A highly effective outdoor learning environment

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The outdoor provision at Mrs Tiggywinkles Day Nursery provides learners with regular opportunities to practise and consolidate a range of skills. This helps them achieve good Foundation Phase outcomes.

Number of learners: 32
Age range: 3 months - 8 years old
Date of inspection: September 2016

Information about the setting

Mrs Tiggywinkles Day Nursery is an English medium setting in Princetown, near Tredegar in Blaenau Gwent.  The setting is privately owned and operates in a self-contained area of a private dwelling.

The setting is registered for 19 children.  It takes in children from three months up to eight years of age.  The nursery is open on weekdays, for 50 weeks of the year, from 7.45 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.  During school terms, education sessions are provided for three-year-olds from 9.30 a.m. to 11.30 a.m.  At the time of the inspection there were 32 children on the nursery roll, including six three-year-olds.  All children speak English as their first language and no children were identified as having additional learning needs.

There are three appropriately qualified and experienced practitioners, including the proprietor, who is the registered person in charge.  The Deputy Manager has undertaken the role of setting leader since April 2015.

The Care and Social Service Inspectorate for Wales (CSSIW) inspected the setting in June 2015 and Estyn inspected the setting in February 2011.

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Mrs Tiggywinkles is a small setting, which serves an area of significant deprivation, so highly creative provision is essential to ensure that all children are fully engaged and make good progress.  The leader's passion for outdoor learning has led the drive to create a highly effective outdoor learning environment.  This is combined with a clear understanding of how important careful planning and sensitive intervention are in achieiving good outcomes for children.  Practitioners observe children over an extended period in order to understand what they are interested in and curious about before planning activities.  As a result, the outdoor provision matches children’s needs and interests successfully.  The inspection report states that free flow from the indoors to the outdoors supports children's independent learning choices exceptionally well.  It provides them with regular opportunities to practise and consolidate a range of skills purposefully, helping them make systematic progress towards achieving good Foundation Phase outcomes.  

Description of nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice

The setting makes the most of every nook and cranny in its compact outdoor area to provide valuable learning experiences for the children.  It ensures that all practitioners attend training so that everyone understands the value of outdoor learning.  It puts into practice fresh ideas from training events, so that the outdoor provision is constantly improving. 

The outdoor classroom is well established as a vital element of the setting’s learning environment.  It is used for focused teaching and to encourage child initiated play.  Practitioners use all areas of the provision imaginatively and present resources skillfully to capture children’s attention and encourage learning.  They make sure that all equipment and resources are accessible and engaging.  As a result, children become increasingly confident and independent in their play.  Practitioners make the most of the different seasons.  For example, they use a small, portable grow tent and their allotment area effectively to teach the children about growing and harvesting vegetables and selling goods in a shop.  There is a strong emphasis on caring for the environment and teamwork.  As a result, children develop exceptional social and emotional skills, and they are sensitive and considerate towards others, leading to exemplary behavior.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

Children make very good progress in the setting as a result of the high quality outdoor learning experiences.  They achieve outcomes above the expectation for their age across all areas of learning.  Children’s eagerness to participate, their health and wellbeing, and their self-esteem have blossomed as they benefit from the positive learning environment.  Children develop strong independent skills, enabling them to make choices exceptionally well.  Meaningful, first hand and engaging experiences provide children with plenty to talk about.  Consequently, nearly all children are confident to ask questions and discuss what they think and see readily.

How have you shared your good practice?

The setting regularly hosts guided visits for practitioners from across the region.  These visits help practitioners see how they can manage regular access to the outdoors and make the best of a small outdoor area to provide rich learning experiences.  The pre-school hosted visits to share good practice during recent Module 6 training facilitated by EAS consortium.