NAME OF SETTING: Farley Nursery School
Farley Nursery School was founded in 2006, when the owner Sue Palmer was looking for a setting for her vision to open an Outdoor Nursery School based on the Scandinavian approach to early years education. Sue had become disillusioned with an approach to outdoor play that allocates children around ten minutes to play outside twice a day. It was her goal to return to the traditional childhood values of healthy outdoors play that she had experienced as a child growing up in the rural village of Farley, near Salisbury in Wiltshire.
Farley Nursery School opened in April 2006 with just five children. However, word soon spread and within a year, there was a dedicated baby unit, complete with coach built prams for the babies to sleep in – outside of course! The nursery now provides care for a maximum of 70 children under eight years at any one time, including up to 21 babies and toddlers under 2 years. It is open from 8.00am to 6.00pm throughout the year. There are 21 members of staff working in the nursery.
EFFECTIVE OUTDOOR PRACTICE:
I visited Farley Nursery School on a cold but sunny day in the middle of February during a period of very low temperatures and widespread flooding. I was particularly interested to see the outdoor practice with babies and toddlers.
I arrived at 9.30am where, completely undeterred by the prevailing weather conditions, all the staff and children already were busy outside. The large garden has been sensitively zoned to allow free movement between smaller areas without compromising the safety of babies and toddlers. The space used by the babies is secure and enclosed. There is a grassy area, a shelter and a outdoor sleep zone with prams. Staff create an environment full of interesting resources and materials, then mobile babies and toddlers move freely to whatever catches their attention. A paddling pool with warm water and foil decorations is an immediate favourite and several babies make a beeline towards it. Staff take a positive approach towards risk management –they recognise that water play has potential for harm but by closely supervising the paddling pool they reduce and minimise likelihood of harm occurring, and enable the babies to benefit from warm water play experiences –even in the winter! Mud and paint are accepted as vital components of toddlers’ outdoor play and everyone wears washable protective clothing. Faces and hands are cleaned before meals –as is standard good practice whether inside or outside.
Staff are affectionate and attentive to the needs of babies and toddlers; tired babies are put to sleep in the prams and are soothed to sleep by the hubbub of the noises around them. After a refreshing nap, a cuddle in the garden with their key person allows a baby to wake up fully and get acclimatised to the activity around them before joining in.
The nursery has excellent relationships with parents. Care is taken to explain the ethos and thinking behind the approach to using outdoors and parents recognise and value the opportunities it offers their child.
BENEFITS AND POSITIVE IMPACT:
The nursery offers a high standard of care and education in an outdoor context and this has been recognised by OFSTED. In March 2011 the inspector judged that’ overall the quality of the provision is outstanding. ….Children are making rapid progress towards the early learning goals, and flourish in this exceptional learning environment where children choose to be outdoors most of the day. Highly skilled staff clearly know the children very well, and as a result children’s individual needs are effectively met throughout the nursery…………..Young babies are encouraged to explore the environment and the wide range of resources. When they get tired they are well supported as they rest outdoors in large prams with staff close by to monitor them’.
Everyone at Farley Nursery School recognises that outdoors is where children want to be –and the commitment to support in children their choice to be outdoors makes this a very special place. The recruitment of enthusiastic practitioners ensures that the approach is embedded into daily practices with even the youngest babies and toddlers. Children are motivated and eager to involve themselves in outdoor experiences. Extended periods of time outdoors ensures that children can play, explore, be active, and be creative in their thinking. They have a positive ‘can do’ attitude, they persevere to overcome challenges, they problem solve and negotiate. It is the development of these skills that equips them for lifelong learning.