Secret Garden praised by inspectors

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THE outdoor nursery that once had government inspectors in a lather over hand-washing has been hailed as a shining example to others in a new report.

The Secret Garden Outdoor Nursery, which operates in woods near Letham, was praised in glowing terms by Education Scotland’s inspector Mary Ann Hagan, who described the pre-school youngsters as ‘motivated, confident, resilient and joyful learners.’

She said that they relish weather and seasonal changes and that they showed a great deal of respect for living things.

She commented: “Almost all children demonstrate high levels of resilience and can sustain focus for extended periods to complete their chosen activity.

“They enjoy being creative and using their imagination to tell stories, explore and discover new things in the forest.”

Ms Hagan also praised the nursery’s founder and senior practitioner, Cathy Bache, who she said had a ‘very strong vision’ for the Secret Garden and had been instrumental in developing the high quality outdoor learning opportunities and creating the ‘unique ethos and philosophy’ of the centre.

She added that she had identified innovative practices that she wanted to explore further and share with others.

Ms Bache commented: “Hopefully, when people read the report, those who are intrigued by us or education providers looking to draw on the outdoor experience, will be given the confidence that outdoor education in no longer a fringe activity.”

In 2010, the Secret Garden faced an uncertain future after inspectors from the former Care Commission took issue with its hand-washing policy and called for soap and water to be used despite the fact that the children spend their days in the woods.

But following an outcry from staff and parents, a compromise was reached whereby it was agreed that soap and water would be used when ‘practicable’, with wipes and gels used at other times.