The bubble structure at Willow Cottage

From 1st June 2020, Willow Cottage reopened all three of our settings following some significant changes. Our priorities of healthy food, healthy lifestyles and high-quality education have not changed, however we have had to reorganise how our nurseries are set up in order to provide a safer environment for our children and practitioners.

The traditional departmental structure (based on age groups) has been replaced by smaller groups of children of all ages, called Bubbles. They have proven an effective way to help the children back to nursery after the lock-down, primarily as a way to reduce the risk and spread of infection, but they also have lots of other benefits.

Each bubble has a consistent and secure base inside, as well as an outside space in one of our beautiful gardens. Having mixed age groups in the same bubble has reduced the need for transitions between departments and means that children are able to stay with the same key person for longer. We have kept siblings together in the same group in order to support the younger child. Bubbles have allowed us to be flexible to facilitate families returning at different times, according to their personal circumstances.

We have also taken this opportunity to increase the amount of time children spend outside. The children are enjoying the outside environment not only to play and explore, but also for eating and sleeping. This has proved to be a huge success with both the children and the teams of practitioners.

Providing childcare in recent months has been particularly challenging, but from this experience,  we have been provided with a wonderful opportunity to reflect on some of the benefits and how they can help us to shape our provision going forward. It certainly has been a fantastic time for the children. We do not know when we will be able to change our current grouping system, but for the time being we are seeing some wonderful oppertunities and benefits. This is reflected in the feedback we are recieving.

Here are a couple of recent quotes from our current parents:

“… Our child is thrilled to be back at Willow Cottage. Even within days of returning, we have clearly seen how much richness they receive from being back amongst the friends and teachers they love.” [Parent Feedback 8/6/2020].

“Thank you for the lovely, detailed and interesting observation! We are delighted at how happily and easily our child has adjusted to going back to nursery. He absolutely loves it and looks forward to going each day. He comments on the route all the way in now, and is very proud when he knows we’re joining the A40, progressing towards Lower Road! We have also noticed an increased interest in, and attention to, numbers and letters. It’s great to hear how much this is being supported and developed at nursery. And we are well aware of his singing – although we need to learn some of the words to the nursery songs as they are different to those in our day! I hope he continues to entertain you in this way…
Thanks for being so caring and creative. He is thoroughly enjoying the new group and routine, and has made some great new friends amongst the Ladybirds.”

[Parent Feedback 10/07/2020].

We have also been asking our practitioners about the impact of the change on the children:

“Our children have loved the use of the outdoors space we are incredibly lucky with the different outdoors areas. Also coming up from nursery I had a couple of children who were very shy and nervous and they now have this amazing confidence, their speech has developed rapidly and they are so happy. I think this is to do with the outdoors and being around different practitioners and mixed aged children.” 

[Staff feedback 28/07/2020] 

Alison Morris at our Deputy Manager at our Bletchingdon Setting has written this reflection:

“6 months ago, if we had heard of Covid-19 it was of something far away across the ocean. Certainly our little ones would have been entirely unaware of how their lives would be altered over the next 6 months. 

Since lockdown, life has had to be a little different. Whilst it has its limitations, it has also been a good thing. 

We can’t wait for the day when we can welcome you all back inside our doors because we are so proud of the changes we have made and to see the environment in which your children spend their nursery days.

Thank you to all our amazing families, for your continued support and encouragement. It is a joy and a pleasure to care for your children and we are so proud of each and every one of them.”