Extremely happy, secure, inspired - all words used by Ofsted inspectors to describe Rathvilly School, an Outstanding setting in the heart of Northfield in Birmingham.
Our families come from a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures, together contributing to the magical atmosphere and vibrancy inside our nursery.
We plan and provide safe and exciting learning and life opportunities for all our children, drawing on their own stories. We then support them to take each experience as far as they are able, while closely monitoring their progress.
Whether they are exploring a treasure basket, making a dragon costume for Chinese New Year, designing their own obstacle course in the gardens, racing on trikes, working out a chicken-feeding rota or laying the table for lunch, our children are challenged and enthused.
We are the flagship nursery in the First Steps Children's Nursery group, which currently holds the prestigious title of Nursery Chain of the Year from the Nursery World Awards.
Our vibrant, child-friendly spaces include art and craft areas, sensory garden, vegetable and herb beds, slide and tunnels, a performance stage and story telling chair, and a chicken coop.
There are spaces to hide, run, climb, dig or just sit. We encourage the children to want to be out in the fresh air as much as possible, whatever the weather.
Grass dragons and slopes provide surfaces to roll down; we have our own 'puddle maker' to provide the opportunity for water play in all weathers.
A giant sandpit, complete with pirate ship, stands ready for action and our own fire-pit is used by the children to toast popcorn or marshmallows as part of our forest school initiative.
Our edible garden beds give the children an insight into planting, growing and harvesting, and give our cook plenty of fresh vegetables for lunch. Our own clutch of chickens, hatched and looked after by the children, seem to like them too!
We also regularly take our pre school children off site to Forest School, a brilliant outdoor space in a private woodland, giving them additional opportunities to explore and take risks and build self confidence and independence. Find out all about Forest School here.
Inside there are designated rooms and areas for babies (0-2 years), toddlers (2-3 years) and a pre-school suite of classes for 3-5 year olds.
Each section is purpose designed to be a safe, vibrant environment that meet the needs of the children and allows for their safe exploration and play, with age related toys, games, puzzles and crafts stored in a way to encourage independent learning.
Each child has a named key worker and has an individual learning profile. Our experienced and knowledgeable staff observe the children and track their progress within the EYFS framework, using iPads and iPods to record and evidence learning.
This enables us to build up a record of each child's learning experiences and their next steps, which we share with parents at the touch of a button.
We also seek feedback from our children at every opportunity. They take part in regular circle time sessions. Visual displays in each room contain evidence of children's comments. We ask older children directly for feedback and also take note of which activities are popular; this feedback is shared in planning meetings and helps us shape future initiatives. Staff are experienced in delivering open ended questions, giving children lots of opportunity to tell us or show us what they are thinking.
We interact with parents at every drop off and collection time, sharing the day's experiences. We also host regular family workshops. We send out a monthly newsletter to all parents, have a thriving facebook community and this website, where we post information about events and news.
We have a "You Said, We Did" board in reception, showing how we have responded to parent feedback.
We also have an elected parent representative, who is a direct link between management and parents. This has been well received by parents, who value the importance we give to the parent voice.
We host three parent evenings a year, when we discuss each child's progress and achievements, and share our observations and future plans.
This year every First Steps setting has raised funds for Birmingham Children's Hospital, who treat one of our children battling cancer; and raised funds for Kidney Research after a staff member underwent a kidney transplant.
Our managers are active members of local nursery and teaching networks, regularly liaising with local nursery schools and hosting meetings and events to share good practice within the locality. They attend Early Years Birmingham events to support other nurseries in the city; we are also part of a network of nursery managers and owners who discuss issues of concern and lobby for change.
We have our own training room on site, where we host training sessions for staff from neighbouring nurseries and schools to enhance their skills.
We also run an annual exchange visit from the children and parents at an Italian pre-school group.