From humble beginnings…
Four years ago, our team set about establishing a fully outdoors Forest School kindergarten at our Shillingford site. In those days,our entire company consisted of around six or seven individuals and it was the biggest project that the company had undertaken since its formation 5 years previously. Calculated risk, debt, hard-graft and a lot of determination was the story, and at the helm was the newly appointed and fresh faced Emma Sheffield who had never set up a kindergarten before, let alone in a plot of woodland from a bell-tent. I remember one particular team meeting where the discussion was focused around the ability to meet payroll for the six of us, and the merits and implications of taking out a business loan to get us through the winter. It’s through these times of joy and struggle that the early basis of company ethos and standard was consolidated, and I can’t begin to tell you how proud and thankful I felt to be part of a team that always strived to provide a service and opportunities that they truly believed in, solely because it was a good thing to do.
With the opening due in the January, we muscled on and the site was fit and ready in time to begin……..smack bang in the middle of a rather cold winter. The ship was sailing and the wind was completely behind its sails…….or bell tent, which was of slight concern when storms were brewing. Before long, a dedicated team had formed and the kindy was reaching capacity. This had been the story ever since, and we have witnessed the benefits of our forest school approach to early-years education that we all believed was the way forward for many children in our care. I can’t bang on enough about our awesome team. Fabrianne, our kindy manager, Rob the Deputy and Rachel our assistant have all carried the kindergarten forward from strength to strength as the grass roots of our forest school provision and we are so proud of what they’ve achieved
The legacy of lockdown
Most of you are aware that recent times have brought about a number of challenges for the whole company, now a team of 90+individuals a number of distinct business areas. Most recently, the global climate has brought about challenges to overcome, and to ensure the long-term provision of forest school across our countywide sites, the kindergarten has had to temporarily close. This has allowed the biggest area of our business, The Outdoors School, to maintain its work which has been a huge part of supporting the company in the absence of most of the forest school sessions.
In a period that has threatened and even seen the collapse of a huge number of businesses, we are in the fortunate position tobe actively planning for extended provision and a greater service in the immediate future. A huge leap from the days of a team of six planning to open a kindergarten in the woods. With all said and done however, we are completely committed to ensuring the legacy of our flagship kindergarten lives on, and are in the process of establishing our second Forest School Kindergarten just outside Exmouth whilst we await the reopening of our first. This is for the very same reasons as we had in the beginning; it’s a good thing to do and the results seen have now spoken for themselves. We have an awesome Early Years team ready to go, though this time we have the use of our extended business services team and Estates Manager to assist in getting things up and running. It’s an exciting project that comes with a number of hoops to jump through and a lot of hard work, that will hopefully come to fruition early next year.
As always, none of this would be at all possible without the belief and support from our amazing customers and attendees who we are eternally grateful for. You guys rock!
To register your interest in our kindergarten provision, follow the link.
Author: Nick Murphy, Forest Schools Manager
Date: Monday 17th August 2020