British preschool education has gained a worldwide reputation for its quality and is recognized and respected throughout the world. One of the advantages of the British model is the focus it places on developing skills that will later help adults to cope with the environment in which they live and work.
We talked to Fiona Duţu, head teacher of Acorns Nursery, about the principles of the British pre-school education system and the specific features that make it extremely performant within the context of current generations.
“The British educational curriculum has a fully integrated approach designed to meet all the needs of a child’s development through differentiated teaching methods. The British preschool program stimulates the intelligence, imagination and abilities of each child by identifying and celebrating their unique features”, says Fiona Duţu.
The idea behind this system is to educate the while child – not just their academic side, but also from an emotional and social point of view. The environment at the nursery is a second educator for the child and is specially designed to stimulate the creativity, curiosity and unique personality of every child.
“Every child is unique and has the ability to learn and to make choices from a very young age ” – Fiona Duţu
According to British education, each child needs a fully personalized approach regarding their intellectual, social, emotional and physical education. The nursery program is adapted to the needs and capabilities of the child and provides development methods according to each child’s own pace.
Teachers plan activities according to the children’s need, to what they can do, what they like to play with, and to the areas in which the children need support in order to grow. Education and care take place day by day in well-established routines that are full of warmth, support and positive guidance.
Education through playing
For children, playing is an opportunity for exploration, research and joy, which helps them discover the world, but also to integrate socially and develop emotionally.
Through playing, children learn and identify their inner rhythm. They can have fun in a confident way with adults who express understanding, support, and care towards them. When playing takes place in a safe environment, supervised by experienced educators, learning becomes even more efficient.
A teacher for every 4 children
In pre-school education that follows a British model, a teacher should be assigned a small group of children, and the learning process is tailored to each child’s needs and abilities, but especially to his/her own pace. In addition, everyone is at the center of attention and has a voice, which prevents complexes and frustrations. In addition, this organizational pattern also increases safety in the nursery. Even the most challenging child will be kept under observation and helped to channel his energy into constructive activities.
At Acorns Nursery there is a teacher to every 4, 6 or 8 children, depending on the age group.
The British educational model is based on positive relationships in the environment with which they interact. The important principles of positive education are: creating a positive adult-child relationship, maintaining a positive emotional climate, lack of rewards and punishments but instead, celebrating the child’s every success, and last but not least, cultivating a sense of belonging to something bigger, to show the children that their actions have an impact. Trust, respect, love and care are the foundation of relationships that help children grow, learn and develop.
Positive education prepares children for adapting to a modern lifestyle and shapes their skills for the jobs of the future. In a nursery or in a family adopting the positive education model, children are taught to manage their emotions and express them in an assertive (but not an aggressive) way.
Evaluation by observation, no grades or ratings
In order for teachers to plan specific activities that develop the child’s potential and fit perfectly with his needs, in addition to parental information, appraisal techniques are applied from the first day in the nursery. The child will not realize that he is being observed and so his/her behavior will be natural and relevant.
“In British-based education, assessments done through observations are very important because they can provide parents and teachers with important information regarding the level of each child. Weaknesses can be turned into skills with the help of individualized learning techniques, adapted to suit the needs of each child. A system in which all children learn the same things in the same way is not effective, because each of us is different, each of us develops and learns differently”, explains Fiona.
“Each area of the Early Years curriculum is important: personal, social and emotional development, communication and language, maths, understanding of the world, physical development and creativity,” says the representative of the British nursery.
By taking observational notes during the day, Acorns teachers can inform parents on a regular basis about the activities that their child has been involved in, on the progress he/she has made in a particular area, or things that they have done for the first time. Every week, all teachers who work with the child will exchange observations and plan activities based on his/her needs.
Each term, parents receive a report on their child’s progress in the nursery, and twice yearly, child evaluation meetings are held, based on a unique profile developed by the teacher, starting from the child’s first day in the nursery, until he/she leaves the setting.
At the end of the school year in July, each parents receives a report summarizing the activities that had the most impact on their child, the progress made and also recommendations on his/her future needs and the support recommended in particular areas. This report should be presented to the child’s next teacher, if the group or teacher changes, in order to ensure continuity in the learning process.
Nursery education continues at home
In the British system, teachers focus on multi-level development, not just in terms of cognitive abilities. Each child’s strengths and weaknesses are thoroughly analyzed, and parents are seen as partners who make a valuable contribution to the learning process, who exchange very important information with their child’s teachers in order to continue the education process at home.
Fiona is a graduate in Sociology and Psychology from Leicester University, UK, and holds postgraduate studies in the field of education, specializing in early years education. She worked in London for six years in primary schools. After relocating to Romania with her family, she worked for 7 years at IBSB (International British School of Bucharest), both as a teacher and as a Head Teacher for the primary school. Since then, Fiona has worked in Acorns as Head Teacher for the past 11 years.
Acorns Nursery is a member of COBIS (Council of British International Schools) and provides care and education for children aged from 1-6 years old.
Founded in 2004 by Valentina Secară, Acorns Nursery was the first private crèche in Romania to follow the Early Years Foundation Stage and the first educational project to receive the “Investor in People” certificate, a standard in people management.
In Acorns Nursery where English is spoken throughout the day, interactive learning takes place in a cheerful, safe and motivating environment – specifically built to accommodate the needs and expectations of each child.