Drive to raise standards in early years education

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A drive to raise standards in early years education in Hastings is being spearheaded by two primary schools.

St Paul’s C of E Primary School in St Leonards and Castledown Primary School and Nursery in Hastings have seen improvements in results for the development of children under five.

Headteachers at the two schools are now working with other early years settings in the area on a new initiative to raise standards.

The Early Years Excellence Hub brings schools, pre-schools, nursery and childminders together to identify actions needed to improve outcomes for children locally and support each other in achieving consistency in early years education.

Latest figures show the number of children achieving a good level of development at St Paul’s has risen from 51.1 per cent in 2013 to 71.9 per cent in 2014, while Castledown has seen an increase from 45 per cent in 2013 to 64 per cent this year.

The schools, which are both part of East Sussex County Council’s Village Project aimed at sharing best practice and greater communication with early years settings, are now performing above the national average - in line with other schools in the county.

Richard White, headteacher at St Paul’s Primary, said: “These results have been achieved through having a good team that have developed a really exciting and balanced curriculum, personalised to the child.”

Mr White said initiatives introduced at the school have helped improve the outcomes for under-fives.

These include the school alliance project, which encourages schools to work together to share best practice and moderate each other’s work. Schools working with St Paul’s includes Castledown, Sandown, Guestling Broadshaw, Icklesham and Ore Village Primary.

There are also plans for a new nursery on the site of the primary school which will also provide free early learning for eligible two-year-olds.

At Castledown the focus has been on early intervention, with the employment of a speech and language therapist being one initiative. Neil Small, headteacher, said: “The earlier we make the intervention the smaller the gap we have to close. It starts children on the road to success, builds their confidence and enables them to approach learning with the optimism and feeling of early achievement that every child should have.”

There has also been greater professional development with teachers and other members of staff as they have been rotated between Reception and Year 1 to give them more experience, he said.

Castledown is also creating more space for two-year-olds eligible for free early learning.