Chichester Nursery School, Children and Family Centre is situated in the eastern ward of the city. It was purpose built in 2002 and serves just over 200 children under the age of five, who access integrated childcare and education. The Centre became an Open Futures Associate Pilot School in 2007.
Open Futures has been successfully piloted with very young children in a number of the original Development Schools. Chichester is the only Children’s Centre, so far, to be included in the programme. Candy Daffern, the Headteacher, is delighted with the impact it has had on learning and teaching during the first year.
“If I had known the potential a year ago, I would have taken most other items off my school improvement plan and focused it entirely on Open Futures.”
The impact has been greatest in three key areas; motivating children to participate and enjoy new learning experiences; extending relationships with the local community; and providing new learning opportunities for parents.
“We have always cooked, but the cookit activities provided by Focus on Food have really encouraged us to raise our game.There is now more consistent skill training and the opportunity for children and their carers to prepare and enjoy new tastes, from flapjacks with unusual ingredients to gazpacho and couscous.”
The Centre has developed a valuable relationship with a local fruit wholesaler, who provides a regular box of seasonal and exotic vegetables and fruit. This becomes the focus for discussion and experimentation. Children are encouraged to touch, taste and talk about the contents of the box. Different fruits provide the starting points for stories and games.
“growit also gave us the confidence to extend our expertise and experience in the garden into new weird and wonderful sensory adventures using texture, smells and tastes.”
The Centre has two very active parents groups, ‘Dads Aloud’ and ‘Mums Aloud’. Both, with their children, are now included in Open Futures activities. Currently they are in the process of creating a tiny forest at the back of the garden. They have also arranged well-attended group discussions on healthy eating and cooking on a low budget.
“Open Futures provides us with so many opportunities for developing practical skills with children and their mums and dads. Had I fully appreciated the potential a year ago we would have planned more activities into our curriculum. But next year will be even stronger and involve support from many more parents and other people.”