Horsforth Newlaithes

Welcome to our curriculum webpage for ILT (Independent Learning Time)

"Rough red is fun: it gets you learning. In the rough red there are tricky bits and you have to get through them to get to brilliant blue."

Seth L, Freddie R and Lulabelle F - Reception

"We get feedback from the teachers to help us learn. Sometimes people get inspired by other people and make the same things."

Emma W - Reception

Independent Learning Time (ILT) is a dedicated time for the children in EY and KS1 to lead their own learning. In a world where learning to learn skills are valued and sought after by employers, we at Newlaithes feel that these skills need to be explicitly taught and assessed. The children plan what they are going to do and manage their own time and resources with support from the adults in the setting. As children develop they become more able to plan on their own and this readiness is assessed and closely monitored. Independent Learning Time uses a visual learning line approach where children are given the language and resources to talk about and describe their own learning. This is empowering and this language is used to support learning and development in a myriad different contexts including academic subjects. The development of perseverance, resilience, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking skills are of the upmost importance in any career and our explicit support of these skills enables our children to have the best possible start to their futures.

Planning and Learning Review:

Reception – Children are supported to plan ILT by the class teachers. Three to four children are chosen each day to plan in a class session and the planning process is modelled by the class teacher. The class teacher uses a variety of open ended questions to support the development of a plan. The learning line is referred to and the expectations for the children’s learning during ILT is made explicit. As the year progresses the expectations for children to be independently challenging themselves during ILT increases so that by February half term all children are expected to have formulated a plan before starting their ILT session. At this point many children are able to sustain an ILT project for a number of days.

At the end of the day the children take part in a Learning Review session. These sessions unpick the children’s learning and refer to their journey on the learning line. This is a collaborative session where all of the children support the problem solving process and where resources and techniques are critiqued. There is a high expectation for vocabulary and a lot of technical language is developed in these sessions alongside the language of learning.

Year 1 – Children are used to the planning process and they are mostly all able to plan independently (this is dependent on their assessment – see below). Children plan at the start of the week and most children are able to plan a project which will sustain their focus for several days. As children come to the end of a project it is reviewed and they are either asked to develop the project further, if there are more learning opportunities within the project, or they choose a new project to work on. Learning reviews happen during the ILT session now as the children are much more familiar with the process. Children may be stopped during ILT to share a child’s learning so that they can benefit from sharing their learning and receiving praise and/or encouragement. Some learning reviews happen at the start of an ILT session to remind children of where they are at on their learning journey and to seek support from the teacher and their peers if needed.

Year 2 – Year 2 also plan at the start of the week. There is more group planning at this point as children are much more ready to work on their group learning skills having mastered their independent learning skills. This is dependent on their ILT assessment – see below. Learning reviews also happen as part of the ILT session. Some learning reviews happen at the start of a session to remind children of where they are at on their learning journey and to seek support from their peers if needed.

Types of ILT project:

ILT projects can be anything that can be supported and resourced at school. The only criteria is that the project is challenging to the individual child. The child needs to be working in the learning pit. This means that the child needs to come up with something that they can’t do yet or that they have never tried before. Lev Vygotsky (psychologist) refers to this as the zone of proximal development. Finding the right challenge requires guidance and support until children feel confident that they know what is challenging for them. This is obviously different for every child. To ensure intrinsic motivation, the focus of the project is left to the child (supported if they are unable to come up with ideas) as they should be choosing a challenge which is motivating to them. This ensures maximum focus, interest and therefore dedication. Projects can be in any subject area. There is an expectation that children choose from a variety of subject areas as they move through the years and so in each year group project foci are monitored to ensure variety. It is important that children see the variety of projects they can undertake. For this reason, we discuss children’s work in front of classes so that they can be inspired by each other and we also use inspiration boards to gather ideas.


This is the learning line. The child moves from what they can do already (beginning black), into the learning pit. They find a challenge (the rough red) and then work to complete the challenge by using a variety of learning skills (growing green) until they complete their challenge successfully (brilliant blue). Their job in ILT is to find the rough red and work through growing green until they reach brilliant blue!




Reception have two 50 minute sessions per day. In the first session all adults support children’s projects and the development of the Characteristics of Effective Learning. These projects take place both inside and outside the classroom. In the second session some adults support projects whilst other adults support adult-led activities.

Year 1 and Year 2 have a daily session of 50 minutes to 1 hour. All adults support projects and the development of learning to learn skills during this time.


We assess the children in ILT so we can monitor their progress but also so we know which children require support to develop learning to learn skills.

The children are first assessed using this system during, and at the end of, reception and it forms part of our Characteristics of Effective Learning feedback to parents at the end of the reception year. The Characteristics of Effective Learning are part of the Early Years Foundation Stage Statutory Framework and they are the bedrock of all learning. We detail the children’s progress in ILT half termly in reception, uploading photos and videos to Tapestry alongside a commentary of progress and significant moment. We also tag the children’s ILT work against the CofEL. Once in Year 1 the children are assessed termly and parents are given a short commentary on their child’s level alongside photos and videos gathered as evidence on Tapestry.

ILT assessment are handed up to the next teacher as part of transition. Each child’s assessment is accompanied by notes on the child’s learning to learn skills and approaches and attitude to independent learning.

Our assessment is based on a system we developed in collaboration with parents.

Each child is given a colour grading at key assessment points. The colour are as follows:

White – This is innocence level. The child has not recognised the need to plan and work on an independent project in ILT and there is no evidence of commitment towards achieving it. This is a level often assigned to children with an SEN need.

Red – The child is aware of the need to plan and they understand what their role is in ILT. They find it hard to plan independently and need adult support to get into the learning pit.

Yellow – The child is aware of the need to plan and they understand their role in ILT. They can independently come up with a challenge and get into the learning pit however, they find growing green a challenge and often end up seeking the comfort of beginning black. They need support to reach brilliant blue.

Green - The child can independently find a challenge and get into the learning pit. They can also work independently on growing green. Their learning to learn skills are well developed and they can reach brilliant blue without adult support. They are ready to work collaboratively on a project once they have shown that they are working at green level for a sustained amount of time (this timeframe is not set in stone but approximately half a term to a term) and on a variety of different projects.

Purple – When a child has shown that they have well developed independent learning skills they are ready to work on collaborative learning skills. These are the skills of speaking and listening including negotiation, compromise and sharing.

As collaborating has so many elements to it this level is broken down even further into:

Purple A – working with a familiar person in a pair

Purple B – working with a familiar group of 3-4 people

Purple C – working in a pair with someone you wouldn’t normally choose to work with

Purple D – working with a group of 3-4 people comprised of people you would not normally choose to work with

Each strand of purple will need to be evidenced over a number of projects before the child has achieved this level and is ready to move to the next. Feedback and targets are given to individuals in a group project so that they know what they are working on as an individual in a group context.


ILT is measured in KS1 by the movement of children through the colour grading system.

End of reception – The children work on the Characteristics of Effective Learning in reception and the progress the children make is commented on half termly on Tapestry. We tag the CofEL on Tapestry to monitor progress. By the end of Reception most children are working within the creating and thinking critically aspect of the CofEL. This enables them to move into Key Stage One ready for the ILT expectations in the next phase.

End of Year 1 – Our expectation is that most children will be working on green and some on Purple A/B. Children who are below are considered to be below ILT ARE and will receive extra support.

End of Year 2 – Our expectation is that most children will be working on Purple A/B with some children working on Purple C/D. Children who are below are considered to be below ILT ARE and will receive extra support.

All ILT assessment are handed up to KS2 so that the teachers are aware of the children’s independent and group learning skills. These can then be built upon in lesson time and through project work.

Children who are not working at our ARE for ILT receive ILT interventions. This means that they are given more support during ILT sessions to move them to the next level.

We monitor the impact that ILT assessments have on academic progress as the two go hand in hand. To ensure this monitoring is not too onerous we use case studies to showcase examples of children whose ILT progress has impacted on their academic progress. We find that as children become more confident learners, with a can do attitude and the skills of learning to learn including perseverance and resilience they make more rapid academic progress as these skills underpin all learning.

More details about the intended impact of our curriculum can be found on our impact statement on the main curriculum page.

Independent Learning Time is integral to children's early development at Newlaithes. It helps to develop the characteristics of effective learning and continues throughout Key Stage One enabling children to work both independently and collaboratively to great effect.

Click on the links below to read articles Elizabeth has had published in Nursery World first outlining the way we use ILT to shape our curriculum and then how we've shared this approach with parents and their feedback.

Best practice: shaping a curriculum

Learning curve: working with parents

The learning line (pictured below) is shared with the children right from the start of Reception and they have an understanding of where they are on the line enabling them to find new challenge and enter the learning pit (rough red) and successfully problem solve to overcome them and reach the brilliant blue.