Staff consistency in supporting challenging behaviours by using the same behavioural strategies throughout the needed to be improved. Whilst literacy and numeracy resources – to support children’s learning and development – needed to be improved to meet the needs of the children in setting.

The implementation we put into practice in the setting included ensuring all children participated in group numeracy and literacy times. If a child needed an intervention for extra 1:1 support this would be delivered by the Early years implementation lead. Data was reviewed regularly to ensure that our implementation goals are being met and anticipated progress was being made.

As the Early Years Implementation Lead, I delivered twice weekly numeracy and literacy activities, to children of the age groups within the setting. Numeracy and literacy resources were added in every area of the environment to help further extend children’s learning. Staff had several training courses to expand their knowledge and understanding of how to help children to meet their learning objectives. Staff and peer observations were regularly undertaken to see how these effectively these were being implemented and utilised throughout the setting.

What would we do differently

I would have involved families more by arranging and delivering parental drop-in sessions, to help with their understanding of numeracy/literacy development and to encourage greater opportunities to extend their children’s learning at home.


Cost to release an EY practitioner for ½ a day per week, for 1 year to: attend training, writing action plan, undertaking relevant duties and monitoring progress.

£2,000 to purchase resources for the children and buy-in staff training.

Resources required

Access to a computer and internet connection to attend virtual training and network meetings.

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