Policy: Preschool Programme

Our Preschool Programme

Our baby programme should have laid the cognitive and linguistic foundations from which our preschool curriculum can spring. Here we really focus more on Understanding the World, as a core focus of our provision and educational ethos, and deliver an educational programme that focuses on four pillars which structure a child's development in line with the skills, knowledge, attitudes and capabilities required to deliver what children need for the future:

  • Values – universal values that we feel are intrinsic to all cultures to foster personal agency, responsibility, confidence and compassion
  • Festivals – both cultural festivals and international days to reinforce the child's sense of global citizenry and cultural acuity
  • Themes - thematic areas of learning – the "subject matter" of our approach to fostering better intercultural understanding and knowledge of our wider world through investigations into the people, places, animals and things which inhabit our planet, and the phenomena that can be found within it
  • Projects – Building on thematic ideas into linked projects that can evolve in line with how the children want to take things forward in circle time…

The Annual Plan & Monthly Plans

We turn these pillars into Annual Plans (see wheel above) for the older age groups (from age 2 onwards) that structures the child’s learning across the year in a series of 12 Monthly Plans that outline: 

    • The Theme: The principle thematic focus for the month’s learning or “big idea” that should run through all of our teaching and learning across the month. It acts as a seed from which all ideas can spring in circle time and in discussion with our children - the children take the lead in how this idea is furthered.
    • The Festival: what cultural or international day we might be celebrating and structuring into our learning all set out and mapped on the central educational calendar. These festivals may well become the theme of the month if the children want to structure their learning in and around the history of the festival and the activities they can implement from it
    • The Values: key behaviours / ethics and morals we want to teach our children as foundational principles that can guide them through life
    • The Language: the words that we can structure in and around the theme and festival broken down into: 
    • The Stories & Songs: Thematically linked resources in song and stories (both English and Chinese) that can be used by the team and by parents at home over the course of the month
  • Activity Ideas: Looking at the 7 Areas of learning to map out really exciting activity ideas that might further the children’s learning along the lines of the them

Our Monthly Themes & Values:

For us to deliver on our educational ethos, we need to build in broad areas that will introduce children to the wider world, the people within it, the cultures and languages they share, the animals and geographies (and how they are changing as a result of climate change) and the objects and activities that can be found within. 







Arctic & Polar Regions

China & 

East Asia

France & the French Speaking World

Spain & the Med

India & the Subcontinent

Russia & Eastern Europe

礼 / lǐ 


孝 xiào


德 dé


信 xìn 


和平 héping 

Harmony / Peace

爱 ài










Australia & the Pacific Rim

Middle East

North America

South America

Stars & Space

义 yì


廉 Lián


智 zhì  


仁 rén

To do good

耻 Chǐ


忠 zhōng


We’ve mapped what we perceive to be the broad geography and regional blocs of the world and our preschool leaders will use them as a seed idea to brainstorm linked ideas around:

  • Places - famous monuments, places, cities and towns and places that stand out
  • Planet - mountains and rivers, forests and deserts, weather and nature that can be found within
  • People - the people, culture and civilisations of the region - histories, ideas, famous thinkers and inventors and more
  • Animals - the animals and habitats that are found within the region
  • Objects & Activities - celebrations or activities that might feature culturally within that region

Cultural Festivals / International Days

We use this framework alongside our central educational calendar of Cultural Festivals and International Days (as defined by UNESCO). We use the Global Dimensions website for a lot of our inspiration, given its synergies with our ethos. Staff have access to the central educational calendar and can add to it with more cultural festivals that they discover in researching new ideas and concepts to deliver in practice.

Turning it into activities

We take these seed ideas as the basis from which to develop some “WoW'' moment activity ideas that can be both structured as adult led focussed activity and delivered flexibly throughout continuous provision across all age groups. Some of our benchmark activity ideas are below 

Three Prime Areas

4 Specific Areas








Public Speaking






Art Class

Drama & Performance


Indoor Gymnasium

Letters & Sounds

Volume Shape & Measure



Music & Song

Circle Time

Outdoor Obstacles

Talking Time

Dance & Rhythm

Climate Change

Drama & Dance

Circle Time

Sensory Play

Dance & Ballet

Story Time & Reading

Time & Space

People & Culture

Music & Song

Story Time & Reading

Messy Play

Baby Yoga / Pilates

Creative Writing

Science Club

Outdoor Exploration



Outdoor Exploration

Diet & Cookery

Poetry & Rhyme

Cookery Club


Craft Design & Construction

Adult Led & Child Led Learning: The Balance

We’ve discussed the benefits of both Child Led learning through continuous provision and the importance of Adult led focussed activities to introduce new concepts and ideas to a child’s development. And whereas we’ve been entirely focussed on continuous provision in our younger age group, we will now start to bring to bear some structure and routine to the educational day to develop a sense of curricula trajectory for our children and families. And we do this for two reasons: 

  • First, our ethos requires it of us - children will never learn about the wider world unless educators present it to them in an exciting and engaging way. 
  • Second, we need to establish a rotating model in which our bilingual practice can shine through, essentially to ensure that both Chinese and non-Chinese practitioner take equal responsibility for leading practice through their languages through the day

How we do it

    • Planning ahead: Preschool practitioners develop monthly plans in advance covering all aspects of education through their planning sheets (see template here). You will see that the sheet allows for the theme to be decided, through which ideas of how that theme can be furthered through: places, plants, people, animals, objects, activities and more.
  • Developing Weekly routines: The ideas are then tested against the activity schedules listed below to develop “Wow” moments throughout the week, which are then timetabled in Google Calendar for the classroom, with Chinese Lead practice and English lead practice rotating between a Week 1 and Week 2 format. For example, Circle Time on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of Week 1 might be in English and Chinese lead practice on Tuesday and Thursday but in Week 2 it will be the opposite. This is to ensure equal exposure between the two languages. It also allows us to timetable specific adult focussed activities such as literacy and numeracy - times where we might develop our phonics programme to ensure children are school ready by five, numerate and literate sufficient to meet the challenges of primary school
  • The Power of Circle Time: the preschool day is broken into “activity blocks” of c. 1 hr, each of which is preceded by a 10-15 minute circle time session to allow the staff and the children to talk through ideas and themes and how they can take them forward together. The children lead the discussion to talk about how they feel about the idea and it is for the practitioner to deliver the ideas in meaningful and relevant ways to inspire and excite
  • Child-Led implementation: from this discussion, the children will further their learning through continuous provision, utilising the environment to pursue their version of the theme in whatever way is meaningful to them. Practitioners are on hand to steer, nurture and guide children to furthering their knowledge of some of the ideas we’re presenting in small, easily digestible ways.

Let’s take a look at what it might look like in practice:








Circle Time

Chinese Practice

Theme & Words


English Practice

Theme & Words


Chinese Practice

Theme & Words


English Practice

Theme & Words


Chinese Practice

Theme & Words



Physical: Stretching & Yoga


Activity Block (Continuous Provision throughout)

English Practice

Phonics Class 


Chinese Practice

Music Class 

(EAD | C&L)

English Practice

Science Club


Chinese Practice

Counting Games

(NUM | C&L)

English Practice

Pottery Class



Snack Time

This model is delivered throughout the day, across four blocks of time (morning, before lunch, after lunch, afternoon, with Chinese following English practice, and English following Chinese practice and so on and so forth to embed both the language and the learning we’re intending to deliver to the children. See how we implement the balance in our Practice Procedures

Preschool Outcomes

Communication & Language

We build on our foundational work in the under 2 age group to start structuring vocabularies that reflect our monthly themes, cultural festivals and values that we aspire to teach. Following on the McArthur Bates CDIS in words and sentences, your child should start rapidly acquiring comprehension of up to 1000 words by the age of 3 or a conceptual vocabulary of 500 and by age 4, we are seeing simple sentence structures appear with around 5 word combinations, joining clauses with simple connectors like ’because‘, ‘and’ and the such and answering simple question word phrases like ‘why’ and ‘how’. By the time they are nearing the end of preschool, we expect them to have comprehension of over 1000 words, speaking in complete sentences and well able to articulate what he / she wants, feels and needs and to interpret his / her environment and the concepts taught with good, solid vocabularies



Vocab Acquisition Thresholds (Words)

Net Additional

Monthly Acquisitive Targets

Net Additional







0-11 months







8-20 months







16-26 months







22-36 months







30-50 months







40-60 mths







Personal Social & Emotional Development

We further the foundational work in babies with sharing and learning to take turns, to accommodate the needs of others such as by age 3 we have embedded the concept in habitual behaviour. Concepts of possession and ownership appear more readily in discourse with children and we’re beginning to see them engage in focussed play with pronounced levels of critical thought and cognition. We see role play manifest with full narrative structures from what they’ve perceived in real life: mummy and daddy caring for a baby perhaps. Or learning to feed one another or their dolls. We see them develop the linguistic capability to negotiate with other children over play and to start to discuss their own thoughts in the context of others, which we really pull through in our structured circle times as the children mature. 

Physical Development

Here we are embedding actual sports - football, basketball and tennis - to reinforce motor skills and hand eye coordination. We have hopping and skipping and obstacle courses in our playgrounds, along with our climbing frames and physical furniture for the children to explore, play and learn to navigate with risk managed. We are embedding the idea of healthy eating habits and hygiene, such that children develop routines around washing hands, drinking plenty of water, what the healthy eating plate looks like for nutritious food and why brushing our teeth is important. We focus on potty training in our 3 yr old age group, building on work undertaken towards the end of their time in our baby room such that the children are building up awareness of their physical bodies, their capabilities and when they need to go, they communicate!


It is crucial for children to develop a life-long love of reading. Reading consists of two dimensions: language comprehension and word reading. Language comprehension (necessary for both reading and writing) starts from birth. It only develops when adults talk with children about the world around them and the books (stories and non-fiction) they read with them, and enjoy rhymes, poems and songs together. Skilled word reading, taught later, involves both the speedy working out of the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) and the speedy recognition of familiar printed words. Writing involves transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech, before writing).

Milestones & markers:

    • From 3 yrs, we’re looking for our children to understand the five key concepts about print: - print has meaning - print can have different purposes - we read English text from left to right and from top to bottom - the names of the different parts of a book. We also start to explain that the calligraphs underline in art class, in chinese script, are symbols and pictographs that contain meaning.
  • From 3 and a half we’re looking for phonological awareness - spotting and suggesting rhyming words, developing syllabic awareness in word construction and recognising similar morphemes between words. We want them to be readily engaged in stories, actively askeing about new vocabularies and start putting their pens to paper to start pretending to write out lists and to start beginning to develop an interest in letter formation
  • From 4 we’re running through the Alphabet and developing our programme through Phonics, Letters and Sounds and Talking Time programmes to embed phonological awareness and the child’s understanding of letters and how they combine to create words. Children begin to see the linkage between what they say and the letters that can be written to recreate that sound


Developing a strong grounding in number is essential so that all children develop the necessary building blocks to excel mathematically. Children should be able to count confidently, develop a deep understanding of the numbers to 10, the relationships between them and the patterns within those numbers. We look to continuous provision to help children develop awareness of spatial relationships, of volume and weight and how shapes can integrate to form patterns and constructions. We have adult led focussed activities in both Chinese and English to structure numerals in number recognition games, providing resources to aid children’s knowledge of less and more, and counting and organisation materials in line with the numbers required. Our numeracy programme is focussed on contextually relevant maths to keep children excited with the ideas of computational abilities. 

Milestones & markers:

    • From 3-4 yrs, we’re looking for our children to grasp numbers up to 5 and to predict what number comes before and after a sequence, and how many will be in total (the ‘cardinal principle’) when counting is finished. Children will be able to count on their fingers up to five and match numbers of materials against numerals in number matching games (in Chinese and in English). They can compare quantities of more and less and understand volume and weight and are competent in exploring 2D and 3D shapes, using simple language ( ‘sides’, ‘corners’; ‘straight’, ‘flat’, ‘round’) to describe formation.
  • From 4 we’ve established a prepositional language to create understanding of time, space and sequencing of events -before, after, soon, under, on top of and more are used to describe and quantify their experience. They make regular comparisons between objects based on size, weight, capacity and can start placing shapes together in puzzle formation, developing a keen sense of pattern and system on materials. Our children should be able to count up to ten and undertake some simple computations on adding more and taking away from it to create new totals in practice.

Understanding the World

Understanding the world involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community. The frequency and range of children’s personal experiences increases their knowledge and sense of the world around them – from visiting parks, libraries and museums to meeting important members of society such as police officers, nurses and firefighters. In addition, listening to a broad selection of stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems will foster their understanding of our culturally, socially, technologically and ecologically diverse world. As well as building important knowledge, this extends their familiarity with words that support understanding across domains. Enriching and widening children’s vocabulary will support later reading comprehension. 

Milestones & markers:

  • Children will use all their senses in hands on exploration of natural materials, explore collections of materials with similar and/or different properties and talk about what they see, using a wide vocabulary to explain their experience in depth
  • Children will begin to make sense of their own life-story and family’s history - we invite children in circle time to talk about their lineage and invite families to share information about their country, culture and history for our thematic focus 
  • Children will develop an interest in occupations prevalent in their immediate community and will develop a stronger sense of the people of the world and the lives and lifestyles they have and the challenges they face through our global programme, knowing that there are different countries in the world and talk about the differences they have experienced or seen in photos. 
  • They will be active in their interest to discover how things work, understanding the life cycles of plants and animals and begin to respect the planet and all living things and our responsibility to maintain it for future generations.
  • They will develop a strong sense of material knowledge - texture and application of tools for use

Expressive Art & Design

The development of children’s artistic and cultural awareness supports their imagination and creativity. It is important that children have regular opportunities to engage with the arts, enabling them to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials. The quality and variety of what children see, hear and participate in is crucial for developing their understanding, self-expression, vocabulary and ability to communicate through the arts. The frequency, repetition and depth of their experiences are fundamental to their progress in interpreting and appreciating what they hear, respond to and observe. 

Milestones & markers:

  • Our children will take part in simple pretend play, using an object to represent something else even though they are not similar, begin to develop complex stories using small world equipment like animal sets, dolls and dolls houses and make imaginative and complex ‘small worlds’ with blocks and construction kits, such as a city with different buildings and a park. 
  • They will explore different materials freely, in order to develop their ideas about how to use them and what to make. 
  • They will develop their own ideas and then decide which materials to use to express them and join different materials and explore different textures.
  • They will create closed shapes with continuous lines, and begin to use these shapes to represent objects and draw with increasing complexity and detail, such as representing a face with a circle and including details. 
  • They will use drawing to represent ideas like movement or loud noises, show different emotions in their drawings and paintings, like happiness, sadness, fear and Explore colour and color mixing. 
  • They will show different emotions in their drawings – happiness, sadness, fear as part of their PSED development, and wil listen with increased attention to sounds, respond to what they have heard, expressing their thoughts and feelings.
  • They will remember and sing entire songs, sing the pitch of a tone sung by another person (‘pitch match’) and sing the melodic shape (moving melody, such as up and down, down and up) of familiar songs.
  • They will create their own songs, or improvise a song around one they know and play instruments with increasing control to express their feelings and ideas.