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A very large mixed nursery/reception environment

Discussion in 'Early Years' started by nancy81, Dec 17, 2018.

  1. nancy81

    nancy81 New commenter

    Morning all!
    I took on a new job at the start of this year and i'm really struggling to figure it out. I'm an experienced early years teacher, but this environment is really stressing me out, and would love some ideas to help improve things (or at least give me a kick up the bum to start to implement changes with a very reluctant team.

    Just for a bit of background, I'm not in the UK but it is the EYFS. I'm Early Years trained, but this is the first time i've really experienced the EYFS as I've been teaching a similar but different curriculum. I I was also Team Leader in my old job, but have had some time off (maternity) and am now in a new country/new school. (so added to the issue is my lack of being in 'charge and/or being able to make big decisions) The way the environment is has been this way for 5 years with no changes (from what I can tell/understand)

    There are currently 3 nursery/3 reception classes (approx 75 children)
    It is a very large open environment, with designated smaller areas for 'group times' that we have 3 times a day. We also have a fantastic outside space that is free flow between 8:30 - 10, but then at 10am all the children have to go outside until 11:20 (recess/breaktime) to make sure that the many staff all get an opportunity to have their break too. (we live in a country that is incredibly hot, and i'm really worried about this enforced time outside. There is some shade, but not always where the children want to play)

    My main issue is that it is crazy, totally and utterly crazy.. Technically the ratios are good, but the space is so large that I find that I am merely doing crowd control. We rotate planning an area, but it means we are then based in that area until we change. I can go whole days without seeing the children that are technically in my class (apart from group times)

    The kids are wild as the supervision feels so sparse, I can't sit with individuals/groups as i'm too busy watching whats going on around my space (emptying a pot of paint into the fish tank for example) We seem to have so many accidents/injuries/fights/biting/breaking things that i've never experienced before but its all brushed over that that is what I should expect from 3 year olds.

    The resources are fine, but everything just gets trashed, I have no ownership over the space.

    Does anyone work in a similar environment? How do you run it? How does it work? I have my ideas but it would possibly require some big changes, and I don't think the team would be up for the challenge despite agreeing that is is a little 'noisy' in the space.

    Thank you for taking the time to read my essay, if you got this far! any help would be appreciated!

    (just to add, the team i'm working with are all really nice, just used to the ways things have always been done and I genuinely think they don't see it as much of a problem)

    Thanks :)
  2. littlejackhorner

    littlejackhorner Senior commenter

    It's great that you have a good team. This should mean that any changes you make will work well. My suggestion would be that you put much more structure into your routine to start off with and limit the spaces children can access initially. You could ask that each class stays within a smaller space with their own teacher initially and really focus on modelling the use of the more limited spaces. Allow a lot more time for tidying up at first and after a session bring all of your class back together to praise those who used spaces well, tidied up etc. We used to share photos on the whiteboard and talk about why we were so pleased with this particular group. In terms of the long outdoors session could you shorten it by doing a large group session indoors before going out - some number and action rhymes for example and then at the end of outdoors bring them in earlier for another large group session of phonics or story. When implementing changes involve your team and explain why you want to change things and ask for their ideas. Hope this helps. Good luck.
    ChanChan123 likes this.
  3. nancy81

    nancy81 New commenter

    Thank you for your reply! some good ideas thank you :)
  4. ChanChan123

    ChanChan123 New commenter

    Little Jack makes loads of amazing points.

    Really homing in and having smaller groups where it's a set routine type of thing sounds like a great idea to spend tine with them and model how to use everything.

    The whole stripping down and going back to basics sounds great. Could you use any furniture to try and section it out a little bit, just to minimise the bit open space? Open is great but sometimes too open does the opposite job.

    Could you possibly have 2/3 adult led activities that are happening? They can be repeated throughout the week - saves endless and needless planning etc. Might add some focus and mean that groups of children are engaged for amounts of time at least - you could then have activities linked to this alongside I guess?

    Little Jack's idea of praising groups that are doing great tidying or great listening or using the felt pens really well is such a positive and lovely idea x
  5. StarbuckEducation

    StarbuckEducation New commenter

    When I had a mixed setting we used to have two challenge areas, one for Nursery and one for Reception so there were differentiated challenges. Children were encouraged to visit it during the week. I found as chaotic as a mixed setting can feel sometimes it is great for transition as they are familiar with the space and staff.
  6. Koodlesch

    Koodlesch New commenter

    Have you ever thought of having some sitting down activity centres such as a colouring table or arts and crafts? We had a sitting down area where the toys/resources/activities would change every day on rotation. We have the children tidy up after themselves before they are allowed back into the classroom. Children who do not respect the resources are not allowed to play with said resource or toy that day or the following day after we have explained the importance of looking after things. I hope this helps.
  7. nancy81

    nancy81 New commenter

    Thank you all, some more good ideas to think about! Its now another few months down the line, there have been some small changes for the better, mostly regarding the organisation of breaks so that the ratios are a bit higher!
    I think the main problem, and one i have no idea how it would be solved is the size of the space. It was originally 6 large classrooms, and the walls were knocked down. (never thought i'd ever complain about too much space!!) It is honestly massive, and really spread out, so we either have not enough going on to fill the space which means lots of 'dead space' where they just run riot, or far too many activities that are just trashed instantly! I've made a few suggestions but everyone is very reluctant to make changes as 'its just how its always been' We have now over 80 children and (i've counted!) on an average morning/afternoon less then half are engaged in an activity of sorts. Mostly just running in circles, rolling on the floor and throwing things around, oh and also disappearing off into the toilets (that are in a seperate area) and flooding them daily. It is bizarre and insane, I have no idea how the parents are happy with their children in the environment, the amount of accidents/problems/fights that occur daily are crazy.
    Just to add to my history, I was in a large open plan environment before with about 40 children and it was never like this!
    As one reply suggested - we do a 'soft start' in the mornings in our own carpet spaces, this is about 40 minutes long. We mostly do number/language/fine motor activities and then go and join the main space. This has worked well and it means I get to spend some time with my class!
    Thank you all for some great ideas....any others?? I'm desperate!!
  8. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Can you arrange the space, so that there is a large racetrack kind of thing for them to cycle or scooter around? This could take up a lot of floor space, but provides some 'rules' in the sense of what can be done there.

    Forty minutes sounds a long time for class based teaching time. Can you split it in to two twenty minute slots, so the longer free play time is reduced a little?
  9. nancy81

    nancy81 New commenter

    I like the idea of a race track! I'm not sure if there would be the space (more because of the shape of the space!) but thinking along those lines, some sort of physical activity inside might help!

    We have that 40 minute slot in the morning, and then 2 x 20 slots later in the day (1 after lunch, 1 just before going home) I actually feel we spend too much time in 'group activities' which is taking away time from continuous provision. it also feels like I am planning loads for our group times/activities which then have to be packed away and can't be left out as its not part of our continuous provision!

    I've suggested duplicating areas (ie 2 x Mark Making/2 x Construction) so that we don't have 20 children all trying to squish into a space big enough for 6...this went down like a lead balloon as it would mean more planning!

    I'm aware i'm being very negative! Its just really bringing me down and I can't see how it will improve!!
    Thank you all so much for your thoughts!!
  10. Kartoshka

    Kartoshka Established commenter

    I'm trying to imagine what your space is like and may have the wrong picture in my mind, so forgive me if I suggest things that won't work.

    Is there a way you could 'block off' the small group areas - maybe with cupboards/shelving? (Instead of putting cupboards with their backs against the wall, they could be pulled out at 90 degrees with their backs to the small group area.) This would serve three purposes:
    1) Resources for activities could be left out after group times, as the area wouldn't be used for continuous provision;
    2) It would make the main space a bit smaller so there isn't as much dead space for running riot;
    3) Groups could work in their area at the same time as continuous provision was going on, reducing the number of children accessing continuous provision at the same time.
    The last idea might be a bit 'radical' for your team right now, but it could be useful to have up your sleeve for later down the line.

    Why would duplicating areas mean more planning? Are you trying to plan specific activities to be 'completed' in each area?

    If one issue you're having is that certain areas are more popular, it makes sense to duplicate them in order to spread the children out. However you're running your setting, 'duplicate' can mean just that: two identical areas. Therefore it's no extra planning, because the areas are going to look the same. It might take a bit of extra time for resourcing, but not significantly enough to be an obstacle, surely?
  11. Kartoshka

    Kartoshka Established commenter

    How many adults are there in the setting? You said initially that there are 3 Nursery/3 Reception classes: is that 6 classes, with approximately 13 children in each?
  12. nancy81

    nancy81 New commenter

    I like the idea of trying to incorporate the group time areas into the environment, we could do that with 4 of the spaces, 2 classes have the dining area as their group space! (its a very strange set up!) Thanks for that idea!

    I agree that it would require no planning to duplicate areas, but some of the staff are a bit old school and are planning 'activities' for their areas so not exactly continuous provision!....this is my other major battle! So many of our areas require lots of teacher input so it means the rest of the space the kids are running riot.... I am having way more success solving this battle though, we've already made a lot of improvements but there is still a long way to go!

    We have 3 Nursery, 3 reception - between 12-15 in each (Approx - maximum 16 allowed)
    there are 6 teachers - all with 1 TA assigned to 'their' class and then we have 3 floating TA's.

    I think technically our ratio's are okay, at the minimum but we rarely have all the adults in the space, either a teacher/TA is out at a specialist lesson, so 15 less kids, but still the same space to run!
    Also we have a break time split into 2 sections and half the staff leave on a break at the same time and then swap. so we are down to all six classes but down to 7/8 staff in a HUGE space. This happens once in the morning, and once for lunch.

    I worked out that between group times snack/lunch/breaktimes we only have between 9-10 and 12:30 - 2 where the children are engaging in continuous provision, this just seems like not enough!

    Thanks all for your advice, its so hard not to get myself down about it, I just feel i'm not doing my job properly and that essentially i'm a glorified babysitter!
  13. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    So are you sating you have 6 teachers and 9 TAs for around 90 children?
    Your ratios are more than ok in that case.
    Even at breaks with 3 teachers and 4 TAs, you should be ok, depending on the level of qualification of the TAs.

    For the breaks can you close off some areas?
    Or have breaks as quiet activity time? (So jigsaws, lego, board games, reading,etc...)
    Or, if you have a large screen, use the breaks to do a yoga session or dance?
    Or have group story time or singing during breaks?
    Or even do your keyworker times during the breaks? (Then you'd have longer with continuous provision as well.)
    Just to calm things down a bit,.

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