The doors have been flung open at the Cunningsburgh Nursery to highlight a whole raft of improvements made as part of a major “all guns blazing” refurbishment.
Key among the changes are an innovative and airy indoor/outdoor area, which gives a sense of a natural environment while – at the same time – keeping a roof over the childrens’ heads.
Plastic toys have been ditched, or sold off, to allow a whole host of more natural resources to be brought in.
And kids are even being given the chance to play with real tools, such as hammers or screwdrivers.
A cosy corner has been developed, providing youngsters with a comfortable sitting area if ever they feel the need to take time out from the busy play environment.
The work has been carried out as part of an ongoing drive to extend nursery hours entitlement to 1,140 by August next year. The extended hours are due to roll out in Cunningsburgh after the October break. In the meantime, children have already enjoyed their first week in the refurbished setting.
It follows a somewhat lacklustre report at Cunningsburgh last year, which classed early learning and childcare as no more than “satisfactory”, with improvements required.
Staff say they have been given a free reign from Hayfield to carry out their “vision” for the setting, and are quietly confident inspectors will see a huge difference when they carry out a follow-up visit later this year.
Quality improvement officer for early learning and childcare, Samantha Flaws, said the redevelopment was “fabulous”, and added staff had really grasped the nettle.
“What struck me about here is that the practitioners have been on a real journey, and have all researched what good early level pedagogy is.
“They’ve set up an environment that really supports that. Every space has been thought through about how the children can learn from it.”
Pointing to a small workbench, she said the use of real tools in a play environment gave youngsters a lesson in risk assessment.
“The idea is we no longer just replicate things in plastic, because we have to teach children about risk and about dangers.”
The nursery’s early learning and childcare support worker, Tracey Malcolmson, said staff wanted to adopt an ambitious approach to improving the nursery after last year’s inspection.
“We wanted a curiosity approach that would allow children to come in and explore everything,” she said.
“It was very much adult-led before our HMI inspection. After that it changed. You could change it bit by bit, but we just decided ‘no, we’re going to go all guns blazing’ and did it all at once.
“They’re due to come back in November. She’ll not recognise the place.”
Senior practitioner Rachel Hewitt said thanks was due to staff at Hayfield for giving staff the freedom to make the changes necessary.
“We just said, ‘we have a vision’, and we showed them one or two things – ideas that we were thinking of – and they really have just let us go with what we wanted.
“The vision was to make the setting a warm, cosy loving atmosphere for children to be able to come and learn, and I feel that we’ve achieved that. They just let us run with it.”