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Learning at Cookham Nursery School

  • Most learning is play-based and takes place indoors and outside.
  • There is a balance between adult-initiated experiences (guided learning) and child-initiated experiences.
  • Adults take children’s interests and strengths as a starting point, seeing each child as a competent learner. We respond to children’s interests through ‘planning in the moment.’
  • Parent involvement is crucial. We learn a great deal about each child from their parents. Parental support and a high-quality home learning environment make an enormous difference to children.

We designed our curriculum with the strengths and needs of the children at Cookham Nursery School in mind. For example, many of our children are of White British Heritage and we plan weekly to use our Persona Doll Biba with all our children. Biba is mixed heritage and we incorporate issues of equality, inclusion and a positive attitude to difference through using Biba in small groups. We also use a range of story books which promote diversity.

Cookham is an affluent area but not all children have access to all that it has to offer. We carefully assess children’s needs and interests and plan experiences accordingly. We have picnics overlooking the river, trips to the café, we have a train journey and invite the Theatre to perform.

We offer lots of learning outdoors to build children’s confidence and physical strength and co-ordination, for example through Forest School activities, the Mud Kitchen, physical play equipment and woodwork.

We have 10 specific curricular goals which are ambitious and provide an overview of many of the different things   we would like children to know and be able to do. They are adaptable to the children on roll. We offer scaffolding and extra support to help every child to access the curriculum and to ensure they make progress through it. However, we recognise that every child will not make the same progress through the curricular goals. Many children will learn to hammer a nail into a piece of wood. For some children with complex needs, managing to tolerate the sound of the hammer on the wood or the feel of the goggles on their face will represent strong progress. All those children are participating in the same curriculum. Where children move on quickly, our emphasis is on deepening their learning rather than introducing new skills or concepts. For example, a child may follow different recipe cards to make other types of bread, and may help other children.

Our environment progresses throughout the year, for example we begin with simply joined construction materials and progress towards more complex sets alongside our loose parts. Large plastic easy grip nuts and bolts will be gradually supplemented with smaller metal versions to challenge the development of fine motor skills.

We are an Attachment Aware school and pride ourselves in our knowledge of the developing brain and how to support young children’s well-being through understanding and managing their feelings and behaviour. The well-being and involvement levels of the children are important to us and we monitor and support this area of their development individually.

At Cookham Nursery School we value experiential play. We plan rich and challenging activities and experiences for awe and wonder, designed to spark children’s curiosity, engage them and encourage sustained shared thinking. We plan for and organise adult led weekly ‘Talk Times.’ We set up an irresistible collection of items to explore, or we bake or we cook on the fire, or observe first-hand the life cycles of caterpillars and chicks. These planned experiences ignite children’s interest and use of a rich and varied vocabulary.