Day 2 Pen Green Children's Centre, Corby, Northamtonshire, UK
Today we woke to patches of blue sky, some delegates too the opportunity to have an early morning walk....some I believe came down in bare feet to work on their computers! Most reported that they has slept well but had woken up between 3 and 4 am! After a good breakfast we boarded our bus to Pen Green centre where we were met by Anette and Heather and a cup of coffee - some of us were thrilled to find pink wafer biscuits.
We were eager and ready to explore! Children between 2 and 4 years of age share the same spaces both indoors and outdoors. We saw these children competently using computers and printers, use hot glue guns, hammers and nails, riding a rocking horse, having free access to the snack table, quietly reading a big on the sofa, making mud/sand cakes, riding bikes on uneven surfaces and climb! One little girl popped out of the tunnel at the top of the climbing structure "I made it" she shouted with a little jump of delight. We admired the large flying fox and found a little cubby in the hedge. A large bridge over the entrance walkway connected the two gardens used by this age group. Children from 9 to 11 months have access to a sensory room aptly named the 'snoezelum', a large wet-play room with numerous taps and basins, an outdoor beach garden inspired by Australian sand play areas, a discovery area with stainless steel water channels as well as rope and pulley systems, a tower they can climb and have a view over the city - and many other motivational play spaces!
After a delicious cold buffet lunch we were ready for presentations offered by Annette, Yvonne, and Tracy, members of the Pen Green team, and who were all prepared to answer our numerous questions. During the presentations we heard that a stong emphasis is placed on the individual child's rhythm with children having free access to the outdoor space as well as various motivational opportunities within the rooms. In the baby and toddler rooms babies are able to crawl into large sleep baskets when they are ready for a sleep or want to have a rest - these are accessible at all times as there are no doors to the sleeping area, The doors between the nursery and the baby rooms are low, transparent and closed magnetically so that babies can choose the visit the nursery area at any time. Children's individual interests are followed on and planning is done through PLOD (possible lines of direction).
This visionary centre was created and developed by Margery Whalleyn who ironically is currently in Australia! What struck me as exceptional is the very high emphasis and value placed on the child within the family. Parents are consulted on all levels, drop in sessions are encouraged on a Wednesday, dad's groups are held on a Saturday and Sunday, there is a family room where parents can meet and take part in various opportunities such as cooking, a teenage and young parent's room where an informal way is used to get important messages across. Pre-birth and antenatl classes as well as access to a centre midwife offers support to vulnerable young adults and ensures that early intervention is available. Young adults are supported to re-ingage in education. The opportunities and flexibility offered to parents and children is exceptional - we wondered if staff have any time off. The passion and dedication of the team as well as the respect and trust placed in children makes this a very special centre.
Elaine Blake thanked the Pen Green team and Ron Gorman presented Australian gifts on behalf of the AISWA group, an Australian children's book was handed over on behalf of InspiredEC and a delegate gifted a kangaroo puppet! At 3.30pm we boarded the coach for our next destination - a 3 hour drive to our Middlesborough hotel. This gave us plenty of time to discuss and reflect - we have seen and heard so much that I am sure we will all need more time over the coming days to 'digest' the experience!
The fun did not end there - we had an interesting (hilarious) dinner in the restaurant having waited nearly 2 hours for our meal but we did not have to wait that long for our drinks!!! We also met Fish Face ......... I am sure Claire Warden from Mindstretchers will tell us more about this interesting character!!
26 tired but happy WEST Australians