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The Barkly House motto is ex fine origo: in my end is my beginning. At Barkly House we approach education with a view to the future of our children. Aspects of this approach are discussed below.

At Barkly House we want our children to be lifelong learners and therefore we teach through play as this is the best way for them to learn. Play is the work of children. It is a non-threatening and happy experience which enhances their self image.

There are many different types and levels of play. Children need to experience all of them. We create opportunities in our school to facilitate all the types and levels. Play assists children’s needs in all areas of their development.

  • Physical: Developing their motor skills and coordination.
  • Social: Initiating relations between children and by playing roles they see in the world around them.
  • Emotional: Learning to trust and accept each other. Learning to take responsibility and independence for their own decisions and ideas.
  • Intellectual: Here there are an enormous amount of experiences including identifying differences, classification, symbolizing, problem solving, reasoning and developing perceptual skills. Other important skills that are developed are paying attention, concentration, memory, creativity and the use of imagination.

Play does not mean that the children can just do as they want. The teachers present all areas in the school to optimise play and learning.

Benefits of Play

  • Play is intrinsically motivated and it is done for its own sake.
  • It is undertaken by choice and is spontaneous and voluntary.
  • It involves enjoyment and does not occur when the child is in a state of anxiety.
  • Play is self-generated and includes active involvement on the part of the player.  (Gretchen Butera)

What Does Play Mean for Children?

  • A chance to transform materials into meaningful symbols.
  • A chance to develop an inquiring mind and explore personal feelings
  • A chance to work through who they are and what they are
  • A chance to kindle curiosity to create, imagine and experiment
  • A chance to solve problems
  • A chance to learn how to make friends with children and adults
  • A chance to learn to cope with groups, small and large
  • A chance to learn to take knocks and cope with them
  • A chance to learn about others’ feelings
  • A chance to assert themselves and to be important
  • A chance to develop hobbies and broaden their interests
  • A chance to develop the mind, consolidate experiences, rehearse life and develop a healthy self-esteem.

Developmental Stages of Play

  • Egocentric Play or Solitary Play:  The child in this stage plays on their own with objects (usually until 3 yrs old).
  • Parallel Play: Children play side by side without interacting with each other but it is essential that the others are there.  During this stage onlooker play is often observed (3 to 4 years old).
  • Associative Play: This is seen when 4 to 5 children join or leave a group as they wish. They play many make-believe games (usually 4 to 5 ½ years old).
  • True Social Group Play: This is when children interact socially and cooperatively during play (5 to 6 years old).


You say you love your children
And you are concerned they learn today.
So am I – that’s why I’m providing
A variety of kinds of play.

You’re asking me the value
Of blocks and other such play.
Your children are solving problems –
They will use that skill everyday.

You’re asking what’s the value
Of having children play?
Your daughter’s creating a tower –
She may be a builder someday.

You’re saying you don’t want your son
To play in that “sissy” way.
He’s learning to cuddle a doll –
He may be a father one day.

You’re questioning the interest centres;
They just look like useless play.
Your children are making choices –
They’ll be on their own some day.

You’re worried your children aren’t learning
And later they’ll have to pay.
They’re learning the pattern for learning –
For they’ll be learners always.

by Leila P. Flagg from The Very Young

Barkly House Kenilworth Pre-Primary School offers a 3-year programme for children from the year that they turn 4 until the year they turn 6. Our mission statement is: “Every child is developed holistically through play to the best of their ability in a structured environment.” This mission statement informs all our interactions, preparations and planning for each individual child every day.

Our philosophy of education is an eclectic approach based on the theories of Piaget and Montessori (Cognitive Theorists), Bruner (Discovery Theorist focusing on the importance of the environment) and Vygotsky (Developmental Psychologist focusing on the importance of a teacher and on interaction for learning and language development).

The school uses the integrated open-plan method. This is based on systems used in England, America and Wales. The general characteristics of this method are:

  • Structuring of the learning environment through the optimal use of physical space and the objects in it.
  • Structured varied activities in each room – a resource room and an art room.
  • A variety of materials are used – shop-bought, teacher-made and child-made. These are all in active use and are all placed in rational order.
  • The whole environment is non-threatening.
  • There are plenty of role models for each child to copy. It provides a family type social setting, which is reflective of society.
  • The teacher can use optimal learning situations – incidental teaching, rather than formal lessons. Learning through play is natural and promotes a desire to learn and it encourages discovery and lifelong learning.
  • Teachers “teach” and facilitate learning in small groups or with individuals. Children are taught when they are motivated and ready to learn.
  • Individuals are encouraged to learn at their own pace.
  • It is cost-effective as resources are used optimally.
  • Ongoing evaluation is used extensively.

Early Literacy

Throughout our preschool programme we are in fact teaching both literacy and numeracy. All the underlying skills required for learning to read and do mathematics are included in every activity and area every day. We focus on listening skills during teacher-directed activities and teach the children to focus their listening. This is done through the use of informal age-appropriate activities.

Listening skills form the basis of all formal learning as well as, very importantly, phonological awareness without which one cannot spell, read or write. We teach children to rhyme and create their own rhymes as well as listening for and identifying specific sounds in words. Once they are able to do this we then introduce them to the sounds of the alphabet. This gives them a rich phonological background on which they can base their formal reading and spelling skills. We nurture and facilitate reading but do not formally teach it. If a child asks for a word we will write it down. We also expose them to words on charts that they are encouraged to use. By writing captions of what they want to say about their artwork, we provide a link for them between their thoughts and the written word. Our environment is structured in a way that children are immersed in a rich environment of language and the necessary sub-skills for learning to read.

These are some of the skills necessary for a child to reach their full potential as a reader:

  • Physical Abilities: Running, jumping, balancing, throwing, catching, folding, tearing, cutting, etc. 
  • Social-Emotional Maturity: Sharing materials, playing with peers, adapting to routines, exhibiting self-control, showing self-confidence, etc.
  • Intellectual Abilities: Gaining meaning and understanding by thinking about information, problem solving, understanding concepts, etc.
  • Language Skills: Vocabulary growth and sentence formation, analyzing and comprehending what is heard, etc.
  • Experience Background: Taking part in school activities and outings, listening to stories, etc.
  • Perceptual Skills: Differentiating between letters of the alphabet, detecting differences in sounds and remembering them, etc.

Early Numeracy

Children require a great deal of hands-on activity to be able to understand basic mathematical concepts. They experience these concepts when playing in the garden, interacting with the various tables and participating in activities inside the school. This physical activity gives them the foundation on which to build abstract mathematical concepts.

  • Sorting, matching and identifying are essential skills for numeracy. These activities are done in teacher-directed rings and also whenever children pack away games and activities. Many educational games focus on these skills and therefore children are exposed to many different forms of these skills. Colour, size, shape, texture and length are all vocabulary and skills mastered when using these concepts.
  • Measurement is very important to assist the children in building up their mathematical vocabulary. Space, shape and relationships are all used when learning about measurement.
  • Time and speed are two skills that preschool children find difficult to grasp so we expose them to many activities and experiences involving these concepts, for example, days of the week, routines, and seasons.
  • Weight, mass, gravity, temperature, volume, size and money are all concepts that we expose them to both incidentally through our structured environment as well as in our teacher-directed activities.

Counting and Number Work

It is vitally important that children have a great deal of exposure to actively manipulating objects for counting activities and games before they are taught number operations (sums). All children can learn the recitation 1+1=2 but they do not necessarily understand it. We focus on doing a great deal of activities involving objects so that the children can internalise their concept of numbers. In this way they gain a firm foundation on which all their mathematical knowledge can be built in formal education. Once they are able to play with and manipulate objects according to our criteria we teach them how to halve and double numbers as well as to do more and less. We encourage them to use many different problem solving skills.
We expose them to as many activities involving numeracy and teach them to love numbers and problem solving and to have confidence in their abilities by always making sure that the activity is within their understanding. We do not formally teach them bonds but we nurture their numeracy skills so that they can enjoy manipulating numbers.

We teach literacy and numeracy with this quote in mind: “Let me not teach these children too fast for they are living in their present world, not in an adult’s present world or a child’s future world” (Dr M.J. Grey)

Three to Four Years Old (Younger Group)

Posture and Large Movements

  • Walks alone upstairs with alternating feet and downstairs, two feet to a step.
  • Can turn round obstacles and corners while running and also while pushing and pulling large toys.
  • Walks forwards, backwards, sideways, etc., hauling large toys confidently.
  • Rides tricycle, using pedals, and can steer it round wide corners.
  • Can stand and walk on tiptoe.
  • Stands momentarily on one foot when shown.
  • Sits with feet crossed at ankles.
  • Can throw ball overhand and catch large ball on or between extended arms.
  • Kicks a ball forcibly.

Vision and Fine Movements

  • Builds tower of nine cubes and one or more bridges of three from models using two hands cooperatively.
  • Threads large wooden beads on shoelace.
  • Can close fist and wiggle thumb in imitation, right and left.
  • Holds pencil in preferred hand near point between first two fingers and thumb and uses it with good control.
  • Draws a man with head and usually indication of one or two other features or parts.
  • Matches two or three primary colours (usually red and yellow correct, but may confuse blue and green).
  • May know names of colours.
  • Enjoys painting with large brushes, covering whole paper with wash of colour or painting “primitive “ pictures which are usually named during or after production.
  • Cuts with scissors.


  • Speech modulating in volume and range of pitch.
  • Large vocabulary intelligible even to strangers, but speech still shows many infantile phonetic substitutions and unconventional grammatical forms.
  • Carries on simple conversations and is able briefly to describe present activities and past experiences.
  • Asks many questions beginning with “what”, “where”, and “who”.
  • Listens eagerly to stories and demands favourites over and over again.
  • Knows several Nursery Rhymes and can sing some songs.

Social Behaviour and Play

  • Eats with fork and spoon.
  • Washes hands but needs supervision in drying.
  • Can dress themselves but needs help with fastenings.
  • General behaviour more amenable. Affectionate and confiding.
  • Likes to help adults in domestic activities like gardening, shopping, etc.
  • Vividly realized make-believe play, including invented people and objects.
  • Enjoys floor-play with bricks, boxes, toy trains, dolls, prams, etc. alone or with friends.
  • Joins in active make-believe play with other children.
  • Understands sharing playthings, sweets, etc.
  • Shows affection for younger siblings.
  • Shows some appreciation of difference between present and past and of the need to defer satisfaction of wishes to future.

Four to Five Years Old (Middle Group)

Posture and Large Movements

  • Walks and runs alone up and down stairs, one foot to step.
  • Climbs ladders and trees.
  • Can stand, walk and run on tiptoe.
  • Expert rider of tricycle, executing sharp U turns easily.
  • Stands on one (preferred) foot for three to five seconds and hops on preferred foot.
  • Arranges and picks up objects from floor, bending from the waist with knees extended.
  • Sits with knees crossed.
  • Shows increasing skill in ball games – throwing, catching, bouncing, kicking, etc. including use of bat.

Vision and Fine Movements

  • Picks up and replaces very small items, e.g. pins, thread, crumbs etc. with each eye covered separately.
  • Threads small beads to make necklaces, if adult threads the needle.
  • Builds tower of 10 or more cubes and several bridges of three from one model on request or spontaneously.
  • Builds three steps with six cubes after demonstration.
  • Draws a man with head, legs and trunk and usually arms and fingers.
  • Draws recognizable house.
  • Matches and names four colours correctly.

Hearing and Speech

  • Speaks grammatically correctly and completely intelligible.
  • Shows only a few infantile phonetic substitutions usually of r-l-w-y group or p-th-f-s group or k-t sound group.
  • Gives connected account of recent events and experiences.
  • Gives full name, home address and usually age.
  • Eternally asking questions :why?”, “when?”, “how?” and meanings of words.
  • Listens to and tells stories, sometimes confusing facts and fantasy.
  • Counts by rote up to 10.
  • Enjoys jokes and verbal incongruities.
  • Knows several nursery rhymes, which he repeats or sings correctly.

Social Behaviour and Play

  • Eats skillfully with spoon and fork.
  • Washes and dries hands. Brushes teeth.
  • Can undress and dress except for laces, ties and buttons on the back.
  • General behaviour more independent and strongly self-willed.
  • Shows sense of humour in talk and activities.
  • Dramatic make-believe play and dressing-up favoured.
  • Constructive out-of-door building with any materials available.
  • Needs companionship of other children with whom he is alternately co-operative and aggressive, as with adults, but usually understands the need to argue with words rather than blows.
  • Understands taking turns as well as sharing.
  • Shows concern for younger siblings and sympathy for playmates in distress.

Five to Six Years Old (Older Group / Grade R)

Posture and Large Movements

  • Walks easily on narrow line.
  • Runs lightly on toes.
  • Active and skillful in climbing, sliding, swinging, digging and various “stunts”.
  • Skips on alternate feet.
  • Moves rhythmically to music.
  • Can stand on one foot for 8 to 10 seconds right and left and usually also stands on preferred foot, with arms folded.
  • Can hop two metres forwards on each foot separately.
  • Grips strongly with either hand.
  • Can bend and touch toes without flexing knees.
  • Plays all varieties of ball games with considerable ability, including those requiring appropriate placement or scoring, according to accepted rules.

Vision and Fine Movements

  • Picks up and replaces minute objects when each eye is covered separately.
  • Builds three steps with six cubes from model.
  • Threads large needles alone and sews real stitches.
  • Good control in writing and drawing with pencils and paintbrushes.
  • Writes a few letters spontaneously.
  • Draws recognizable man with head, trunk, legs, arms and features.
  • Draws house with door, windows, roof and chimney.
  • Spontaneously produces many other pictures containing several items and usually an indication of background and environment.
  • Colours pictures neatly, staying within outlines.
  • Counts fingers on one hand with the index finger of the other.
  • Names all colours.

Hearing and Speech

  • Speech fluent, grammatically conventional and usually phonetically correct.
  • Delights in reciting or singing rhymes and jingles.
  • Loves to be read to or told stories and acts them out in detail later, alone or with friends.
  • Gives full name, age and usually birthday. Gives home address.
  • Constantly asks meaning of abstract words and uses them in and out of season.
  • Enjoys jokes and riddles.

Social Behaviour and Play

  • Uses knife and fork competently.
  • Washes and dries face and hands.
  • Undresses and dresses alone.
  • Domestic and dramatic play continued alone or with playmates from day to day.
  • Plays complicated floor games.
  • Plans and builds constructively in and out of doors.
  • Chooses own friends.
  • Co-operative with companions most of the time and understands the need for rules and fair play.
  • Shows definite sense of humour.
  • Appreciates meaning of clock-time in relation to daily programme.
  • Tender and protective towards younger children and pets.
  • Comforts playmates in distress.