Who we are

Our Nursery is a pre-school home from home set in a beautiful historic building, with masses of outdoor space, in the heart of Reading and a stone’s throw from both the Royal Berks and University. We offer a wonderful nurturing atmosphere and a quality learning experience tailored specifically for girls, so that from their first days they are learning to explore with freedom in a way perfectly suited to them.

Our setting is Knell House, our Early Years hub, where Nursery and Reception children mingle and share experiences so that our youngest children are always looking ahead and excited about what the future will bring. Our rooms are bright, airy, well-resourced and full of fun and continuous play all day long. Outside we have a spectacular huge garden and learning space, full of greenery, nestled under the shelter of the spire of Christ Church. Every day is intended to evoke inspiration through awe, wonder and curiosity. We aim to cultivate a deep and long lasting joy of learning, together with close, personal ties with the whole family.

We are proud to be the start of the educational journey for one of the country’s foremost independent girls’ schools: The Abbey. We passionately believe in the unique benefits of girls-only education.

Our setting is free from any stereotypical gender bias. Our children choose any toy, any resource, any activity and express themselves freely. They learn to be leaders, friends and team-mates, but above all they learn to be gloriously themselves.

Happy faces, inquisitive souls, creative minds

Girls’ learning environment - why?

We are proud to be the start of the educational journey for one of the country’s foremost independent girls’ schools: The Abbey. We passionately believe in the unique benefits of girls-only education.

Our setting is free from any stereotypical gender bias. Our children choose any toy, any resource, any activity and express themselves freely. They learn to be leaders, friends and team-mates, but above all they learn to be gloriously themselves.

The benefits of this approach have been proven by peer-reviewed research, supported by our many decades’ experience as educationalists. Boys and girls learn differently and boys tend to absorb a disproportionate amount of direct teaching attention.

The evidence shows that when girls are in an environment built for them, they make freer choices of what they want to do and how they want to act. Most tellingly, following on from single-sex education, girls are more assertive in mixed company. Our girls do not have to learn to have their voices heard: they know, from their very first day in nursery, that their voice will be heard. This gives them self-belief that lasts lifelong.

Our curriculum is holistic, innovative and tailored to support young children’s development. It is based on our expertise in helping girls from 3 to 18 reach higher levels of achievement and have the confidence to apply their talent in the real world. Every day they see positive role models among their peers and in the adults with whom they interact. The pivotal stepping stone from home into our Nursery setting, and the onward exciting Junior School path, engenders a culture of creativity and encourages your daughters to be the best they can possibly be – regardless of their gender. Looking after girls growing up confidently in today’s world is what we do best, and their time in our Nursery is transformational to the way in which they learn and grow.

Plentiful opportunities for social and emotional growth

Education environment - why?

As part of our admissions process, we explore your daughter’s readiness to settle into our Nursery and enjoy our unique environment designed to develop firm foundations in learning. We focus upon quality educational experiences through play. Our Nursery experience nurtures new ideas, scientific inquiry, artistic confidence and expressive fluency, which in turn develops a wonderful sense of ourselves.

This prepares girls perfectly for school education. At the Junior School we run one of the country’s finest educational programmes: the Human Intelligence curriculum. This is learning designed for the future. It is built around the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme, which is all about learning with purpose: solving problems, spotting connections and developing imagination. Alongside that we offer The Abbey Ideas and Passion: all the things we do to take students off the beaten path and help them become explorers who lead their own learning. Time in our Nursery will equip girls to throw themselves into any school environment with joy and excitement and go on to thrive.

Weather suits and welly boots - always ready to enjoy our outdoor space

Curriculum

Our Nursery curriculum is guided by the Early Years Foundation Stage. Students develop core skills in Communication and Language as well as their Physical Development. We aim high to support your daughter’s academic and personal development, with a daily focus on literacy and maths learning, alongside plentiful opportunities for social and emotional growth.

Our language-rich environment encourages the development and progression of all our young learners. Initial focus on Phonics is developed through oracy and aural skills; a knowledge of sounds is developed through encouragement of active listening. ‘Helicopter Stories’ are just one creative opportunity to develop skills as oral storytellers and relay our imagination to peers. Developing Maths skills through daily practical activities encourages connections to be made with numbers in everyday life, as well as structured tasks and learning activities.

Learning and Teaching are approached through a balance of whole class, small group activities and one-to-one working – enabling us to focus on the needs of each child at that time. Developmental milestones may well have typical patterns, but every child is supported as an individual.

Our curriculum is enriched with daily, varied outdoor experiences in our purpose-designed garden, and complemented by excursions within our local community and beyond. Each year, our Nursery children enjoy sharing a form assembly and Nativity production, developing self assurance within their peer group to speak on a stage to a live audience. Benefiting from the facilities and teaching expertise of specialist teachers in Ballet, Music, Sport (including Swimming) and Drama, your daughters enjoy a full and purposeful Nursery experience, which supports their transition to Reception learning with confidence and joy.

Support

We know that entrusting your child into our care can be a hugely challenging time for a family. Children may feel anxious about separation and we recognise it can be hard to let go!

Here at The Abbey our relationships with parents are as crucial as our relationships with the children. We cultivate these through daily interaction as well as targeted curriculum events. We also aim to create social cohesion amongst our parent community, facilitating opportunities for you as parents to spend time together within the Nursery, with your daughters. Nursery parents are part of The Abbey Parents Society (TAPS), so you are welcomed to The Abbey family from your first day.

Wellbeing

The wellbeing of our girls is central to our Nursery experience. Developing meaningful connections between peers and with teachers encourages and creates deep learning links. We seek to nurture core skills and attributes in our young learners, and particularly in their relationships, to build resilience, independence and self-care.

Our Nursery is an open environment where our children express their choices and preferences in a healthy manner, as well as developing consideration for the needs of others. We seek to enhance a good sense of identity and awareness of culture in our immediate and wider community. Care is at the heart of our relationships with one another and our environment. Through regular Personal, Social and Emotional learning sessions, we aim to develop core skills in self-regulating emotions as well as encouragement to express ourselves.

Positive wellbeing on leaving school has a much greater impact on life outcomes than exam success – and our priorities are aligned to provide a balance between academic learning and emotional wellbeing. Each child in our care deserves a dedicated place to learn to care for themselves as individuals, and it is our duty as a school community to provide this. From our Nursery, your daughter will enter Reception as a resilient, healthy and confident individual, ready to embrace the next stage of her learning with a confident sense of self.

Transitioning to Nursery and School

For many families the start of Nursery marks the end of one era, as well as the exciting beginning of a new one! It can be easy as a parent to get caught up in the world of ‘school readiness’ for academic learning. However, here at The Abbey we value experiences, to engender a developing sense of curiosity to understand the world around us. We recognise that every child is on a journey and whilst there are typical developmental milestones, each child will demonstrate individual strengths and skills at her own pace. That is the way to ensure true school readiness: an eagerness to learn and for each child to achieve their own personal best.

Whatever the next step from Nursery, we know our children will go on to school not just ready to learn but ready to take the lead in their learning. Most of our Nursery students will continue on to our Junior School and the Human Intelligence curriculum. It is wonderfully broad and enriching and develops all the skills our young people will need in their secondary education and beyond. Above all it empowers them to understand themselves and find self-motivation and a sense of personal ownership and initiative. They acquire not just the academic rigour and excellence they will need for success in assessment but the independence of mind they will need for success in life.

Above all throughout Nursery we work with you as parents to build tailored next steps for your child’s learning and ensure they are heading towards the best school experience and the one that is right for them.

Little Knellies is the best educational springboard for my daughter

Facilities

Knell House is a warm, stimulating environment for our Nursery girls. It enjoys a wonderful expansive garden with a nature area, all weather surface, adventure playground and bike riding park, all with the stunning architecture of Christ Church as a backdrop. Our recently refurbished classrooms are bright, colourful and welcoming. A broad range of high-quality equipment is available to your daughters as they explore this vast learning environment. At its heart our Nursery Home Room provides a familiar and nurturing learning space, with cosy book corners, role play opportunities, as well as mark making and mathematical areas to develop knowledge and understanding.

Our Art Room is designed with creativity at its heart. Through accessible resources we aim to deliver an experience based upon Early Years’ educational philosophies such as Reggio Emilia, which encourage exploration to foster a child’s innate curiosity and creativity.

Learning and Teaching are approached through a balance of whole class, small group activities and one-to-one working – enabling us to focus on the needs of each child at that time. Developmental milestones may well have typical patterns, but every child is supported as an individual.

Our curriculum is enriched with daily, varied outdoor experiences in our purpose-designed garden, and complemented by excursions within our local community and beyond. Each year, our Nursery children enjoy sharing a form assembly and Nativity production, developing self assurance within their peer group to speak on a stage to a live audience. Benefiting from the facilities and teaching expertise of specialist teachers in Ballet, Music, Sport (including Swimming) and Drama, your daughters enjoy a full and purposeful Nursery experience, which supports their transition to Reception learning with confidence and joy.

The Garden is one of our favourite places to be. Children thrive outdoors – whatever the weather – and especially in our all weather suits and welly boots! Developing a sense of understanding and care for the world around us, together with enjoying the spoils of our labour – through colourful spring floral displays as well as summer harvests – are just some of the many benefits that our Nursery children enjoy. Outdoor learning encourages active, creative and sustainable living, as well as encouraging our children to cherish nature, come rain or shine.

Our Nursery children benefit from regular visits to our facilities in the Junior School, be that sports lessons on the Astroturf or Gymnastics and Dance in our specialist floored hall. We also enjoy visits to our Senior School site to connect our youngest learners with our eldest and to enjoy our stunning school pool!

Workshops, fun events and specialist talks offered to parents

Meet the team

Isabel Archer – Assistant Head

I have worked in a wide range of Early Years settings for over 20 years. I began my career following my BA Hons in Early Childhood Studies with Education at the University of Worcester by working in a range of settings including a Reggio Emilia Nursery and Day Nurseries with children from 0-5. I then went on to complete my PGCE (QTS) in Primary Education with a specialism in Early Years. I am passionate about the holistic development of children, encouraging each to find passions and new skills through high quality play and experiences. I believe that curiosity, care and fun should sit at the heart of all that we do.

Sally Kellow – Nursery Teacher

After graduating from Exeter University with a first class BSc degree in Geography, I completed my PGCE at Cambridge University specialising in Early Years education. I began my teaching career in 2011 at an infant school in Hertfordshire where I taught Reception children for three years. With fond memories of being a student at The Abbey Senior School myself, I was eager to return to my hometown in 2014 to teach at the Junior School. I have loved working at The Abbey for almost 8 years now, teaching in Lower Prep, Reception and currently in our Nursery.

Laura Ellis – Nursery Teacher

Since qualifying from Roehampton, University of Surrey in 2004 with a BA Hons degree in Primary Education with Early Childhood Studies and QTS, I have worked in a variety of schools and year groups. I have found that the Early Years is where I am most passionate and where play, curiosity and joy really is at the heart of all we do. I have worked at The Abbey since January 2010 and have taught in our Nursery for the last 8 years, also leading our successful monthly Stay and Play sessions for the local community.

Mel Allard – Early Years Practitioner

I qualified in 2000 from Basingstoke College of Technology with a Distinction in NNEB. I was nominated for ‘Student of the Year’ by the college, and won! My first role was in a school teaching Reception children, where I was also responsible for their Breakfast and After School Club. In 2001, I left the school and nannied for six years – one of which was spent in Hawaii which allowed me to gain a wider insight of culture, as well as developing my own confidence and life skills. In 2008, I was fortunate enough to join The Abbey School and during the last 14 years, I have worked across Nursery and Reception, as well as in our After School Care. My passion for Early Years is based on creating many magical moments of awe and wonder in these precious first years of a child’s development.

Tara Hill – Early Years Practitioner

I have worked in an educational setting for the past 13 years, having achieved a NVQ Level 3. This has ranged from one-to-one support of Reception age children through to key worker responsibility in a Reading nursery. I was then very lucky to have the opportunity to join The Abbey team as Nursery Practitioner and have been here for over 6 years now. It is a joy to support the growth and progress of the young girls in our care – a purposeful sense of fun is the culture of Early Years at The Abbey and we love to play and learn together each day!