At Playworks our vision is to support every child in all aspects of learning, development and care to gain skills they can use throughout their whole life to reach their full potential and be all they can be. We take the central theme from Article 31 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, focusing on the child’s right to play. We believe every child deserves the best care we can provide and that children have the right to play, explore and extend their knowledge and individual interests, at their own pace, with the amount of support, encouragement and challenge they require. Therefore, supported and observed free flow play, as well as a proportion of adult-led active learning, is equally important.
Our urban setting provides sessional day care for funded Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) for children aged between three and five and we were also one of the first partnership groups in this area to provide ELC for the Scottish Government’s scheme for eligible two-year olds. The nursery is based in a spacious Victorian building with one large bright playroom, and a second smaller multi-functional room that can be used as an area for smaller group sessions, for quiet activities or sleeping, or to be set up to promote and challenge children’s learning in specific age and stage groups.
Currently we provide ELC for 5 days per week during school term time. There are daily morning and afternoon sessions, running back to back, usually providing for 20 children in each (maximum of 26) thus being smaller, allowing children a comfortable transition from home to nursery. Playworks has a widely experienced senior staff team and we also advocate modern apprenticeships. Staff work hard to build close relationships with children and families; are sensitive and adaptable to children’s and families’ needs and now offer to arrange home visits prior to children starting nursery. We also provide inclusive services for families and children under the age of 3 at Dumfries Toy Library located in the Lochside Family Centre such as stay and play sessions and crèche facilities for a number of parenting groups. Playworks can also be requested to deliver bespoke family support for families with children in the early years, which can be accessed through referral from the Health Visitor Service or contact Christine at Playworks for further information.
The setting is located in the town centre near to many facilities such as the train station, the library, museums, medical and dental surgeries and so on, and although independent, sits in front of Loreburn Primary School and near to Dumfries Academy. Due to our proximity, many children from the areas of Lochside, Sandside and Lincluden attend, however, children often come from as far away as Southerness, New Abbey and Holywood. Playworks is an ideal and convenient nursery for parents who work within the town centre and we can offer longer hours of ELC, using 2 sessions a day back to back from 8.45am until 3.15pm. This will continue to be reviewed annually and if there is a need for enough families to access longer sessions of care, careful consideration will be given to the possible extension of the service balanced with viability.
Playworks is represented as a voluntary sector group by such organisations as VOICE (Voluntary Organizations Influencing Childcare Environments) and Early Years Scotland, and works in partnership with Dumfries and Galloway Council to provide funded ELC places. As a registered charity, Playworks highly welcomes parental involvement. We have a board of trustees that is made up of parents, and other family members and we encourage community members too. Committee members are appointed at Annual General Meetings, and parents and carers who use Dumfries Toy Library are also welcome and are encouraged to participate.
Our staff regularly attend training and meetings along with other early years staff within a Dumfries cluster of schools. Managers and staff participate in other forms of moderation such as the NHS Communication Champion project, and sub-groups to enhance practice. As well as Playworks’ highly trained and experienced staff, children also have access to visiting educators as and when required at individual parents’ discretion such as: specialist Preschool Educational Visitors, Speech & Language Therapists, other NHS professionals, and Additional Support teachers. In addition to this, staff have access to support from the Local Authority’s Early Years Team. This year for the first time we are accessing whole staff training for children from families whose primary language is not English. This is a new service to nurseries.
The setting upholds local and national guidelines, policies and early-years frameworks such as How Good Is Our Early Learning and Childcare? Getting it Right for Every Child, the Health and Social Care Standards, Building the Ambition and the Curriculum for Excellence. As shown in the diagram these are linked to plan, facilitate, evaluate and record children’s learning and experiences in nursery striving to deliver the best Early Learning and Childcare provision we can.
Daily outdoor play at the setting provides some children opportunities they may not have regular access to. Utilizing the outdoor area, not only as a playground, but as a second classroom with further resources helps children increase learning opportunities further, as well as providing space for quieter play, small group activities and physical activities. This is an area of the nursery where we would especially value volunteers to assist with the development and upkeep of the outdoor area. Children have regular walks to nearby parkland where they can experience nature and wildlife, enriching their knowledge.
Playworks is a nursery where inclusion is a way of life - children with different lifestyles, cultures and children who need additional support, are completely included in nursery life and we do not have appointed areas or rooms solely for specific ages because we believe children learn a great deal from one another. Instead we structure the sessions to allow for opportunities for smaller group times, which again can consist of mixed ages, with the emphasis being focussed more upon shared interests and ability. Not only applying to children and families, but our ethos of inclusion extends among the staff team where shared leadership and responsibility is wholly encouraged involving all staff from our Modern Apprentices to our senior staff, as well as this year for the first time we have a new member of our team appointed by the Scottish Government to enhance our work towards closing the attainment gap.
Our curriculum coverage aims to engage children in the four contexts of learning, as shown in the diagram, where experiences and outcomes are incorporated and delivered flexibly to meet needs, interests and abilities of individuals as well as providing further challenge at their own pace. As such, children develop flexible pathways within their own learning. Children coming to Playworks nursery are nurtured and cared for with adults who are committed to helping them develop skills, confidence and independence to continue to flourish, on into further transitions of school and life. With an emphasis on free flow play children, can investigate and work on their interests until satisfied; there are plenty of opportunities for learning together as a large or small group as well as one to one with an adult to balance this up. Therefore, across the eight key areas of the Curriculum for Excellence by incorporating the optimal balance of free flow play and adult led opportunities, we provide experiences and outcomes in the progress and learning of the core subjects of literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing, as well as inter-disciplinary learning covering science, religious and moral education, IT, social studies and expressive arts.
Children are encouraged to be involved in such things as assessing and evaluating their own learning, learning the benefits of how to assess risks, and being encouraged to share their opinions about the service Playworks provides. To provide evidence of the learning children achieve and the work of the centre, our planning includes opportunities for all staff and children to be involved and for staff to share leadership. We have regular collegiate discussions for moderation of the children’s portfolios to establish next steps for individuals and to improve the quality of recording children’s achievements. We also have regular self-evaluation meetings regarding the service we provide, welcoming contributions from parents and children towards that, as well as to the compilation of Playworks’ Improvement planning.
We aim for Playworks to contribute to each child’s wellbeing in every way possible and to help each child here feel happy, confident and safe. We are committed to providing opportunities for the best possible experience of the early-years journey so children can build upon their skills to enable and encourage life-long learning, work and citizenship.