Pre-school in Swanage graded by Ofsted as Outstanding

The team at a pre-school in Swanage are ‘over the moon’ having been told by Ofsted that they’ve been awarded the highest possible grading in all areas following a recent inspection.

Little Birds, based within the grounds of St Mary’s Primary School off Northbrook Road in Swanage in Dorset, was visited back in July 2023 but the managers had to wait until the official publication of the report on Tuesday 29th August 2023 before they could let everyone know the amazing news.

Little birds children with Holly Gate
Little Birds

The pre-school likes to have visitors. This is local singer Holly Gate performing popular Disney tunes

Not for profit charity

The pre-school, which is run as a not for profit charity, moved to its current location in July 2021 and although previously established, Ofsted treated the pre-school as if it was newly created, meaning that previous inspections didn’t count.

Little Birds manager Jodie Edmunds said:

“We are over the moon. When I was told, along with the deputy manager Jude, that we had been graded as Outstanding, we both burst into tears!

“We are so incredibly proud of the staff, children and families. Everyone works so hard and we are so driven and passionate about what we do. To have such high recognition by others and to hear that coveted word ‘Outstanding’ was so amazing!”

Little birds outside space
Little Birds

The outside area with a space theme

Little birds afternoon tea
Little Birds

Afternoon tea Little Birds style with proper china!

Quotes from the Ofsted report

“The excellent implementation of the curriculum has an exceptional impact on children’s development.”

“Staff engage children of all ages exceptionally well in whole-group activities. Children pay amazing attention and engage fully.”

“Staff treat children with huge respect. They skilfully observe, knowing when to intervene to move children’s learning on and when to wait, to not interrupt their thinking and ideas.”

“The manager has a highly ambitious curriculum and has high expectations of what the children can achieve, including those with special educational needs and/or disabilities.”

“Staff are exceptional role models and skilled at engaging children in dialogue. They watch, listen and respond extremely well, helping children very effectively to listen to each other and have time to think and speak.”

“The manager and deputy lead an outstanding team who share their vision for providing high-quality care and learning.”

Little birds children with ducklings
Little Birds
a duckling at Little Birds pre-school
Little Birds

There’s even real little birds at Little Birds!

Just treated it like a normal day

As is normal practice, the pre-school only learnt about the inspection the day before it happened.

They said they just treated it like a normal day admitting that it was pointless trying to do things specially for the inspection as the young children would have no doubt commented on it and given the game away!

So they just showed the inspector Elaine Douglas – who they found to be ‘really lovely and incredibly knowledgeable’, around the setting, as they undertook their usual activities.

Jodie added:

“The hardest thing was keeping quiet about our grading for just shy of six weeks! You want to shout it from the rooftops but we had to sit tight and wait until the official publication of the report.”

Little birds healthy snacks
Little Birds

The snack cafe encourages the children to choose healthy food options

Little birds children shopping at the market
Little Birds

Visiting Swanage’s Friday Market to buy some new plants for their garden

Completely new direction

When the pre-school moved to its new location of St Mary’s Primary School, the staff decided to throw out everything that they thought they knew about how a preschool should be, and decided to go in a completely new direction.

It now promotes a new way of working and planning, with a different approach to early years education.

Jodie said:

“Our ethos is that every child is absolutely unique. We have a Hygge approach, which is a really holistic way of looking at things, meaning we build relationships not just with the children but with the whole family. We use lots of natural resources, minimising plastic toys – there’s no limitation on the imagination of what you can do with a cardboard box!

“Everyone who wants to, takes off their shoes and socks and walks around barefoot or in slippers – even the staff. The children learn to make their own snacks at the snack cafe and how to use a toaster and make healthy food choices. We really encourage them to be independent.

“We have no formal curriculum or project topics, so we can be spontaneous and in the moment. If the children start to talk about the beach then we can just head out to the seafront. With child-led learning, the staff can be more paper-free, spending more time with the children. We don’t pigeonhole children – they can be what they want to be.

“Our whole aim is to help build confident learners and send them on to primary school not being afraid to try new things. If something doesn’t work out as they would like, we encourage them to try something else to solve the problem. If they have confidence, then that’s half the battle!”

Little birds children with the mayor
Little Birds

Building confidence activities includes asking Swanage Town Mayor Tina Foster and her deputy Chris Moreton a few challenging questions!

A few available spaces

The pre-school reopens after the summer holidays on Tuesday 5th September 2023 and there are a few available spaces for children.

The team has also started a list for those who wish to register their child for the 2024/25 academic year.

Anyone interested in a place should email the team on

Further information

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