A nursery hailed as 'extraordinary' by Ofsted is set to open a third branch in Poulton

A third Little Explorers nursery is set to open up in Wyre, following success in Thornton and Carleton.

Monday, 16th December 2019, 5:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 11:22 am

The 'outstanding' rated nursery in Thornton became the first dedicated forestry school on the Fylde coast when it was opened by teachers sisters Emma Rathbone and Amy Crook in 2016.

A second branch opened in Carleton a year later when Emma and Amy bought the Beehive Nursery in Fleetwood Road.

And now they are hoping to convert a 1930s bungalow in Highcross Road, Poulton, opposite the Miller and Carter steakhouse.

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A youngster is full of smiles as she plays outdoors at the Little Explorers nursery, which became the first dedicated forestry school on the Fylde coast when it opened in 2016. It now plans to open its third branch in Poulton (Picture: Emma Rathbone/Little Explorers)

Emma, who quit her job as deputy headteacher at Charles Saer Community Primary School in Fleetwood to chase her dream of opening her own nursery, said: "We are delighted at the prospect of expanding our nurseries.

"Our two current nurseries have been so successful we are again having to turn new families away.

"Hopefully, this will give more children the opportunity to access our unique setting and highly-skilled staff."

If planners at Wyre Council give the nod, the nursery will offer "all the same facilities and activities" as those elsewhere in Wyre, including forestry schooling, yoga, and sports, Emma said.

156 Highcross Road, Poulton, where Little Explorers hopes to open up (Picture: Google)

"As we are also a lead practitioner setting for Lancashire, it will also give us more opportunities to lead and share our outstanding practice across the county," she said.

"We are also really looking forward to working closely with the Poulton community."

The bungalow, at number 156, has a room in the roof and several outbuildings, a rear double garage, and a driveway long enough for four cars, papers filed with the council showed.

The outbuildings would be turned into staff areas, with a new roof built to cover an outside corridor.

A sunken paved area in the back garden would also be timber decked over to make it level with the ground floor and safe for children.

But inside the property would need "very little" work, plans added. Walls would be opened up "to allow visibility from one room to the next" and junior toilets would need to be installed.

The nursery would employ three full-time and 25 part-time workers, who would park in front of the double garage, while "most of the children would be brought to the centre by their parents or guardians and by foot or pushchair", the plans added.

"Those that are brought by vehicle would be dropped off on the driver or at the [nearby Church of the English Martyrs to the right] or public house car parks, with prior arrangements."

"It is proposed to register for a 65-children capacity from the age of 0-5 years.

"The catchment area is of Highcross, a built-up area of residential semi- and detached properties and, with a Baines school not far away, it has a good selection of young families to support it.

"There are three childcare centres but they are outside the catchment area of a one-mile radius."

Emma and Amy are hoping their bid will be more successful than their recent application to turn a flat first-floor roof atat the Carleton nursery into an outside play area.

The childcare centre was forced to re-apply for planning permission after building timber and plastic-cladded walls instead of the approved glass panels, citing the need for youngsters' privacy.

But the play area was left at risk of demolition after the council rejected the application and branded the extension an eyesore - with a government planning inspector agreeing and throwing out an appeal.

The Carleton nursery has yet to be visited by Ofsted for a routine inspection, though the nursery in West Drive, Thornton, was given the education regulator's highest possible rating.

Inspector Katie Sparrow said: "The nursery has rapidly become extremely well established and is making an extraordinary impact on outcomes for children.

"Managers are incredibly knowledgeable, highly skilled, and qualified. They are entirely dedicated, providing the highest quality care and education for all children, and they provide excellent support for the staff team.

"Managers demonstrate an uncompromising vision for the nursery. The learning environment is inspirational. Staff create a vibrant and innovative setting, filled with a wealth of exciting and engaging resources and learning opportunities.

"Children are entirely absorbed in their play and show extremely high levels of motivation to learn and take part. Children make outstanding progress in their learning."