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Steeple Nursery School, Steeple Road, Antrim

Pre-School Curriculum

At Steeple Nursery School the emphasis is on learning through play in an environment planned to encourage discovery, independence and social interaction. Children are encouraged to help themselves, take initiative and become increasingly independent in order to develop self-esteem and social competence. It is important that children develop a sense of trust and are comfortable in their environment. 

We always keep in mind that all children come to school with individual needs, which must be recognised and met. The early years must be seen as a vitally important stage in the child’s life and as a foundation for building life skills, not merely as a stepping-stone to more formal education.

We embrace the High/Scope curriculum philosophy as it dove tails well with the Education Authority’s Curricular Guidance for Pre School education and gives the children in our school opportunities for learning in a child centred way.  

High/Scope is an approach to early learning derived from developmental principles. Firmly rooted in practice, it has been researched, developed and shaped by new knowledge and understanding since 1962.

  • High/Scope provides optimum opportunities for learning in meaningful situations.
  • There is a strong emphasis on how children learn and the style of adult child interactions which support the development of self-esteem, respect for others, reasoning and language skills.
  • The High/Scope approach helps the adults to focus on sound developmental principles and encourages them to identify and build on children’s strengths, interests and achievements.
  • Through daily observations, planning and evaluation sessions, adults provide a balance between child initiated and adult initiated activities which are appropriate for young children and generate strategies to challenge children's emerging abilities and to encourage children to develop their own interests, talents and goals.

The curriculum in our setting has been thoughtfully planned, facilitating children’s choices and opportunities to manipulate materials   -



Our curriculum encourages children’s ability to: -

  • Take initiative
  • Develop self-discipline
  • Work with other children
  • Express themselves
  • Develop creativity and spirit of inquiry
  • Become self motivated
  • Take responsibility for actions
  • Problem solve

Our Nursery School offers the children a variety of choices provided with a carefully prepared indoor and outdoor environment. Staff provide a rich and stimulating environment that promotes effective learning.

With the Curricular Guidance for Pre-School Education in mind we consider the

following 6 Curricular Areas:

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

This area of learning is of the utmost importance for young children in all aspects of their lives. It is about children’s emotional well-being, them understanding who they are, respecting others, and their environment, forming and sustaining relationships, beginning to understand emotions and about developing positive dispositions to learning. Good personal, social and emotional development gives children the best opportunity for success in other areas of learning.

Some of the ways we promote P.S.E development in our Nursery School: -

In Steeple Nursery School we give children time to settle in and accept that children come to us with a variety of personal and social skills, values and attitudes. It is important that these are recognised and that staff establish good relationships with both the children and the parents.

We help children gain confidence in what they do, by allowing them to make choices and help each other and encourage them to organise their own play.

The staff will help children progress by nurturing their motivation, perseverance, curiosity and creativity: encourage them to problem solve; and give them time to reflect.

As children learn to cope outside their home environment they will be encouraged to develop relationships with adults and other children. They will learn how their actions can affect others and why we need rules. We will help them develop respect for others and appreciate the differences between people- like race, culture and disability.  The staff will help children understand these difficult concepts by supporting them at role- play, story time and introduce them to different emotions using puppets or pictures. Through activities like these, and as relationships develop, they will become aware of both their needs and feelings and those of others.

At all times staff will work together to make sure children:

  • Feel secure and have a feeling of well-being
  • Are listened to and respected
  • Given encouragement and positive reinforcement
  • Are given a consistent approach to encourage positive behaviour
  • Feel supported and cared for

Throughout the session children will have opportunities to develop personal and social skills, values and attitudes while participating in routines e.g. help prepare own snack, tidy up and help others. At play activities children will be encouraged to make choices, learn to co-operate, take turns and share. Children will be presented with challenges and encouraged to persevere with tasks. They will work with materials that they may not have access to at home like clay, dough, sand, water and paint and experience their therapeutic value.

Language Development

Language development is crucial to living and learning. Language is used to communicate with others, to share and express feelings, to give and obtain information, and to understand ideas and develop thoughts.

At Steeple Nursery School we appreciate children bring with them to our setting their own experiences of using language. We value these existing skills and use them as a starting point. We help children to communicate confidently with adults and other children and express their own needs, ideas and feelings.

Ways in which language may be developed: - Children’s communication skills are fostered as they talk with staff and as they play with other children. By listening to children and using carefully chosen comments and open ended questions, staff can assist children in their thinking and help to build their confidence in the use of language.

Listening and joining in with rhymes are important elements of children’s language experiences. Staff will seize every opportunity throughout play to draw children’s attention to rhyme and they will use a range of activities and games to introduce rhyme and rhyming words.

Developing a love of stories and books. Children learn that books can provide information and help answer questions. With sensitive adult participation, children become aware that the printed word has meaning.

Children learn to express their own thoughts and feelings through their drawings and mark making.

Throughout their time in Nursery School children will become aware of and use other forms of communication through painting, drawing, music, roleplay/drama, and other forms of non-verbal communication.

Physical Development

Children enjoy physical play both indoors and outdoors. At Steeple Nursery School we believe this is a very important aspect of a child’s development and they should be given opportunities to revel in the freedom of movement and play that is inventive, adventurous and stimulating. Physical play will allow for running, jumping, skipping, hopping, balancing, climbing, kicking, throwing and catching; these skills all help develop balance, control, co-ordination and an awareness of size, space and direction.

Movement skills need to be nurtured, not only because they are important for the child’s long term health and well-being, but because they support the child’s physical and cognitive development. In our Nursery School these skills will be developed informally during play sessions each day. Physical development helps children to gain confidence and self-esteem as they discover what they can do, and it enables them to feel the benefits of being healthy and active.

Children will have opportunities to respond creatively to music, action rhymes/songs and stories. Through taking part in physical play they will learn about safe practice and develop social skills such as turn taking, sharing, co-operating and negotiating.

Outdoor play provides children with space and freedom that would be difficult to find indoors. It has an important role to play in the emotional development of children, providing them with opportunities to run, shout and play in a way, which would not be acceptable indoors. Outdoors children can experience a range of emotions, for example the challenge of climbing high, the joy of running and jumping. They can begin to experience the satisfaction and a sense of pride of solving physical problems and problems that arise when playing with others.

At Steeple Nursery School children will have access to

                     -  Suitable and safe spaces where they can experiment

              different ways of moving

  • A wide variety of appropriate small and large equipment, which meets with safety regulations and standards. This equipment will provide children with opportunities to extend their gross motor skills.
  • Space is planned so it can be used in different ways
  • Play is carefully planned so that interest is sustained, challenge is offered and activities are balanced to provide for individual needs and abilities
  • There is sensitive adult participation and adequate supervision to ensure children’s safety
  • Equipment is positioned so it can be used imaginatively
  • Children are taught safety rules and encouraged to follow them

In order to develop increasing control of the fine movements of their fingers and hands, children will have opportunities throughout the day, to use a range of tools, equipment and materials. These may include scissors, pencils, paintbrushes, pens, construction materials, jigsaws and books. Through play children can improve their fine motor skills by pouring, building, threading, screwing, weaving and using technology and working with malleable materials. Children will also be included in simple tasks like buttering their own bread, putting on their own coat, and pouring milk

Early Mathematical Experiences

Mathematical concepts are important and continually develop in young children. Children need opportunities to re-visit activities and to experience mathematical ideas in many different contexts. Staff in the Nursery School will seek to extend, informally, the mathematical experiences the children have already had in their home environment. These could involve matching socks, setting the table and putting the shopping away. Children will have many opportunities throughout play and daily routines to promote the development of mathematical language and concepts.

All areas of play both indoors and outdoors provide rich opportunities to foster mathematical concepts. Availing of these opportunities helps to lay foundations for positive attitudes towards mathematics. As children engage in play activities, they use their own every day language to talk about mathematical concepts. With the skilful support of staff the children will begin to use mathematical language as they develop an awareness of number/ space/ shape / order/ size / quantity / time / pattern/ relationships. Children will be encouraged to talk about what they are doing as they play using language such as the same, heavy, longest, another, more and less.

During play the children will have opportunities to sort, match, compare, classify, count and make patterns and sequences. Children’s understanding and enjoyment of early mathematics will also be enhanced through songs, stories and games. The children will solve problems as they play, question, predict and experiment. In the course of their play they will have many experiences, which will have elements of mathematics in them.



The Arts

Children in our Nursery School will have every opportunity to explore their creativity, by making things, taking risks and experimenting, coming up with new ideas, solving problems and coping with uncertainty. Creative play gives children the opportunity to foster many skills and also helps children develop emotionally, promote aesthetic awareness and is an avenue for self-expression.

The following activities will help promote this area:


Art/Design, Music, and Dramatic Play: Through these areas the children will explore texture, colour, shape and sound. They will express their ideas and communicate their feelings, use their imagination and make simple representations using a range of materials. These representations will become more detailed as their ability to concentrate and to observe increases. Children develop manipulative skills as they handle appropriate tools and instruments. They express ideas and feelings during role play and begin to assume different roles. They learn songs, listen and respond to music, make their own music by singing, clapping, and playing simple percussion instruments. 

   They will have opportunities to experience exuberant play and explore their emotions,       for example in role play where they can learn to take on different roles and uses props to extend their story lines.

    Stories, Rhymes, Music, Pictures and Drama also present many opportunities for children in the Nursery School to express emotions, develop self-confidence and an awareness of others.

The World Around Us

From babyhood, children are trying to make sense of the world around them. They are naturally curious of their environment and the people around them and frequently ask questions. They enjoy using their senses to explore the immediate outdoor and indoor environments. Through their natural curiosity and by providing them with a wide variety of activities and experiences in play, children begin to develop a range of skills and concepts including observation, experimentation and free exploration of their surroundings.

Sensitive and informed interaction from adults in the Nursery School will further develop these skills and concepts and help to promote the use of appropriate language. By commenting, asking open-ended questions, encouraging children to experiment and evaluate, adults can extend children’s understanding of themselves and their families, the Nursery School both indoors and outdoors and the wider environment. Children can also learn about the world around them from books, pictures, posters, photographs and by using appropriate ICT.

To help children develop skills and concepts related to the world around them, they would have opportunities at Steeple Nursery School, individually and in groups, to engage in a wide range of interesting activities.

These may include opportunities to:

  • Observe water, discussing and experimenting with how different objects behave in water, what happens when water is added, importance of not wasting it and water in the environment- puddles etc.
  • Observe sand and its properties, both wet/dry
  • Use senses to explore a range of natural materials
  • Observe changes in materials and their properties
  • Observe and respect living things, discussing the importance of handling them with care and sensitivity
  • Create and explore stimulating areas of interest which may include photographs, magnets, magnifiers, mirrors, light boxes, plants, shells and representations of seashore, arctic or jungle
  • Create models with a variety of materials, sizes of blocks and talking about why some buildings stand and why some collapse
  • Learn about their bodies
  • Talk about topics that arise from the children’s own experiences
  • Talk about the weather and the seasons at appropriate times during the year
  • Talk about themselves and their families
  • Learn about their pre-school setting, the people who work there, where to find materials and equipment etc.
  • Learn about the work of people in the community, through role-play or visitors in the setting

The Nursery School is a rich resource for children to develop a curiosity of the environment, helping to care for plants, observing nature, such as rainbows, sunlight, shadows, day and night and new born animals and developing a sense of wonder. Children will be taught they have a responsibility to look after their environment, by caring for their play equipment and keeping their classroom and outdoors tidy. Environment issues will be discussed and children will be encouraged to consider the needs of others. As an Eco School we pride ourselves in taking care of our environment and each child has an opportunity and responsibility to take on the role of Eco Helper throughout the year.

Health, Hygiene and Safety

These aspects will be promoted at every opportunity as the pre-school setting is an ideal place to establish positive attitudes towards these. As they engage in various types of play the children should:

  • become aware of the safety of themselves and others as they attempt to adhere to safety rules and use tools and equipment appropriately
  • understand the importance of wearing appropriate clothing and care in the sun
  • understand the importance of eating good food, taking part in physical activity and having enough sleep to keep healthy
  • talk about how medicines and other substances can be dangerous
  • talk about “stranger danger”, safe places to play, the dangers of traffic and other dangers in our environment such as water and farm machinery

Outdoor learning is an integral part of the Pre School Curriculum.  At Steeple Nursery School we are committed to quality outdoor education. We are fortunate to have an extensive outdoor area and we aim to go outside every day. We ask that children are dressed in appropriate clothing and footwear every day for outdoor learning. Outdoor play is vitally important for children’s overall development and well-being. It helps children to develop strong social skills and builds on their self esteem, confidence and independence. Staff plan carefully to exploit the unique learning opportunities the outdoor areas can provide.

Updated: May 2021

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