Last Updated: Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Using play based learning to support transition from ELC to Primary 1

What is this?

​​Adverse Childhood Experiences have increasingly been highlighted as impacting on a child's readiness to learn. The existence of trauma from these experiences and the impact on developmental milestones ensures that many children are not developmentally ready to start Primary 1 in relation to their peers from other schools.

Research has shown that play based approaches support the development of the individual capacities, resilience, creativity, communication and skills for learning, ensuring that all children are able to successfully engage with learning. The suggestion is that this type of approach can support addressing the poverty related attainment gap and children are ready to learn, ensuring that development gaps are reduced.

As a school we have developed play across the early level as a tool for facilitating learning which is relevant to all our learners including those in SIMD 1 and 2, in relation to their development needs. Using play based learning supports meeting all their needs, both academically and their wellbeing.​

Who is this for?

​Early learning and childcare practitioners, early level teachers and senior leaders.

​How to use this exemplar to improve practice

Practitioners can be aware of the approach and understanding the importance of local contexts in relation to approaches to learning and teaching. This will also support developing school community approaches to ensure the best outcomes for children.

Improvement questions​

  • What evidence do we have that our children are developing a positive attitude to learning?
  • How well are we enabling children to become independent learners and develop the 4 capacities?
  • How well does the information we gather inform our planning and improvement for meeting all learners' needs?
  • How effective are we in supporting leadership at all levels to promote positive change in the lives of our young people?

Explore the exemplar

What was done?​

The use of an Early Years Practitioner, within Primary 1, to work with children through play in health and wellbeing, literacy, numeracy and skills for learning, work and life. This also supported the upskilling of Early Years teaching staff in play based approaches to learning, as an effective intervention in addressing the poverty related attainment gap.

Additionally, this supported effective transition from ELC to Primary 1, ensuring consistency and the continued creation of secure attachments to support all learners.

The ELC Team and Primary 1 team have worked together to share more effectively their practices, share skills and experiences to support developing high quality learning experiences across Early Level.

The Senior Early Years Practitioner has been supported by the Head Teacher to develop her own strategic skills and professional knowledge (through professional dialogue, learning and collaboration with others) to mentor staff and develop high quality approaches to play as a tool for improvement. This also included challenging and upskilling all staff on why play was important within our setting and community and relevant for our context.

Why was it done?​

Due to the high proportion of our children beginning their early learning and childcare significantly delayed in terms of experiences and developmental milestones, many of our children are not ready developmentally to begin Primary 1 or achieve national milestones by the end of it. Developing the use of a play based curriculum in Primary 1, where each child reaches their potential in a positive and appropriate context, has supported the consolidation and holistic development of children’s early learning experiences from an ELC setting as part of the transition into Primary 1. This has also supported the addressing of inequalities (poor health, attachment, low levels of resilience, traumas, delayed communication, high levels of adverse childhood experiences, and lack of experiential opportunities due to poverty).  In terms of ensuring the best possible start to school, we have used this approach to ensure that children are supported to be creative, innovative, investigative, strong communication skills and opportunities to explore and develop resilience through outdoor and indoor play.

What was the impact?​​

Whilst there is still work to do on ensuring the approach is effective, current data shows that there has been a significant impact on literacy and numeracy skills and children are confidently consolidating their skills and knowledge through application.

Children appear calm, settled and engaged in their learning, which has been reflected through the initial use of the Leuven Scale and also through wellbeing baselines and summative assessments.

Children are able to independently lead their own learning and are beginning to identify their own next steps by selecting resources to consolidate and transfer their learning into play based activities and using resources to explore their understanding of key concepts and skills.

Children have a greater understanding of their world around them and are able to make connections through play.

There has been a reduction in the number of distressed behaviours displayed during the initial transition period from ELC to Primary 1.

Parental engagement continues to be high and supportive. Parents are confident in supporting their children's play and have commented on how effective the approach has been.

Impact is being measured through SHANARRI assessments, Northern Alliance Emerging Literacy and Leuven Scales.

Supporting material

​Scottish Public Health Network - Polishing the Diamonds’: Addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences in Scotland.

Realising the Ambition

How good is our early learning and childcare?

How good is our school? (fourth edition​)​

Scottish Government - Play Strategy for Scotland

Building the Curriculum 2 and 3.​