Nursery World Awards 2020 - Nursery of the Year 2020

Friday, February 5, 2021

Honey Pot Day Nursery, Garston

In May 2019, 10 years after the setting first opened, a terrible fire broke out at Honey Pot Garston Nursery, destroying everything inside and causing the whole roof to collapse.

That night, staff sent out an EyLog message to parents to tell them what had happened. They maintained daily communication and called a meeting four days after the fire, explaining any notice periods and nursery fees would be waived for anyone who wished to source alternative childcare. In the end, just four out of 126 children went elsewhere.

Despite the devastation caused by the fire, the nursery closed for only one day while staff arranged alternative premises for the children. By leasing a vacant local authority nursery and providing a daily minibus service for parents who didn’t drive or found the new location difficult to get to, the nursery was able to keep running until portable classrooms were prepared.

In the immediate aftermath, it became very clear how much the nursery meant to its families and to people in the local community as donations of toys and resources flooded in.

The children moved into portable classrooms on the site of the original building in August 2019 and stayed there until the rebuild was complete. Fairy lights and natural, open-ended resources helped the temporary accommodation feel like home, and the setting even achieved its Eco-school Green Flag and won the Eco-school Award during this time.

The children watched with interest as the nursery was rebuilt and took regular trips to the building site to meet with the builders and discuss the project. They sketched their own plans of how they wanted their new nursery classrooms to look and nursery owners ensured their views were listened to during the rebuild process.

One pre-school child wanted a bigger home corner and drew where she wanted it to be positioned and which resources she wanted, and the area managers ensured it was created according to her plan.

Children also used a lot of construction materials in their play and incorporated many complex concepts such as measure, weight and balance as they designed and created their own buildings.

One of the nursery owners was responsible for project-managing the rebuild and worked tirelessly, 10 hours a day, six days a week. Work was miraculously completed in January 2020, three months ahead of schedule.

The rebuild added an extra storey to the original building, providing more floor space for an office, staff facilities, laundry facilities and communal spaces for children, such as a library, a mark making and malleable play area, an area for babies and a block play and heuristic play area.

Honey Pot has also been able to offer an extra 14 childcare places as a result. There is also a large sensory studio and a state-of-the-art heating and cooling system.

Staff spent time preparing children for the move and involving them in the ‘packing up’ process, while all families were kept fully informed of when the move would be.

When the building was finished, the nursery held a huge open day for members of the local community as well as children and families, including food, children’s entertainment and a rockpool experience. The event was free of charge and a way of saying thank you to those who had donated resources.

The fire was started deliberately by six teenagers and now the nursery is working with a local councillor to find ways to raise money to be invested back into the community to help tackle anti-social behaviour in the area. Children have also focused on ‘people who help us’ as a topic and have discussed anti-social behaviour.

Plans to open a nearby after-school provision and wrap-around holiday club have also been drawn up by the nursery to help keep local children busy and engaged, and prevent them from being drawn into engaging in anti-social behaviour.

The children had been back on site for less than a week when Ofsted came in to inspect the setting. It was judged Outstanding in all areas and the inspector commented during feedback that there is something ‘truly magical’ about the nursery.

She said she could not believe that children had only been back on site for a week and that she could tell transitions had been seamless due to how settled and engaged they were. The inspector also commented that ‘Honey Pot is so much more than just a building – it’s a family’.

This was a huge achievement for the nursery under the circumstances and a wonderful end to what was without doubt the hardest year in company history.

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Meadow Lane Children’s Nursery

Based on a farm, Meadow Lane focuses on the idea that any early years concept can be picked up naturally during time spent outside in the setting’s gardens, Atelier, Forest School or Geodesic dome. Thought, creativity and imagination are encouraged through provocations to extend children’s interests, wonder and curiosity. Questions are more important than right and wrong answers, and children are encouraged to find their own explanations.

Several families support the setting in the outdoor areas, helping with veg growing, bee keeping and bird watching. All families are invited regularly to share a campfire, food and drink, and join staff in activities on the site. The nursery also engages with the local community through walks into town, library visits, market trips and a relationship with a care home.

Recently, the nursery has started a small pop-up shop selling surplus produce from its vegetable garden, as well as homemade jams and dog biscuits which the children have helped to make, and beeswax wraps to encourage the use of non-plastic materials.

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Young Friends Nature Nursery

At Young Friends Nature Nursery, provision is genuinely child-focused. Staff are trained in OWL (Observe, Wait, Listen) to ensure children’s views and ideas are taken seriously. Children see adults as ‘play partners’ and are encouraged to think creatively, solve problems and take appropriate risks.

The setting provides essential biodiverse habitats and is focused on creating the next generation of planet guardians by encouraging children to learn about the plight of bees, hedgehogs and other wildlife, and respect animals and plants around them to teach respect and care. Watching bird families in hideaways, frogs in ponds and footage from night-time wildlife cameras helps children feel part of the natural world around them.

A kitchen garden off-site allows children to use real tools and choose and grow a wide range of produce which they eat and cook. An urban woodland garden and atelier also offer children the opportunity to create tarp shelters, enjoy stories in the open air, use fallen materials to create transient art, look after animals, learn about nature, and collaborate and initiate their own play.

The team is committed to a sustainable approach which focuses on high levels of well-being through nature, and champions reducing, reusing and rethinking. Staff also provide advice and support to other settings on this topic. A lack of machine-made resources and emphasis on natural loose parts help encourage imagination and child-led thinking to create a caring, challenging, yet thoughtful environment.

FINALISTS

Leeds Montessori School & Day Nursery

The Blue Door Nursery

CRITERION

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

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