Hornsea Nursery School’s new outdoor nursery and forest school is based within an existing local authority site funded by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.
The nursery, which will continue to offer indoor provision as well, is registered for 120 childcare places. The outdoor nursery provides 26 places and is run by qualified teachers and forest school leaders. Both indoor and outdoor places are funded by the local authority, but parents can pay for extra sessions.
Headteacher Claire White said she hopes if the outdoor approach is a success, the nursery will be able to increase the number of outdoor places and employees.
‘We do still offer the traditional nursery provision too, but the Outdoor Nursery and Forest School gives parents and their children a choice,’ Ms White said. ‘Many of our children opt to spend some time in each and, during outdoor time, we have a free-flow system in place so that children from the main nursery building can visit the forest school if they’d like to. We want our children to be curious.
‘We’ve always had an outdoor ethos, it’s part of our philosophy here. There is an element of risk-taking but those risks are carefully managed. For example, children are taught how to use the tools before they touch them, and there are strict rules about how they enter and move around the campfire circle. We support the children to help themselves, encouraging them to work together as teams and solve problems. It’s about giving them life skills, as well as preparing them for their future education.’
Children at the Outdoor Nursery and Forest School are outside all year round, although they also have access to an art studio and a yurt, and willow arches and a canopy in winter provide shelter.
Forest school teacher Sarah Saunders said, ‘They had such fun when it snowed, following animal and bird tracks. We find that children respect the rules here because the rules have a point – they are there to keep them safe. We also find that we have fewer behavioural issues in the forest school and that social issues are less of a factor; children that might struggle in a traditional nursery setting often excel here.’
The chairman of the nursery’s governing body, John Whittle, added, ‘What we have here is very special. Maintained nurseries are the jewel in the crown of our education system and research shows that this is the most important stage of education.
‘At this age, children’s brains are like sponges and the early intervention that we can offer here is absolutely key. Our goal is to raise children’s aspirations; we want to show them that they can be anything that they want to be.
‘The development of the outdoor nursery and forest school takes the values that have always been central to what we do here a step further. It means that we can offer something very specialist that is not currently available anywhere else in Hull and East Yorkshire.’
Hornsea Nursery School will hold a Family Fun Day on Saturday 30 June, offering parents and children a chance to look around the setting.
An official opening is also planned for September.