In any context, with any age range I believe learning is best when it is purposeful and relevant and children are fully engaged in what they are doing. Throughout my career as a teacher, the pattern was always the same; when behaviour was challenging or the outcome was mediocre, it almost always came down to a lack of engagement; the children had not been 'hooked' in their learning.
During the course of my teaching career, I have been fortunate enough to work for headteachers who believed in a hands-on, broad curriculum which was rich in cross-curricular links and involved children in taking ownership of their own learning in order to develop and achieve. This really gave me the opportunity and freedom to observe and trial learning opportunities that placed purpose, creativity and real-life experiences at the heart of all the children's experiences; areas that I have fought hard to retain under the various different government initiatives that followed.
When I became a mother my perspective of learning was broadened even further. I remember after the birth of my second child, my then two year old was 'roaming free' in the garden. It was a very hot April and I felt almost surgically attached to the sofa feeding a newborn whilst trying keep the two year old occupied. I remember the shear frustration I felt as I helplessly watched him transport his 'indoor' toys outside; putting soil into the clear paddling pool and using his welly boots to transfer the muddy water. I remember wondering why he didn't play like a 'normal' child with all his bright attractive toys that I thanklessly re-tidied every morning, afternoon and night. It was then that I realised something magical; the power of true engagement, meaningful, purposeful play comes when initiated by the child with natural and everyday objects. My son played happily and independently with with a few 'Do you think that's a good idea?' and 'What do you think will happen if you try this?' prompts and he tested new ideas and learnt more about the world around him than if he had been forced to play 'normally'. This realisation was more powerful than any lecture I had attended at university!
When returning to teaching after maternity leave, my strength of belief in child-initiated, purposeful learning grew and developed; I knew that with the right stimulus, theme, experience and environment I could engage children in their learning and produce the best results.
In August 2017, I left a successful 11 year teaching career and embarked on a new adventure as an Early Year's Practitioner. As I adjusted to a new age range and re-familiarised myself with the EYFS I felt rejuvenated by the possibilities of rich, purposeful, hands-on, real-life, child-initiated experiences which are supported by adults but not overly led or dictated. My daily interactions with babies and young children in this way re-ignited a fire in me; a passion for learning that had become somewhat dampened under the pressure of the new National Curriculum. I felt inspired once again about observing children play and the opportunities a learning environment built around the child can provide. I guess you could say that I got my mojo back!
So when the opportunity arose to open and manage a brand new Early Years provision on my doorstep, I couldn't possibly say no! Old Basing Village Nursery School was born. To open a nursery school is a dream-come true for me; an opportunity to share my philosophy for learning and to create an environment rich in opportunity for child-initiated play, enhanced by semi-structured sessions and teacher-led intervention both indoors and out.