Over the coming weeks I’ll be responding to many of our most frequently asked questions aiming to explain our philosophy. If you have any questions to pose please get in touch and I’ll add yours to the list. Helen

Frequently asked Qu 1)  

How do we ensure children are learning through their play?

 We teach through play, sometimes we (adults) join children in their play, sometimes we suggest play and at other times we watch with admiration as children develop their ideas in groups or perfect skills through focused repetition.


When considering children’s learning we must evaluate what learning we as adults consider most worthwhile. It is easy for adults to overlook the value of social skills however learning how to initiate play, influence others, build and maintain friendships and express ideas is central to all aspects of life.


Our qualified highly experienced team of key people ensure children’s well-being is their first priority. Through building nurturing responsive relationships with children from their first day our team are well placed to review and reflect on each child’s progress and interests. Whilst partnering children in play our team extend learning by introducing ideas, asking questions and guiding challenges. Decades of evidence demonstrates that young children’s learning is far deeper and more permanent when they make discoveries through self led inquiry rather than adult delivered ‘lecturing’, creating the opportunity for these eureka moments is our role as teachers.


Our team make time to review each child’s learning and development at the mid point of each term. This process then guides our plans for the weeks ahead as we design activities, personalise games and adapt our environment to inspire progress where we spot a need for a nudge.


Throughout the year we also use our ‘WellComm’ program to monitor and extend children’s speech and language development (see FAQ 2). Our team take great care to pitch their language at a level just a step beyond that which children are using; close enough to be understood but complex enough to demonstrate fluency and vocabulary - you will hear us discussing the emotions ‘sad’ and ‘happy’ but we’re eager for children to master this vocabulary so we can introduce elation’ and ‘despair’. English is a complex language full of exceptions and quirks and it’s a joy to hear children progress from ‘Me did ride’ to ‘I ridded ’ to ‘I rode’.


Our preschool group are invited to join short bursts of ‘Letters & Sounds’ phonics activities throughout their day. Many of our younger children also choose to join in although there’s no pressure. Over the course of the year these fun activities build from focusing on strengthening children’s attention and listening skills through to drawing their attention to rhythm (syllables) mastering rhyming (end sound of words) alliteration (starting sounds of words) and finally blending & segmenting (exploring how we can build and separate sounds within words). Feedback from our local primary teachers tells us our children leave us well equipped to be strong readers and writers by the end of their reception year.


Each year we visit reception classes and invite teachers to discuss the achievements of Sandcastles children helping us to ensure we continually adapt and continue to prepare children well for all the opportunities school presents.

x Helen 03/07/2019

Frequently asked Qu 2)  

Why does Sandcastles monitor Speech, Communication and Language development so closely?

We want children to feel happy and easily convey their thoughts. Children can feel frustrated and angry when they can’t explain their ideas with ease. Children need strong language skills before they can use words to negotiate and argue with peers, a necessary skill in building friendships.


The majority of learning opportunities in Nursery and later in school are delivered verbally.  A strong mastery of our language helps children to progress in all other areas of their development.


The government often talks about ‘the word gap’ and the predictability of future academic achievement.  High correlation is found between young children’s understanding and use of language and their teenage academic achievements.


Many young children have moments of temporary struggle as they learn English. We work hard to ensure children are surrounded by lots of interesting words, discussions, songs, games, rhymes, listening, dancing, phonics games and conversations to help maximise their opportunities to build and use their blossoming communication skills.


At Sandcastles we subscribe to a Communication assessment and intervention tool called WellComm. This screening tools guides our team in assessing each child’s development through their years at Sandcastles.


When the screening tool identifies a child is struggling we meet with parents and agree specific short term targets (8 weeks) and how we will work together to accelerate progress. We then monitor children’s progress and generally find children’s skills flourish.


When more persistent difficulties are noted we support parents to access local Speech and Language Therapy services (SaLT) and continue to deliver intervention activities in partnership with specialist advice.


Glue ear is incredibly common in young children with typically 20% of Nursery age children struggling to hear clearly in any one month, if a child suffers glue ear for an extended period their attention, understanding and enthusiasm for language can suffer.





x Helen 10/07/2019


Frequently asked Qu 3)  

Why does Sandcastles not separate children into age grouped play rooms?

At Sandcastles children thrive playing and learning together in mixed age groups.

Young children learn by amalgamating new information with existing knowledge. Intense understanding comes when children have the opportunity to experience and explore new learning using all their senses.  The very deepest learning is rooted in having the opportunity to ‘teach’ others sharing your ideas and knowledge. 

Vygotsky (a renound child development theorist)  describes the 'Zone of Proximal Development' where children can achieve more with the support of others than they can alone.  The opportunity for younger children to be inspired and supported by older children is constant when they play and learn in a shared space.  The concentration and motivation children display when they are aware they have almost mastered a new skill is phenomenal and one of the many reasons that we believe all nurseries would serve their children well by mixing the age groups.  

Picture a quiet four year old blowing bubbles using washing up liquid and a wand. A two year old looking on wanting their turn to create the beautiful bubbles. This one moment offers vast opportunities for both children to further develop their skills and experiences..... what will they do?

Our mixed age groups offer our most able children the role of expert. As they explain, instruct, demonstrate and respond to questions these children develop interpersonal skills along with a deeper knowledge of the process they are explaining.

Younger children benefit hugely from our mixed age approach with a multitude of ‘teachers’ and lots of opportunity to be inspired by the more advanced language and play they witness each day.

This mixed age approach is fundamental to Sandcastles philosophy where we aim to teach children how to think, tackle challenges and test ideas.

If you are worried that the older children may be rough or cause injury to the younger children, be assured that in over 15 years of mixing our age groups this has not been a noteworthy issue.  Often the age groups do not play together however just being in the same space creates opportunity for watching, listening and inspiring.

x Helen 17/07/2019

Frequently asked Qu 4)  

Please get in touch if you have any questions to suggest....

Questions already on the list (in no particular order):

? Tips how to choose a nursery

? Nursery fees are expensive - how can we save money?

? How does Sandcastles support and manage challenging behaviour?

? How does Sandcastles teach maths skills? 

? What's Beach school all about?

? Why doesn't Sandcastles have 'Circle time'?

? When are you running more toilet training workshops?

? How can I prepare my nervous child  for nursery?

? Sandcastles promotes environmental issues, how ethical is Sandcastles as a business?


x Helen