Inclusive Blyth nursery highly commended in national awards
A unique Blyth nursery has been shortlisted among the UK’s top nurseries.
SEND to Learn, on Waterloo Road, works with children from nine months to five years old in a welcoming setting that’s all based around the needs of the children there.
The nursery is open to all children and specialises in care for little ones with additional needs and complex medical needs. Each child has their own tailored learning plan and receives one-to-one input with staff members to work on specific targets for their level of development.
The friendly setting, the only of its kind in the region, was highly commended by judges in the 2021 Nursery World awards and just one of five to be shortlisted in the Inclusive Practice Award category.
Dr Kath Dickinson, who has more than 25 years' experience in early years' development, at least 15 of which have been spent specialising in special educational needs and disability (SEND) set up SEND to Learn four years ago with her daughter Sarah.
“At primary school level, we felt that the children needed the support as early as possible,” Sarah explains. “We were wondering what we could do to give them that support and we came up with the idea of setting up our own nursery.”
SEND to Learn operates on a social enterprise model, meaning that all profits are ploughed back into the nursery to ensure that every child gets the support they need – even if that’s one-to-one care.
The pair recently expanded in January and now offer places for up to 30 children per session, split into two groups of up to 15, to ensure all children get the highest level of care and attention.
“We start from the child’s starting point, regardless of what that is,” explains Kath. “We welcome everybody and design learning programmes which fit the individual child.”
Open Monday to Friday from 9am to 3.30pm, SEND to Learn offers a unique approach to learning in close connection with external speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and portage.
Mainstream children learn yoga, Makaton signing and much more and benefit hugely from their experiences, adds Kath: “It is all about embracing differences and diversity.”
The nursery has been a lifeline for many parents during the lockdown with support continuing outside hours – Kath also offers support to parents and carers via their informal Hand in Hand network, with monthly sessions – currently held online – as an opportunity to discuss any challenges and share ideas.
They are always available at the end of the phone 24 hours a day, she adds, for anyone who needs advice.
Before Christmas, Kath and Sarah set up a gift bank/swap shop for parents in the local area badly affected by the economic impact of the pandemic who might have struggled to buy presents for their families. They gathered toys, clothes, books and toiletries as additional gifts for the local community – making this so much more than your average nursery setting.
“We are both very passionate about trying to provide what each child and their families need as early as possible,” says Sarah.
There are currently a number of spaces available at SEND to Learn for children from any background and of any ability, whether mainstream or otherwise; funded places of 15 or 30 hours are available for those who are eligible.
To find out more, visit https://sendtolearn.co.uk.