The next step in your preschool child’s education

We have come to the time of year when many of you are considering what the next step is for your child with regards to their education. We always receive many requests from families who are unsure about what their options are and are also unsure how to make what can feel like a monumental decision. Below we outline four options that are for consideration for your child’s Reception Year and beyond. These are:

  • Start the reception year in September at a primary school
  • Defer admission to Reception at a primary school
  • Delay admission to Reception at a school
  • Home education

Starting the reception year in September at a Primary School - Most children start school in the September following their fourth birthday, meaning that they will turn 5 during their first school year. If your child was born between 1 September 2017 and 31 August 2018 they are due to start primary school in September 2022. The closing date for applications to Devon County Council and Plymouth Council, is 15 January 2022. Please see the links below for how to apply online:

Devon - Apply for a reception or year 3 place at a primary school (devon.gov.uk)

Plymouth - School admissions | PLYMOUTH.GOV.UK

Deferred Admission to Reception

  • This refers to a situation where a child secures a school place in his or her normal age group but does not take up that place until later in that school year.
  • This is a statutory right for parents though they must inform the school to prevent the place being withdrawn.
  • Parents can hold off from the child starting in Reception until the start of term after their 5th birthday. For example, an October-born child can defer up to the start of the January term. A March-born child can defer up to the start of the January or the start of the Easter term, as can an August-born child.
  • The child can start earlier, mid-term.
  • The child cannot defer beyond the start of the term after the 5th birthday.
  • You will still need to apply for a school place at the same time as everyone else. You will request your child’s later start when you apply.
  • There is no need to reapply when your child starts; the school must keep the place for the child.

Delayed Admission to Reception

  • This term describes a summer born child who starts school at compulsory school age (5).
  • This is not a right but parents of summer-born children can request that the child holds off starting in Reception until the September after the 5th birthday.
  • The admissions authority for the school must consider requests on a case by case basis, taking the views of the head teacher into account.
  • Parents of summer-born children can also hold off admission to the following September and their child will have a Year 1 place.
  • If you would like your child to start in Year 1, you will need to make an in-year application during the summer term before they are due to start. Be aware that some schools will already have been filled at the normal round or during Reception.

Home Education -

  • Until the term following their fifth birthday there is no legal requirement for your child to receive any form of education or attend any form of setting.
  • By law, your child must receive full time education from the beginning of the term following their fifth birthday. This can be by attendance at school or by home educating. 

What we can provide at Venture.

The child-led ethos at Venture extends to your child's start in school too. In other words, we strongly believe in the importance of delaying the start of formal, school-based education until your child is ready and in finding the school or form of education that is best for each individual child.

Your child is welcome to continue with us at Venture for all or part of their Reception year, during which time they will continue to benefit from autonomous, play-based learning in the outdoors as well as support with the more 'formal' elements of the curriculum from a qualified Teacher.

This approach can be particularly suitable for summer born children or those who just need a little extra time to mature and become ready for a more structured environment.

If your child is starting at a primary school in September:

If you have decided that your child is to start primary school in September but are unsure which to choose, we are happy to chat with you about the local schools and how each might suit your individual child. We now have experience of most of the local schools, through our own children or past Venture children attending them and through the links we have created in order to provide a smooth transition to primary school for Venture children. 

Once your child has been allocated a place at a primary school, we contact the school to invite them to visit your child at Venture and we share information either in person or by telephone about your child, as well as through a school transition report. We feel it is really important, having got to know your child so well at Venture, that we take the opportunity to give your child’s new teacher an insight into your child as an individual; what passions and interests they have, what makes them tick, what special things they can do and what they have achieved.

If you would like to defer your child’s admission to primary school:

Your child is welcome to continue their early years education at Venture for up to 5 days per week for one or two terms of their reception year, before removing on to your chosen primary school. Government funding (EYF) continues until the end of term in which your child turns five, meaning your child is entitled to 15 hours (or 30 hours for those with extended entitlement) of funded education at Venture for this period. When your child is due to leave us, we will follow the same transition process as for those who started in September above.

If you would like to delay your child’s admission to primary school:

Delaying your summer-born child’s start to reception: If you decide that you would like to delay your summer-born child’s start in reception, please do come and talk to us. We are happy to support you in your case which will need to be put forward to the school that you have chosen for your child and the local authority. We are happy to discuss your individual child’s needs with the headteacher at your chosen school as well as talk to them about what we can continue to provide for your child during their year at Venture. 

Delaying your child’s start to year one: If you choose this option, your child is welcome to continue their early years education with us for their entire reception year. As above, government funding (EYF) continues until the end of term in which your child turns five, meaning your child is entitled to 15 hours (or 30 hours for those with extended entitlement) of funded education at Venture for this period. When your child is due to leave us, we will follow the same transition process as for those who started in September above.

If you would like to home educate your child:

If you decide to home educate your child, they are welcome to continue their early years education with us until the term that they turn 5 years old. As above, government funding (EYF) continues until the end of term in which your child turns five, meaning your child is entitled to 15 hours (or 30 hours for those with extended entitlement) of funded education at Venture for this period. Once your child turns 5, we will consider attendance at Venture on an individual basis, taking into account the individual needs of your child and the current cohort at the setting. For some children of this age Venture is the ideal compliment to an education at home.

 

What to do next.

Do come and talk to us if you would like any further support with or clarification on the options above. We have a list of lovely past Venture families who are happy to chat with you about their decision to start school, defer entry, delay entry to Reception, delay entry to year one or home educate. Please let us know if you would like to discuss any of these with someone who has recent experience.

 

 

A peek at a day at Venture Kitley Farm and Venture Hope Cove

A peek at of some of the adventures shared in this weeks' learning journals: Monday this week at Venture Kitley Farm and Venture Hope Cove.

 

Monday at Venture Kitley Farm

Arriving into the Venture garden fresh from the weekend, all the children had lots to get on with!

Over the weekend a fort/ castle/ pirate ship appeared at the very top of the mound. Lots of children decided it was a pirate ship and were bringing loot from far and wide to hide safely in it.

Other children noticed the magical potions in the mud kitchen, just ready to be made and turn people into all kind of magical creatures. One put in magical sound effects, saying POOF! every time she added a new ingredient.

During the day lots of children had a go at leaf bashing using the hammers and making different patterns using lots of different leaves found in the garden.

At snack time we all sat down and listened to Bear on a Bike, with some children remembering the ‘Please wait for me’ sentence and asking 'Please wait for me!' very enthusiastically along with the story.

After snack, Jess raked up a huge pile of leaves and one child tried to bury themselves in it while others threw it around and pretended it was snow! Some realised if you gently shake the tree branches, you can catch the ones which are ready to fall.

There was lots of role play as the police were trying to catch a very persistent robber, and even more role play as Father Christmas and some very hopeful children. One said ‘I’m Father Christmas, but you can’t have any presents because you weren’t asleep’ which was met with some very believable sleeping role play.

At lunch time everyone joined in with Hairy Maclary and enjoyed talking about his friend Zachary Quack.

After lunch some set to work cleaning the mud kitchen which was some task!

Other children put on fancy dress and put on a show of the Lion King. They lined up some stools and made and handed out free tickets. Good job it was free because the robber took all of our money earlier.

Other children went to work hammering nails in the tool shed and building new toys.

Some stunt bike drivers were cycling through the tunnel while others sat on top of the wobbly tunnel like rodeo riders trying to hold on to the wobbly horse.

We finished a very busy day with a digestive biscuit and learning a brand new song!

Jess Hoare.

Monday at Venture Hope Cove

Our day began with stick collecting in the woods ready to make jingle sticks.

We then set off towards the waterfall beach but stopped half way by the slipway for snack time. There were lots of surfers in the sea so we decided to sing them a few of our songs!

We headed on over the coast path stopping along the way to see a black ladybird with orange spots, to search for their numbers on a sign and to chat to the workmen fixing the fence. When we arrived at the beach the children were quick to notice how it looked different. There was quite a steep sand bank which was very fun to try out different ways of moving up and down it, including rolling backwards and landing upside down.

The children found what they decided was a shark tooth and a big piece of metal. There was a lot of discussion about what it was and how it got there but in the end it was decided that the shark had tried to bite on the metal, thinking it was food in the sea, but it made it's tooth fall out. This then inspired a big clean of the beach!

We were lucky enough to see a lobster on the way home and found out that it was blue because of what it had eaten.

We had some yummy damper bread cooked on the stove for snack whilst watching the waves roll in!

Megan Heathman.

Give me the wild children… aching to run through a field of stars…

At this time of year, we often have many discussions about the challenges that children encounter throughout a day at Venture. However, our discussions more recently are more focused on how we are totally astonished by the tenacity of our children and how much they have all overcome in just a few weeks.

We are very mindful that as parents you may question your decision to send your child into the woods knowing the challenges they will likely come across. How will they manage a whole day outside? Will they be able to find another jumper if they are cold? Will they be able to climb as high as the older children? We thought that by sharing this email from one of our current parents will hopefully give you reassurance that you have made the best decision for your child.

‘When I dropped Maggie off this morning at the woodland gate and watched her try repeatedly to climb up the muddy steep bank I was reminded of a few lessons we so easily forget. I was humbled by my 3 year old. As I watched her try and repeatedly slide down the muddy bank I am ashamed to say I thought she wouldn't make it up there. Even suggesting she go round the easy way.  The whole way home I felt ashamed of that. She kept going and she kept sliding and she still kept going and eventually she made it.  Yet there I was, the adult, telling her to take the easy way round. She wasn't going to let that bank defeat her. My determined little toddler showed me that just because it’s tough doesn't mean she can't achieve it. I was reminded that although our children are little they are more capable than perhaps we sometimes give them credit for. Given enough time and space I know they have the determination to achieve so much. So that’s also why I felt happy. Happy that she is spending her days with people like you. You let our children discover the world for themselves and overcome problems with sheer determination. I love that they're encouraged to tackle the day in their own way at their own pace. You stood back and watched her attempt the bank knowing she would do it in the end.  Thank you for letting our children blossom and for nurturing their spirits. Maggie adores Venture, she loves her days there and the people she spends them with. I can see why. When I pick her up, muddy faced and boots full of sand I’m happy in the knowledge my strong willed little girl is getting to blossom and grow in such a wonderful environment with such amazing role models.’

During our parent meetings it has been really heart-warming for us to hear that the parents of children who have been with us for a while share the same view as us. That facing challenges and overcoming barriers instils determination and confidence and the time they have spent at Venture so far has given them the belief that they can achieve anything they wish.

‘Give me the wild children with their bare feet and sparkling eyes. The restless, churning climbers. The wild ones using their outside voices, singing all the way home. Give me the wonder-filled, glorious mess makers dreaming of mountains and mud, aching to run through a field of stars.' Nicolette Sowder

Read the rest of the Venture Hope Cove newsletter here.

The wonders of going for walks

We often go for walks at Venture, but there is so much more to these than ‘just going for a walk’. 

Today’s walk was a fine example of what the children have been learning throughout the term so far. As always at Venture, we like a challenge. The very nature of our kindergarten is a challenge. The high unique expectations we have for each child are a challenge. Even separating from our parents can be a challenge. But like I said, we like challenges. 

Today’s walk was challenging for many reasons. It’s the furthest we have walked from Kitley Farm. It’s somewhere we have never been before and to make it that little bit more challenging even the terrain was being difficult. 

We set off after a morning snack in search of new woods to explore. Not only are many of the children independently finding their backpacks and name tags on the rope bus, but they are becoming more aware of their peers and offering help to those who need it (this shows a wonderful self awareness as the children can see how their actions affect others). All the children can now tell you all the rules of the rope bus with very little prompting from adults (this shows great listening and retention skills).  They don’t just know these rules but they also all follow them (even our little twos!). We had a new friend, who will be starting with us after half term, and the other children took turns to show him the ropes (excuse the pun) and made him feel very welcome in the group.

We started out our walk on the familiar road up to the orchard but it wasn’t long before we soon reached unfamiliar ground. The children took it all in their stride however, which expresses a brilliant level of confidence in themselves and trust in the staff. As we walked along the path we saw strawberry fields and pheasants, among many other things, which gave the children a chance to talk to each other and broaden their vocabulary and listening skills. 

We soon encountered an enticing muddy puddle. It lured the children in until the water was above their wellies and many boots were stuck! The children weren’t phased however, as over the last half term they have been building up a resilience to challenging situations and of course getting muddy. 

We eventually found a picnic spot and stopped for lunch. The children now know the routines and could probably sing the washing hand song in their sleep, (retaining songs and routines is key for the foundations of reading). Chris then read them this week's story ‘Hairy Mclairy and the Caterwaul Caper’. Everyone loved filling in the repeated refrains and linking the characters with the other ‘Hairy Mclairy’ stories.

Once lunch was finished and we had scientific discussions about the unripe strawberries being out of season, we packed up and headed back towards Kitley farm. On the way we stopped to count the pumpkins, (constant access to numbers vocabulary helps children to embed them so they become second nature). 

All term we have been engaging in running races for the children to build up their gross motor skills. Today Jess extended the learning by adding in a stop and go element. Everyone had to listen carefully to the instructions, listening games are the first steps in learning phonics! After a short trip on the rope bus we were back at Kitley. 

Once back we worked out the walk was about 3/4 mile and I must say all the children loved it! They all carried their own kit the whole way and embraced every challenge. Each and every child has come so far in their perseverance and resilience this half term.  This isn’t just something we have seen today. It’s what we observe every day at Venture. These achievable challenges support your child’s confidence, self belief and resilience to grow. These skills are a huge challenge to learn but will be rewarding for each individual for the rest of their lives. 

You can read the rest of this Venture Kitley Farm newsletter here.

Learning to find magic in challenging times

Life at the moment is challenging for all of us in one way or another. We feel extremely grateful to escape to this little peaceful corner of the world and to spend the day experiencing life through the eyes of a child, as magical and extraordinary. There have been many special moments this half term but one in particular reminded me of how our children always seem to find the magic in challenging times. As we arrived in Hope Cove to lashing rain and gale force winds, we began the day with a little trepidation, wondering how the children would cope. We needn’t have worried. As we sat by the fire warming our toes and munching our snacks the children eagerly asked where we were headed for the day and after a little discussion about wind direction and tide times we decided that the woods would be our location for the morning. The children threw their bags onto their backs and headed out to find their names on the rope bus, which looked like a waterfall itself as the rain dripped from their name tags. We set off, embracing the wild weather. As the rain poured down, a stream of muddy water flowed down from the woods, providing the opportunity to discuss the steepness of the road and the speed of the flowing water. They listened to the rushing water in the drain and noticed that the water was higher than usual. Due to the beating rain the woodland gate was more slippery than usual but that didn’t stop them clambering over or sliding through the mud underneath. They felt the squidgy mud under their wellies and talked about how it was tricky to walk as it felt like their boots were being sucked into the mud. They jumped in puddles of muddy water and watched the splash of mud on their waterproofs, discovering that the harder they jump, the higher the mud will travel, even as high as their faces! They rolled balls of mud and put them onto the end of sticks as they pretended they were camping with a fire to toast their marshmallows. They practiced forming letters and drew pictures along the fence using mud, a little more interesting than just a pencil. They found bits of broken branches to stand on as ski’s to slide down the muddy hill, quite the balancing challenge! Throughout the day we heard screams of joy and laughter and shouts of “This is absolutely crazy good” and “It’s my greatest day ever!”

We understand that as parents you may question the positives of leaving your child in the woods with howling winds and a temperature of two degrees. We understand that playing outdoors in Winter gives our children the opportunity to learn that they can manage life when it gets challenging. We tell them that they can achieve anything and continuously build their self-esteem. They discover that they have the ability to persist and make the most of what life throws at them. We know that grit and resilience are two essential capacities that our children need for long term wellness. Most importantly we look forward to the reward of hot chocolate at the end of the day whilst reflecting on how much we have learnt and how proud we are of their achievements. 

Read the rest of the Venture Hope Cove newsletter for Spring 1 2021 here.

Why the adults at Venture are ‘not helpful’

What an incredible term we have had so far. We are so proud of the achievements many of the children have made and our hearts sing as we scan our eyes across the garden to watch a flurry of enthusiastic, happy and busy children. 

As we have had some questions and queries from parents since our opening and we would normally have had the opportunity for a parent evening to discuss these, we thought we would take this opportunity to explain a little about our background and methods.

As some of you are aware our first Pre-School was opened in 2018 in Hope Cove, with the aim of providing exceptional and unique outdoor child-led education. In 2019, encouraged by an “Outstanding”  assessment from Ofsted, we decided to open a new setting at Kitley. However it all began some time before that.

About 7 years ago we had a chance meeting in some woodland on the Flete Estate and struck up a conversation which soon led to a realisation that we shared a passion for providing young children with the best care and environment possible for their growth and development. Up to that point we had been solely concerned with our own children, but we soon began working together at Holbeton Pre-School and enjoyed re-shaping existing practices according to our own standards and principles.

Between that moment and now, we have spent all of our working days (and a worryingly large amount of our personal lives) discussing over and over the intricacies of early childhood and how caring for children at this most precious and important time should be done. We both read extensively on the subject and incorporate the best practices that we can find either in the UK or abroad. We have visited some incredible examples such as the Secret Garden in Scotland which was written about by Richard Louv, and Little Forest Folk in London. These settings have inspired us, along with our own ongoing learning about many different pedagogies, and we take a little from them all. But ultimately what we have come to realise is that, in Venture, we have created our very own unique and very special pedagogy.

Every day that the two of us are together we are talking and tweaking our method. Sometimes even at 5 am on a Sunday we are messaging one another, reflecting, wondering how it should be done, how could it be better, changing even the smallest details. We will never stop working towards making this the absolute best Early Years experience we can. 

This term we have been interviewing, and we have so far considered or interviewed 28 candidates. It is a very careful process and we spend a long time evaluating what we feel constitutes the most important element of Venture, the people. Once we take on staff there begins a process of training and a journey for them which will continue throughout their time with us. Every detail of how the adult interacts with a child is scrutinised and carefully thought about. The detail and subtlety in this is vast, down to when to make eye contact, when it should be just a nod or a wink, when to get involved in an argument. All of this will depend upon which child it is, what they have going on at home, what they might be currently struggling with. When you see us standing in the garden watching the children, there is a careful process going on of gleaning as much information about that child, along with caring for their needs with a totally non-invasive approach. From there we can scaffold their learning, but above all else nurture them, allow them to flourish and ensure that when they leave us they are bursting with confidence, independence, resilience and self-esteem. 

We received an email this term from a lovely parent who had some queries and feedback for us and asked about why we don’t necessarily follow the same format as other Preschool settings, one example being that we didn’t do anything for National Garden Bird Watch week. We thought perhaps there may be more of our families who have wondered similarly, so here is a little of the reply:

“At Venture, as you know, we take a different approach to other early years settings or schools. Our offering is unique and is the product of years of development, consideration and observation. We believe that the children should be, first and foremost, nurtured, so that they are confident and that their self-esteem is always boosted. Therefore, we spend a lot of time getting to know the children and doing things at their pace until they are well settled in the environment.

This of course encompasses a multitude of challenges in all weathers and they get to experience first-hand some pretty extraordinary days of wind, rain, mud and of course the beautiful changes in the seasons. We are also working hard, extremely hard in some cases, to encourage independence and resilience, which we have heard from many reception teachers shines through when they compare a Venture child to children from settings where they have an adult do everything for them. We all know that learning can only truly take place when a child feels happy, capable and confident.

During this time, and every single day they attend Venture they are discovering nature. A ladybird, worms, slugs, centipedes, birds, woodlice, wasps, hollowed out cobnuts, mermaids purse’, bees and mice are a few recent examples.  The children often discover these things for themselves and it is from their own interest and innate curiosity that they learn about them. 

Therefore, in answer to why we often do not always conform to what other early years settings may offer, such as the garden bird watch. Firstly it is important to us that the children discover these things for themselves and that they learn from their own interests, but also what these adult planned activities offer would be what our children are lucky enough to experience everyday. On the day when we have arranged bird watching and craft the children could be more interested for example in the ice that has formed in the garden overnight, and would therefore feel pressured to do and attend to what the adults want rather than having the independence and freedom to follow their own interests and passions.

Over time it has become clear that often children who are coerced into learning about what the adults have chosen, are effectively turned off learning altogether. 

It is also more important to us that the children enjoy their day and the process of making something rather than sending them home with an adult led creation which would be solely to impress and keep parents happy.”

“True learning – learning that is permanent and useful, that leads to intelligent action and further learning — can arise only out of the experience, interest, and concerns of the learner.” -John Holt

Read the rest of the Venture Kitley Farm newsletter for Spring 1 2021 here.

Hope Cove team

As we near the end of our first term back at Venture, as well as welcoming many new children we have also welcomed wonderful new people to our team. Here are some of their thoughts on Venture.

Cathryn has revelled in her first term at Venture and has been particularly blown away watching the learning experiences that happen when children are given the time and space to explore their minds and bodies at their own pace. Having come from a primary school classroom where things are jammed packed and fast paced, Cathryn is really cherishing the slower pace where the child led approach is prioritised. It makes her heart sing to watch quirky role play unfold or deeper level thinking skills come into action through unprompted learning experiences. The children have been an absolute joy to get to know and she is excited for what is to come as friendships evolve, the gang feel more confident to venture slightly further afield and the children develop their nature connection skills.

Jess’ favourite thing from this last half term has been watching the children’s independence, confidence and resilience continue to grow week on week. She has seen each and every child achieve something new and more challenging. Whether it’s jumping from increasingly higher rocks, climbing another branch higher in the tree, independently negotiating who will use a piece of equipment first, or managing to pack their lunch away without support. They have all taken huge steps forward and it has been so magical and special to have witnessed these lovely little moments.

Vienna has really enjoyed the walks that we do at Venture. During these walks, we spot and discuss the things that we pass. This can be anything from the workmen digging up the road, to a brave robin who has landed nearby. The pace varies, as does the tone, as we amble or sprint, whisper or sing along the paths. Conversations can be so thoughtful as children observe their surroundings and use this as a stimulus to tell us about their thoughts, their homes, their friends etc. It’s a really special time.

This term Gabrielle has really loved getting to know all the children and seeing their amazing personalities shine through. We’ve had some gorgeous winter weather and she’s loved going to the beach and has been wowed by the children’s enthusiasm and knowledge of their surroundings. As the children’s confidence grows so too does their imagination and role play together, building new friendships through games of tag, collecting treasures or digging holes together. How lucky we are to have Hope Cove as our classroom.

Read the rest of the Venture Hope Cove newsletter here.

Venture Kitley Farm, a parents’ view

We really enjoyed reading this beautifully written account and Natasha has very kindly allowed us to share it with you all. If any of you ever feel inclined to share your thoughts of Venture we would love to receive more parents’ views/write ups.

REVIEW – Venture Kindergarten for Green Parent Magazine

By Natasha Block Hicks

Please can you tell me why you chose the kindergarten?

A weekend stay at an Airbnb in Kingsbridge, with a family whose son was on the waiting list for Venture Hope Cove, alerted us to this small and unusual early years setting.  It sounded Arcadian: children outdoors whatever the weather; the beach and woods their classroom; pebbles, sand and sticks their toys; rocks and trees their climbing frames.  We returned the following Thursday and witnessed for ourselves a typical afternoon on the beach at this outdoor kindergarten.  Pre-schoolers of an age that one is lead to believe will play alongside each other but rarely together were actively engaging with their peers, problem-solving in teams, being open, curious and communicative, and most importantly reaching out to our then 2.5-year-old to bring her into the fold.  The adults were notable by their quiet attentiveness, neither directing nor refereeing the play, but standing back and allowing it to unfold within a reasonable set of boundaries that the children seemed to implicitly understand.  We were (and still are) impressed by the faith the adults have in allowing these young children to test and teach themselves about their own abilities and physical limitations.  We were delighted when founders Jenny and Zoe told us that they were launching a sister kindergarten, Venture Kitley Farm in Yealmpton, the region of Devon we were scouting out as a potential place to settle.  We signed Lily up for the April 2020 start date and set about facilitating our move South West.

And what your child loves about the kindergarten?

Venture Kitley Farm has a slightly different setting to Venture Hope Cove, with a tepee (rather than the latter’s Fishermen’s Reading Rooms) as a central gathering point within a dedicated green space.  Lily, despite never before having received any formal childcare, has taken to the notion of ‘her’ kindergarten, with ‘her’ tepee where she deposits her backpack every morning (packed with everything she might need for a day outdoors) and around which the daily routines revolve.  Although parental separation was initially challenging for her, every morning she nevertheless asked to go to kindergarten, to the palpable warm welcome awaiting her there.  The independence fostered at Venture suits her personality, as well as the respect afforded the children when they are for example (under subtle supervision) allowed to use proper tools to carry out simple self-guided hammering, cutting and drilling tasks.  She loves venturing out for regular adventures on the ‘rope bus’, a genius device whereby the children each have a loop on a long rope to hold as they step out to explore the local tracks, fields and orchards.  Mainly for Lily however, it is the promise of playmates that draws her; in the six short weeks that the kindergarten has been open after the delays imposed by Covid-19, Lily has developed some charming friendships with the other children, undoubtedly facilitated by the hands-off approach of the adults and the spirit of kindness and cooperation nurtured among the children at Venture Kindergarten.

Read the rest of the Venture Kitley Farm newsletter here.

Autumn outdoors

We can’t believe that we are nearing the end of the first half of the Autumn term at Venture Kitley Farm.  It is at this time of year that we usually like to invite parents into our settings to gain an insight into the unique model of learning we use at Venture, but as current guidelines don’t allow for this, we would like to take a little time here to explain why this is so effective. 

Autumn has always been our favourite time of year at Venture. As the weather becomes more wet and wild, we can really begin to see the benefits of an outdoor setting.  The adults enjoy the challenge and the reward that it brings. Every day feels like an adventure and we go home feeling like we have achieved so much. We know that the children also share this experience, although most of the time they (unless they are reminded by a parent) don’t seem to notice the sideways rain and gale force winds! 

We mustn’t forget that this challenge is one of the most important parts of what we provide and indeed why Venture was created. An indoor setting is an easier journey for children. They can sit in warm shelter on the carpet comforted by playing with toys that are familiar to them (maybe a train set) without having to make an effort to engage and use their imaginations. 

We are very aware that some people may wonder about whether their child should be in a more conventional preschool and that this would be better for their ‘learning’. At Venture we place a high emphasis on pure, child-led play as it is through play that children learn most effectively and our approach perfectly covers and exceeds the expectations of the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) curriculum. Our approach to learning and the impact it has on the children is why at our Hope Cove setting we achieved an emphatic “Outstanding” rating from Ofsted. 

‘Child-led’ is a term often used but not fully implemented in most early years settings. Other professionals who have visited us, and indeed many of our new members of staff, have commented on the fact that at Venture we truly do take everything at the child’s pace and the children truly are in control of their own play and learning. 

We have watched this term as the children settle into their play, as they decide what to do next, without obvious predictable activities set up for them. Instead they have to think, wonder, dream and create things to do on their own. This has led to some fantastic ideas such as creating the ‘mud patch’. Some of them have spent a long time working together, planning, designing and building, clearing a path, digging an area, using guttering and joining pipes together.  All of this was done as a team, welcoming new people each day, negotiating, problem solving, sharing, making decisions and taking risks and changing strategies. Add to that the incredibly rich language used in order to complete these tasks together and we have something really very special! The resources we provide for the children to play with allow them to try their own ideas, ask their own questions, discover their own answers and create new possibilities. 

‘Childhood is not a race to see how quickly a child can read, write and count. It is a small window of time to learn and develop at the pace that is right for each individual child. Earlier is not better’ Magda Gerber.

We make the most of the three natural opportunities to sit together everyday, as the children eat. This is a time for discussion, learning to speak to the whole group, learning the art of conversation, feeling valued for what they have to say and how to listen to and take account of what others say. During this time the children are listening because they are interested. We don’t need to tell them to sit still and listen because it is led by them, they are taking the reins.  We talk about books we have read, we tell stories, they talk about their homes, places they have been and what they have been doing with their families. We discuss other traditions and cultures and the children learn that they don’t all enjoy the same things. We count, sing and make shapes with our hand wipes. We learn about phonics and recognising letters, words and numbers. 

The children cover all aspects of physical development within the natural and real environment: climbing, balancing, jumping and handling equipment and tools. Their fine motor skills are developed for school in all of the many tasks we undertake such as zips, ropes, vegetable peelers, pegs. We mark make wherever we go, with paint, charcoal, chalk and mud or using clipboards and pens.

The children naturally learn the importance of a healthy lifestyle. We talk about fresh air and exercise and instil in them a healthy approach by spending time outdoors playing rather than the focus being on indoor play and technology. Healthy eating is promoted and modelled by staff and we place emphasis on the children becoming independent in self-care.

We count steps, sort and categorise objects we find, talk about weight, position, distance, shapes, time, quantity and we problem solve using these skills. We are surrounded by nature and all the natural interest that this brings. We investigate nature and talk about changes in seasons and the children learn to make observations of animals and plants and learn why things occur whilst experiencing first hand changes in the environment. The children use cameras, a stopwatch, walkie talkies and an ipad as they play, or learn to use kitchen equipment during afternoon snack, and  their use of technology is always for a particular purpose.

The adults stand back and allow the children to play and their ideas to flow. We do not stop them when they are engaged in important role play with friends, through which they are able to represent their own ideas, thoughts and feelings. 

Our focus is always the children’s emotional well-being. We know that with confidence and good self-esteem everything else will naturally follow. We focus on independence and a positive mental attitude, encouraging the children to do things for themselves and offering just the right level of support so that the children really benefit from that sense of achievement. At first it might be the smallest of tasks such as unzipping their own coat, getting themselves organised at lunchtime, learning how to open their tupperware, or peeling an orange, but the confidence this gained carries forward, so that the children will feel they are ready to tackle anything. 

As adults, we get on with real jobs around the children, involving them in real life situations. We allow them to watch us and question, we discuss what we are doing as we work.  Every day we feel excited to be able to share with you the incredible experience of Venture Outdoor Kindergarten. It is undeniably, as we have witnessed, a brilliant way to deliver Early Years education and it is giving your children an opportunity to become engrossed with all of their senses in the natural world, to make their own decisions, to use their imagination and be allowed to think independently rather than be spoon fed knowledge. The children gain so much from this and we are overjoyed to see it on their faces as they make such quick progress in all areas of life!

 

Read the rest of the Venture Kitley Farm newsletter here.

First six weeks at Venture Kitley Farm

We have had a truly brilliant 6 weeks at our new Kitley Farm setting and have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you all. We have been lucky to have a great combination of sun and rain, giving us many different opportunities and experiences. From splashing in puddles, delighting in being squirted by the hose and picking strawberries, to lighting the log burner in the teepee and drinking hot chocolate.  The children all settled incredibly quickly and there have been many new friendships forged some of which we look forward to developing further next term. 

We work hard at Venture to promote the children’s independence and it has been an absolute joy to watch these new children embrace the routines and delight in learning new skills. All of these small things we do such as ensuring that they learn how to pack away their own snack and lunch, find their own bag and get themselves changed are giving them the tools they need to move onto their next experiences. We have interviewed many reception teachers who find that the most frustrating thing for both themselves and the children in their class is when children arrive unable to do simple tasks for themselves. So often this important resilience is overlooked and it can have a huge impact on the child’s confidence, self-esteem and learning at the most crucial stage of their education.

Another wonderful thing the children learn at Venture is how to look after each other and we place a huge emphasis on respect. It has been incredible to watch how quickly these children have learnt to enjoy helping a friend in need. Whether it is a gentle arm on their shoulder when they are upset or a helping hand undoing a friend’s rucksack. We watch the warm delight spread over their faces as they experience the emotion kindness and caring brings. We spend long periods of time sitting at snack and lunch times and we are always so proud of the conversation that arises during these moments. With small ratios and a quiet calm environment there is so much opportunity for communication and language at Venture. The children learn to listen to one another, taking into account what their friends tell them and thinking of appropriate responses. There have been some very detailed accounts of experiences shared and again you can see their confidence and self esteem rise as they get positive feedback from the adults and their peers. There is usually a lot of laughter as well as they hone their sense of humour on their friends.

One of the most rewarding things to watch this term has been the creativity we have seen, the children have embraced the freedom to explore the resources. Resulting in building and making some pretty extraordinary structures with loose parts, odd bits of woods and real tools. During this time they learn to negotiate, problem solve and are learning collaboration and cooperation. Having loose parts available offers an entirely different way of learning offering multiple rather than single outcomes. It is a joy to watch the children use these skills and to then experience simple pleasures with their friends, away from indoor noise or with toys which so often leave nothing to the imagination. 

We cannot begin to tell you how happy and excited we are as we develop Venture Kindergarten. It is for us quite literally a dream come true, we have worked so hard to create what we feel is the best early years education. We spend hours discussing and tweaking the ways in which we do things in order to try and create the absolute best environment for the children. We use our own experiences as parents, and from many years of teaching, we ensure that we are still learning from one another, our families and from every child in our care today.  We have spent a long time carefully interviewing new staff and we are very lucky to have a selection of the very best early years educators in the area. Some have recently moved or in the process of moving and all with really interesting and varied backgrounds.  All of them have amazing experiences outside of childcare which brings a unique richness to the provision we can offer. 

We can say with absolute confidence that our team is of the best quality you can imagine. We are about to welcome a selection of new staff, who are all exceptional individuals and will add many new exciting opportunities for the children. 

 

To read the Venture Kitley Farm summer newsletter click here.