Nursery World Awards 15: Organisations - Pre-School of the Year

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Winner - Magdalen Gates Preschool, Norwich

Magdalen Gates Preschool runs from two classrooms in the local primary school in one of the most deprived areas of Norwich, giving children and their families the help, encouragement and stability they need with their day-to-day lives.

The setting runs a wide range of events and programmes to engage parents with their
children’s learning and development, and allow them to chat and share experiences with other adults. The preschool tries to offer all events free of charge or at very little cost to enable all families to take part.

Weekly stay and play sessions give parents the opportunity to share learning journeys with their child and talk to their key person. ‘Get your grown-up growing’ days include activities such as leaf hunts, planting seeds, making paper pots and taking cuttings to encourage parents to grow things even without gardens.

At Magdalen Gates, there is lots of emphasis on communication and language development, including for those with English as an additional language. At the half-termly Rainbow Café, parents/carers work with their child to make props for stories and can borrow a story sack or ‘talking tent’, which includes a tent, torch, story book, props and a blanket. The librarian comes along to read a story and, this year, 19 families have joined the library.

A new venture this year has been ‘Talking Together’ for younger siblings and parents, with baby and toddler sessions including music, treasure baskets and storytelling.
Rainbow Readers Club invites dads, uncles, granddads and other male carers to come in and read to children.

Staff have attended Every Child a Talker and the newly launched Talk About training, as well as Communication Friendly Spaces, which has led them to set up ‘Step into a Story’ areas. Here, children can imagine stepping into a page of their favourite books – for
example the Owl Babies area has tree branches, toy owls, cushions, books and baskets of leaves and conkers.

The setting uses observations and a tracking system to see where learning and interaction is taking place, and then organises rooms so that children can use resources to their full potential. Staff also look at children’s photographs and videos to see rooms from their point of view and rearrange them accordingly.

The garden is Magdalen Gates’ ‘third classroom’ and children have free flow access. They help to grow fruit and vegetables and plant bulbs and flowers, play in the mud kitchen and look for minibeasts in the bug hotel. The garden has won several awards, including best school in the Norwich in Bloom competition.

Magdalen Gates says its vision is ‘to provide a happy, secure and stimulating environment through which children can develop enquiring minds and appreciation of the world around them’.

Highly commended

Little Franche Nursery,
Franche Community Pre-School, Kidderminster
Little Franche Nursery is part of the biggest primary school in Worcestershire, in a catchment area with significant levels of deprivation. By the time children leave the setting, their development is broadly in line with national expectations, a rate of progress deemed ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.  The team works to eradicate barriers to learning, providing a free minibus pick-up service for children who were regularly late, and breakfast and snacks for the hungry. Activities include a mud kitchen, vegetable beds, and forest school sessions. Regular trips extend children’s life experiences, and Nursery Plus supports children with SEN.


Benhall Pre-School, Cheltenham
Jenniflowers Pre-School Nursery,
Little Green Rascals Organic Day Nursery, York
Stone Eden Nursery School,


Open to registered settings offering sessional care and education

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