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What makes this north Norfolk outdoor nursery the best in Britain?

Children in the fire circle at Dandelion Education outside nursery at Marsham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Children in the fire circle at Dandelion Education outside nursery at Marsham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

It’s not your run-of-the-mill nursery - toys are made by the children themselves and the outdoors, rustic smell is strangely enticing.

Children at the Dandelion Education outside nursery at Marsham building and playing on a castle made out of straw bales and pallets. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Children at the Dandelion Education outside nursery at Marsham building and playing on a castle made out of straw bales and pallets. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Dandelion Education, which is based in High Street, Marsham, near Aylsham, won the Nursery of the Year Award at the Nursery World Awards 2017.

Teachers Hayley Room and Emma Harwood were disillusioned with the direction and focus of state education, so they developed their own unique ethos and approach to early years education.

Hayley, 44, said: “You won’t see toys here at Dandelion. If a child wants a toy, they make it, and we provide the resources to help them do this. This approach encourages the development of creative, and critical thinking skills, as well as problem-solving skills. Being outdoors, learning comes alive. All of the senses are stimulated. You can feel the wind here, rather than read about it in a book.

“Children help to enrich their own environment here; they create and develop their own space. They made their own swing and chose where to put it on the site. They wanted a castle, so they worked in a team to make it. We work with the environment using all natural resources.”

Max Engle, six, imprisoned in the castle the children have built out of straw bales and pallets at the Dandelion Education outside nursery at Marsham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Max Engle, six, imprisoned in the castle the children have built out of straw bales and pallets at the Dandelion Education outside nursery at Marsham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

There are 47 children on roll from reception age up to eight. Parents pay for children over five to attend, as government funding stops at this age.

Hayley added: “Dandelion is a unique marriage of Philosophy 4 Children (P4C) and Forest School. We also place a huge focus on emotional literacy and the development of cognitive flexibility. All of this makes us unique.”

They keep their own chickens on site with the children in charge of their welfare and fungi is everywhere. The children know not to eat it.

Emma, 54, said: “This is what early years education should look like. Children are moving through school losing their ability to think independently, because they are being spoon-fed knowledge.”

Children at play at the Dandelion Education outside nursery at Marsham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Children at play at the Dandelion Education outside nursery at Marsham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Esme Barkham, five, flexi-schools at Dandelion; she goes to St John’s school in Hoveton three days a week and spends two days at the nursery. Dandelion encourages children to spend their Reception year there, though some choose to stay for longer.

Esme said: “I like coming here more because I like the outside more.”

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