A Perfectly Ordinary Preschool

Say what? We’re going to build a garden on THAT?

The preschool that I help to run is almost 50 years old. We have an ‘outstanding’ rating from Ofsted. We have never excluded a child. We work with any parent who wants their child to attend our setting, to ensure that we can meet their needs, including children with significant SEND. We work very closely with our local primaries to support the children’s transition into school. We have built a garden next to our setting and (despite our setting opening onto a car park) we have found a way for the children to freeflow between inside and outside. We have created a forest club and we dig on an allotment. We are run by a group of volunteers, who fundraise constantly to ensure that we can achieve a ratio of at least one adult to every five children. We reflect all the time on what we do, looking for ways to improve and develop our setting for the benefit of the children. (We use the Bristol Standard as our SEF). Our children are happy, and our families report how pleased they are with our provision. And our staff? Well, they work with astonishing dedication for salaries that do not in any way reflect the level of commitment they put into our setting. (We would happily pay them much more if only the funding rate allowed.)

And yet, we are nothing special. In our local area, there are lots of other early years settings (many of them also voluntary run) who are doing exactly the same thing as us, and who also achieve excellent outcomes for their children and families. In his final annual report as HMCI, which was published yesterday, Michael Wilshaw noted that “early education has never been stronger”. With 91% of nurseries, preschools and childminders being rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, the sector does a lot, often with very little. You could probably find out the name of our preschool if you looked quite hard. I don’t tend to mention it, unless I’m writing an article specifically about us, which is rare. Unless you are in our local area, which is unlikely, you are not going to want to send your children to our setting. We get occasional mentions in the local press, although positive word of mouth among parents is the most powerful publicity of all. I am always happy to share my ideas about what we do (I wrote about our approaches here), and you are very welcome to visit us if you want to get in touch. Although if you come on a Thursday, make sure you wrap up warm, since it’s forest club and we’re outside all day. But I don’t need to spread our name all over the Internet. First, it’s quite a mouthful. Second, I have a duty of confidentiality, especially to our children. But mostly because we are a perfectly ordinary preschool.

“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everybody else.”
Margaret Mead

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