The Importance of Early Years Education: How and Why Teaching and Learning at Shrewsbury International School Phnom Penh is Distinct and Unique

Charlotte Thomas

The aspects of development in the Early Years curriculum lay the foundations for all future learning for our children. Many components are time sensitive because of biological factors that enable rapid brain connections, particularly in the first three years of life, but continuing throughout early childhood. Developmental steps missed at this early, crucial stage are much harder to address later on, so it is of vital importance that children’s interactions and experiences in the first few years support their development in these fundamental areas. Here at Shrewsbury International School Phnom Penh, we understand the great importance of our work in the Early Years and craft our approach accordingly in order to maximise progress for the school’s youngest pupils.

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We acknowledge that every child is unique, and that every child should take centre stage in their own learning journey. The child, therefore, is at the very heart of all we do here at Shrewsbury. Young children have both agencies and an innate curiosity about learning. They will also interact with peers, adults, and the world around them in different ways. We fully recognise that each child will develop uniquely, and that the learning and development fostered must be both holistic and delivered via play-based techniques in order to best meet the needs of our youngest children. Play is essential for young children’s development and for building their confidence as they learn to explore, relate to others, set their own goals, tackle challenges, and solve problems. Our practitioners have a deep understanding of how play of different types supports children to develop and learn. They are also adept at extending play and increasing learning by facilitating, explaining, demonstrating, exploring ideas, encouraging, questioning, recalling, providing narratives, and setting further challenges. In our Early Years, each unique child has rich opportunities to interact in these positive relationships, within an enabling environment that encourages their engagement and involvement, recognises their individual strengths and interests, and fosters their well-beings.

The enabling environment at our Shrewsbury Early Years facilitates our holistic approach to learning and development. Whilst different spaces in the environment reflect different areas of the curriculum, we recognise that these multitudinal learning aspects are constantly connected in a child’s experiences. In the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum, areas of learning are described separately to break down the complexity of a young child’s development, but it is important that we, as Shrewsbury practitioners, always keep the whole child in mind. As a child encounters and interacts with objects, events and other people, all spheres of early learning and development are in action concurrently. This is one of the reasons for the use of predominantly open-ended resources at Shrewsbury, which cater for learning across the curriculum, can be used in many different and unique ways, and thus meet the needs and interests of every child.

For example, whilst utilising the open-ended resource of a water tray, a child’s sensory play experience can cover numerous possible aspects of learning, at multiple levels, including: mathematics (capacity, number, shape), communication and language (narrating, negotiating, using new nouns, adjectives and verbs), personal development, health and self-care (independence, cleaning for hygiene, keeping dry), understanding of the world around them (states of matter, gravity, potential energy, sea and freshwater creatures); and many more besides. Furthermore, if, at any time, any aspect of the environment is assessed as no longer consistently delivering high-level involvement for our children, we change and adapt the environment and resourcing so that the needs of our specific cohort are catered for exactly. The enabling environment, therefore, combined with the quality interactions our children experience with the expert practitioners working in the Early Years setting at Shrewsbury, ensures that our children reach their full potential during their vital early learning time with us.

The unique work we do here in our Early Years at Shrewsbury enables our unique children to truly flourish, and sets them on the path to becoming successful, lifelong learners. We welcome you to visit us to see the Early Years in action and to learn more about how your own young child’s learning journey can be best facilitated here at Shrewsbury.

Charlotte Thomas

Deputy Principal

Our Early Years at Shrewsbury International School Phnom Penh is already open for business at the Flatiron location in Phnom Penh City Centre (for children aged two to five years old). The school’s main campus is set to open in September 2024 in the Chroy Changvar district, north of the city. The main campus will cater for primary and secondary aged pupils and provide boarding facilities.

Please come to find out more about our fantastic school at our event on 19th November 2022, at Raffles Hotel, from 2pm – 5pm.

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