By: Ruth Steggles – Head of Pre Prep, Framlingham College Prep School
Recent research has suggested that the choice of nursery may be more important in a child’s educational journey than the choice of their senior school. As an early years teacher I can completely understand how a good nursery education can influence a child’s approach to their lifelong learning.
I once said to a parent that here at Framlingham College Prep School we offer a traditional nursery education and they said, “What do you mean by that?”. I explained that many years ago when I trained, the purpose of a nursery education was to start children on their lifelong learning journey by ensuring they were independent learners who had begun to develop a love of learning and an understanding of how they learn, alongside some practical skills.
In terms of independence, nursery education bridges the gap between home and school and provides a safe and nurturing environment that helps children see themselves as an individual with ideas and feelings who can also respect other individuals. Part of independence is of course, helping children learn practical skills such as changing their footwear and taking off their coat, using scissors and holding a pencil. But, much more importantly it is about being able to explore and discover the world around them without an adult. Exploring alone or with friends is vital, as it helps children develop their own interests and have their own ideas. Of course in a good nursery children are given suitable resources and experiences to explore that encourage them to succeed, and give them confidence to continue exploring and discovering. The resources provided will help children become increasingly independent in both practical skills and thinking. Part of being truly independent is understanding when things are more enjoyable with others and when we can learn from others, this is were learning to listen is important for future learning. Independence does not mean being a lone scientist all the time, rather it means having the confidence to explore alone or find people to help you learn or to cooperate with others when you need too.
The habits of learning and thinking about learning are begun in the early years through our focus on the Characteristics of Effective Learning. These characteristics relate to the way we adults observe how the children are playing and then plan for their progress by providing activities to match their current way of learning. There are three habits; playing and exploring (using your hands), active learning (desire to learn, your heart) and creative and critical thinking (using your head). A good nursery education will ensure a child has plenty of opportunities to play and explore and become engaged and motivated in their learning promoting their independent thinking. Encouraging children to become creative and critical thinkers is crucial to future learning too, it means children can apply their knowledge and understand how to use prior knowledge in new situations.
So, a nursery education that supports a child to be independent, introduces them to a wide variety of resources and helps them understand how to apply their knowledge, will be giving them the skills they will need through all the stages of their education. Including, very importantly when they need to write a dissertation for a degree, which they will need to do independently whilst applying knowledge and demonstrating critical awareness.
A good nursery education supports the development of an independent learner who feels positive about learning and has the skills to succeed. And this will have been achieved though play and motivated engagement alongside learning basic but very important skills, such as holding a pencil correctly, listening to others and being able to put your own coat on!