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Holywood Nursery School, Holywood, Co Down


Holywood Nursery School follows the Northern Ireland Pre-School Curriculum.  This is a play based curriculum that promotes learning through informal and small group situations.  At Holywood Nursery School we promote this through our system of self selection and free flow between indoor and outdoor areas and also through organised activities for the children and the daily story session which finishes every nursery day.  Our outdoor area is an extension of our indoor learning environment with the children having opportunities to learn in different ways in the outdoor classroom.  Self selection in both areas promotes children’s independence, helps them to develop responsibility for their choices and also for the resources they use, as children are expected to tidy away what they choose to play with.  Staff work with children on a one-to-one basis to promote their concentration, understanding and to increase deep level thinking.  The Northern Ireland Pre-School Curriculum divides into six areas of learning.


At Holywood Nursery School we recognize that language development is crucial to learning and is concerned with more than just the growth of vocabulary.  Language is essential for communication with others, expressing feelings, sharing information and to understand ideas and develop thoughts.

We foster children’s listening and communication skills through interaction with staff and educational play with other children.  Staff will assist children in their thinking and help to build their confidence in the use of language.  We will introduce new vocabulary and so encourage children to extend their phrases and sentences.

Our School is a language rich environment full of learning opportunities.  Children can listen to and look at a range of interesting and exciting stories, poetry and rhymes. They will learn that the printed word has meaning and that the meaning does not change.

Writing is a way in which thoughts and ideas can be exchanged.  Young children can express their thoughts and ideas through drawing, mark making and by writing* cards and messages.

In the course of their nursery education, children will also become aware of and use forms of non-verbal communication, for example painting, music, movement and drama. 

Staff are also experienced in working with children whose home language is not English

* Writing should be interpreted as scribbling and marking, where children mimic what writers do.  It is not intended to imply that children are, or should be, forming letters. Although over time some children may begin to do this.


Mathematical concepts are important for everyday life and they develop slowly in the young child. Children need opportunities to re-visit activities and to experience mathematical ideas in many different contexts.  At Holywood Nursery School we seek to extend, informally, the mathematical experiences the children have already had in their home environment.

All areas of play, both indoors and outdoors, provide opportunities to foster mathematical concepts.  As children engage in play activities, they use their own everyday language to talk about mathematical concepts.  With the help of our staff they will begin to understand, and later use, mathematical language as they develop an awareness of number, order, shape, space, size, quantity, time, pattern, and relationships.


At Holywood Nursery School we recognize that children enjoy physical play both indoors and outdoors.  They revel in freedom of movement and in play that is inventive, adventurous and stimulating.  Physical play helps children to develop balance, control, co-ordination and an awareness of size, space and direction.

Movement skills need to be nurtured, not only because they are important for the child’s long-term health and well-being, but because they support the child’s physical and cognitive development. These skills will be developed informally during planned daily physical play.  Physical development helps children to gain confidence and self-esteem as they discover what they can do, and it enables them to feel the benefits of being healthy and active.

Outdoor play can provide space and freedom that would be difficult to find indoors.  It has an important role in the emotional development of children, providing them the freedom to run, shout and play exuberantly within appropriate boundaries


This area of learning is of the utmost importance for young children in all aspects of their lives.  It is about children’s emotional well-being, their understanding of who they are, respecting others and the environment, forming and sustaining relationships, beginning to understand emotions and about developing positive attitudes to learning.  Good personal, social and emotional development gives children the best opportunity for success in other areas of learning.

At Holywood Nursery School we help children gain confidence in everything they do.  We achieve this through simple gestures like allowing them to make choices and help each other; encouraging them to organize their own play, including tidying up; giving them independence at snack time; and having them put on their own coats.  Fostering confidence and self-esteem in children will help them feel valued as individuals and develop independence.

Children are individuals in their own right and have their own personalities.  They have their own likes and dislikes.  Some are timid while others are extroverted.  Some are protective and at other times aggressive; some prefer to lead, others to follow.  Young children also have difficulty understanding their feelings and the needs and feelings of others.

At Holywood Nursery school we encourage children to talk about how they feel at different times. We discuss how their actions can affect others and why we need rules, and help them develop respect for others and appreciate the differences between people - like race, culture and disability.


Being creative is about learning new things, taking risks and experimenting, coming up with new ideas, solving problems and coping with uncertainty.  Creative play not only helps foster skills, but it can also assist with emotional development, promote aesthetic awareness and is an avenue for self-expression.

At Holywood Nursery School children are encouraged to express their ideas, extend their 
creativity and develop originality of thought.  We provide many opportunities to explore and share those thoughts, ideas and feelings. This is achieved through art and design, music, movement, dance, dramatic and role-play activities where children are encouraged and supported.

We value and encourage the children’s natural curiosity and vivid imaginations.  We help them to take risk, to have confidence to try things out, and to accept that their ideas may not necessarily work.  We encourage them to explore their own ideas rather than reproduce someone else’s.  We help them to observe, listen and talk about their experiences using appropriate language and teach them to appreciate their own work and other ways of working.  As they discover what they can do, children will experience the joy of achievement and develop self-confidence and self-esteem.

In developing children’s creativity in the arts, it is important to emphasize the process, the children’s enjoyment and the learning that is taking place rather than the finished product and celebrate the uniqueness of each child’s work.


At Holywood Nursery School we know that from their earliest days, children try to make sense of the world.  They are naturally curious about their environment and the people around them and frequently ask questions.  At Nursery School children will begin to develop a range of skills and concepts including observation, experimentation and free exploration of their surroundings.