Nursery World Awards 2022 - Nursery of the Year

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Bee in the Woods Kindergarten, Brighton & Hove

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Bee in the Woods is a unique space, located through some council-owned allotments which open up into woodland. It has no indoor space, electricity or lighting, no toilets other than compost toilets and toilet tents, and no running water between November and March. Everything is recycled, found or re-used.

Children and staff bring water in from home each day, clean and manage toilets, and save any waste water for plants.

There are two large main spaces – both wooded, uneven and on a hillside. Both have a hut for storage and a shelter where children can meet and sit comfortably as well as read, sleep, mark make and paint models.

Children make climbing opportunities by tying ropes to trees and, with help from staff, knotting and making intricate structures for climbing on and helping to build confidence.

The majority of staff are graduates and qualified teachers, and professional development is emphasised. There are seven qualified Forest and Beach School leaders on staff. Colleagues meet on a weekly basis to discuss children, their needs, the provision and where to go next.

Although the business is small and money is tight, money is always set aside to prioritise any training needs, helping staff improve and ensuring retention rates are good. Despite these financial challenges, the setting also offers funded full-time places to families in need from the local area.

The small setting has high ratios of staff to children, and views children and adults as equals in a community of learners. Staff and children spend time each day in circle time and together time, talking, playing games and sharing things. They also eat together at picnic tables in the woods.

The curriculum is entirely child-centred, influenced by the philosophies of Froebel, Reggio Emilia, Te Whakiri and Scandinavian Forest Schools to harness the natural environment, community and the power of play. Bee in the Woods co-constructs its curriculum on a much bigger, wilder, more democratic and more adventurous scale..

Parents and families are an integral part of the nursery community. They can come into the woods every day at drop-off and pick-up and talk with their child’s key person or any other adult. As an outdoor setting, the nursery prides itself on having, quite literally, an open-door policy.

The setting works closely with neighbours, with links to local elderly residents Managers want to expand holiday club and Beach School provision, while setting up a site for community-based projects or a second kindergarten.


Charnwood Nursery & Pre-school, Leicester

Charnwood bases practice on the Solihull Approach and has created a bespoke curriculum underpinned by the EYFS which enables staff to tune into children’s individual needs. The curriculum is based on four strands: positive sense of self; curiosity about the world around us; holistic health and a love of learning.

Interwoven throughout the curriculum is thoughtfulness and care for children’s well-being, addressing the impact of lockdown.

Creative movement sessions strengthen children’s executive function, confidence and resilience.

A large off-site Forest School embeds the setting’s ethos of nature-based learning, while a smaller on-site area, which children access daily, features a wet area, fire pit, mud kitchen, and chickens and guinea pigs.


Blue Giraffe Childcare, Worcestershire

Grass Roots Private Day Nursery, Sowerby Bridge

Meadow Lane Children’s Nursery, Cambridgeshire


Open to registered settings offering full daycare for children from 0-5 (private, voluntary or maintained sector), which have an Outstanding grade (or equivalent).

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