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St Anthony's Nursery School, Larne, Co. Antrim

Pre School Curriculum

The Board of Governors and Staff of St. Anthony’s Nursery School believe that Nursery education is a highly valuable and important experience for all children. We believe our families are their child’s first educators and we in Nursery mark the first step on their child’s formal education journey, building on the learning our children have had in their homes. We are committed to working in partnership with our parents/ guardians in the best interests of the children in our care.

We believe that every child has the right to a safe, happy, nurturing, respectful and encouraging Nursery experience in a rich and stimulating environment where each child is valued for their unique selves.  While St. Anthony’s is a CCMS school, we are proud of our  diverse and cross community makeup of staff and children and acknowledge and celebrate our similarities and our differences.

In the Nursery we follow the Department of Education Curriculum for Pre School.

Our curriculum has 6 areas-

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

Physical Development and Movement

Language Development

Early Mathematical Experience

The Arts

The World Around Us



We subscribe to the aims of pre school education and appreciate that all children are different and develop at different ages and stages and we plan accordingly. We believe that “Play is really the work of childhood” (F. Rogers) and ensure our children are provided with a learning environment, indoors and outdoors, that creates opportunities to thrive.

Our collaborative planning ensures that we promote and enhance our children’s social, emotional, physical, creative and intellectual development through supporting and developing their confidence, self control, empathy and resilience. We support the development of our children’s language and communication skills and encourage curiosity and enthusiasm to learn, explore, investigate, create and problem solve….while playing and having fun.

Our staff are qualified and highly trained and are dedicated and committed to the aims and standards expected in our school.

In order to provide for the enriching and enabling curriculum we offer our children, we ensure our indoor and outdoor learning environments are safe, attractive, stimulating and cater to the varying  needs of the children. We ensure they evolve to meet the children’s progression and interests.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSE)


Here in St. Anthony’s Nursery School we believe that Personal, Social and Emotional development is of utmost importance for young children in all aspects of their lives. It is about children’s emotional well being, understanding of who they are and respect for others and their environment. It is also about forming and sustaining relationships, beginning to understand emotions, learning how to self regulate and developing positive dispositions to learn. Good personal, social and emotional development gives children the best opportunity for success in the other Areas of Learning.

As they begin their pre school education, children bring with them a variety of personal and social skills, values and attitudes. They acquire experiences and relationships within the home and their immediate surroundings, and  these are recognized.

As our children start in Nursery and begin to settle, we work to build on and develop their PSE .

 Our children are given opportunities to

-cope with change as they settle into their new school and separate for ever increasing time from their parent/ guardian/ carer

-establish positive relationships with their new peers and teachers

- build on their self confidence , resilience and feelings of self worth

 -follow simple routines eg self register, help tidy up,  dinners/ lunches

- be independent in self help skills eg put on/ take off their coats, toilet independently, wipe own nose…

-make choices about where they play and the resources they use

-play with other children, share and take turns, help each other and their teachers

- express their emotions and feelings and learn to manage their behaviour

-develop respect for themselves, others, the world around them, their belongings and others belongings

Our staff work hard to foster our children’s PSE by creating an ethos where the children

  • Feel secure and have a sense of well being
  • Are encouraged to express their emotions appropriately and be independent
  • Receive consistent encouragement and positive reinforcement to behave appropriately and to respect their own and other’s play
  • Feel supported and cared for

We work in partnership with our families to ensure that a smooth settling in period is achieved and strive to build up a good working relationship with our parents/ guardians for the sharing of information and in the best interests of the children.

We work in partnership with a range of partners to develop our children’s well being, confidence and self esteem eg sports and dance and yoga coaches, a professional gardener.

Physical Development and Movement

Here in St. Anthony’s Nursery we are fully aware of the benefits, and fun learning, when children are developing their gross and fine motor skills through physical development and movement.

Children enjoy physical play, both indoors and outdoors. They revel in the freedom of movement and in play that is inventive, adventurous and stimulating. Physical play that develops gross motor skills eg running, jumping, climbing, skipping, balancing, hopping, kicking, striking, throwing and catching, helps children to develop balance, control, co ordination and an awareness of space, size and direction. Indoor and outdoor play helps develop fine motor skills such as grasping, screwing, pinching, picking, holding and threading and are important for the development of eye and hand co ordination.

Throughout their time with us, the children are provided with a wide range of activities, areas and resources, inside and outside, to support their well being, promote long term health and support their physical and cognitive development.

The children are provided with opportunities to develop skills and progress in learning  through,

-taking part in physical play and movement that will develop their gross motor skills through a wide range of areas and resources eg climbing frame, swings, see saw, obstacle course, tricycles on the track,  pushing wheel barrows/ prams, ball games, stilts, bouncy hoppers, hoops, digging, planting,  big construction, dancing, yoga, Primary Movement,  Rainy Day Circuits,  opening and closing umbrellas, playground ring games, parachute games and so much more.

-taking part in physical play and movement that will develop their fine motor skills through a wide range of areas and resources eg drawing, painting, chalking, mark making, using  tools, tongs, jigsaws, construction toys, scissors, glue sticks, books, threading, pouring and filling, working with dough, clay, playing in pasta, pulses, oats, foam etc and using IT

-developing independence skills eg taking off / putting on coat, hat, scarf, mittens, sweatshirts, buttering bread, pouring drinks, opening own lunch box and tubs,

-becoming aware of personal space and safety, rules and sequences

- turn taking, sharing, co operating and negotiating

-responding creatively to a range of stimuli eg music, songs, action rhymes and stories

-taking part in sessions with qualified sports, dance coaches eg Sportstastics, Jump, Jiggle and Jive, Children’s Yoga

-taking part, daily, in Primary Movement

We have invested in our outdoor play area and won an award as runner up in the Mid and East Antrim in Bloom Best School Garden Project Oct 2021. Our garden area provides for physical development and emotional well being as the children explore the sensory areas and build, create and investigate in our mud kitchen, sand and gravel pits, digging area, Fairy Garden, obstacle course and have some quiet time in our Book Nook. 

Our staff ensue that our children have effective physical play, throughout their day, fully aware that the guidance is that children under 5 should be physically active for 3 hours a day.

Physical play is in well defined, suitable, safe places for distinctive types of play and sensory exploration where the children can experiment with different ways of moving. Staff ensure appropriate materials that reflect the children’s interests and can be used in a variety of ways to support different types of play and are differentiated to take children’s special educational needs into consideration. Staff ensure children’s movement is accommodated by playing at various levels- kneeling, half kneel, lying , standing, stretching, reaching, criss cross legs sitting- to build on the children’s muscle tone, balance and bi lateral co ordination.

Language Development

Here in St. Anthony’s Nursery School we believe that language development is crucial for our children to live and learn- to communicate with others, to share and express feelings, to give and obtain information and to understand ideas and develop thoughts.

Being able to understand and use language allows children to make their needs, thoughts, feelings and ideas known to others; interact socially as they play together; manage their own behaviour and self regulate their emotions and learn independently and collaboratively.

We appreciate that children starting pre school bring their own experiences of using language, indeed some of our children may have English as an additional language.

Working in partnership with our parents/ guardians we strive to progress our children’s learning in language by providing opportunities for children to-

  • Feel safe, secure and confident in interacting with their teachers and their peers
  • Play, learn and interact in a literacy rich indoor and outdoor environment eg books and mark making relevant to the area at different stations around the classroom and outside
  • Develop and build on their attention and listening skills through story, rhyme, songs, games,
  • Respond to simple instructions and follow directions
  • Participate in story, rhymes, songs and extending conversation
  • Have new and topical vocabulary modelled and used by highly trained staff
  • Engage in imaginative activities such as role play and drama which provides freedom to be creative and experiment with words and phrases
  • Talk about the story and recall events
  • Develop thinking skills
  • Have fun with words eg rhyming words and clapping syllables
  • Express themselves through mark making using a range of resources eg markers, paint, crayons, pencils, chalk, white board markers, note books (inside and outside)
  • Have their thoughts, feelings and ideas recorded
  • Understand that symbols and print carry meaning eg their snack card, painting labels and key words
  • Use IT eg school Ipad to play Nursery Rhyme games

During their pre school year, children will become aware of and are encouraged to use other forms of communication as a means of self expression such as drawing, painting, music, movement and drama.

Staff use visual timetables, photos, pictures and songs to communicate eg routines.

Children have the opportunity to choose their own library books to take home and share .

Parents/ guardians are encouraged to take part in Big Bedtime Read which funds our Library through the Getting Ready To Read project.

Joining the Larne Library is promoted through school. Gifts of books are given as Christmas and Graduation presents.

Some children may require additional support eg EAL children, children with speech and language difficulties, children with hearing difficulties and children with visual difficulties. Staff work closely with these families and in partnership with outside agencies to support the needs of our children.

Early Mathematical Experiences

Here in St. Anthony’s Nursery we foster a positive attitude towards the development of mathematical concepts as they are part of daily life, without us often being even aware of it.

Children require opportunities to revisit activities and to experience mathematical idea in many different contexts and this is done through the wide range of play areas and resources we provide in the Nursery, inside and outside. Staff seek to extend, informally, the mathematical experiences the children have already had at home.

Through their play experiences, children will have an opportunity to progress their learning by-

  • Experimenting with a wide range of materials that will support eg matching, sorting, comparing, pattern awareness, position, sequence
  • Playing games and activities and using resources indoors and outdoors that will support their awareness of - number, shape, colour, size, quantity and capacity
  • Joining in stories, songs, rhymes and jingles using the language of counting, size etc
  • Using mathematical equipment in their play eg calculators, rulers, scales, IT, measuring tapes, tills and coins
  • Extending their maths language and vocabulary by hearing their teachers use mathematically rich language throughout the school day
  • Developing an awareness of sequencing and the passing of time through eg following a visual timetable/ daily routines, watching the sand timer, listening to sequenced stories, talking about the seasons and celebrations through the year.
  • Solving simple problems eg what comes next.
  • -using IT eg school ipads to play maths games

Staff ensure maths is fun and part of everyday play eg sorting the cars from the aeroplanes, matching a red saucer under every red cup in the kitchen, pouring the heavy water jug, having the leader go first in the line, putting 4 blue beads on the necklace, putting the 3 bears in order – big, middle sized and small…

The Arts

Here in St. Anthony’s Nursery School we believe in the important role of the arts- Art and Design, Music and Drama, in ensuring an explorative, stimulating and joyful experience for our children.

Being creative allows our children the freedom to make and create new things, come up with their own ideas and ways of doing things, solve problems, cope with uncertainty and express themselves in a way that doesn’t always require words.  The arts, indoors and outdoors, frees the children and helps with emotional development and social interaction.

Staff ensure our children are supported to learn and develop through exploring and experimenting in sensory and play based activities and have the opportunity to-

-choose their own activities and implement their own ideas in a range of scenarios and

-use a wide range of mediums, materials, and tools- paints, chalk, markers, crayons, dough, clay, collage, fabric, junk art, sponges, sand, charcoal, pastels, fingers/ hands…

-have their work valued and displayed and value that of their friends

-listen to and join in songs, rhymes and jingles

-listen to and move freely to a variety of music styles and music from around the world

- make their own music, play with percussion instruments, make their own instruments and use their body as percussion

-join in role play in a wide range of situations, using props eg the house, the builders, the hospital, the shop, the hairdressers, puppets, soft toys and small world toys

-build their confidence and self worth as they take part in eg the Christmas Show and Graduation Concert and sing/ perform for their friends throughout the year-individually and in a group.

Throughout the year we share our valued art work with our families including photos via see saw. At the end of the school year parents/ guardians receive their child’s My Special Book containing work the children have created through the year.

Parents/ guardians are invited to attend the Christmas Concert and Graduation Concert- where attendance in person is not possible this is shared through see saw.

We invite the Hullaballoo Puppet Show into school on a number of occasions throughout the year and the children are exposed to a live, interactive performance.

The World Around Us

St. Anthony’s Nursery School is proud to be a Green Flag Eco School and much emphasis is put on respecting the world around us and the animals we share the world with.

From their earliest days, children try to make sense of their world. They are naturally curious about their environment and the people and animals around them and frequently ask questions . Through the wide, varied and stimulating range of activities and experiences we provide, the children begin to build on their observation, experimentation, knowledge, vocabulary and empathy for the world around them.

Staff ensure children progress in their learning by having opportunities to-

-develop a range of skills and concepts including observation, experimentation and free exploration of their surroundings, inside and outside

-extend their understanding of themselves and their families, their school and the wider environment

-comment, ask and have answered their questions

-play with a wide range of exploratory equipment and resources- binoculars, cameras, telescopes, gardening tools, bug boxes, bird feeders, topical books, light boxes, globes, traffic signs, magnets, torches etc

 -play in a wide range of mediums- compost, sand, water, dough, clay, pasta, pulses, cereals, foam, shells, gloop, snow and ice etc

-explore the properties of things and how they change  eg wet/ dry sand/ what happens when water freezes/ making volcanoes erupt/ cooking/ melting chocolate….

-show respect for living things eg feed the birds, plant seasonally, water the plants, watch our caterpillars grow into butterflies…

-talk about seasonal events eg leaves changing colour in Autumn, shoots coming through in Spring, Christmas celebrations, Chinese New Year, cultural celebrations relevant to our children eg Eid, Diwali

- talk about the roles of some people who help us eg police officer/ fire service/ doctor/ nurse/ dentist/ farmer etc

- name the parts of their body

- make simple predictions based on what they observe

- use IT eg take photos, access information

Throughout the year we invite visitors to school so our children have first hand experience of eg the police service, the fire service, RNLI and BOG and family members who are eg farmers, dentists, nurses, doctors etc.

We have an ECO Council  and an ECO  Action Plan each year. Our Eco Council help in the school grounds and do seasonal gardening with a professional gardener and plant fruit and veg to eat.

We reduce, reuse and recycle where possible and promote eg an eco friendly lunch box with reuseable tubs instead of single use plastics. Our children recycle their food in the food bin and paper in the paper bin.

We work with Larne Council and are involved in Big Spring Clean

We sponsor a lion in Belfast Zoo and a Panda Bear with the World Wildlife Fund, through money raised in a fun Spots and Stripes Day.

We subscribe to water Aid in our bid to make the world a fairer place.

We fundraise for charities that are relevant to the children in our school each academic year. We have a fun Pyjama Day for Children In Need, a Wooly Jumper Day for Save the Children and sell a Nursery Made Christmas Card for a Homeless charity.