YOUNGSTERS in the Capital could soon be spending a lot more time out of the classroom after a ‘Forest Kindergarten’ trial was hailed a resounding success.
The trial, which took place from January to June, saw a group of pre-school children enjoying a number of outdoor sessions at Lauriston Castle.
It comes as part of an ongoing push to transform early years education following the Scottish Government’s commitment to increase funded nursery hours to 1,140 by 2020.
Now the council wants to increase its Forest Kindergarten provision, as well as incorporating more natural colours and materials into nursery interiors.
This week staff and pupils gathered at Ferryhill Primary School to celebrate the opening of its new nursery building, whose design has nature at its core.
Headteacher Stewart Crabb said: “Our children, families and staff are all delighted with our new nursery building which has built the natural world into it with real timber both inside and outside.
“Solid wood furniture has been used as much as possible to create a nurturing yet exciting play environment.
“We’re thrilled to be at the centre of trialling new flexible placements including the 1,140 hours provision and to take forward the city’s provision for two-year-olds.
“This builds on our successful work last year with the innovative forest schools nursery nature kindergarten approach.”
Five nurseries have opened in the Capital this year as the council works to extend its early years provision in response to a rising birth rate putting extra pressure on places.
The nurseries at Ferryhill, Corstorphine, Longstone and Davidson Mains Primary Schools - plus a new Granton Early Years Centre - will be able to accommodate more than 300 children.
Council education convener Ian Perry, who was on hand to cut the ribbon at Ferryhill, said: “The light, open design allows children the opportunity to express themselves and can only help stimulate them in such a fantastic learning environment.
“Investing in early years and delivering quality, affordable child care is a priority for the council which is shown by our £9 million investment in new buildings in the past two years.”
Green councillor and education spokesman Mary Campbell welcomed the move towards more outdoor learning.
She said: “Forest schools are already a well-loved feature of many primary school programmes so it is only natural that preschool children should get the same benefits.
“The big priority in rolling the programme out will be to connect children to the wonder of the outdoors right on their doorstep and even the smallest sliver of woodland or green space can do the job.
“This will be a win-win: giving children the benefits of outdoor learning but also sowing the seeds of future protection of those precious green areas.”