Going back to the essentials for a meaningful Early Years education

Within the Early Years (EY) program at BEPS International School, we embrace children aged 2½ to 5 years old in mixed-age groups. Tailoring our approach to individual development, character, and personal backgrounds, we provide support and challenges to enhance each child’s learning journey.

Free-flow learning prioritises child-led exploration, allowing children to follow their own interests and instincts. Dr. Tina Bruce, a renowned expert in early childhood education, underscores the importance of play as the cornerstone of learning.

By integrating play into their activities, children gain greater independence and freedom of movement, fostering a more engaging learning experience. We recognise play as a natural vehicle for learning and a vital component of children’s development.

In our EY program, children engage in play-based experiences that foster curiosity, confidence and the acquisition of foundational knowledge and skills. Rather than providing them with predefined toys like shops, doll corners, or castles, we encourage children to construct and create their own imaginative settings.

The EY Team cherishes child-led learning, allowing children to explore, discover, and create using diverse materials, techniques, and resources. Our committed staff curate a range of activities, games, and opportunities for play, both indoors and outdoors, to support children as they navigate their developmental stages. While children typically progress through developmental stages in a similar sequence, the duration and characteristics of each stage vary among individuals. At BEPS EY, our educators go beyond simply adapting lessons; they actively guide each child along their unique learning path, providing personalised coaching and support.

Two years ago we adopted a mixed-age approach for our EY Section based on extensive research demonstrating its benefits for children’s learning and development. One such theory, Vygotsky’s Sociocultural theory, emphasises the importance of Sustained Shared Thinking, which occurs during interactions between individuals. While typically involving an adult and a child, it can also occur among children, especially when one child acts as a ‘more knowledgeable other.’

Echoing Montessori, we recognise the value of older children serving as mentors in mixed-age classrooms. This mentorship fosters pro-social behaviours like sharing and helping, reinforcing the adage that teaching is a form of learning.

Throughout the three-year cycle in the classroom, children have opportunities to revisit and engage with materials at varying levels, promoting continuous learning and exploration. By participating in mixed-age classrooms, children gain invaluable preparation for real-world interactions, where they’ll encounter individuals of different ages, experiences, and abilities, setting a foundation for success in diverse social environments.

Our outdoor play and learning space, enriched with natural elements, serves as a dynamic environment fostering opportunities for children to connect with and appreciate the surrounding nature. Here, amidst the greenery and open skies, children are encouraged to embrace their adventurous spirit, with the freedom to explore, make noise and engage in messy play. This outdoor area not only provides a haven for uninhibited fun but also grants invaluable access to the wonders of the natural world. With ample fresh air and direct exposure to weather phenomena, children gain firsthand experiences that deepen their understanding and appreciation of the environment around them.

In addition to our outdoor play and learning space, our children embark on weekly exciting expeditions to explore the woods (Bois de la Cambre) situated across the street emphasising a unique learning focus. These weekly adventures not only immerse children in the natural world but also provide structured opportunities for them to engage with diverse ecosystems, flora, and fauna. By delving into the woods with purposeful learning objectives, children deepen their understanding of ecology, biodiversity, and environmental sustainability. These regular visits foster a sense of wonder and curiosity, instilling in children a profound appreciation for the rich tapestry of nature that surrounds them.

At BEPS we use the International EY Curriculum (IEYC) to develop and  foster each child’s growth through engaging and playful personal, international, and academic learning encounters, equipping them to navigate present and future opportunities and challenges with confidence. The IEYC embodies three foundational dimensions of Learning and Development – Personal, International, and Academic – which form the cornerstone of every child’s educational journey. Within the Academic Dimension, four fundamental strands of learning, including Independence and Interdependence, Communicating, Enquiring, and Healthy Living and Physical Well-being, are meticulously curated to nurture a well-rounded educational experience. Moreover, in our EY program, we are dedicated to cultivating global citizenship, fostering self-discovery, and promoting respectful and inclusive interactions within our diverse community. With over 23 nationalities, mother tongues, and cultures represented, we embrace the significance of Mother Tongue in enriching language acquisition and learning.

Complementing our dedicated EY staff, a team of specialised subject teachers guides children in exploring various disciplines such as PE, Music, ICT and French.

For our eldest EY children, focused sessions in pre-writing, phonics reading, and numeracy lay the groundwork for a smooth transition to Year 1. Here, they embark on dynamic learning adventures within an environment that is both flexible and sensorially stimulating, fostering a nurturing atmosphere conducive to exploration and play-based learning. As they transition to Year 1, we introduce additional elements tailored to their developmental stage, including more structured academic tasks and opportunities for increased independence in learning.

We strongly believe in fostering a robust partnership with parents, recognising their pivotal role in their child’s educational journey. Through ongoing communication and collaboration, we encourage parents to share insights into their child’s interests and learning preferences, enabling us to tailor educational experiences that inspire curiosity and extend learning both in school and at home. Through weekly newsletters and our online learning platform, Seesaw, parents gain access to a wealth of resources and activities to further enrich their child’s learning experience beyond the classroom.

In conclusion, the EY program at BEPS International School offers a nurturing environment where children thrive in mixed-age groups. Through a child-led approach, emphasising play-based learning and outdoor exploration, we aim to foster curiosity, confidence, and a strong foundation of knowledge and skills in each child. With a focus on personalised coaching and support, we prepare children for success in diverse social environments. Our commitment to cultivating global citizenship, inclusive interactions, and partnerships with parents ensures a well-rounded educational experience that extends beyond the classroom.

Through these efforts, each day at BEPS Early Years is an adventure!

Erna Van Acker, Head of Early Years and Lower Primary School

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BEPS International School

BEPS International School

BEPS International School is situated in beautiful buildings in the heart of one of Brussels’ most desirable areas, close to the Bois de la Cambre and the University (ULB). The school offers an inquiry based learning approach through the International Early Years Curriculum, the International Primary Curriculum, the Middle Years Programme from the International Baccalaureate® (IB), the IB Diploma Programme and the IB Career Related Programme.

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