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The Grove Nursery School, Armagh

Value of Nursery Education

It’ll help him to mix with other children his own age.”

He’s very bright. He gets bored at home. There are lots for him to do at nursery.”

It gives me a wee break.”

It’ll prepare her for big school.”

He has a few speech / learning / behavioural problems. School will help to sort them out.”

Such are some of the suggestions of parents regarding the benefits of nursery education. All of them are relevant to our provision and to a certain extent true.

From the earliest days of nursery education and under the influence of many early years’ practitioners, the emphasis and priorities of nursery education have changed over the years, according to the needs and wishes of parents, various government initiatives and educational theories and practices.

Susan Isaacs (as far back as 1954) stated that by comparing children attending nursery school to those who did not, evidence is provided in favour of nursery education.

More recently in 2016-2018, The Chief Inspector of Schools in N.I, stated that the highest percentage of good to outstanding practice in pre-school provision, was to be found within the statutory nursery school sector and over 90% of all nursery schools were evaluated as having the highest level of overall effectiveness.

What are some of these benefits?

Why does a nursery placement help your child to develop into a confident and more ‘rounded’ character?

Could a child not receive these educational experiences by remaining at home with Mummy?

To really benefit a child, nursery provision must address all a child’s needs-both those apparent and those less obvious.

Different children have different needs and to differing degrees. Nursery Education is matched to individuals. It is almost true to say that each child has his / her own educational plan. Close observation and evaluation of a child’s play (solitary and within a group, planned and spontaneous) help staff to devise plans to meet a child’s individual provision, to take into account his / her interests and to ‘progress’ individual learning and development.

The Grove Nursery School is not a substitute for ‘good education’ at home. We are continuing the child’s education, commenced at home under the guidance of parents, grandparents and minders. We are extending the child’s knowledge, perhaps introducing new topics to extend a child’s learning experiences and developing interests, which will be built on during the next stage of education at primary school.

Parents / carers are the teachers’ co- workers throughout all stages of education and especially during these important early years.

Isaacs (1981, p8.) states that as nursery educators, our aim should be to enable nursery children to………..

  • ‘learn more easily,

  • play more actively

  • and thrive better in every way.’

Nursery Education ‘increases his happiness and helps him over the normal traits of early childhood.’

Wouldn’t it be great to claim that The Grove Nursery School achieved these aims with all of our children?


Some of the benefits your child will hopefully experience during his/her time at The Grove:


Enjoyment and Security

A child must be happy and feel secure, before being willing

  • to participate in play activities,

  • to play effectively with others,

  • to express ideas, to communicate,

  • to explore his new environment

  • or to experiment with materials.

In The Grove Nursery School we believe that ‘Learning is Fun.’ Learning must be relevant to the child. We commence by looking at the child’s world - his home, family, toys, pets, seasons, etc.

We aim to develop attitudes to enhance life long learning and to promote a positive disposition to school.

A child must experience security in a number of ways.

He / she needs order of routine. The child needs to know what is happening and what he / she should be doing at all times. He should be in control of his play. Therefore as little interruption to play as possible is planned. There should be an ‘ownership’ of the nursery class by the group. Children respond well to the routines and organisation of our day.

Security also demands consistent staff attitudes and approaches. Staff meetings, regular training and reviews of school policies ensure this.

The child also must have trust in the adults, confidence in their ability to deal with situations that develop and their willingness to help him cope with his emotions. Consistent behaviour management techniques and the explanation of boundaries and simple rules help to promote this confidence and security. This is very important during the ‘settling in period’.

Warmth of Human Relationships

The importance of good relationships with staff and peers helps to develop a positive self-esteem and feelings of self worth.

Children are not similar ‘machines’ or ‘creatures of habit and reflex responses’.

Each child must be treated as an individual, given time and personal attention. He must feel accepted and loved. Our philosophy states that ‘every child is regarded as special’.

We place great emphasis on the information we receive from home, helping us to interact naturally with all our children, at their level.

Above all, every child needs warm human relationships and spontaneous feelings of friendliness. This is regardless of gender, social class, racial origin, behaviour, etc.

Parents also must feel a welcomed part of nursery life- in fact; we couldn’t run our nursery without the support and involvement of our parents.

Opportunities for Self Assertion and Independence

Personal, social and emotional development is a main area within the nursery curriculum. In nursery education we hope to develop …

Confidence- coping without Mum, asking for assistance, coping with feelings of jealousy, frustration, anger, etc.

Independence- personal hygiene, making personal choices, playing alone, pouring milk.

Consideration of others- helping others, showing respect to others and their property, thinking about feelings.

Group play- sharing toys, ‘sharing’ the teacher with a large number of other children, taking turns, listening to others,

Concentration- ability to persevere, following instructions, completing activities.

Understanding of ‘acceptable’ behaviour, compliance to rules and routines.

As nursery practitioners, we aim to develop this growing independence of the developing child. In fact, if we are doing our job correctly, our assistance and presence may become obsolete. We praise simple achievements and encourage children to attempt independent tasks.

However, at all times staff will be ready to comfort and show sympathetic understanding, if necessary.

Real and Active Experiences

We aim to create and to extend the child’s world and not an ‘adult’s view’ of it. We hopefully have established a child centred haven for play, socialization and enjoyment. We emphasise ‘learning through play’ with the provision of appropriate play materials, space and time.

The six areas of development (N.I. Pre School Curriculum) are all catered for within our planned programme, offering a broad and balanced curriculum to all children.

The child must be actively involved within the play areas, being encouraged to question, observe, explore materials, experiment with tools and materials, etc.

Again the importance of understanding adults, ready to encourage, providing information and answers, providing developmentally appropriate materials to extend play, must be stressed.

Skilled Help

Qualified and interested staff, who are trained to understand these young children, who will promote their development and who are continually seeking new ideas and methods based on research and study, will enhance a child’s educational development.

One to one interaction is important, the staff always being available for the child.

The experience of the staff and their observations will indicate when intervention or the fostering of independence should be encouraged.

The school will provide special individual help if necessary and the involvement of parents and outside ‘experts’ will be encouraged.

Play with Other Children

Social skills and development, as previously stated, are an important consideration in nursery education.

Nursery school is a reflection of real life, in which the child needs to experience and practise many life long skills. By playing together, the children can gradually develop these necessary skills e.g. conquer fears, practise acceptable behaviour, share ideas and interests, communicate and listen to others.

It is not the mere presence of other children that is important, but the active social experience of play situations and the interaction that takes place.

The value of the different types of play are noted within our nursery. (see ‘The Value of Play’ booklet and other leaflets for parents.) Many of the child’s interests in his environment and real life can only be satisfied in the larger group of the nursery school with his increasing contact with a greater number of varied personalities.

In conclusion, let us say once again that the nursery school is an extension of the home, not a substitute for it!

Experience has shown that nursery education provides the child with a wide variety of valuable experiences, preparing the child for his place in society.

For Further Reading:

‘The Educational Value of the Nursery School’ Susan Isaacs