Behind the Inspection Rating: Ducklings takes learning outside

Tristan Donovan
Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Sarratt Ducklings Pre-School, Hertfordshire | early years inspection | November 2015

Children are free to use the well-equipped outdoor space at Sarratt Ducklings Pre-School
Children are free to use the well-equipped outdoor space at Sarratt Ducklings Pre-School

At Sarratt Ducklings Pre-School it’s not just at Christmas when you’ll hear the sound of sleigh bells. In fact the bells are in use all-year round as they are rung whenever a child has done something to be proud of.

“This morning one of the boys made a snowman out of playdough and he was proud of that, so I rang the bell and showed the class,” says manager Deborah Ingram. “Then one of the girls made a decoration for the Christmas tree and she was very proud of that so the bell goes again and we all stop and have a look. It helps the children to be proud of what they are doing.”

This kind of enthusiastic praise for the children’s accomplishments is one of the reasons why Ducklings rose from “good” to “outstanding” in its latest Ofsted inspection.

Free rein

Another reason, says Ingram, is the pre-school’s embrace of its outdoor space. “The biggest change since the last inspection is that we have a brilliant outside area and we have a lot of free play out there so the children can come inside and outside,” she says. “Outside, we mirror what we’re doing inside, so the children have free rein to use both and that really works.”

The outdoor area is well equipped. There’s a wildlife area for children to visit and a Gruffalo zone – based on the character from the Julia Donaldson books – where they can get messy at the mud kitchen, hide out in the teepee or gather sticks for pretend bonfires. The outside area is also where the children learn about healthy eating by growing vegetables and fruit.

“This year we’

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