Why we are called a ‘nursery school’
Most early years establishments local to us refer to themselves as either a nursery or a preschool. Why have we used the designation nursery school which term is normally applied to the state maintained providers led by qualified teachers?
We must start with a very important negative point. The term preschool is quite unacceptable because it implies that what do is before the all-important work of the school. This plays into the hands of the school-readiness agenda of the present government, and also encourages the disparaging and belittling attitude of very many who see the activity of young children as mere play.
Early childhood education is not ‘pre’ school; it is school. It does not just come before something, but is something - it is what matters today for young children. It is school appropriate to them. There is secondary school, primary school and nursery school. Mr Noah’s is school for children up to five years. In deed we would argue that it is actually school appropriate for children as old as six.
To speak of ourselves as a school makes it quite clear that our task is not merely to provide care while parents work or do other things. We are committed to supporting the learning and development of little people. We do that by the provision an appropriate environment and by carefully nuanced interactions. Much attention is given to the next steps for a child and what will facilitate progress. Careful records are kept identifying learning dispositions as well as tracking achievements. This is not mere supervision of children in care but the support of children in education - age-appropriate education.
Friedrich Froebel, the pioneer of early education, called his schools kindergartens. The name was very deliberate and suggestive, meaning children’s garden. Those schools for little people were the places where children were nurtured and tended like seedlings. That designation was once popular; perhaps less so now in Britain. The nursery school also has a history, and our heritage is to be traced to the work of the McMillan sisters, Margaret and Rachel. Froebel trained, the McMillans gave opportunity to children to be outside in the fresh air, enjoying the woodland and the garden. They also paid great attention to the total wellbeing of the child, caring for the physical and spiritual health as well as other aspects of raising the young.