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A team of early years practitioners at Childbase Partnership have gone the extra mile for the children in their care after going on a fact-finding tour in Sweden.
The 'inspirational trip' was funded by company bosses to bring new ideas and more improvements to its 41 day nurseries across the South of England.
Jade Mead of the Ofsted rated 'Outstanding' Seabrook Day Nursery in Luton, said: “We spend a lot of time in nursery looking at what we do and how we can make it better, but immersing yourself in a different system and looking back at your work makes a huge difference.”
The four-member team travelled to different settings in Sweden, from an International school in Malmo, the country’s third largest city, to Svedala, a smaller settlement in the South East.
Whilst there, they found reduced levels of regulation and paperwork, and identified the simplicity of provision, where children play, learn and nap outside in all weathers - often in parkland and open spaces used by the general public.
Emma Bloom, team leader at Grasshoppers Day Nursery in St. Albans, said: “While we don’t have the same freedoms in the UK, and I wouldn’t want to lose all our marvellous resources, an even greater emphasis on natural materials or ‘real things’ clearly fuels imagination which transfers from the nursery to the home so the learning can continue.”
The team described the children they met in Sweden as having a strong sense of identity and a “surprising level of understanding about the outcomes they are achieving”, and were impressed by practitioners looking after larger numbers of children with fewer resources.
Commenting on the experience, Stefanie Johnston of Greengables Day Nursery in Sandhurst, explained: “Swedish practitioners talk about the environment being another teacher and how children must be allowed to have experiences and create their own learning in natural settings; practitioners are there only to support.
“In a highly regulated sector it is easy to forget that we are trying to help children develop an awareness of risk and the personal skills they need to manage it.”
Mark Lowe, a practitioner at Edwalton Day Nursery in Nottingham, added: “The differences are often very subtle because we are all focused on helping children to become confident individuals and life-long learners but, for example, describing children with special educational or physical needs as those with ‘special rights’ is enormously powerful.
“Equally, when presented with something a child has created, a UK practitioner might say, “I like it” to boost self-esteem and prepare for the conversation. In Sweden, they say “What do you like about it?”
“This leads to a higher level of critical thinking and self-reflection while also building confidence as their opinion is more important than the adult’s.”
The team are currently sharing their experiences with company training experts.
Childbase Partnership is a leading provider of care and early years education for nearly 6,000 children aged between six weeks and five years.