Early Years is a non-compulsory stage of education, yet it is one of the most important periods for the physical, cognitive and emotional development of children under six years of age. For this reason, despite the fact that it is not compulsory, many families decide to enrol their youngest children in Early Years schools that offer an environment specially designed for them.
Opting for early schooling brings multiple benefits to a child’s learning process and, in addition, favours academic and personal success in the following educational stages. To this end, it is essential to provide children with settings that are adapted to their needs and that prioritise the stimulation of their physical, emotional, intellectual and social skills. Rachael Symes, Headteacher of Early Years and Primary at the BSB Sitges campus of The British School of Barcelona, explains that the idea is to promote and develop three prime areas of learning: communication and language, physical development and personal, social and emotional development whilst children are having fun.”
Likewise, Emma Overton, Headteacher of Early Years and Primary at the BSB Castelldefels campus, explains that “Young children are naturally curious explorers, which must be exploited and extended as much as possible to enable strong and steady brain development. Professionally trained Early Years staff are able to maximise opportunities for young children to learn and develop essential skills which will provide a solid foundation for learning. Of course many of these skills will begin at home with the love and nurturing offered within a family environment, but within the early years setting we are able to provide specialist expertise to further expand and expose children to a breadth of learning opportunities.”
So, what are the benefits of schooling children before the age of 6?
Many studies demonstrate that around the age of 6 years old, a child’s brain is at its optimum level to start acquiring and understanding more complex ideas in relation to reading, literacy and mathematics, which are often delivered in a more formal setting of a school classroom. Therefore, it is important that pre-schooling opportunities prepare students well for this next stage of their development.
What are the main areas that should be activated or developed during these pre-Primary years?
A solid early years curriculum is built around the following prime areas, which play a significant role in encouraging children’s curiosity and embed a love of learning at a young age:
- It sparks children’s natural curiosity about the world around them. “Children in our Early Years are free to explore their environment and are allowed to think for themselves. This is an important skill in life as the experiences children have in the early years shape their view of themselves as learners and of learning in the future. By giving children a passion in the learning process and a thirst for knowledge at an early age increases their participation in future learning”, says Mrs Symes.
- It improves communication skills. “One of the major developmental skills a child will learn is communication. Being able to communicate, expressing thoughts, feelings, and information, is essential for interacting in their world and to have their needs met”, says Mrs Symes. “This is why our early years setting is purposely designed as a communicative environment and is very supportive of language development”.
- It promotes the first manifestations of reading, writing and mathematics. Through activities specially designed for their age groups, children develop key cognitive skills, such as creativity, comprehension and concentration, which have a direct impact on learning and future academic performance.
- It facilitates the learning of other languages. With constant and regular exposure to good language models, children develop a strong ability to learn more than one language with ease. “Children under six years of age are still in the stages of acquiring their first language. However, by three years of age, they have achieved much of the development of spoken language”, states Rachael Symes. “Many children at this age are already fluent in their home language, which provides a sound basis for learning English as a second language. By this time children have knowledge of language and how it works. They are practiced in communicating with others and will transfer these skills to the learning of their second language.”
- It stimulates physical development. Activities such as drawing, music and movement stimulate fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination which, together with gross motor skills, allow children to explore their environment with confidence and security.
- It encourages socialisation. Sharing games and activities with other children fosters the ability to build trusting relationships and encourages communication. Children learn to ask for help or to join in play or have a turn with a toy, talk about how they feel, give opinions and reasons for them, talk about their experiences. This contributes to their emotional development and to their being more receptive to learning opportunities.
- It creates independent minds and encourages self-improvement. Although early years settings are designed to make children feel at home and develop a strong sense of belonging and security, schooling them before the age of six encourages independence. Children set their own goals and develop autonomous problem-solving skills as they explore their environment and test their theories about the world.
Is there any difference between a child who has not been in school before the age of 6 and a child who has when they start Primary school together?
Mrs Overton explains: “Every child is different, and even if they haven’t attended an early years setting, they will have had a variety of different experiences within their home-life. There are often clear differences in relation to PSED, specifically regarding independence, regulating emotions, collaboration and co-operation with others. Many children will take a while to adapt to systems and routines, and can sometimes lack in concentration due to the expectations of the curriculum.
There are sometimes obvious, clear gaps in literacy skills as early phonics begins with 3 year olds, as they are supported to understand the differences between sounds. This phonological development builds throughout the Early Years, in order for young learners to have a foundation from which to start blending and reading with fluency. The health benefits of an early education are often overlooked; we see that late starters can sometimes display a weaker immune system, resulting in increased absence from school. The health benefits also extend to weight control through movement and a controlled healthy eating habits.”
The BSB Early Years Provision
BSB Pre-Nursery and Early Years is where children’s love for learning will be brought to life. Our individually tailored experiences led by highly-qualified native English-speaking staff ignite the natural curiosity that’s found in every child.
At BSB children can start their learning journey from the age of 2 at the BSB Sitges campus, thanks to the upcoming opening of a new Pre-Nursery Centre in September 2022. This is a fantastic opportunity for those families who wish to give their very young children the best foundation for later learning and for life.
At the BSB Castelldefels campus and at the BSB City Foundation Campus located in Barcelona, early schooling starts at 3.
Registrations are open throughout the year. More information at firstname.lastname@example.org.