Spring Bensham is an Outstanding nursery based with Bensham Community Nursery School in Gateshead and part of the group run by Spring Nurseries by Action For Children. It is renowned in the region for providing the highest quality care and education by nurturing robust partnerships and highly effective working practices with the on-site maintained nursery school to deliver excellent integrated provision.
The drive for quality was established by the manager who, after her appointment in 2015, was unwavering in her determination to provide the very best opportunities for the area's youngest children and their families. The nursery team have worked continuously and tirelessly to implement changes, improve qualifications, build team cohesion and widen their experiences under Helen Bowlby's leadership, resulting in improved outcomes.
The nursery prides itself on a rich and varied learning environment, which is appropriate to the stage of development and presents different genders, cultures and backgrounds in a positive and inclusive way. All children have equal access to all areas of the curriculum.
Children have free-flow access to the stimulating outdoor area, which gives them opportunities to take risks and enjoy open-ended natural facilities. Younger children have their own garden, and there is a Forest School area too.
Activity planning and organisation respond to children's experiences, interests and skills, developing their self-esteem and confidence to learn. The nursery runs visits to local schools, shops and the library.
Support for SEND
A highly qualified and experienced SENCO supports children with SEND, and the nursery has well-established links with specialist support services, working closely with speech therapists and physiotherapists. Staff access training on specific SEND to help identify children early for focused support.
Spring Bensham's key person approach and knowledge of individual children is a particular strength, with daily conversations with parents/carers helping to build on children's interests and experiences. Parents are given sensitive guidance on positive strategies for challenging behaviour, and popular stay-and-play sessions see staff model interactions and give advice on activities to try at home.
Home visits are made before children start in order to give huge insight into their family, background and culture. Those with English as an additional language are supported by key persons who work closely with the family and child. The cultural background of each child is valued highly, and this is shared and reflected between home and nursery through ‘Me, My World and My Family’.
The nursery also signposts family learning programme, adult learning and job centre services, while parents can improve skills to support children and the wider family at the community centre on site.
The hard work and dedication of the nursery team, the ‘amazing’ children and the supportive parents and carers are recognised by Ofsted, with the nursery judged Outstanding since 2016.
“As a parent of a child with additional needs, it is wonderful to see how much he loves being there and how much they are nurturing him to grow and develop
Lambeth College Nursery, London
Sunbeams Day Nursery, Leeds
Young Friends Nursery and Nature School, Hove
Open to registered settings offering full daycare for children from birth to five (private, voluntary or maintained)
Chief Judge Wendy Scott says:
As ever, it was a pleasure and a privilege to visit the five nurseries shortlisted for the award of Nursery of the Year 2019. It has been even more difficult than usual to make a decision on a winner this year, as each one demonstrates thoughtful, generous and enlightened practice which is highly valued by parents, and recognised within the field.
Each setting provides an imaginatively resourced environment both indoors and out, which puts children in close touch with motivating hands-on experience and stimulates their thinking. All welcome children with special needs, and make effective provision for them. Special diets are also well catered for alongside the food that is cooked on-site in each setting.
Staff in all the shortlisted nurseries engage responsively with the children, and work very sensitively and supportively with parents, who appreciate the way they are kept in close touch with their children's development while being freed to pursue their work or study. Special mention should be made of the Lambeth College Nursery in Clapham, which provides personalised support for parents attending courses as well as for their children; this is resulting in regular attendance and notably successful outcomes to their studies.
Awareness of the wider world beyond each of the nurseries is fostered through charitable work as well as mutually beneficial multi-professional links with other services. There is a welcome commitment to environmental issues at Young Friends Nursery and Nature School in Hove, and also at Sunbeams in Leeds, which are both taking a strong and principled lead on recycling and the use of renewable resources, which is influencing families and the wider community.
Young Friends (top left), Sunbeams (top right) and Lambeth College (above)
All the settings provide very good support for staff, from enabling flexible working shifts and recognising particular skills to comprehensive opportunities for training. Enlightened investment in staff development contributes to stability as well as progression within the workforce. Above all, there is a strong ethical dimension to the approach in each of the nurseries, which is making a notable positive difference within their communities.
The winner is Spring Bensham Nursery, which has been established by Action For Children on the same site as Bensham Grove Community Nursery School in Gateshead. The careful arrangements for seamless provision from 7.30 in the morning to 6.00 in the evening enable families with children eligible for funded places to take advantage of their entitlement in a flexible way. Access to provision all year round is an important consideration for many parents.
Staff in both settings engage in a highly professional collaboration, sharing the principles which underpin their excellent practice. The member of staff who works with the oldest children participates fully in the nursery school programme. She joins trips, open days and twilight sessions with parents.
Worcester Early Years Centre is highly commended for the tireless work and imaginative developments led by the founder, which are well supported by the dedicated manager and staff. They offer children a wide range of stimulating and very well organised firsthand experiences within the purpose-designed premises, making the most of its position on a working farm.
HIGHLY COMMENDED Worcester Early Years Centre, Worcestershire
Staff worked with architects during 2014 to design this centre and its grounds, all set on a working dairy farm and developed from a forgotten muddy field into a beacon of early years excellence, rated Outstanding at its first inspection.
Rooms free flow into extensive and challenging outdoor areas, including pet zones, water-fed gravity systems, a telephone box and an original traveller's wagon. Children can watch the harvest, see a calf being born and visit the ice-cream factory. The centre makes a clear statement about children's entitlement to modern, inspirational facilities.