Collingham Gardens nursery is a non-profit community nursery run by parents for 24 inner-city children in the heart of Bloomsbury.
Founded in 1983, it is built around a magical, semi-wild garden.
This hidden green space was once part of St George’s Cemetery – London’s first graveyard outside church land. It then became the site of a medical school specialising in anatomy and dissection and was used by the University of London and the Garrett Anderson Hospital for Women. For the past 50 years the garden has been used as a parent-run nursery and children still run amongst its historic 18th Century tombstones.
Most days at Collingham Gardens are spent playing and exploring outside whatever the weather. Our ethos is inspired by one of the great pioneers of nursery education Margaret McMillan: ‘The most important classroom has the sky for its ceiling’.
Reflecting this ethos, the nursery offers the children ‘Forest School’ sessions throughout the year. These give the children a set of tasks that involve risk-taking and challenging problem-solving in the garden, guided by experienced, accredited staff.
The nursery emphasises the importance of children discovering and learning through their own interests and choice of play. Staff are here to observe each child and then provide support, or extend their play-led learning. The highly qualified team operate a key person system, ensuring each child and their family have the chance to develop a close relationship with a member of staff.
We have two rooms, containing children 2-3 years old and 3-5 years old, though there are many opportunities for mingling across the age groups. The nursery is staffed by five qualified nursery officers, a manager and a cook.
Parents and children both appreciate our healthy lunches, cooked daily on the premises, with an emphasis on fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, sometimes grown by the children in our own garden.
The nursery is run by a Management Committee of directly elected parents, who oversee all aspects of provision. The nursery runs gardening days and social events designed to involve everyone. Parents and families are strongly encouraged to take a full part in nursery life, contribute their own ideas or skills, accompany children on trips, or assist with maintaining the garden and building.
We aim to welcome children whatever their needs, and have substantial experience with a range of special educational and medical needs. A member of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, the nursery follows their good practice, and children with special educational needs are regularly seen by an Early Years Inclusion Teacher who works closely with our staff to provide individualised curricula for these children. We maintain a full and up-to-date set of policies and procedures regarding everything from health and safety to equal opportunities, which parents are always welcome to see. We welcome students and researchers as visitors whenever possible.
Parents like our small size, warm atmosphere and our free-play-based ethos. The nursery is very popular, with families returning with siblings, children and even grandchildren. We therefore operate a waiting list (particularly for entry at age 2). Our admissions policy is simple and transparent, and our fees tiered to reflect family income, with additional discount for Camden residents.