Listen to our founder talk about his vision for Early Years

We believe in the development of an individual curriculum for each child based on the child’s needs, talents, abilities, and interests.

Needs include safety, security, nourishment, relationships of trust, praise and encouragement, respect and stimulation of curiosity.

Talents are innate skills with which a child is born.

Abilities are skills that a child acquires through their own exploration of their environment, through problem solving, through learning by instruction from adults or other children.

Interests are areas in which a child demonstrates focus through choice for prolonged periods.

It is possible in looking at the behaviour and focus of a two-year- old to know something about the adult the child will become. Children demonstrate a natural inclination for certain skills, areas of learning and interests. It is important to nourish those appropriately at the same time as encouraging exploration in areas in which a child may not be so confident.

When we focus on these four areas for each child individually, we provide the best possible start in their life-long journey of learning and growing, and giving them the best preparation for entrance into their next schools.

We began with a thorough review of how children learn. This exploration led us to work with leading educators and psychologists at the Harvard Graduate School of Education on innovation in learning. We have worked with Paul Harris, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Education at Harvard, and previously Professor of Developmental Psychology at Oxford University. In addition we have taken inspiration from Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences and the groundbreaking work at Project Zero, which since 1962 has been pioneering in the use of music and the arts in early years development. We have also incorporated certain elements of Steiner, Regio Emillia, Montessori and Dalcroze.

Our curriculum ensures that our children are given opportunities to Explore | Discover | Learn while introducing them to world culture, in ways they could not achieve in other settings.

We use the excellent basis provided by the Early Years Foundation Stage, and overlay this with our own focus on world culture and activity-based stimulation. We choose to hire our own fully qualified teachers, rather than to bring in peripatetic amateurs, for each area of our core curriculum. This ensures that activities are planned with a deep knowledge of each child as part of their overall development programme. Since 2015 Ofsted requires all nurseries to have at least one Early Years Professional (EYP) on its staff. In 2005 we had four fully qualified teachers in every nursery. Our specialist curriculum covers music (primarily classical), performing arts, visual arts and art history, science and discovery, technology and sports. We create purpose-built Learning Laboratories for each specialist area. In addition to our dedicated under-two staff, babies and toddlers have a sensory room to explore with staff support to further their stimulation and exploration.

Our children pursue creative opportunities in a different way to other nurseries or at home. As one example, in 2011 we worked with all 3 – 5 year olds to help them compose their own opera. We started with Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, telling them the broad story. Next we asked them, “what do you think Puck, Lysander or Oberon would do and say at this point in the narrative”, and we captured the children’s own words and imaginations. They added Santa Claus and Ben 10, as well as a trip to the beach. This became the libretto of the opera. The children then guided our music teachers through the selection of music they felt represented the character of the words, some existing pieces and some that they composed with the music teachers themselves. They worked with the art teachers to choose scenery and costumes, which they also decorated, and finally they performed the entire work in front of an audience of parents at the Unicorn Theatre.

They were delivering something that they themselves had created, not something that adults had taught them to memorise. Every word, every note, every costume originated in the collective imagination of our children and they were immensely proud of their creations. Such innovation is expensive. As our nurseries are always all-inclusive, parents are never asked to pay extra for such experiences.

Finally, our innovation extends to the use of CCTV cameras (we were amongst the first adopters of webcams to allow parents both to have peace of mind and to be able to share remotely in their children’s activities), technology for the children to learn and experiment (we were amongst the first to introduce interactive whiteboards and projectors in nursery, we had banks of computers and specialist technology curriculums – in The Northwood Preschool our children have access to tablets, robots and other forms of technology as well).

If you are interested in registering your child with one of our nurseries, please make an appointment by calling 020 3319 7333.

Our nurseries provide an alternative environment to the child’s home environment. Your child and you need to know at all times that they are in a caring, loving environment, surrounded by attentive staff committed to providing the very best care and education. The ultimate test for this is how comfortable you feel on a visit to the nursery. We understand how difficult it is for you to entrust the care of your child to someone else, and your need to know that your child is loved, safe, nurtured and stimulated. We’re parents as well. We designed our nurseries as environments for our own children; our own children have been educated in our nurseries.

Historically more than half of our nurseries were graded Outstanding by Ofsted, either overall or for Learning and Development, Management and Parent Partnerships, which has placed us in the very top level of early years education. Our vision of being the nursery of choice has been met by high occupancy levels and long waiting lists, but most importantly we always want to be the first nursery on parents lips when they begin considering where to place their child. We develop collaborative and collegiate relationships with our competitors and if we have no places available will try to recommend an alternative nursery.

Staff retention is an area that impacts heavily on children and parents. Children form important relationships with our staff, as do parents, and if staff members leave it can be unsettling. We hire the best-qualified staff, with the right mindset and focus on quality education. We require that they are enthusiastic for their chosen vocation and passionate about working with children. We retain staff through our salaries, the developmental and career opportunities we provide and the ethos of The Northwood Preschool. When running our previous nurseries we monitored staff turnover very closely. Historically we have had considerably lower staff turnover than other nurseries.

Many day nurseries are not familiar with the complex, often daunting, process of choosing the next school for the children in their care and leave this to the parents to sort out. All too frequently our families who come from other countries are unaware of how early they need to register their child for certain schools to even have a chance of getting a place or what the schools are looking for in their child at the 4+ assessment. The assessments focus on a child’s self-confidence, social skills, problem solving ability, ability to articulate and communicate and ability to follow instructions and complete tasks.

Part of our responsibility as the first educators of your child is to ensure that we help you to make informed choices, and, based on our knowledge of local schools and your child’s needs, talents, interests, and abilities we work together on trying to help you understand the best options for your child.

If you are interested in registering your child with one of our nurseries, please make an appointment by calling 020 3319 7333.

Our third area of focus is less exciting for parents and children, but is an extension of our philosophy and how we view our public responsibility as early years educators. Our leadership and approach have been cited on television news, based on the innovation of our early curriculum. We worked closely with a leading television company on developing an interactive website for under 5s. We were consulted by Dame Clara Tickell as part of the EYFS review and our recommendation to not force innovative schools such as Waldorf/Steiner Schools to opt out of EYFS was adopted as public policy.

We engaged with a number of large nursery operators on the areas of implementation of the Free Entitlement and nursery management. We were widely cited in the relevant media and press for the innovation of our approach and curriculum, for the creative application of music in our curriculum and for our emphasis on a holistic education for our children. We have been imitated in that nurseries have embraced some areas, such as CCTV and some elements of technology, and many nurseries now claim to offer a broad based curriculum, although not always delivered by qualified teachers with genuine expertise in each area, or with a curriculum focused on world culture and the individual nature of your child. We will always be ambassadors for innovation in early years education.

If you are interested in registering your child with one of our nurseries, please make an appointment by calling 020 3319 7333.

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