Monday, 7 July 2014

Derby Road Trip - day 1 - Alfreton N.S, inside.

The background to my road trip to Derby to visit nursery schools & preschool settings began when connections were made through social media between Peter from the amazing Cosy Direct & myself. In September he paid a visit to N.Ireland & I agreed to show him around my school & 2 others. He was travelling with Angela, the Head of Alfreton N.S & Gill, the Chair of their Board of Governors (Peter is the vice-chair). So myself & the 2 principals of the other nurseries they visited began to plot our return visit to Derby!! The fact that we finish school at the end of June was an advantage as we could plan a trip in our own time & yet see the nurseries in action. Angela was good enough to agree to host us for a full day & Peter said he would sort out other settings for us to see on the 2nd day.

This was my first time visiting settings within the UK outside of N.Ireland, I have lots of experience visiting European settings but none in England, I'm not sure I was prepared for how different they would feel. 
Alfreton is a stand alone nursery school with 110 children attending on a part time basis, some of the children may do some full days, others just the morning or afternoon. They operate an open plan day (or continuous provision) so the whole building is used & the children are free to move from indoors to outdoors throughout their time at school. By having it open plan, the whole area can be used rather than having 2 distinct classrooms with each having a house corner, water tray or sand tray etc. as is more common in most N.Ireland settings (though both the Principals travelling with me operate an open plan system in their schools). In this nursery Angela, the Head Teacher is not teaching full-time so there are 2 other teachers & numerous assistants. The level of staffing is very high & this allowed for a very calm & relaxed feel to the whole setting. Most of the nursery schools we visited had officer managers too - most unsual from our point of view. 
From the moment we walked in the door the welcoming atmosphere was so apparent, everyone was so calm & friendly & even as children were being dropped off it was a very relaxed, laid back affair. The school was laid out in very distinct areas - a construction/block area, baking area (on Thursdays) science area, number tent, floor play for trains, mark making area, role play/imaginative areas, music corner, reading area & an atelier area with water play & art. At any time any of these areas could be closed off by simply placing a clothes drier across the entrance. 
A simple cloth barrier allows areas to be closed off during the day.
The space was also divided into numeracy areas & literacy areas - so the construction, science, baking & number tent were on one side of the school with the role play, mark making & imaginative areas on the literacy side.
Baking & numbers on the numeracy side of the school.
Mark making & painting in the Atelier area.
The building I am in is only 8 years old & everything still feels very new so I always love visiting more established settings, they always have the best resources built up over time. Staff were designated to certain areas each day to allow for there to always be enough staff between all the different areas indoor & out. Angela & her team have made the most of every nook & cranny in this building & have made 3 very distinct story rooms/areas for the 3 groups they have broken the children into. I think many primary school colleagues could learn alot from this nursery school on differentiation & how to manage diverse groups of children with varying learning styles. The nursery also felt more like a classroom than my setting in alot of ways because of all the print & numbers around the rooms - I felt that our Primary 1 or 2 class could operate very easily in a space like this & that this was a prime example of learning through play operating at the highest level.
Respect is a big theme in this school & it really does show right across the school, from the way the children speak to each to other and the adults and vice versa. This is a team that works well together, making it look effortless & Angela in particular, moves about the space in such a serene manner, nothing looks like it is too much trouble yet, I know that she must work very hard to have got the school to this amazing level of learning.
This nursery is a Rights Respecting School & respect is a key theme throughout the school.
Lots of natural storage was in evidence.
The snack area is in a little covered courtyard space.

Home Corner 
Evidence of learning is everywhere.
The Atelier Space is an inspiring area - who wouldn't want to be creative in an area like this.
We were very lucky to spend all day in this amazing school & their outdoor space deserves a post all of it's own - it is that good!
I only hope that when visitors come to my setting they are made half as welcome as we were & that they find a 10th of the inspiration I got from this amazing school.

A massive thanks to Angela & her team at Alfreton for making us so welcome & to the many children who allowed me to join them in their play that day. Most of all thanks to Peter for reaching out to me & making this connection - a life long one I hope.


  1. Angela Stanton07 July, 2014

    Thanks for your visit Kierna - it was good to share with you and your colleagues from Northern Ireland.
    Always good to see ourselves through the eyes of others!

    1. Thank-you for being so welcoming & for allowing us to spend so much time in your wonderful school. Here's to more partnerships in the future.

  2. Likewise it's lovely to see another practitioner's interpretation. I'm pleased you had such a wonderful time there and I look forward to catching up with the other posts. Sadly I have no indoor photos - my time has always been so full on there that I've never had the chance to properly observe the children and staff.

    1. Thanks Juliet, it is a very magical place & honestly more than a little intimidating! The bar is set very high for all other professionals to try & follow.


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