An inspiring learning environment for delivering Foundation Phase education

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At Poppies Day Nursery, the inspiring indoor and outdoor learning environments provide exciting opportunities for children to develop important skills.


Number of learners: 10
Age range: 3-4
Date of inspection: November 2016

Information about the setting

Poppies Day Nursery is an English-medium, privately owned setting in Pontymoile, in Torfaen local authority.  The registered person has owned the business for 18 years.  The manager and deputy manager run the setting on a day-to-day basis.  The setting has 12 members of staff, three of whom work with the pre-school children.  All have appropriate early years qualifications and have suitable experience of working with young children.  There are two rooms in the pre-school, with access to large gardens and an extensive outdoor play area.

The setting serves the local community and its surrounding area in the main.  Most children have English as their home language and a few have English as an additional language.  No children speak Welsh at home.  Currently, very few children are identified as having additional learning needs. 

The setting is registered for 48 full time places for children from birth to 12 years of age and is open from Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm.  It offers a wrap-around service transporting children to and from local primary schools.  At the time of the inspection, there were 14 children on roll in the pre-school room.  These included a very few four-year–olds and six three-year-olds who were receiving early years funding from the local authority.

Context and background to sector-leading practice

The setting’s aim is for each child to develop a sense of achievement and confidence, through pleasurable and rewarding learning experiences, whatever their age and ability.  The learning environment at Poppies supports development and learning with attractive and stimulating space, facilities and resources.

Members of the team worked effectively together to develop the indoor and outdoor space.  They created an inspiring environment in unique surroundings that provides exciting opportunities for the children to flourish and learn important skills.  Staff observed the children carefully to get to know their interests, and used questionnaires to ask them about their ideas directly.  This helped them to plan relevant and creative learning experiences that allow children to explore, experiment and play, while consolidating and developing skills identified for improvement.   Staff were inspired to develop the provision inside and out following visits to other non-maintained settings and after attending training run by the local consortium.

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

The setting’s environment is warm, welcoming and stimulating, and a place where the children are eager to learn.  The space has been organised creatively to provide purposeful learning opportunities, with free access between different areas.  The free flow approach and attractive outdoor environment are essential factors in delivering effective Foundation Phase practice.

Practitioners consulted all staff, parents and children to help in deciding how to develop the outdoor area.  This led them to provide opportunities for investigative and exploratory play, where children use resources to find things out about the world around them and practise their skills.  They developed different areas in the garden, including a sensory garden, bug hotel, swing park, mud kitchen and themed role-play, to provide purposeful learning opportunities across all the areas of learning.  Practitioners source real resources to use in the creative and exciting outdoor learning environment, such as kitchen utensils and fruit, in order to help children to develop and enhance a wide range of skills. 

Practitioners make full use of limited indoor space to provide a stimulating learning environment that complements the outdoor area effectively.   For example, they set out a good range of information and communication technology resources so that children can use them independently.  Displays are colourful and attractive, and encourage children to explore, investigate and develop their thinking skills.  The provision is evaluated regularly in order to make sure that it continues to meet children’s needs and interests. 

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

The creative and high quality environment has had a positive impact on children’s standards.  Children progress well in line with their ability across all areas of learning.  They engage well with the activities, participate enthusiastically and move around the environment independently.  Most children make choices about where they want to play confidently and develop problem-solving skills that help them to persevere with activities.  Nearly all the children develop important personal and social skills in an exemplary manner.  For example, they learn to co-operate and share resources highly effectively.  They use simple Welsh words and phrases naturally and confidently as they play in the Welsh greengrocer’s shop.  Practitioners respect and value everyone’s efforts and achievements and this ensures that children experiment and progress successfully. 

How have you shared your good practice?

The setting shares good practice across the regional consortium through welcoming practitioners from other settings and posting on social media.  Staff also contribute to professional development training events run by the consortium.

Links: www.poppiesdaynursery.co.uk