In Sycamore Lodge, the staff:child ratio remains at one adult to four children until they reach 3 years old when ratios change to around one adult to six children. Thereafter at around 4 years old (in Willow Lodge) the ratios are around one adult to seven or eight children (even though the pre-school rooms are managed by practitioners who are qualified “Early Years Teachers” that normally permits a 1:13 ratio). However the expectation that children should be more self-directed in their learning at this age helps to prepare children for the expectations of greater independence at school (where ratios are normally 1:13). Nevertheless we understand that the time spent supporting children’s play should be high quality and not dominated by the need to complete essential records and paperwork, thus for core hours in the morning and lunch times, ratios are higher as key staff are supported by permanently employed assistants and apprentices for a few hours each day. Children in Sycamore Lodge continue to be observed by individual key persons, and activities are planned to reflect and challenge their individual needs and preferences, as well as their personal learning styles and abilities. While most children in Sycamore Lodge are able to use the toilet independently, there are facilities for nappy changing and continued potty training in this room (although, encouraged by the example of other children and the support of key persons, they are not in nappies for long at this stage!)
Children in Sycamore Lodge can choose to access a sun room and free-flow outdoor play spaces that are dedicated to messy and creative play.
Both Sycamore and Willow pre-school classrooms offer a “golden time” when the children can access each other’s resources, play areas and activities. This means that when the time comes for children to move on to Willow Lodge from Sycamore Lodge, they take the transition in their stride.
We consider that it is very important to maintain a dialogue with parents, even at this more independent stage in development, so that we can reinforce developing skills and positive behaviour in all aspects of life. Key persons continue to greet their key children in the classroom where they also share information about progress and achievements.
As with all units in Nature Trails, children are supported in their development of physical skills and their confidence in using outdoor spaces as a place to learn. They help their educators dig the garden and grow vegetables and practice co-ordination and balance on a variety of outdoor play resources. They too enjoy nature walks and practitioners begin to introduce them to activities that reflect those that are pursued at “Forest School”. Children at this stage are also encouraged to use their imagination e.g. by developing mini dramas that involve others. This helps to lay the foundations for social confidence in later life.