Region 7 Contact

Chair: Sandra Pidgeon
Counties: Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, Isles of Scilly, and Wales

Southwest England and Wales Meetings


Saturday 15 June 2019 – Creativity and the outdoor classroom with Sarah Olley

Clifton Children’s House, Ground Floor Flat, 6 Gordon Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1AP

Around twenty of us from the South West region met at the Clifton Children’s House in Bristol for an inspirational day led by Sarah Olley. We considered the notion of ‘creativity’ before being presented with a ‘provocation’ and wondering where this might lead, both for us and young children – in any number of directions!  Throughout the day we had opportunities to explore open-ended activities such as clay combined with amazing collections of ‘loose parts’.  Bringing together our clay creations into one shared piece was awe-inspiring and beautiful – to see how connections were being made, and participants sharing ideas and stories. 

We then moved on to using loose parts for sorting, classifying (closely linked to the Sensorial curriculum) and creating transient art.  Sarah also gave us examples of how to cultivate the children’s creativity through storytelling, music and movement and song.  Unfortunately the weather was cloudy, but we still took inspiration from the sky to do a vertical painting representing what we could see!  Sarah helped us to see how these creative experiences link to the various aspects of the Early Years Foundation Stage, together with evidencing the Characteristics of Effective Learning.  I’m sure we all left more than inspired to put one idea into practice the following week, and have plenty to share with our teams and implement with the children.

Mary Lazo, Clifton Children’s House

On Saturday 24th November, practitioners from across the South West and Wales attended a regional workshop hosted at Stoke Bishop Montessori School led by Barbara Isaacs around the characteristics of effective learning. With the characteristics being such a prominent part of the EYFS, and many councils asking settings to report on children’s progress in the characteristics on a termly basis, the workshop offered a fabulous opportunity to explore our understanding.

We began with an exploration of the Characteristics of Effective Learning, thinking about what they mean to us and how we use them internally within our settings and also how we share them with our parents. We then went on to explore the importance of observation and our critical insights in order to tease out a child’s learning disposition and gain a perception of their inner world. We worked together to think of examples from recent practice, giving us lots of opportunity for reflection and discussion. Barbara also reminded us to bear in mind both Montessori’s sensitive periods and children’s schemas in understanding a child’s development.

There was a strong focus on creativity –reflecting on what creativity is and the many opportunities for creative experiences in the Montessori environment enabling the child to develop ideas and make connections. We revisited the idea that Montessori saw imagination as a gift of childhood to be treasured.

The workshop linked Montessori philosophy and practice with the EYFS Characteristics of effective learning and beyond – looking at the child’s progressive journey and disposition for learning and giving us as practitioners many ideas to reflect upon and apply in our planning and practice. The day was insightful, relaxed and friendly, giving a chance to share thoughts and ideas with plenty of food for thought to take away. Many thanks to Sandra Pidgeon for hosting the event and Barbara for her inspiring perspective. 

Leanne Ridgeway, Stoke Bishop Montessori