With increasing numbers of children being diagnosed with special educational needs and disabilities, and a rise in childhood obesity, owner Julie White has diversified her business to find a solution to the problems currently experienced by many children.
Last year, Ms White, who is currently studying for a Master’s in development psychology and pedagogy, linked with Hope University to undertake research on sensory foundational systems. This included putting accelerometer devices on the children attending Nature to Nurture and measuring how much physical activity they do on a daily basis. The findings revealed that children at the setting exceeded the national recommended guidelines, which Ms White says only ten per cent of children in the UK achieve. They also found children’s well-being levels to be very high.
The research will continue with children’s cortisol levels being measured to identify whether their stress is reduced when they are outdoors.
Ms White and her team plan to develop a programme to support children’s emotional intelligence, attachment and well-being by understanding their personal, social and emotional development on a deeper level. The idea will be to use the programme with children attending Nature to Nurture and to train practitioners.
At the beginning of the year, Ms White, who is currently awaiting a second hip replacement, put together a practical guide, aimed at practitioners and parents, on delivering the EYFS in creative and innovative ways, emphasising the Nature to Nurture (N2N) outdoor approach.
Building on the work she has done within the setting, Ms White has designed a sensory foundation curriculum, which has been proven to benefit Reception children, that she hopes will be rolled out as a strategy schools can use to support children’s motor planning and sensory integration skills. She designed this as part of her Master’s degree and trialled it with Reception children from her local school who had low attainment. She says the curriculum has delivered outstanding results.
Ms White has enjoyed the media spotlight, having featured on a BBC documentary and a Radio 4 programme to discuss the importance of outdoor opportunities for children. Following the radio programme, the nursery owner received messages from people all over the world including New Zealand, Washington D.C. and Abu Dhabi all interested in their outdoor approach.
As far as what’s next for Ms White and Nature to Nurture, Lloyds Bank has just agreed to fund corporate social responsibility days so work can start on developing the setting’s allotment and sensory garden. There will be a geometric polytunnel and raised beds to allow Nature to Nurture to start its intergenerational work.
Ms White is also looking for investment opportunities to expand the business and have more nurseries across Liverpool.
"You and your amazing staff are phenomenal. Never have I known such care, understanding and love for one little boy" — parent
Lark Lane Pre-School, Liverpool
Lark Lane is a charity-run pre-school, operated from a community centre.
It is a Forest School setting, which has become a hub that other settings continually come to for support and advice.
The setting actively seeks out opportunities for the children to become involved within the community. It liaised with a local film-maker and artist to make a short movie and the children’s work has been displayed in the Tate art gallery.
The pre-school has been involved with the Liverpool Improvement Team, working with Iram Siraj, teaching other settings how to use the SSTEW scales and collecting data for research purposes.
Little Acorns Pre-school, Leigh-on-Sea
Saffron Walden Nursery School, Saffron Walden
The Willow Set Pre-School, Taunton
Open to registered settings offering sessional care and education