Exploring our local community

Project author:

Project summary:

An observational study on children’s wellbeing and involvement whist out in the local community and supporting their needs to do so.

Introduction

This project looks at the current potential practitioners, children and families have while accessing the local community. This includes children who need support with things like transitions, children with ASN and how we can support these children so they can take part in experiences outwith the nursery.

The inquiry matters as it’s giving children the opportunity to be part of the community and to access this more throughout their nursery experiences. This would hopefully give them a sense of belonging, supporting children to manage risks and support their physical health.

The purpose of this project is to work with practitioners and families to build on confidence with being outside of the nursery setting and to support children to increase their wellbeing and involvement.

Context

Before starting this project, I had always shown an interest in being outdoors as I helped to set up small visits to the library when we were fully staffed. I took part in different cpd training involving woodland walks and other outdoor activities which made me motivated and passionate about making this a more regular occurrence at our setting. We currently provide an open-door policy (free flow) access into the garden, but we are looking to expand and build links within the community. In doing so we aim to provide experiences to children who may not get out into the community as much and to also bring these experiences back to the nursery.

With this in mind, I started this project as a time to investigate and improve on why the findings showing that we were not gaining the full potential in accessing the local community as there was some barriers meaning not all children had yet experienced being out in the community.  In discussion with practitioners, it raised questions as to why and how this can be resolved.

I originally chose to create a focus group of practitioners which enabled me to try out the research questions and to gain opinions and views on which would work for the setting. Due to staffing having all practitioners and staff together wasn’t possible, resulting in a change of plan where I created a questionnaire for them to complete.

Observations of children were taken before going out into the local community whilst they were in the nursery setting. Then whilst out at the local community and then after 2-3 outings. This was to see how children’s wellbeing and involvement was before and after to see if there is a change to them when they are out and to see if it had any benefit on these factors. To record this, I used the Leuven scale which showed the before we introduced going out, then when we were out and one or two days after we came back to see the impact of being out and if they incorporate any of their learning or confidence into their play at nursery.

Ethics

All participants signed written consent forms, I explained the project and explained to them before signing it that I would like them to take part in a small questionnaire which I would Collate and feed back to them. I spoke with the head of centre and obtained her consent to carry out this research and I also obtained consent from a member of the senior management team as I included them in the research as they have experience with outings and to assist with children that may need support when in the local community

I also sought consent from parents of the children taking part as I have been doing some observations on their involvement and wellbeing. This information will be shared back to key workers of the children and to see the progress of them and if there are any benefits for that child.

“This sounds good my (child’s name) would love that as she loves being outdoors, she’s out exploring all the time” (participants feedback)

I also sought consent from parents of the children taking part as I have been doing some observations on their involvement and wellbeing. This information will be shared back to key workers of the children and to see the progress of them and if there are any benefits for that child.

“This sounds good my (child’s name) would love that as she loves being outdoors, she’s out exploring all the time” (participants feedback)

I also sought consent from parents of the children taking part as I have been doing some observations on their involvement and wellbeing. This information will be shared back to key workers of the children and to see the progress of them and if there are any benefits for that child.

“This sounds good my (child’s name) would love that as she loves being outdoors, she’s out exploring all the time” (participants feedback

I also sought consent from parents of the children taking part as I have been doing some observations on their involvement and wellbeing. This information will be shared back to key workers of the children and to see the progress of them and if there are any benefits for that child.

“This sounds good my (child’s name) would love that as she loves being outdoors, she’s out exploring all the time” (participants feedback

I also sought consent from parents of the children taking part as I have been doing some observations on their involvement and wellbeing. This information will be shared back to key workers of the children and to see the progress of them and if there are any benefits for that child.

“This sounds good my (child’s name) would love that as she loves being outdoors, she’s out exploring all the time” (participants feedback)

Participants were keen to take part as the local community has been an interest throughout the nursery. Further developing the children’s experiences and frequency of visits in the community is part of the improvement plan. My research would be recorded, and I would share my findings with them before being uploaded. Each participant answered the anonymous questionnaire and they agreed with me collating the responses.

Ethical concerns we considered when approaching the idea of increasing outings into our local community included exposing the children to dangers that inside of the nursery that would not normally be involved so that we can expand their comforts and increase their confidence. We overcame this by releasing consent forms for the parents to assure that adequate levels of staffing would be provided on outings to minimise the risk of these occasions.

As tovey (2007) states,“The value of play outdoors cannot be realised in bland, safety-surfaced play areas. Outdoor play is about potential - the potential of spaces to engage children's imagination, curiosity and creativity and foster their health and well-being. As Froebel argued, the quality of the environment and the interactions within it are crucial.” (Page. 3).

Helen Tovey, outdoor play and exploration pamphlet, page 3, 2007.

Findings

From the questionnaires and feedback from practitioners, it is suggested that due to staffing shortages walks and outings have not been happening. Other barriers include budgets for public transport, staff not having access to council cars to explore areas that are too far walking distant. Another factor has been the severe weather warnings as this has made it unsafe for children to be out. Practitioners are showing that they are confident in taking children offsite as long as ratios are met for children’s individual needs and this to be adapted per group of children. This made me reflect on how it has been a challenge that has some hard barriers to over come. As a team we have been working on overcoming these by inviting parents to join us and using support staff for children who need it.

 

Practitioners have shown an understanding of each child’s needs in the setting as some children may require; treasure baskets, visuals, noise cancelling headphones, buggies, comforters or transitional objects.

This shows how good an understanding each practitioner has on each of their children as all of the above are objects used in the nursery and these can be transferred to support children with new activities or transitions in and out of nursery.

 

Further information gathered from our questionnaires confirmed how important it is for children to have these experiences as it benefits them in lots of different ways. They show a sense of belonging as part of the community as most children are familiar with the surroundings close by to the nursery. They learn to manage risks such as climbing, crossing roads and being safe whilst out. As we aren’t far from the park this give children the opportunity to explore on a wider scale with lots of nature resources that may not currently have a place in the nursery garden. They also are getting fresh air as some children may not chose to access the garden as frequent as others so the chances to go on outings may support them.

The benefits being out in the community have a positive impact on the children’s wellbeing has always been a passion of mine and to make sure each child has the opportunity to be a part of the community and to have experiences that they may not always get outside of nursery.

“I’m so excited to be part of the community project, it will have huge benefits for children and staff’s mental health and wellbeing while also connecting the setting with the local community and empowering all involved” (participants feedback)

 

Moving forward practitioners answered a question about how we can involve parents and families. Common answers were to invite them to come and join us on the walks, using twitter and seesaw to share photos and videos of their children, inviting them for stay and play sessions to build on links and relationships.

We actioned on this feedback and have invited parents to come with us on walks to the park and the local library to start building positive relationships with them and to include them in their child’s learning. As most staff aren’t from the local area parents are beneficial as they may know the area and can support staff on their knowledge of this.

“I am really looking forward to being part of the project, it will be lovely to work with children and the families in the community and see how this affects the children’s development” (participants feedback)

I asked them after they filled in the questionnaire if there was anything they would like to add that hadn’t been covered in the questions and there was conversation around making sure we are consistent with being inclusive with all children and giving them all a chance to have equal opportunities. We are working on making sure we give each child the chance to have equal opportunities as each other and to adapt each outing to each children’s needs.

 

Using the Leuven scale at each point of the project was there to show the positive impact it has on children. Observing the children before going out showed that a lot of them stayed within their comfort zone and revisited areas that they were comfortable in. Once these children were invited out, we saw a change in them as their confidence was starting to grow and they were more outgoing with trying new things. Having the right support for the children

Who needed it showed that having freedom with guidance whist out benefited them as it was a familiar environment and one that they could explore more. This resulted in an increase in their involvement and wellbeing which as a result we are hoping that with more outings and regular visits to the park or library we can continue to grow these links and the children can become more confident with exploring and discovering new things and learning more about the community they live in and what it offers to them.

“I’m excited to be part of this project, it will be good” (participants feedback)

Conclusion

In conclusion, my research was mainly to find out why we had stopped accessing the community as frequently as we liked and to find out how we can over come this. I had to change myMethodology to fit circumstances of the team. It was interesting to see how everyone agreed that we need to do what benefits the children and adapt the likes of ratio or comfort items to support each child’s needs.

 

After feedback we spoke as a small team and with the senior leadership team to have the full team involved and to keep our community links a priority as it is showing it’s benefiting our children.

 

To continue this, we were going to include parent helpers as this came from feedback. This would help to over come some barriers we have been facing lately and will be good to support building relationships with these parents and families.

Dissemination/Impact Report

Results from questionnaire

Questionnaire answered by 4 staff

  • 2 early years practitioners
  • 1 senior
  • 1 support for learning assistant
  1. How frequently do we currently access the local community?
  • Not regularly- want to do it more

2. Are there any barriers with accessing different parts of the community?

  • Risk assessment
  • Staff
  • Budget
  • Council cars as transport
  • Weather

3.are there any additional objects we may need to consider taking with us for children with ASN or other support needs?

  • Treasure baskets
  • Visuals
  • Headphones
  • Buggies
  • Comforters
  • Transitional objects

4. Can you name some of the benefits for the children being out in the local community?

  • Sense of belonging
  • Manage risks
  • Physical health
  • Fresh air and vitamin D

5. How confident are you with supporting children whist out in the local community?

  • All staff said confident with most children as long as ratio adapted to meet children individual needs.

6. In what ways can we involve parents/families in this project?

  • Parent helpers
  • Twitter and seesaw
  • Stay and plays
  • Invites

7. Additional information or any other comments?

  • Walks more frequently
  • More inclusion with all children

Research implications

The practitioner inquiry is in line with an identified improvement priority within the annual improvement
plan for the setting this year.
The project has reiterated the benefits to children and families in the importance of developing and
sustaining links with the local community and beyond, highlighting particularly the visits to the local
library, shops, and park and to the various settings within our local community.
There is a developing link with a local Early Learning and Childcare Centre with plans to further access
local community woodland space together, therefore using the resources we have collectively to ensure
more regular access.
Further links with the local high school are also being developed in a similar way.
The inquiry looked at the barriers that are faced in the practicalities of accessing the local community
due to staffing shortages and other challenges, whilst seeking opportunities to overcome this in a
positive way.
Through building effective relationships and partnerships with parents and carers a number of families
have offered support by agreeing to attend the outings. In time it will be interesting to collate the
feedback from the parents involved to assess the benefits to them and their children.
Ongoing support to staff is essential, including effective deployment of staff to ensure practical barriers
can be overcome.
A key theme within this inquiry was looking at equality and inclusion to ensure that all children and
families are able to participate in the local outings. It is essential that this was actioned and any barriers
were addressed with a plan to resolve.
Further training and support for staff is available to overcome any issues around confidence when
accessing the local community safely, through robust risk assessments, clear policy and procedures in
place to support all children participating in the outings.
Involving the children’s ideas and those of families is vital in any successful inquiry to ensure that their
voice is heard and views including concerns are heard and supported

Practitioner enquiry

The value of practitioner inquiry is recognised within the team through the interactions, discussions and
by the practitioner undertaking this inquiry. As a result it is hoped that other practitioners will be
inspired to undertake practitioner Inquiry research in the future.
As a leader it is important to support the practitioner undertaking the research and other team
members, co-operate and take cognisance of the issues raised in the research, working together to
overcome any barriers.
More knowledge and understanding around methodology will further enhance the gathering of data to
evidence impact.

Leadership learning

Key learning as a leader has been that of the importance of the whole team working together to be
solution focussed and to constantly look beyond the barriers and challenges. Working and learning
together creating ‘knowledgeable and nurturing educators’.
This inquiry highlighted the importance of our work in partnership with our families and the need for
more effective communication to ensure more regular access to the local community.
In line with Froebelian practice, making the connections with the local community across a variety of
settings and environments is essential for all children, promoting ‘unity and connectedness, holistic
learning and further developing relationships.

Author and role

To be completed

Comments from other network members

What did you appreciate about this research? What forward-looking questions did it raise for you?

  1. Donna Green
    Donna Green
    27 Mar 2024 at 1:20 pm

    Well done Natalie and Gill, some great experiences you have enabled through with your practitioner inquiry.
    Fantastic to see the participants voices clearly coming through in bold and wonderful to see the feedback from the family participants has highlighted more parent helpers are willing to support developing more community off site experiences. 😊


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