Friday, April 11, 2014
Education minister Elizabeth Truss managed to dodge the mud and dust as she watched youngsters having some good dirty fun during a visit to Ipswich.
Ms Truss was visiting the Forest School at the Quayside Nursery next to Suffolk New College.
The outdoor area gives pre-school children – and those up to the age of nine during school holidays – the chance to get a taste of the outdoor life.
They are encouraged to build dens, look for bugs, create mud pies, and generally make as much mess as possible as they learn about the outside world.
She also visited the nursery itself and the Quayside Children’s Centre during a day of visits in the town which also included a trip to the Buttons and Bows centre on Chantry and the Ormiston Centre on Felixstowe Road.
Ms Truss was impressed by what she saw at the Forest School. She said: “I think it is very important to encourage children to get out and explore.
“I used to love getting out there and finding out about the outdoors. It’s great to get children away from the screens,” she said.
Pre-school education came under the spotlight last week when Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw said many nurseries and childminders were not doing enough to prepare young children for life in primary schools.
Ms Truss said: “It is important that children should learn in an appropriate way so they can count and put sentences together.
“That can come from things like singing songs or counting things at the Forest School. It can be part of their normal play at nursery.”
She said it was important to encourage parents from all backgrounds to send children to pre-school. It was a message that was getting through – across the country about 96% of four year olds are in the education system – including a significant proportion of children from low-income homes.
But the youngsters at the Forest School probably didn’t realise they were being educated – they were having too much fun among the trees and bushes while they learned about outdoor life.