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Putting outside play at the heart of learning

The aim at Ysgol Feithrin Pont-y-pŵl is to ensure that the children’s voice is at the heart of everything it does.

nursery worker with child in playground

Information about the setting

Ysgol Feithrin Pont-y-pŵl is a Welsh-medium, non-maintained nursery in the heart of the town of Pontypool. Sessional and day care, as well as a breakfast club and lunch club, has been provided in an old registered building opposite the facilities at Pontypool Park for more than 40 years. Children are admitted from two and a half years old and stay with the setting until they move to the reception class. Most children come from homes with non-Welsh-speaking parents. The leader is a Welsh speaker and all staff have extensive experience of childcare.

The building includes a large, open hall on the first floor which is the home of the nursery. There is a large, welcoming entrance, purposeful toilets and a practical kitchen, in addition to storage space. Outside, there is an open, secure and varied play area that provides experiences for children to develop their physical, creative and investigative skills. On the ground floor, there is a second hall where the Cylch Ti a Fi meets on a weekly basis.

Ysgol Feithrin Pont-y-pŵl has a close relationship with the Welsh-medium primary schools in the Pontypool area – it works closely to ensure that the four-year-old children are given opportunities to meet the teachers and visit the schools before they transfer to the reception classes.

The setting provides an open-door policy for every child who is interested in Welsh medium education and believes strongly in the practice of equality and diversity.

Context and background to the sector-leading practice

The aim at Ysgol Feithrin Pont-y-pŵl is to ensure that the children’s voice is at the heart of everything it does. The setting encourages children to express their views, discuss the topics of the day and acknowledge the importance of their locality, families and friends. Children play an integral part in choosing what happens on a daily basis, putting out equipment and resources indoors and outdoors and helping to develop the role-play areas. The aim is to provide exciting play and learning opportunities for the children and allowing them to lead and develop to become ambitious learners who value their locality.


All members of staff have received a copy of the Curriculum for funded non-maintained nursery settings and have completed various training courses. The nursery plans its sessions in line with the developmental pathways, observes the children to understand their schemas to inform provision and responds to the children’s interests. Practitioners try to be good role models for the children and encourage them to express their views, respect others, take an interest in their community and learn to be independent.

Staff go out of their way to forge a close relationship with the children’s parents and families and encourage them to feel part of the setting’s extended family. Staff stay in contact with former parents and follow the development and lives of our former pupils closely, many of whom are now parents themselves and speak Welsh with their own children.

Being a community nursery is extremely important. There is an open invitation to everyone to attend any concerts, shows and fundraising events that are organised, and ensuring that opportunities for children to learn about their community is an important part of planning. 

Description of the nature of the strategy or activity that was identified as effective or innovative practice

The nursery makes extensive use of the excellent local park to learn about nature and the seasons. Visits are organised to the library, weekly market and local supermarket, and the children enjoy visiting the local care home for the elderly, forging a close relationship with the residents and preparing activities and choosing books to share with their new friends. In addition to being part of their local community, the children are encouraged to be curious about Wales, the Welsh language and other cultures. The children enjoy learning Welsh folk dances, Welsh songs and nursery rhymes and about St Dwynwen and the Fari Lwyd. At the same time, they are very keen to learn about the traditions of other countries, such as celebrating the Chinese New Year. With the support of staff, the children found a video showing a celebration parade in China and, as a result, they created a 3D dragon head-dress and organised a parade around the hall, with some of the children creating an instrumental band.

What effect has this work had on provision, well-being and children’s standards?

The children are enthusiastic about the learning opportunities around them and extend and develop their own ideas confidently. If the children decide to build castles in the block area, they know that they can search for ideas in a book or on a tablet. If they see a flag on the tower of one of the castles in the picture, they go to the woodwork area to design and create their own flags and work out how to place them on top of the castles’ towers. They may then decide that they want to add a moat with water from the tap. The children work well as a team and develop as ambitious and capable learners. Staff are there to encourage the children to extend their ideas, take ownership of them and move forward, and this has a positive effect on the children’s confidence and well-being. Natural equipment and materials are used extensively, for example wooden cups and plates in the mud kitchen, and the nursery aims to provide authentic resources in all learning areas, such as fruit and vegetables from the market or garden in the farm shop, loose change in the till, a full-sized guitar in the music corner and hammers and saws in the woodwork area