Sticky Fish Pre-School, Fishponds

Sticky Fish is a Christian pre-school established in September 1994. Their trustees and managers are part of the fellowship at Fishponds Baptist Church or members of other local churches. They are an inclusive setting and welcome staff of other faiths or with no faith. They aim to offer a happy, safe and caring environment for all their children and families.

The setting is housed in a spacious hall but until recently had limited outdoor space which was a dark concrete strip around the building. The space made it very hard to include all Areas of Learning. There was no space to make dens or create cosy areas for books and for children to gather and talk to each other. If the bikes were out they couldn’t do other things as this dominated. There was no room for the slide so this had to be put up inside. The team was frustrated that they couldn’t provide the rich learning experiences that they wanted to.

The change happened when the setting was successful in a bid for capital grant funding last year. Firstly they made a target in their Bristol Standard to help them plan the development of the outdoors. Liz liaised with the church then Jo and Liz completed the funding application. When the bid was approved everyone else in the team became involved. They gave their ideas to the plan for the covered area. All practitioners have responsibility for areas of learning outside and inside. They have all taken on an area of interest and have their own budget to develop this. Liz is creating a music area, Jo has grand plans for the sand, Jenny is developing the role play house and Tanya and Jenny are keen to build on the natural area.

The opened up grass area has made such a difference. The children now have a bigger space to run around in and can be outside in all weathers. They are able to go and explore unrestricted due to the safe environment. Aisha says that they have enjoyed exploring ice in winter and there are many more opportunities now for Maths and Science. Children have more in depth conversations and are able to sit outside for their snack.

Aisha feels the main benefits for the children are being able to explore the natural world in the big grass area, carry logs to develop gross motor skills and find out about minibeasts. It is a big open space with unlimited opportunities. Practitioners often observe the children before making plans so that learning is open-ended and spontaneous.

Parents have been very positive particularly those whose children have been at the setting before the changes. They say children are coming home and talking more about what they do at pre-school. The team held an open event after pre-school in the summer and parents came for afternoon tea and to look at the new space.

Now the initial work has been done the development continues as the team observe the children and make plans for resources. The next big step is to get a big walk-in sandpit.