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Guest blog: How Castle Kindergarten is supporting home learning by Kay Rooks

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Thursday, 16 April, 2020

The EPPE research outcomes (Sylva et al 2004) included the strong message that the Home Learning Environment makes a huge difference to a child’s future success in school. Throughout the 2008, 2012 and subsequent EYFS documents, reference is made to EYFS practitioners working in partnership with parents and carers when delivering the EYFS curriculum.  

At the Castle Kindergarten sites, which are based in Albany, Hylton Castle and Sacriston, we have already established a strong link with parents and carers and offer a range of ways for families to become involved in their child’s learning and development. We introduced a Nursery Rhyme Project for all age groups in September 2017 and this is now an established part of our curriculum offer. Children learn identified nursery rhymes each term and families are invited to Sing-a-long sessions where everyone is encouraged to join in the singing.

We know that children need to hear between one to two thousand stories and books read, before moving on to become readers themselves. At Castle Kindergarten, as well as prioritising books in all areas, throughout our provisions, we have created libraries where parents and carers can take books home to share with their children.  In the run up to World Book Day 2020, Castle Kindergarten: Hylton Castle hosted a Big Book Hunt. The staff and children hid a range of books in the local community for families to find. When books were found, the finder had the opportunity to read and hide again or keep the book. This was a way of giving away free books and getting families involved in reading together. This had fantastic engagement from the families and generated a great deal of excitement.

During COVID-19

Direct contact with parents

Before isolation began, we made it clear that we would keep in touch with all of our children and that we would help families wherever we could.  We have had a small number of parents contact us who do not have access to the internet, and we have offered to take resources to their home for them.  These have included colouring sheets and paper tasks as well as ideas of activities that they could do with their children. 


We share lots of activity ideas with families through our Facebook page as this is our most effective way of engaging parents. All activities shared are easy to understand and replicate and require minimal resources. Some ideas include:

  • using Lego for maths activities
  • drawing round shadows
  • creating paper doll chains

as well as adding links to things which would be beneficial such as:


Some families have signed up to receive information through Tapestry, which is password protected, and the settings share images of children engaging in baking, hunting for minibeasts and painting for example.

Many parents have added feedback and photographs to our Tapestry pages.

Busy Bags

We have created a range of "busy bags" which contain themed resources. The three settings have developed their bags according to the interests and developmental needs of the children. At Hylton Castle, the first batch all had information about our bird project and some Easter related activities as well as a range of resources to support the following themes:

  • numbers 1-5
  • Five Little Ducks number rhyme
  • Matching Pairs games
  • numbers 1-20

We have had a great response to this, with many parents coming to collect within the time slot which we announced on Facebook.

When parents have contacted the settings to say they cannot come to collect bags, the Managers have arranged to deliver their packs throughout the week, or they have been given another time when they can collect their bags. 

During the delivery and collection of the bags we had the opportunity to gather feedback and speak with parents who have shared any news or concerns about their child. Toilet training has been a hot topic of discussion and the managers have added information to the Facebook page to support this.

Kay Rooks is a Director of Castle Kindergarten and Early Education Associate


Sylva, Kathy; Melhuish, Edward; Sammons, Pam; Siraj-Blatchford, Iram; Taggart, Brenda; (2004) The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project: Final Report: A Longitudinal Study Funded by the DfES 1997-2004. Institute of Education, University of London/ Department for Education and Skills/Sure Start: London. Available at