Reception and Year 1 at Little Downsend

Reception and Year 1 at Little Downsend

In Reception at Little Downsend, the children really start to develop their sense of self, becoming independent little people with opinions and questions that all help to encourage an exploratory approach to learning. We continue our playful learning approach, encouraging children to enjoy and experience knowledge gathering without boundaries or rigidity.

We follow the Early Years Foundation Stage as a framework, but as an independent school, we are able to push the boundaries, taking the very best, but not being constrained by it. In Reception, we focus on three key areas:

  • Communication and Language
  • Physical Development
  • Personal and Social Development

And more specifically:

  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Understanding the World
  • Expressive Arts and Design

At Little Downsend we focus on the joy of reading for pleasure, reading daily with the children, and integrating books into everything we do to strengthen their understanding and comprehension of a story. Our small class sizes allow us to do this daily, one to one. We teach phonics so children are grounded in the basics of sounds before learning how to piece them together. We’re also gently helping handwriting practice by refining fine motor skills.

The foundations of numeracy are taught in innovative ways, through songs and games, and working with experts such as White Rose Maths.  

We use technology to bring learning to life and to give our children a head start in the world of tech and IT. All children have their own iPad and access to best-in-class ed tech apps to support their learning. In March 2022, Little Downsend was delighted to be invited by Microsoft to join the Incubator Pathway of the Showcase Schools Programme. Read more here.

The great outdoors forms a huge part of daily life at Little Downsend, whether it is practicing handwriting by mark making with chalks in our covered areas, running off steam with a game of cricket, or exploring Forest School, fresh air is paramount at Little Downsend. And, all children have swimming lessons in our 25m pool at the main school.

In recognition of our forward-thinking approach, we are delighted to have been shortlisted in the ISA Awards 2021 for Excellence and Innovation in Early Years and Highly Commended in the Muddy Stilettos Best Schools Awards 2022 for ‘Most Creative Learning Through Play’.  Read more here.


From First Steps to Reception, we are guided by the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework. Our curriculum is built around the seven areas of learning development and is enriched by a structured and intentional approach to the development of specific skills.

Read our EYFS Curriculum Guide to find out more:


EYFS Curriculum Guide


Our results are outstanding. In a truly remarkable year, we are delighted that our children achieved such remarkable results. In both 2019-20 and 2020-21, our Reception children met or exceeded their Early Learning Goals at rates significantly higher than the National or Surrey averages.

ELG Data

Little Downsend EYFS Assessment Data 2021

Little Downsend EYFS Assessment Data 2020

You can also read our blogs on Choosing a school for Reception and Preparing your child for Reception to find out more about Downsend’s approach.

In Year One at Little Downsend, our children have become confident, independent communicators ready to stretch themselves to try new things and explore everything they’ve learned so far.

We work hard to make sure the transition to Year 1 is seamless, gently allowing children to take on more as they progress into the next key stage. The day may feel a little more structured, but the learning continues to be rich and varied, both indoors and outdoors.

We continue to build on our work in literacy and numeracy, solidifying phonics skills, handwriting, and reading every day. But, we then start to add topics and stories that cut across the curriculum, as well as experimenting in science and taking on more creative projects in art, such as sewing and clay modeling. We learn history and geography in active and engaging ways, by getting outside and exploring our environment. In 2021, Downsend was awarded the Primary Science Quality Mark by the University of Hertfordshire and the Primary Science Teaching Trust. Click to learn more.

Sport and Games continue to be varied, with dance, yoga, ball skills, swimming, tennis, and cricket part of our active, outdoor approach.

girls walking girls guitar  

Specialist Teaching in Reception and Year One

From the age of two, all Little Downsend children benefit from our dedicated, expert specialist teaching. Every week, our children welcome professionals in French, Dance, Forest School, Music, and Sports, immersing themselves in the passion and enthusiasm of the teacher.

Our video series gives you a little insight into the fun, enjoyment, and amazing learning opportunities our specialist teachers bring to Little Downsend every week:

Read our fantastic reviews on Day Nurseries below, or take a look at what the Good Schools Guide has to say about us, what Muddy Stilettos think and the results of our latest Voice of the Parent Survey.

We would love to introduce you personally to Little Downsend, our exceptional teachers, and stunning environments. If you would like to arrange a tour, sign up to our online events or to have an informal chat, please pop your details in the form below and we will make contact with you.

01372 372197