Nursery World Awards 2018: Individuals - Newcomer of the Year

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Luke Astle, Charnwood Nursery & Pre-school, Leicester

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Luke Astle joined the team at Charnwood Nursery & Pre-school full-time in September 2017 after a period of providing ad hoc Forest School instruction during school holidays. Thanks to the introduction of Luke’s Forest School and nature-based learning sessions, the setting has finally been able to realise its ambitions for outdoor learning.

The design and construction of an outdoor play space to maximise the opportunities and experiences available to children has benefited greatly from Luke’s input. In the time since he joined the nursery, the setting has introduced a chicken coop, Robina structure used for den-building and rope swings, an outdoor classroom and a variety of new plants.

Luke leads weekly excursions to Watermead Country Park around a network of lakes, woodlands and nature reserves where children spend the whole day on mini-beast hunts, climbing trees, using mud slides, searching for fairies and goblins, collecting natural resources for art activities and building natural structures.

On-site, Luke co-ordinates and encourages a range of outdoor learning experiences. Cookery is a daily feature of the nursery garden, with the children using the campfire to roast marshmallows and pop popcorn as well as to prepare more complicated dishes. Through this, the children have become experts at building and starting fires, fire safety and risk assessing.

An accomplished Forest School instructor, Luke has developed children’s confidence and their motivation to learn, play and explore in the outdoors. The children have taken Luke’s passion for nature and impressed it on their families, who are also becoming lovers of the great outdoors and are increasingly enjoying the benefits of time spent outside together.

With Luke’s encouragement, colleagues have followed the children’s lead and are learning from the natural environment. He planned and delivered a Saturday session to staff members on fire-lighting, and the nursery is now designing a competency framework for fires, which practitioners will be required to work through and evidence before they light fires independently.

He has stepped into the breach on several occasions and assumed the role of his fellow colleagues in their absence. He has been a one-to-one adult support worker, lunchtime cover and substitute key worker. Luke is unfazed and unflappable, and his flexibility and adaptability are gratefully received within the nursery.

His flexibility extends to being a fervent supporter of the nursery’s work with Hadrian House, a local care home for the elderly, and he has accompanied children on their weekly visits and welcomed residents to the nursery where, along with his colleagues, he has engaged them in making soup and cooking it over the campfire.

Luke has collaborated with the nursery to welcome two groups of students from nearby Brooksby Melton College to join full-day Forest School outings, and is working with the nursery to develop an outdoor learning workshop for parents.

"Luke has made a significant contribution with staff, parents and children, influenced practice of an experienced team and developed college provision too" — judge

FINALIST

Hannah James, Eureka! Nursery, Halifax

CRITERION

Early years practitioners must have had less than one year’s experience at closing date

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