Interview - Gail Ryder Richardson
Friday, July 26, 2013
Gail Ryder Richardson, early years manager at Future Creative CIC, a social enterprise and training company.
My role is to develop the early years programmes and quality assure the content and delivery of our training. We have a network of highly experienced trainers and we work with settings and local authorities all over the country, including West Sussex, Hampshire, Sunderland, Isle of Wight. We recently delivered a highly successful project in Thanet funded by Kent County Council. It was a six-week series of parenting workshops on the theme of a sensory journey. www.future-creative.org/sensory-journey
Starting this autumn we are also delivering a leadership programme, Leading the Way. It will be focused on supporting managers on issues such as safeguarding, working with two-year-olds and leading learning outdoors. Outdoor play is a professional enthusiasm of mine, and in my new role I am continuing to promote the importance of developing high-quality outdoor spaces. Outdoor learning requires much more than access to the outside, for example, you have to take account of care routines, ratios, practitioners’ confidence, assessing risk. Confident leadership is really important to give an explicit message about the importance of the outdoors. I believe managers need to get away from their desks and take the lead on outdoor practice.
Are you concerned that Government plans to relax planning regulations for nurseries could erode the importance of outdoor play in early years settings?
Our recent experience of converting an office space into a nursery demonstrates that in some instances it can be done well; however, my concern is the Government’s proposals may encourage some providers to consider converting buildings that are just not suitable for children’s play and learning.
I’m also incredibly disappointed the Government appears to be moving away from the original effective practice guidance on outdoor learning, which acknowledged the importance of children’s access to the outdoors, this is a backward step. We know children thrive in the outdoors - there is lots of research that shows how children learn differently and that a connection to the outdoor world is vital for our well-being. Until we put a marker down on the importance of outdoor environments we will continue to be shortchanging children and families.
How is the new nursery, Creative Minds going?
We opened the nursery in April and it’s lovely to have it so close, it’s just a few doors down. It has established itself very quickly and is thriving. It’s registered for 40 children and has 12 funded places for two-year-olds. The outdoor area still under development –the access from the inside rooms was quite high up, so we’ve built a raised veranda to make it easier for the children to have independent access. We’re going to be involving the children and staff in the development of the garden –so watch this space!