We opened Free Rangers Forest School Nursery five years ago.
It was time we took a little step back to reflect. We needed to ask a few questions of ourselves; were we remaining true to our initial hopes and aspirations? Is our message still strong and relevant? Are we striving to be the best we can be? Are we making a difference?
Where better to carry out a little soul searching than at The Do Lectures Wales, 2016.
An intimate festival; a melting pot of creative minds with an atmosphere of tangible belief that anything is possible if you simply set out to do it.
I was lucky enough to be the recipient of a Giving Chair. A sponsored place at the Do Lectures funded by Heavenly, creators of ideas for an impatient world. Without them, I wouldn't have been able to attend this inexplicably brilliant event. The video below is dedicated to Heavenly and The Do Lectures, both are advocates of change for the better and we felt very lucky to have been given the opportunity to attend.
I knew I'd like the vibe at the Do Lectures, Heavenly had forewarned me about the heady mix of motivation and possibility. It also seemed to me that the event was all about promoting the conversations that happened whilst you were there, and the ripple effect they then had on the world.
As the weekend unfurled the exchanges and ideas that fermented alongside the kombucha workshop was, for the organisers, where the real magic happened. And for me I likened that to the conversations we share with our children at Free Rangers each day. Whether it be a question, joke, head tilt, idea, thought, challenge; each day we communicate verbally and non verbally with the little people at our nursery and it's these exchanges that are crucial because they provide the question marks.
What do I mean by question marks?
They're the ever reaching possibilities that the future holds for each individual child.
For us education shouldn't be outcome driven, we never have been and never will be. That's one of the aspects about our practice we hold at the core of all we do.
We are process obsessed, we aren't focussed on what the end result is, we are motivated to learn more deeply about how each child learns. We don't let assessments tell us what an individual child can achieve but we do know we'd never put a ceiling on that capability and we'll do everything in our power to awaken in them the understanding that really anything is possible if you simply start it.
We are all about the love of learning and fostering self motivation to learn throughout life. Have we swayed from this belief in the five years we've been open? We're very happy to say that we feel we haven't and it's thanks to every member of the team that we've managed to achieve and continue to work to surpass this goal.
When I was sat listening to a wide variety of interesting people speak about harnessing curiosity at The Do Lectures, in a dusty, characterful barn, I felt the stirring of something that kickstarted Free Rangers. I experienced an uncomfortable feeling, a sort of agitation and frustration. I realised that having listened to the talks my passion had been re-ignited and the feelings I was experiencing mirrored those that initially motivated me to start Free Rangers. A passionate anger arose inside and I started to dream big again. During those four days in West Wales, amidst cold sea swims, good clean food and inspirational speakers, I promised myself to keep on keeping on...in a big uncompromising way, not in a homogenised, one size fits all way.
So on my return, I spoke to Stu at Pennleigh and contacted some talented friends who together form The Enrichments and started work on a video that represented what we do at Free Rangers and why it's crucial. It's aim, purely to celebrate how great we think Early Years Education can be and how crucial it is to get it right. When you get it right, there are bigger and better question marks surrounding each and every child.
The Do Lectures had reignited our desire to do. It had fanned the flames of an already pretty voracious fire. The video is our first step towards achieving a bigger, better "Do." So what is our "Do" at Free Rangers? It's to challenge and change the current assessment lead education system within the UK and to prove that play based education is the foundation of happy, emotionally stable children that are motivated to achieve greatness, and that greatness is not merely measured by assessment. We won't succumb to the awful phrase of school ready and this feeling of pushing formalised learning onto younger and younger children. We are passionate advocates of play, fun and learning. And those three words, for us, hold serious educational weight.
I don't want to bore you with the details but big changes are afoot in Early Years Education at the hands of the government. These changes will effect Free Rangers as a business but we'll weather any storm, they will also negatively effect the budgets of families with young children, but more importantly the changes the government is hoping to bring about will damage and negatively impact on the first and five most important years of learning of a child's life. Your child's life.
Watch this video and please comment. Comment about where you would like to see education in this country. Comment if you feel it should change and how. Have your say, you're doing so for your children and the question marks surrounding their future.
We're interested to learn whether you agree or disagree and why.
In return, we'll continue to dream big. We will continue to carve out a path for what we believe Early Years Education should look like and moving forwards we will continue to drive change in this sector.
Once we've proven our point at the grass roots level, who knows? We might even plough ahead and tackle primary education. The Free Range University.....it has a certain ring to it no?