The staff of Creative Kids and Co. from Dublin, were very lucky to spend the February mid term break on a visit to the Pen Green Centre for Under 5’s and their families. The visit was planned to inspire practice, and to get new ideas for our spaces.
Pen Green is located in Corby which is near Birmingham and offers high quality care and education for children and their families. It was established in 1983 as an integrated service for families within the local community of Corby, and was staffed by a multi-disciplinary team including a teacher, social worker, early years worker and early health practitioner. Over the years it has grown and now includes support services, health interventions and adult education. There is a teaching school and early years educators can study there to achieve a Foundation, Bachelors, Masters and PhD degrees in Early Education. They also deliver short courses and conferences throughout the year. (https://www.pengreen.org)
For us, it was an early 4am start in Dublin Airport. It was there we met Geraldine Delahunt and Cathy Steenson who were also coming along to see Pen Green. Geraldine is the owner of Wigwams in Ballysax and Cathy is the manager in Carrs Child and Family Services in Dublin.
After a short plane trip and a long bus journey we arrived in Pen Green. We were given a very warm welcome and a lovely cup of tea. There were 15 of us and 7 other childcare workers from the UK.
We then attended a classroom session, which outlined the foundation of Pen Green and their philosophies and included information on research that was completed by the centre. We were amazed to learn that it had started in very humble beginnings and it has grown over 30 years to become the centre it is today. It was interesting to note that the nursery school which is equivalent to our ECCE is fully funded and staff are paid directly by the state.
We were taken on a tour of the centre and were able to see all their spaces. It was midterm so there weren’t many children present, but those who were there are obviously well used to visitors and didn’t give us a second glance.
The experience was inspirational and my colleague, David King, had the following to say
“I was very inspired by how they used their outdoor space, how areas are sectioned off. There was lovely documentation outside; I think we could add this to our own practice. I also had a real sense of pride as I saw so much of our own practice there. It was great to walk around the centre and say “we do that”.
Geraldine Delahunt described the day as a “Wonderful experience, some similarities to my own centre. There was an aura of warm nurturing service and it was affirming that we are offering quality early years experiences in our settings”.
The only complaint anyone had was that it wasn’t long enough and we would have loved to sit and play with the children and explore the spaces.
There is great evidence of the voice of the child throughout the setting, each child’s uniqueness is celebrated and there was great evidence in the rooms of the cultural diversity in the setting. Each child has their very own space to keep their special things. The documentation is very much like our own framework Aistear. There were so many different areas and spaces and we took so many great ideas for our own practice. We saw how easy it can be to create comfortable spaces for children to be in.
All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable trip and we would recommend any service to visit. It was a fantastic team building experience for all involved.
Valerie Gaynor is the Manager of Creative Kids and Co in Walkinstown Dublin 12 which is a part-time service catering for over 150 preschool and afterschool children.
Valerie is a member of the policy and implementation panel in ECI and sits on business consultative group for the Affordable childcare scheme in DCYA.
Creative Kids have won inspired practice and learning story awards and are currently undergoing the Siolta QAP hoping to submit by June 2018