Nursery World Awards 2013: Organisations - Nursery of the Year

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Winner: Red Hen Day Nursery, Louth, Lincolnshire

It is hard to imagine a more rewarding and interesting place for a child to be than Red Hen Day Nursery, which is based on a working farm.

The premises have been imaginatively developed from outbuildings around an open central area, which is freely accessible to all age groups. The older children also have direct access to a working yard that is constantly in use for constructive and exploratory play, often the start of longer expeditions.

All groups visit the nearby garden where they can plant and harvest fruit and vegetables and learn to care for the animals that live there. This connection extends to making sausages from pigs that the children have helped to rear, as well as collecting eggs and produce for their meals. The kitchen and associated cooking activities are central to the nursery, which provides very fresh healthy food and snacks. Meals are enjoyable social occasions, shared by staff, when siblings often eat together.

Health and safety procedures are rigorously but unobtrusively applied, and children learn how to take responsibility and to be safe in a challenging environment, full of possibilities for real adventures. These are often inspired by imaginative links to stories.

No opportunities for observing natural life are missed, and children are well aware of seasonal change. Solar panels provide energy for the nursery, in line with the high levels of environmental awareness. The family caravan doubles up as an outdoor shelter.

The spacious rooms are thoughtfully arranged and equipped to stimulate free exploratory movement for children once they are mobile. There are plans to give babies access to their own messy play area, and to add more features to suit their outdoor needs.

This illustrates the genuine respect for children's choices demonstrated by all the staff; planning begins from children's interests, and what happens within each group is recorded through the children's own representations as well as photographs and quotations.

Individual records are very personal, and have become a genuine dialogue between home and nursery, complementing the easy personal contact. Relationships are close, particularly now that home visits are offered once children have settled. When problems arise, the wise support offered by experienced staff is much appreciated. Staff too are well supported, appreciated, and encouraged to develop.

Highly commended

Arbor Green nursery, Edinburgh

The nursery is particularly commended for its innovative record keeping, which is shared with children and accessible to parents online. It has achieved Eco-Schools Green Flag and the Healthy Early Years Level 3 Certificate.

Manor House Nursery School and Forest School, Margate, Kent

Manor House is particularly commended for arranging for some key staff to move up with children when they go into a new group, and for the development of integrated working with its Forest School.


The Co-operative Childcare, Wellington Road, Warwick

Nature Trails Day Nursery, Rugby


Open to registered settings offering full daycare for children from 0-5 (private, voluntary or maintained sector).

Sponsored by Morton Michel

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