1. Why did you want to develop an outdoor learning space?
Abacus Nursery and Childcare Limited, which is rated Outstanding by Ofsted, first opened its doors in 2005 with just six members of staff and only 20 places available per session. The nursery quickly grew in popularity eventually adding a small extension to allow it to offer funded places for two-year-olds through the Free for 2 in Kent scheme. However, no sooner had Abacus expanded than its waiting list grew once again, and staff realised a more dramatic approach was needed.
2. What made The Learning Escape stand out from other providers?
The biophilic design principles were a great fit for Abacus’ approach to caring for and teaching pre-schoolers, as were the sustainable, eco-friendly building practices given the interest of both staff and children in environmentalism.
3. What are the biggest benefits you’ve noticed for the pupils and your school?
The new nursery has two classrooms, a lobby, tea room, accessible toilets, and a quiet room. It can accommodate up to 70 children supported by eleven members of staff and is also able to offer space for the host school’s students’ breakfast and after school clubs. The building features wide doorways in every classroom to encourage the children to venture out onto covered decking areas and beyond to explore a water feature they can operate themselves, a beach area complete with sand and toys, a noisy music area, an exciting mud kitchen and much more.
4. How did you find working with The Learning Escape overall?
From the off, everyone involved in the project, both at Abacus and TG Escapes, agreed that a building in which young minds and bodies are to be nurtured and moulded should promote excellent physical and mental health.
The children were even involved in the development of the building, suggesting ideas, checking up on the builders and creating their own miniature versions of the nursery from cardboard, foil and other materials.