Learning in the early years
In Scotland, the term early years is used to describe the period from pre-birth to 8 years old. The Early Years Framework explains that this broad definition of early years recognises the importance of pregnancy in influencing outcomes and that the transition into primary school is a critical period in children’s lives.
The 3-18 curriculum (Curriculum for Excellence) builds on the solid foundations developed in the critical years of pre-birth to three and links learning in ELC settings and primary schools.
For most children, the Early level of the curriculum provides the basis for their learning experiences in early learning and childcare (ELC) and Primary 1. For some children and young people with additional support needs, the Early level will provide a framework for learning and progression beyond the early primary stage and, perhaps, for most of their time in school.
During your child’s early years, they will work with a range of different staff. The term practitioner includes all staff who are qualified and or registered to work with young children for example childminders, early years practitioners and teachers.
The Early level was designed to ensure a joined-up approach across ELC and into primary school. National practice guidance, Realising the Ambition: Being Me, provides advice and support for practitioners to ensure that your child receives the highest quality of experiences and the most appropriate approaches to teaching and learning. It emphasises the importance of play from the beginning of ELC, across the whole of the Early level and beyond.
Learning through play
Evidence from research is clear that play has an essential role in all learning. For young children in their early years, play is one of the most important ways that they learn. Through play your child develops their social, emotional and physical capacities, increases their knowledge of the world and applies their learning in new ways. You can find out more about learning through play on this page.
Play pedagogy is a term you may hear practitioners talking about. It requires practitioners to take the lead from the children and actively respond to their individual and constantly changing needs. It is based on an understanding of how children learn and develop and the approaches that practitioners can use to enhance that process.
Play pedagogy takes into account the importance of play in young children’s learning. It balances opportunities for children to lead their own learning, with appropriate support from adults. In play pedagogy, children are supported by responsive practitioners who know when to step in and support or when to step back and observe, when to teach a new skill, or when to offer further experiences to extend and challenge learning. This means that sometimes children will be leading the learning and sometimes adults will be.
Play pedagogy ensures that children progress through the curriculum and learn in a way that is appropriate for their development. Children will progress as expected in all areas of the Early level curriculum including in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing.
The learning environment
Realising the Ambition supports practitioners to think of the learning environment as being made up of interactions, experiences and spaces. The learning environment in the early stages of primary school should not look or feel very different from a motivating ELC environment. The experiences on offer might be different, the interactions might be more challenging but the school environment should build on children’s learning at home and in ELC, and continue to support learning through play.
Assessment and planning
In play pedagogy, observation is an important method of assessment. By observing your child, practitioners can see what and how they are learning. Practitioners assess progress and use that information to determine what your child is able to learn by following their own interests and what needs to be learned through direct teaching. This helps them plan appropriate experiences based on the needs of your child.
What I need to grow and develop
Play pedagogy is based on an understanding of child development. It takes into account that children learn at different rates and in different ways. Section 3 of Realising the Ambition: Being Me provides key information about child development and the support that young children need to learn and grow. This enables practitioners to provide the right support at the right time for your child.
All children and young people need support to help them learn. Play pedagogy enables educators to meet a diverse range of needs. However, some children and young people will require support that is additional to, or different from, that received by others of the same age. There are many reasons why children and young people may need support. More information can be found in the additional support section.
Working in partnership
By working in partnership with practitioners, you can play a key role in supporting your child. There are many different ways you can be involved and engaged in your child’s learning. More information can be found in the getting involved section.