Monday, May 11, 2015

Preschool Around the World: Northern Ireland

I have asked several of my international friends to write a guest post about what preschool is like in their part of the world.

Kierna has so kindly agreed to be the first. She has a wonderful blog Learning For Life about her teaching experiences in Northern Ireland. Kierna has been a great inspiration for how we use our outdoor time at Inch By Inch over the last few years.

View of main primary school over the playground fence.

Kierna writes:

Despite the name of United Kingdom each of the 4 countries within it has their own education systems.

In Northern Ireland, all children are entitled to one free year of pre-school education in the year before they start formal compulsory schooling.

There are 2 main types of preschools settings – playgroups or nursery classes. Playgroups were traditionally set up by parents and are generally staffed by people who have childcare training and sometimes a degree in early years. The staff child ratio in a playgroup is one adult to 8 children.

Nursery classes have qualified teachers and within this ‘sector’ there are 2 main types – stand alone nursery schools with a principal or nursery units within larger primary schools. The staff child ratio in all nursery classes is one adult to 13 children.
Playgroups tend to be part-time 15 hours a week over 5 days. Nurseries can either part-time or full-time – up to 25 hours a week over 5 days.
Children attend everyday.

I teach in a nursery unit attached to a primary school so the children can attend the school from the age of 3 until 11. It is a full-time class and we operate from 8.50 – 1.45.
I usually have 26 children & work with an assistant who has her training in childcare.
The children in my class are aged 3 and 4. They have to have their 4th birthday on or before the 2nd of July, the year they enter the class.

Usually the majority of the children in my class transfer to the Primary 1 class within the same school but there are always some who go to other schools.
Some children will also go to special schools where their particular additional needs can be met in smaller classes with more specialist teachers.

The children get an opportunity to visit with their new P.1 teacher before starting school.
I share a transition report with the next teachers that gives them a background knowledge of the child they are receiving.

For children in my class I try to keep the routine as similar as possible each day but of course the weather has a big influence as to whether we go outside again after lunch or not. We also have 2 days when we stay outside until story time. But the general flow of a nursery day in my class goes as follows:

8.50 – 10.30: meet & greet, the children go straight outside to play, snack is on offer outdoors. 
                      They play outdoors for at least 60 minutes.

At 10.30 they come inside & hang up their coats, self register by moving a photo & sometime half the group will tidy up outside at this time.

10.30 – 11.40: indoor play time.
11.40 – 11.50: tidy up time & toileting before story.
11.50 – 12.20: story time.
12.20 – 12.50: lunch time
12.50 – 1.15: either indoor or outdoor play.
1.15 – 1.25: tidy up time
1.30 – 1.45: doors open for parents/carers to collect children

It is a busy, busy day & most teachers who come to cover who are used to teaching in primary school can’t understand how a nursery teacher functions without a break until 2.00!