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Our Approach

#325 Supporting Early Literacy – Rainbow Bright Nursery

Lauren Schaefer

What did we do?

OVERVIEW: Rainbow Bright sought to identify, plan and sustain a host of activities and interventions linked with supporting Early Literacy within our setting. We looked at implementing a variety of ideas based upon evidence gathered from staff surveys and learning walks (conducted in September 2021) and use our grant in the most effective way possible in order to achieve a sustainable outcome.

PHONICS TRAINING FOR STAFF: We conducted a staff survey (sent out September 2021) on confidence levels on Early Literacy, which showed only 12.5% felt very confident in this area. Using this data from our staff survey we went on to train 8 key practitioners in phonics using ‘Sounds Fun/Letters and Sounds’ phase 1 phonics in February 2022. We used a trainer from the Suffolk CPD website who came into setting to deliver the training to our team members. We took away phonics handouts to put skills learnt into practice and share with other team members too.

MARK MAKING: We used the same survey to have a baseline measure of where staff felt we needed to improve our Early Literacy- specifically the way we use and approach mark making day to day. We identified a lack in mark making opportunities available for 2-4’s in certain areas such as the home corner and outside. We considered a range of options and used a portion of the grant money to purchase updated equipment for our art room. We sourced a large water tray and turned this into a multi-sensory play zone filled with lots of different materials for tactile exploring and mark making with fingers (photos included). We also made this area free-flow/accessible at all times for our 2-4’s. We introduced clip boards into our roleplaying area and extended mark making outside with easels. We now have a designated area where children can access pencils, paper and clipboards if they wish.

WELLCOMM IMPROVEMENTS: As at September 2021, our WellComm assessment showed that more than half of children assessed were scoring either Amber or Red on the scoring system. We wanted to come up with a way to ensure that not only is this data collected, but it is effectively acted upon. We reviewed our WellComm assessment procedure and created an inclusive/visual system for practitioners to see and act upon targets effectively. We created prescription cards using a traffic light system to track each child on a termly basis and attached these to our ‘All about me’ wall display, so practitioners and key workers can keep a visual track on their children and targets.

ELKLAN TRAINING: We identified the need for further training in speech and language to help support children scoring Red and Amber on the WellComm assessment. The Implementation Lead underwent ELKLAN training (3-5’s) from March 2022-May 2022. Course notes to be summarised and training offered to practitioners as and when needed. The Imp Lead is now able to offer targeted interventions to those children scoring Amber and Red from the WellComm assessments.

NEW LIBRARY ZONE – LET’S TALK SESSIONS: We established the need for a quiet zone to deliver targeted intervention sessions with small groups of children to develop expressive language, confidence and emotional literacy. We used a percentage of the grant to purchase a library arch and create a library zone in a room that was not in use in the building (photos included). We designed this area in mind for puppet roleplay and story time, as well as focused activities and topics such as school readiness. Interventions have been carried out by our deputy SENCO on a weekly basis.

Let’s Talk Spring Intervention Timetable (6 CHILDREN MAX IN GROUP)

  • Week 1 topics covered – Introduction to puppets, dinosaur play.
  • Week 2 topics covered – Questions inc. how, what and when. Books independently chosen: The magic paintbrush, Tiger in the garden, Paper Dolls. Chinese New Year- chopsticks and noddle fun.
  • Week 3 topics covered – Feelings and emotions. What makes us sad/happy? Expressive language, problem solving, empathy.
  • Week 4 topics covered – Memory and guessing games. Book chosen- In My Heart.
  • Week 5 topics covered – Pancake day. Exploring ingredients, making own pancakes. Likes and dislikes.
  • Week 6 topics covered – Mother’s Day, why mothers are special, and how they are all different. Philosophical thoughts on kindness. Team building exercises and confidence support.
  • Week 7 topics covered – In the garden and the sunshine. Mark making with oil pastels. Plants and Spring.

“I have loved seeing the photos and hearing from C about these sessions which she has clearly enjoyed and benefitted from.”

Parent feedback after a Let’s Talk session.

Summary of impact

PHONICS TRAINING IMPACT: After a secondary staff survey conducted at the end of May 2022, 75% of those surveyed are now either confident/very confident in their knowledge and delivery of Letter and Sounds phase 1 phonics. We continue to sustain learning by offering new staff members handout sheets created from the training session, as well as peer-to-peer observations and using phonics-based strategies during story time sessions.

MARK MAKING IMPACT: This outcome has led to more teachable moments relating to early literacy through mark making throughout the 2-4’s areas (inside and out). The children have more freedom to explore tactile mediums than previously. The staff buy in rate has been measured verbally, each staff member feels a significant improvement overall due to this mark making intervention.

WELLCOMM IMPACT: Data shows that out of 15 children assessed between period between Sept21 and May 22: 47% of children moved up one colour from Red to Amber or from Amber to Green 7% of children moved up two colours from Red to Green 33% of children stayed the same colour, but scored higher 13% of children stayed the same Making this visual change has impacted the way in which we use the data and put this into practice every day with our children. We are able to support Red/Amber children more efficiently, leading to the majority of children scoring higher than expected through W/C assessments. This change has enabled the W/C assessment process to become more inclusive for our staff team. They are aware on how the system works and are more driven to achieve targets set out on prescription cards.

ELKLAN IMPACT: The implementation Lead feels very secure in delivering targeted interventions to small groups of children. The Imp Lead also feels more confident in cascading knowledge to the staff members who have gaps in SLC knowledge. The Implementation Lead will continue to drive interest in the communication sector and encourage staff members to undertake a tailor-made ELKLAN training session designed in-house by the Imp Lead. We are in talks with the owner to become an accredited ‘Communication Friendly Setting’ following on from this training.

LET’S TALK SESSIONS IMPACT: The children have hugely benefitted from this change, and we feel we have gained the most from this intervention out of all our projects and plans. Giving the staff and children a new space in the library zone has changed the way we use the building and plan our room structure for each age band. The parents have become more engaged on Tapestry after seeing our ‘Let’s Talk’ sessions, and this has improved the likelihood of extended/teachable moments at home from the topics we have covered in setting. We plan to continue our Let’s Talk sessions for those children who have speech and language delays, EAL and confidence-related delays in communication. We would like to engage more staff members in this activity to sustain and expand the idea longer-term.

OVERALL IMPACT: The outcome of these adaptations is to make sure that all practitioners are operating at the same base level before introducing Story Scribing to them, once above training is complete. Plan is to commence in the Autumn Term 2022 and be sustained in new Action Plan.

Steps taken

I think it is important to make sure each setting understands what it means to be an Implementation Lead before assigning this role onto someone. In our experience, the Implementation Lead was an external body, rather than a practitioner in setting, meaning that time/ratios were not an issue when carrying out duties and monitoring progress. We have been able to create such a positive culture around this project at Rainbow Bright. We are going to continue to include an Implementation Lead Role within our setting post Opportunity Area funding. We believe that practitioners should be heavily included in projects like this, but the title of Implementation Lead should belong to a person whose sole role is to be the Implementation Lead.

What would we do differently

I decided to change tactic from our Action Plan set out in January- to deliver Story Scribing. This is something that I feel we cannot implement until a better understanding of how children learn to develop Early Literacy skills is embedded within our team through further training. I therefore made the decision to use the training provided throughout the Implementation programme and chose to focus on the webinar: ‘Supporting Children’s Early Reading/Writing’. I will be cascading this to the team once the school leavers have departed Summer 2022. This ensures a safe ratio to deliver 1-to-1 training with staff members who can then watch the webinar during working hours.

The change in tactic also applies to our ‘Whole Body Mark Making’ intervention. The Acton Plan did cover in-house training in Whole Body Mark Making for Spring 2022, however the person assigned to this task left the setting before this took place. I then outsourced a company (Write, Dance Training) to deliver the training at a more convenient time, in a more convenient way- online through Zoom. This is provisionally booked for the end of June with approx 6 practitioners working with 2-year-olds and above.


  • Cost to release Implementation Lead half a day per week for 1 academic year (Sept-July).
  • ELKLAN Speech and Language course (3-5’s)- £432. Sounds Fun (Letters and Sounds).
  • Phonics course via Suffolk CPD- £150 plus backfill for 2.5 hours at 8 people.
  • Resources: (Sourced second hand) £500 for library arch, water tray and office storage for storing resources which were in great condition and originally purchased from TTS-group.

Further Feedback

Owner feedback: RB is grateful to have had access to the IOA this year. This has meant securing access to training opportunities that we wouldn’t have done before. In turn this has led to supporting the staff and children to develop early literacy skills. Having someone to focus on this to drive the staff team and raise standards has been invaluable. Our main outcome to equip staff with the necessary tools to improve their understanding of early literacy and how to help children has most definitely been achieved.

Staff feedback on phonics: It was really encouraging to come together for phonics training. We all worked well and it’s great to use our phonics skills confidently every day in setting.

Staff feedback on Library zone: We are so pleased to have a quiet area to take children for calm sessions and conduct assessments.

Parent feedback on Let’s Talk sessions: I have loved seeing the photos and hearing from C about these sessions which she has clearly enjoyed and benefitted from.

Staff feedback on WellComm: It’s been beneficial to adopt a new way of looking at the WellComm data. We have seen a big difference in how practitioners use the prescription cards to support their key children.

See how others have implemented this Big Idea

Developing literacy and numeracy teaching in an EY setting - Nature Den Nursery

Developing practitioner confidence in teaching early literacy and numeracy - Wellington Nursery

Making Maths Matter - St Helen's Playgroup

Implementing Maths into the Early Years Setting - ABC Childcare

Developing Literacy and Maths - Wigwams Nursery

Improving Literacy Skills - Early Years @ Highfield Whitehouse

Improving Maths as an Early Years Implementation Lead - Happy Tots Pre-School

Maths in Action - Little Learners Nursery

Developing early numeracy and literacy - Daisy Chain Pre-School

Improving mathematical and literacy development in all areas of learning - Sunflowers Preschool, Ipswich

Improving Early Literacy - The Children's Triangle Nursery


Rainbow Bright Nursery

Lauren Schaefer