- Insights

12TH February 2023

Importance of Early Years Education

Claire Mantle

12TH February 2023


Schools + FE


All of our schools are designed to bring joy to their users and communities

We aspire to design schools that matter, and that make a difference to children and their future.

Schools that encourage a holistic approach to life, with a positive impact on users’ wellbeing and the environment.

Schools that are fun, providing more than academic learning and supporting the wider community.

This journey starts from an early age and is demonstrated in our five recently completed Early Years Centres for Falkirk Children Services.

In 2019 we collaborated with Hadden Construction and Falkirk Children Services to transform a number of tired buildings into inspiring early years spaces which also included a new nursery at Hallglen, a highly sustainable new build centre shown in the photos opposite.

With children at the heart of every decision, from the attention to detail in furniture selection, to the importance of the outdoor learning environment and the freedom to be curious and explore.

The internal environment is soft, calm and homely. Reflected in a natural palette of colours and timber furniture carried through to the wooden toys. Inspiring and stimulating interiors and spaces, but not cluttered and busy.

The environment and design needs to support children’s development, allowing them to be creative, imaginative and inspired.

The core values of the Early Years Centre

Joy- Playful: Play is crucial motivation for younger children. Creative and imaginative physical space motivates younger learners.

Sustainable- Long-term: Learners need access to a variety of learning environments to engage both body and mind, an agile and flexible design allows for the spaces to change and evolve.

Belonging- Social: Their community. Early years & primary school pupils, learn most effectively from their peers. Learning is social; share, discuss, observe, copy.

Engagement- Homely: Healthy, nurturing environments. Pre-schoolers need a sense of their own space, where they feel safe and at home.

The outside environment supports health and development: academic, emotional, social and physical. All centres flow seamlessly, to create fluid indoor and outdoor learning.

The early years are a crucial time in a child’s development, where they can gain confidence in their physical and social environments. Outdoor play is a really important part of this developmental stage.

Our collaborative approach to landscape design has one simple idea at heart, to connect people with nature. Our early years projects show this through external play spaces which link to the play space in the building. We aim to give children the freedom to explore and play in a safe and natural setting, moving in and out of the building. Important skills are instilled by a balance between structured and unstructured play spaces; structured play spaces such as water and sand areas promote teamwork and problem solving whilst unstructured play spaces such as a willow tunnel promote imagination and creativity. The scale of spaces also varies, supporting our human nature to choose our environment, rather than being forced into one where we don’t feel comfortable.

Falkirk Council had a clear ambition to provide these spaces with a natural setting, resulting in no bright plastic play features or structured markings on the floor. The vibrancy of the spaces is brought by the people and the planting. All children should be given this chance to grow, learn and play, empowering them for school and primary education.

Our schools naturally are a community asset & facility and they add social value, but to what extent?
This year we will collate the research to evidence this by understanding the real social impact of our schools. We will be heading back to the Falkirk early years centres to talk to the heads, staff and children to understand the real impact.

Written by:

Schools Sector Director
Claire Mantle

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  • Telephone: 0121 234 6440

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