24.11.22 Martin Smith, Vice Chair of Governors

Today I had the privilege to undertake some time observing the learning and learning environment at Nottingham Nursery.

This morning I undertook a walk around the indoor area led by Uzma, the outdoor learning lead. A record of recent outdoor work was clearly displayed around the classrooms. This work had focused on the current season and involved gathering fruit from the Forest School area; making freshly squeezed juice as well as using some of the fruit for printing. Painting, drawing and mark making (writing) was illustrated and there was clear progression between ‘Lions and Pandas’(N1) and ‘Penguins and Elephants’(N2). Photographs illustrated a range of activities undertaken in the Forest School, which looked to have positively engaged the children.

Keeping with the seasonal theme, fallen leaves and seeds had also been gathered up and used in a variety of ways, including for counting and sorting. A current topic on Owls had a wonderful display using feathers and some outdoor materials gathered by the children. Children’s input was also obvious at another display on bears.

Walking outside, children could be seen making mud pies and exploring how mud felt and looked. Others were self-led learning, appropriately supported by staff. It is refreshing to see children managing themselves in a challenging outdoor space, developing balance skills and building confidence walking and playing in such an area.

We visited the Forest School area and discussed the use of tools by children. Uzma had, earlier described her progressive approach to using more sophisticated tools, one we will share during the next Nottingham Schools Trust Outdoor Learning Network meeting.

In the afternoon, both Sue and I accompanied Laura on a learning walk. Joining N2s, initially, for a physical activation session accompanied by rhymes and counting. Most children were actively engaged even though there were a wide range of levels observed within the group, one child seemed to be on their own. It is important for all the staff to support those children who are having difficulty engaging, though it is recognised that at times some children need a little ‘space’ themselves.

Children then sat in a circle and each class was greeted with behaviour expectations reinforced through rhyme, sound and symbol. This was well managed, though one child was still on their own.

The 0-2’s were being prepared to go outside; it was really encouraging to see such young children going out even in the cooler autumn months. In the room they had the opportunity to balance and climb, as well as support themselves while walking. Language was being used and encouraged by staff during play. It all felt well managed and secure.

Moving to the N1s we were hoping to observe some story telling but the children were so engrossed in their activities that it is was decided to allow them to continue, an excellent idea. Great to see flexibility. The children were focused in different areas of the room either reading/using books, playing with train track or building bricks or in the role play area. These themed areas develop specific learning outcomes, provide variety of learning and encourage self-led play and learning. It was great to observe lesson management responding to the needs of the children. The child I was observing although not keen to use language was active in showing and understand use of kitchen equipment and utensils, demonstrating great co-ordination.

From previous visits there had been a noted improvement in terms of displays, but some could do with refreshing, such as the building blocks display. It was noted that there were good rhyming displays in the corridors that supported activity at the end of the day and the outdoor learning displays stood out along with those linked to texts.

Supported child led learning was observed outdoors with N1. Use of bikes and trikes was alternated throughout the week to encourage other games and play. This is a sensible approach as the bikes can restrict the play area when in use. Staff were observed encouraging the use of hoops and Uni-hoc sticks, with a ball.

We were shown some of the material produced as part of the Schools of Tomorrow programme undertaken in liaison with Nottingham Contemporary. This is an excellent partnership and the items were used as part of indoor play in the hall. As part of this discussion on access to the arts we would look to see if we could develop a relationship with Lakeside Arts.

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