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Nursery encourages positive risk giving children 'freedom' to run with 'no restrictions'

Each Peach Forest School which has just been rated ‘outstanding’ is a ‘peaceful’ haven where children can run with ‘no restrictions’ and learn about positive risk by using saws to chop branches, building fires and toasting marshmallows. 

Credit: Each Peach Forest School

Each Peach owner Kate Peach has been working in the childcare sector for 24 years. In 2013, Ms Peach took over Each Peach Childcare Hove and has since acquired Each Peach Forest School, Newhaven. 

Ms Peach told “When I took Newhaven over 14 months ago, it was really underutilised. There was the classic ‘we only go out in good weather’, so we spent last year training up staff in forest schoolteacher qualifications.” 

This included employing new staff and a new nursery manager Fay Sandells who Ms Peach says: “Is just phenomenal; all the staff are outstanding.” 

Some of her Hove nursery staff were moved to Newhaven to teach staff confidence with using outdoor tools and outstanding ways to teach children about health and safety with outside learning. 

'It gives them a sense of freedom and achievement'

“We have built a superb, strong, well qualified experienced team working in a beautiful calm place. 

“When you have a little boy of four who just wants to run around a two-acre field, we allow him to do that. Then if trusted, under the supervision of his forest school teacher, he can then chop up bits of wood, build the fire and toast the marshmallows. I think it gives them a sense of freedom and achievement because they know that all the teachers are there if they run into any difficulties. 

“We found if we allow a child to climb up a tree, they have to work out how to get out of the tree but what we don’t do is pick up a child and put them in the tree. It’s about each individual child, their capabilities, their development and their language development.” 

In their report, Ofsted inspectors said: ‘Children spend significant amounts of time outdoors tending to the vegetable allotment. They harvest their produce, such as corn on the cob, beetroot, pumpkins and soft fruits. They help prepare and eat these at snack times and take-home excess produce.’ 

Parents have also embraced the outdoor learning at Each Peach Forest School. Ms Peach said: “They love it. A lot of our families in that area are living in flats and spaces that don’t have outdoor access so for the parents it’s a big thing that their children are getting to spend all that time outdoors, planting, growing, chopping, looking after animals because it’s the only time they get that opportunity. 

Credit: Each Peach forest School

"When you choose to bring your child to Each Peach Forest School and shown around, they see it all happening, we set that expectation up very early on.” 

'There is a serious lack of understanding in regard to children needing space and room to spin around'

In regards to gender and space, Ms Peach has observed over the years boys will run for longer periods of time: “I don’t necessarily think boys need more space, but they are likely to make use of bigger spaces. As a rule, we find a lot more of our boys need to run around for longer periods of time than girls, they just love to go wild outside with no movement restrictions and then our observations show us that they will sit and read a book or join in an art activity for longer periods once they have had some time to run off energy. 

“I think we need to provide exciting spaces for boys and girls but allow them to choose what works for their development, we have a facilitating role, to observe and extend learning, using the resources available to develop children’s education in spaces they respond to. 

“There is a serious lack of understanding in regard to children needing freedom, space, variety and room to maybe spin around as well as areas to sit and read or play in a sandpit or sit and paint or stand and paint. I could go on and on. 

"Teaching in the early years is about environment and opportunity for those wonderful little minds to explore and be inspired to encourage discovery and in turn learning and development." 

Some nurseries can stop children running about claiming it creates a chaotic atmosphere. However Ms Peach is all for it. 

She said: “We spend significant time understanding and supporting behaviour so if they had a group of children desperate to rush around and run around, take them outside or create an indoor space that supports running around, clear the room and do some fabulous dancing or jumping or set up an obstacle course etc, all of this can be done indoors.” 

’Children should not be sitting at tables or on carpets all of the time’

The Hove nursery has limited outdoor space, so to improvise, Ms Peach makes links with the local schools to use their fields, woodland and local parks. “To enable staff to go out and about with our under two’s we have got some fabulous triple buggies so that they can get to the big outdoor spaces safely.” 

Ms Peach believes we should be supporting children’s behaviour rather than managing it. “Children should not be sitting at tables or on carpets all of the time. 

"We need more training and development within the whole sector for nursery teachers with regards to understanding and supporting children’s behaviour instead of trying to manage it," she says.