Nursery World Awards 16: Organisations - Pre-School of the Year

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Quackers, York

preschool

We love Quackers!’ was the unanimous verdict of parents who were delighted to have the opportunity to support its nomination for this award. Located in the village of Copmanthorpe, outside York, the 23-place playgroup says it currently has no desire to expand. Owner and manager Menna Godfrey believes it is perfectly placed to provide a home-from-home environment for children. As one parent said, ‘When I leave my little girl at Quackers, it is almost like leaving her with relatives, as she is emotionally secure in the environment and always extremely pleased to see staff.’

Walk into Quackers at any point in the day and you will see children who are active and engaged, supervised and safe. Children are given the emotional space to be themselves and pursue activities which suit their interests and mood at any given time. The atmosphere is calm and purposeful, underpinned by a tangible sense of warmth.

Parent Gemma Wilson says, ‘The staff are amazing and there is a real connection between them and the children. The amount of work the staff do to ensure the children learn through play is outstanding. There is a real commitment shown by all the team and they are very easy to approach if ever I need advice.’

A big part of giving children choice over their activities is free flow to its outdoor space, and children enjoy a constantly changing backdrop to their learning. They are able to access challenge outdoors, and have the opportunity to become skilled at measuring risks for themselves and others.

‘My son liked being truly free to roam the space, and the fact he came home from Quackers covered in muck from the mud kitchen, or grass, showed me what a great time he was having and how much he was learning,’ says parent Kate Wilkinson. ‘He grew in confidence at Quackers, which I believe was due to the skill and experience of staff in creating a stimulating, yet calm, caring and comfortable environment.’

Practice is focused on thoughtful ways to build children’s sense of control and ownership of the space. For example, children who bring their lunch in from home are responsible for packing it into the fridge themselves and they are also able to access their own bags, slippers, wellies and water bottles. Staff also provide security by being consistent with their routines, and in the way they demonstrate courtesy and consideration for the feelings of others. Children copy this behaviour and enjoy positive relationships with their peers.

The judges praised what they identified as ‘forward-thinking practice’, with staff focused on listening to children’s views and incorporating them into everyday life. They felt that the pre-school has a strong vision for future development and is committed to continuous improvement.

Parent Ann Newton says, ‘Quackers is able to tap into each child’s creativity, whatever stage they are at, whether they are two years old or just about ready to start school. As a village we are exceptionally lucky to have this playgroup, and I for one would not send my child anywhere else.’

‘This is a setting with a growth mindset for staff’ - Judge

Finalists

Jack and Jill Pre-School, Brimstage

New View Nursery, Horsham

Shamley Green Montessori Pre-school, Guildford

Swineshead Pre-School Centre, Swineshead

Tiddlywinks Pre-School, Leyland

Criterion

Open to registered settings offering sessional care and education

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