Nursery launches Reggio-inspired professional network

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Little Barn Owls Nursery and Farm School in Horsham has launched a new professional network for the early years.

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The network, ‘Inspired by Reggio’, has been set up by owner of Little Barn Owls Hayley Peacock, with the aim of swapping resources and sharing ideas and training across the early years community.

Ms Peacock hosted 42 practitioners, managers, owners and teachers from across the southeast, Birmingham and Jersey at the first meeting of the network at Little Barn Owls in May. barn-owl-2Three pedagogical co-ordinators from the nursery, which is based on the Reggio Emilia approach, provided presentations on recent long-term projects carried out with children.

Delegates were then taken on a tour of the nursery’s outdoor area, which houses vegetable beds and a greenhouse as well as chickens, quail, rabbits, ducks and micro-pigs.

All attendees provided lists of sources of information and research they use to inform their practice, with the aim of creating a collection of reference materials for the group to share. Other ideas from the network meeting included staff swapping initiatives, joint consultation sessions and sharing recycled materials.

Ms Peacock said her experience of adopting the Reggio Emilia approach at the nursery in 2012 inspired her to set up the network.  ‘After I went on the Reggio international study tour, my whole world turned upside down. I truly believed this was best for the children and I know now I couldn’t ever work any other way. We had to change the mindset at the nursery, though, and we have to keep that up with constant in-house training and plugging away at that message. It has been a battle to change the culture but after that focused drive to change who we are and what we do, we have realised you can change the way people work.’

She added, ‘The network is for educators and teachers who are interested in or already working with enquiry-based learning approaches and creativity in the early years. The point of the network is to make connections with other people who are interested in the way they work, not just ticking boxes. We want to create a network of friends that will encourage practitioners and keep passion alive in teams, to keep them motivated and to really try to connect and affect the way people think.’

As a result of the launch event, Little Barn Owls has set up a six-month partnership with Little Jungle Nursery in Peckham. Staff teams from both nurseries will attend three continuing professional development days together and visit one another’s settings on a regular basis in order to share knowledge and practice to create a collaborative project with consultants from Reggio Emilia charity Sightlines Initiative and children, and ultimately turn the experience into a book in 2015.

Ms Peacock hopes to hold a network event every three months, with the next meeting planned for September. Before then, the network will hold a film screening of David Bond’s film Project Wild Thing, followed by a question and answer session with the director, at the Capitol Theatre in Horsham on 15 July.