A whole-school refurb meant that privately-owned nursery Headstart was in for a complete change. Not only did the setting get a makeover, but the work also meant moving rooms within the school building. We asked how manager Alison Davies and her team coped with the alterations, and how they feel about their new setting now the dust has settled…
What was your setting like before the refurb and what was on your wish list of improvements?
We ran the pre-school from a small classroom within the primary school which was not purpose built for the under fives. We had to store everything in this room which was very difficult and we even had no personal area or any room for the manager to make calls or meet with parents, staff etc.
We wished for a larger area and for space to allow us to set up all the learning areas and to give the children the space to explore. We needed a purpose-built room that took the needs of our children in mind, like a changing area and sleeping area. Also we needed lots of storage spaces and a separate office to store and complete paperwork.
Refurb allowed staff to plan ahead and ask for areas to be tailored to setting's needs
How long did the refurb take and how did you and the children cope with the changes?
The refurbishment and switch to the new room began in the summer half term. External areas were completed first to cause least disruption to all the children in the school. The primary school loaned a portable classroom for some of the school children to learn in, whilst work commenced on the indoor rooms (our new area). Most of the work was carried out over the long summer break so the children were not affected. The builders literally finished the refurbishment at 8.30am on our first day back after summer. The practitioners had two days to start setting up the new classroom and to get up any displays. From September to January the children did not have access to outdoor play at all times. The children adapted really well but the lack of free-flow outdoor play proved challenging with 32 two, three, and four-year-olds!
What were you most excited to see being improved during the refurb?
We were very excited to have ‘set’ areas for both learning and practical jobs. We now have three adult sinks, which sounds so simple but having one for snack, one for cleaning messy play and one for hand washing saves so much time and makes life so much easier – no more buckets everywhere! The children have most enjoyed the areas that are accessible at all times (home corner, role play, construction and so on). We have so much more space to play. We also have the advantage of a woodland area.
What are the best investments/resources to spend on when considering a refurb?
The best investments were maximizing the given space by using the furniture and other equipment. Changing our plans several times (including putting up or knocking down walls) meant that we eventually got the best out of the old classrooms. We used old resources and were lucky to be able to use other resources and equipment from an older school in the area that had closed.
What advice do you have for other nursery owners considering a refurb?
Our advice would be to take time with your plans, consider every possibility, consult with your staff and ask what would they like to see or what would be better for them to allow them to carry out their roles more professionally. Ask the children what they would like to see or to play with and where. We love our new pre-school room and are so lucky to have been given the chance to take part in the refurbish.
Headstart nursery is based within Shevington Vale Primary School in Wigan. For more details, see shevingtonvale.org.uk.