Manager of Worksop forest school shares hope for the future after staff battled through Covid-19 to help key workers

Staff at a forest school in the heart of the Welbeck estate has revealed how they have coped through the pandemic as they approach their fifth anniversary.

Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 3:58 pm

Welbeck Child First was set up in February 2017 after the refurbishment of an old chicken barn nestled in the middle of the historic estate.

Most days, the team has around 90 children under its wings, and teach the children essential skills of reading and writing but also independence and experiences through supervised play.

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Welbeck Child First was set up in 2017 by manager Kerry Fellowes and Child First founder Tom Shea.

The children, aged six months to five years, have access to their own chicken coop, a music studio, a sensory area, obstacle courses, and they even grow their own vegetables for the chefs to cook for lunch.

Manager Kerry Fellowes said: “If the children are learning through play they will learn so much quicker.

“It's all about giving them control, rather than us doing everything for them. It's giving them independence, but they learn so much more from doing it themselves.

“They’ll make mistakes, they fall over, but then they jump back up.”

The nursery cares for around 90 children who have the freedom to decide what they would like to do each day.

Over the pandemic, the nursery remained open for key workers needing child care and received referrals from other nurseries as they closed amidst the uncertainty.

Kerry, a mother-of-two, said: “It was a really scary time for us as practitioners in running the nursery because nobody really knew anything about [coronavirus] at the time, and it seemed like everyone was dying around you.

“But these key workers needed to get to work, so we had a service to run, and I'm really proud of our team that we still ran that service.”

When the nursery first transformed the once derelict building, they began with one child and six members of staff.

The team at Welbeck Child First believe in the ethos learning through play.

Almost five years later, the team of 20 now look after up to 90 children, and they are always looking for new ways to further improve their service.

Kerry has plans to involve local veterans, including her own husband who is an ex-marine, in the growing of vegetables in a new allotment besides the nursery with the children.

“We are planning to take all the food that we grow to the food bank so we're trying to be a bit more productive to the Worksop community and to support the veterans,” she added.

“It will be lovely for the children to be involved and also to give the veterans something extra to do as well.

Children have the chance to grow their own vegetables for their meals.

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