Ian Waller pays a return visit to this most modern and scenic of nursery schools
Back in September 2018, when I first visited the all new The Garden nursery at Kingswood School in Bath, the potential of this resource was clear to see. The spacious, light classrooms already offered so much in the way of play and learning opportunities for the children, with a free-flow philosophy that allowed them to feel comfortable and at home, alongside access to a generous and landscaped outdoor space.
One year on and it was wonderful to be invited back again to see how this most impressive facility has developed. My host was Head of the Garden, Anna Ballanger, who was keen to point the changes that have occurred and the programmes that are in place to make sure all of the children are as happy and well cared for as possible.
The first thing that you notice about The Garden is the amount of space and light that the children enjoy, from the classroom space to the outside areas. During my visit, while a small group of children were enjoying the wonderfully messy task of a painting a giant moon as part of their project on space, others were focusing their energies on the wooden play equipment, mud kitchen, water wall and stepping stones just outside.
Anna explained that all of the children at The Garden benefit from a bespoke settling-in programme to ensure that they feel as comfortable and happy as possible throughout their day. “Along with each children’s key person, I make a home visit to all of the children joining us in The Garden a couple of weeks before they start. This allows us to get to know the child in the safety of their own home and to understand the needs of the family. Parents are also able to ask questions and find out all the crucial information that they need to know about the school and the nursery before they start” she explained.’
Such is the appeal of The Garden that the children attend from as far afield as Bristol, Corsham and Chippenham, with buses supplied to help with the school run.
The Garden takes children from as young as nine months and right up to four years, at which stage the opportunity exists for them to move up to the Prep School next door. Indeed, the children regularly make use of the facilities at Kingwood’s Prep School, including the art and sports amenities, which means that when that move up eventually comes around, they are already familiar with their new surroundings.
While formal teaching and testing is not a part of the day for the children at The Garden, educational opportunities abound, from Makaton sign language for babies and toddlers, to maths and phonics exercises for the older ones. This is in addition to a wider variety of activities that include Spanish, art, PE, music, cookery, yoga and, of course, good old storytime.
With the older children enjoying their planetary studies, there was the chance to peak in at the two to three year olds as they enjoyed their mid-morning nap. In a hushed voice, Anna explained that The Garden currently has 59 children on its role, with up to 32 in per day, with the day running from 8am-5.30pm, and up to 50 weeks a year.
Next door again, the babies and toddlers too were enjoying a snooze, with some enjoying the familiar confines of their prams, as requested by their parents. Anna stressed the importance of her experienced team understanding and appreciating the needs of the parents, including keeping them up to date with regular updates via iPhones, and even inviting the parents in for the final hour of each day to join in the fun.
Throughout my latest visit to The Garden, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the calmness and happy industry of the children, supported at all times by the teachers and staff around them.
Surrounded by stunning grounds and the adjacent rolling Somerset countryside, The Garden at Kingswood offers a modern, considered and clearly thoughtful setting for the very youngest of pupils. For more information, go to www.kingswood.bath.sch.uk