OUR SAPLINGS CLASS
From ages 3 to 5, our children begin their learning journey in Saplings.
Saplings is a learning environment which adapts to the needs of each child, inspiring and stimulating their natural curiosity.
We limit our Saplings group to a maximum of 24 children. There are always 3 teachers present to ensure a high level of dialogue and guidance for every child.
We create a warm, caring environment for those first steps in numeracy, reading and writing, awareness of the environment / early science, music and movement, art and creativity, gross and fine motor skills, and self-expression.
Saplings children have their own large garden with a small vegetable plot, natural adventure playground and an ‘outdoor home’ area. This garden also serves as an outdoor classroom, providing a wide variety of learning possibilities.
“Saplings is a safe, trusting, family focused space which encourages exploration and individuality, cooperation and collaboration.”
A DYNAMIC SCHOOL
Our children learn by doing; by experimenting; by creating; through high quality dialogue; by applying all their senses to their learning.
A THINKING SCHOOL
We encourage children’s natural curiosity. They experiment and discover.
A CARING SCHOOL
Our children’s voice is heard: they are valued as individuals.
They begin to develop the skills of kindness, listening and caring.
NABSS Inspection Report, 14th March 2016
“Teachers demonstrate good subject knowledge and provide stimulating lessons that engage pupils. Teaching is highly personalised to be appropriate for each child and activities have clear purpose. This results in effective use of class time and high levels of student productivity.”
Warm, caring, and safe environment
Olive Tree offers a very high teacher to child ratio giving children the space and attention to be curious, learn and grow. Our children enjoy being in school and build strong relationships with their teachers and peers.
Our Team Leader in Saplings is Olivia Hughes. Olivia draws on her international experiences and influences to create a dynamic environment where our children’s development is given every opportunity to progress. Olivia has worked in Italy exploring the Reggio Emilia approach, in Barcelona in a Maria Montessori pre-school, and in the UK following the British National Curriculum. She has spent time in Denmark exploring Waldorf practice and following the Steiner model. She has also worked in India observing long-established methods for multilingual learning.
Different aspects of these approaches are included in our practice:
Steiner: Our Saplings environment is constantly growing and changing in order to ignite passion, wonder and excitement.
Reggio Emilia: We use natural resources wherever possible to learn through our environment, have close personal relationships with all of our families and adjust planning based on the interests of our children.
Language Development: We use songs with actions, rhymes and dance to encourage language development in English (this helps both children whose mother tongue is English and those who are learning English as a foreign language). In Nursery, the first year of Saplings, the children learn only in English and are encouraged to speak in English as much as possible. For those for whom English is not their mother tongue, this is ‘full immersion entry’, as it is important that all children at The Olive Tree School associate English as their principle language of learning. This enables all children to reach the English level needed once they move on to Year 1 in Primary. In Reception, the 2nd year of Saplings, those children who don’t speak Spanish at home have two 30 minute sessions a week in Spanish. These sessions are with a native Spanish speaker and are based on the same topic content that we are following as a class.
Multilingual Learning: We celebrate our international classroom and encourage children to share the languages that they speak at home in front of their friends. Teaching input is, however, always in English except for the those opting for the Spanish sessions as described above.
Mixed-age Group: We have a mixed-age environment focused on individualised objectives, which is one of our most interesting and unique attributes. A mixed-age setting is typically seen in Montessori schools and has great benefits for learning. For a longer explanation of the benefits of mixed-age groups see our Blog post here.
To summarise, our methodology draws on best practice from a variety of sources. What is key, is that each child develops their own learning path in collaboration with their classmates and teachers who provide the guidance and support in a caring, natural environment.
We use the British government’s statutory document- ‘Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)’, to inform and guide our individualised planning and assessment, in a flexible and globally-minded manner.
This document is a principled approach to Early Years education. Four key themes underpin the guidance:
|A Unique Child||Positive Relationships||Enabling Environments||Learning and Development|
Our curriculum is centred on 3 prime areas of learning:
- Communication and Language.
- Physical Development
- Personal, Social and Emotional Development
We also provide activities and experiences through four specific areas which strengthen the prime areas. These are:
- Understanding the World
- Expressive Arts and Design
These areas of learning and development address children’s physical, cognitive, linguistic, social and emotional development. No one aspect of development stands in isolation. All areas of learning and development are closely interlinked. This ensures the delivery of a holistic, child-centred curriculum, allowing children to make connections between what they are learning.
Our experiences shape us as people. The Saplings classroom is a space to share stories, hobbies, passions, feelings, culture, food and languages.
Young children learn best when they are active. Active learning involves other people, objects, ideas and events that engage and involve children for sustained periods. Early Years education should be as practical as possible and our EYFS setting has an ethos of learning through play.
Children’s play is an essential part of their learning process. Play is a powerful motivator. It encourages children to be creative and to develop their ideas, understanding and language. Play is flexible and adapts to suit the preferred learning style of the child. Play builds pathways in the brain for critical thinking, creativity, empathy, flexibility and many other lifelong skills.
Activities are designed to engage children in practical, first-hand experiences which will support children to discover, explore, investigate, develop their personal interests and areas of curiosity, and help to make sense of the world around them as they begin to understand specific concepts. Through play our children are provided with opportunities to apply newly-acquired knowledge, demonstrating their skills and level of understanding.
Careful consideration is given to which themes, stories and experiences enthuse our children and produce the most powerful learning. The topics we introduce are starting points for the children’s play and learning. We develop topics following the children’s interests and ideas. The topics that we cover are flexible and driven by the interest of the children we have in our setting. Topics are mapped against expected learning outcomes to ensure curriculum coverage. See an example here: Naughty Bus
It is fair to say The Olive Tree has an ethos that I have not found anywhere else, the number one aim of the headteacher is to bring out the potential in her children. The teachers here have a vocation, going far beyond academics. I wish more children could enjoy this level of inspirational and holistic education.
– Margaret Davies
This school has been more welcoming than any other school we have come across; the teachers have been always been warm and extremely responsive; our child has been growing and learning quickly, and enjoyed school so much it has often been a struggle to get him to leave at the end of the school day! The small class sizes and the excellent teaching, have meant that our child has been able to truly learn at his own pace.
– Serene Olesetti
I think you know a school works when none of the kids want to come home at 4 o’clock.
– Susana Preston
We had a lovely holiday but the boys were really happy to be coming back. I don’t ever remember feeling that way about any of my schools. They are so happy and engaged.
– Juliet Ryder
It’s a school with a lot of guts. It’s creative, hands-on, proactive and nurturing but expects academic excellence. I thoroughly recommend the Olive Tree.
– Diego Fabra
This school is very much the heart of our community: my daughter thrives in such a supportive open atmosphere.
– Claire Davies