Transformed from what was once considered ‘the finest private fire station in the country’ into a spacious 96-place day nursery, this setting in the West Midlands has been in great demand since opening in January.
Refurbishment took two years and achieved the aim of preserving the historic 90-year-old building, while also creating large spaces for children with lots of windows to let in natural light.
A large outdoor play area with a multi-textured surface is accessible directly from the ground floor, where children can explore the mud kitchen, have story time sitting on logs or create projects using natural resources.
A special baby sensory garden has been developed with grass and herbs so that babies can learn about nature in a safe way – for some in this urban environment, this is the first time they have been able to touch grass or flowers.
At the Ofsted registration visit in December 2016, the inspector commented on the spacious rooms and well-thought-out layout of the building. In March, Fireflies was inspected by Environmental Health and given a five rating for excellent hygiene and food handling.
Due to a lack of provision in the area, the Sandwell local authority early years team provided support and encouragement to help the nursery provide places for 26 disadvantaged two-year-olds to access their 15 funded hours.
The nursery was filled to three-quarters of its capacity within the first four months of opening, with 58 families already on the nursery’s books.
A playgroup has been set up to include children who may not qualify for funded places yet.
All the staff in the nursery are qualified to a minimum of Level 3, with each one holding special skills or interests.
A qualified teacher works with the pre-school children to prepare them for school, and a qualified sports trainer works on physical activities to keep children and families active.
The diversity of the staff has benefited parents who come from many different backgrounds, and helped to overcome language barriers. The team has supported the majority of the parents who are bi- or multilingual to settle their children into nursery and to talk about their child’s progress, or simply what they had for lunch.
Every family is catered for in a unique way, with staff ensuring everyone feels welcome and individual needs are catered for right from the start. The parents of children who take their time to settle can stay for longer, and parents are always welcome, with many wishing to be involved in the nursery’s life.
Despite only opening in January, Fireflies already caters for eight children with additional needs, and each one has settled in well and is making great progress, including improvements to speech, and gaining social skills and independence.
Close bonds with the local inclusion support team and parents have enabled prompt referrals and fast progress for these children.
This new nursery already supports more children with special educational needs than any other in the area. It has a sensory room providing tailored education for all children, and the area SENCO visits almost every week.
Fireflies offers support and advice to other nurseries in the community, and stepped in when a local setting experienced a severe flood from a burst pipe in March. Without hesitation, staff and children were accommodated while the competitor nursery was being refurbished, with the management team providing support to ensure the smooth transition for the other nursery’s children, parents and staff.
Despite tough times in the industry, Fireflies has been equipped with excellent resources and facilities, and a highly qualified staff and management team.
‘Every day this nursery keeps exceeding my expectations. When I did my daughter’s induction she settled so well and I was so happy. And now every day I learn something new that you do. I am so happy I chose Fireflies’, says one parent of a two-year-old.
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For a nursery (individual or part of a group), pre-school, school or childminding service that has opened since 1 January 2016