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Meeting the needs of all children, especially those with additional learning needs

All staff are passionate about ensuring that every voice is heard, and barriers to access and inclusion are removed, giving all children in their care equal opportunities.

toddler plays with building blocks

Information about the setting

Rachael’s Playhouse Aberdare is a full-day care service offering care and education to children aged between 18 months and five years old. The setting is bilingual. It is a registered Flying Start setting and a non-maintained education provider. The setting is child-focused and offers continuous free flow that enables children to always access their preferred learning environment. Rachael’s Playhouse places the well-being of children and staff at the centre of its practice. 

Hannah and Rachael, the responsible individuals, started their childcare venture as childminders working from Rachael’s house. Both then went on to complete a degree in Early Childcare and Education. They have emphasised the knowledge and understanding they gained from the qualification and how this has influenced their practice. Following the completion of the degree, an opportunity arose to expand the business. Hannah and Rachael opened their first nursery in Aberdare in June 2018. The leaders had a shared passion for children receiving the highest quality care and education, to ensure that strong foundations are laid that inspire future learning and continued development. A shared vision was soon clearly established, one that is fluid and continues to develop in response to recent research and education.

Context and background to the effective or innovative practice

Rachael’s Playhouse is passionate about ensuring that all children’s individual needs are met during every session. It has a strong understanding that every child is different and that they each learn and develop in different ways and at their own pace. It has created an environment that is unhurried and ensures that each child is supported and nurtured at their current developmental stage. The leaders have fostered an understanding amongst staff that every child is unique, and nurturing strong relationships between children and educators is critical in supporting all children in their care. They place a strong emphasis on partnership working, where parents and carers are encouraged to engage and contribute to their child’s learning opportunities and experiences.  

In recent years, Rachael’s Playhouse has seen an increase in the number of children accessing its provision with emerging needs or potential emerging needs. This has inspired leaders in the setting to ensure that all staff are highly trained, educated and motivated to ensure that all children are given the right support to reach their full potential and thrive. All staff are passionate about ensuring that every voice is heard, and barriers to access and inclusion are removed, giving all children in their care equal opportunities.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The setting ensures that all children in its care receive support to meet their individual needs. The children have a strong voice and staff listen and understand intently what each child needs or wants. Staff are continuously enhancing their knowledge and understanding in supporting each child. Staff have had access to a wide and valuable range of training related to child development, well-being and behaviour. The setting now takes a universal approach to ensuring that all staff are competent and confident in supporting children. Staff are placed in areas of the setting and, when a child goes into the area, staff understand how to communicate effectively to promote each child’s development. On staff lanyards, there are personal targets for children who require additional support, usually including strategies from their Individual play plans or development plans. This process ensures that strategies to promote development are used continuously throughout the session. All staff are aware of the children that need to be challenged, and activities or provocations are planned to suitably support the holistic development of each child. Strong relationships are built between children and staff. This a significant factor to ensure educators are equipped to effectively support each child as all staff know each child extremely well.  

The setting has a transition room, which has proven to be fundamental in ensuring that the well-being of all children is considered. The transition room is not part of the free-flow environment and therefore is not used as a daycare room. 

The room is used for children who are transitioning. Parents are able to come in and do some play sessions in the room with their child’s key worker. The room is particularly beneficial for children who struggle in the free-flow environment as this can be overwhelming for some. Children begin their time in the transition room and are then gradually introduced to the free-flow environment. Staff at the setting have noticed that this supports the child to experience a calm and smooth transition into the setting, whilst also keeping the noise levels down in the free-flow environment as children are not becoming distressed. Some children use the transition room during the session when they are seeking a calm quiet area. Leaders in the setting are very proactive in ensuring that the environment meets the needs of all children. For example, they have recently turned their staff room into a relaxation room for children and a well-being room for staff. The room is used when children have become upset or distressed and to help the children with self-regulation. Effective “all about me” documents are in place for each child, with parents and various agencies invited to contribute as appropriate.   

What impact has this work had on provision and children’s standards?

Well-being of all children has improved since adapting to new procedures following the implementation of the Additional Learning Needs Act. Adults listen to the views of all children and fully consider their views and interests. their voices. Staff are now more equipped to recognise and validate the children’s feelings and help them to find ways to express themselves, and begin to regulate their emotions. Practitioners are more able to support and respond sensitively to verbal and non-verbal communication and use a range of strategies to support understanding of language. The setting is able to maintain a calm nurturing environment whilst also supporting a number of children with emerging needs. Feedback from parents has suggested that they feel involved in their child’s learning journey. Staff well-being has improved and all staff feel that they are working in a happy, safe environment. 

How have you shared your good practice?

The practice has been shared through presentations to other settings in Rhondda Cynon Taf.