The Nursery in Belong (an Intergenerational Shared Site)

Overview

Ready Generations run the Nursery in Belong, a research nursery within a care village which is linked to a number of UK universities who support them to collect evidence-based practice. This they hope will show that there are different ways of providing early years education and adult social care that include all members of the local community. 

The aim is to support the most marginalised in society who may be vulnerable for whatever reason. They started with little children of nursery age and older people living in care facilities however they found as the project developed that they've been able to connect with other excluded groups. The nursery has two volunteer adults with learning disabilities and their participation and engagement is just fabulous! Their vision is for compassionate connections across the ages to really grow. 

They believe that older people should not be invisible in society – nor should babies and young children. Their ambition is to showcase that innovative and alternative models of care can be both sustainable and economically viable and that they can provide older people’s care and nursery education together in the same building or space.

Excellence Awards winners 2023

Ready Generations won the international category of GWT's Excellence Awards in 2023. You can watch the video here.

Activities

Ready Generations believe that the design and resourcing of spaces and environments is central to engagement, learning and participation. If time is spent thinking about how the environment may support groups and how they can be involved in planning of the space and choice of resources than they will feel a stronger sense of ownership and belonging. This is called the creation of intentional environments. 

The selection of resources also plays a large part in their approach. The majority of things used are natural materials with minimum use of plastic avoiding resources that are too childish as older people may find this off putting and at worst, disrespectful. It is often found that simple wooden resources like natural wood blocks really attract the older people's attention as they recall how they played with them as children. The stories that then flow are mesmerising for the children. In terms of the weekly organisation of invitations, opportunities and experiences, a weekly plan is organised with particular events happening on particular days. The intergenerational singing group, the Sankofa Songsters, is very popular as are daily prambles and jigsaw sessions. The children and their grand-friends also enjoy lunch together most days and this allows for spontaneous conversations and interactions to take place. The team are careful to observe and learn from the power of these unplanned opportunities and how they support the building of trusting, reciprocal relationships over time.

The learning and research reinforce the importance of skilled practitioners who understand the importance of sensitive observation and gentle prompting questioning to extend interactions and learning. 

The team think a lot about intergenerational pedagogy reflecting on activities and most importantly why they are doing particular things at particular times. To support this a bespoke intergenerational curriculum has been developed called The Mirrored Curriculum Framework which means when developing something for a child consideration is given around how to mirror it to work with older adults too. The curriculum meets the needs of both groups in ways that are appropriate, challenging and impactful.

On a daily basis the youngest participant taking part is around 8 months and the oldest resident is over 100 - with everything in between.

 

Benefits for the Community

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We work closely with a wide range of local partners. - what are the benefits of doing so,

We are very excited about our collaboration with the Moxy hotel in Chester.  Following lots of chats together, we have now set up weekly coffee mornings and a moxy games night which is open for the whole community.

It feels important to find partners who have shared values and a similar vision. We are now hoping that our Moxy partnership might spread to other Moxy hotels where they are situated.

We also work hard to include under-represented groups like children and adults with  disabilities through a partnership with another charity called Live! Cheshire. 

This has resulted in a shared volunteering programme and a cycling project using adapted bicycles so that all ages can enjoy the cycling experience. 

Benefits for the young people

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We talk a lot about stickability. What creates something ‘sticky’ – that children and their families want to join themselves to. 

If we focus on doing the right things in the right way at the right time in the right places – we believe we have the best chance of engaging the community If it’s meaningful, people want to be part of it and to bring others to join in. For example, our older friends often ask if they can bring their grand children and increasingly greatgrandchildren.’ So, all of a sudden, there’s some stickability! 

It’s a real whole community model rather than one generation matched with or prioritised over another. It’s everyone – like baking all in one bowl – rather than separate ingredients and then seeing what happens.

Benefits for the older people

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Currently, we are focussed on looking at the components of a good life e.g. healthy habits, creativity and access to nature. We are trying to work on a person-centred model – as it may be very different from one person to another.

 

Funding

The intergenerational nursery is run by Ready Generations charity. It is self-funding from nursery feeds. Although there is a paid nursery team, the nursery is overseen by the two volunteer co-founders which helps to keep costs low. 

Some funding is received from their partner, Belong Villages and other sponsors.

Evaluation

This is where our work with universities really helps – as we are keen to develop our evidence base and research data.

We are aware that consensus based evidence is not necessarily evidence based evidence. What sometimes happens in services is that a consensus goes round that particular experience is beneficial and lovely. But consensus doesn’t always equate with quality, sustainability, and impact. Consensus is wonderful but we need to be constantly progressing and developing the evidence of why and how things work and how they meet the diverse needs of mixed age individuals. To do this we are developing an assessment model call The Life Gifts and Intergenerational Fairness Toolkit.

Currently, we are focussed on looking at the components of a good life e.g. healthy habits, creativity and access to nature. We are trying to work on a person-centred model – as it may be very different from one person to another.

That is one of our challenges. Within the intergenerational care village, there are people aged between 10 month and over 100 years that’s a 99 year life span of difference. We cannot assume they will all fit neatly into one homogenous group. So, it is important to be more granular and to go deeper in our thinking about what works and why.

Sustainability

Our work is ongoing and expanding to other parts of England. 

We are currently developing the model through a cross country programme called Born4Life. This is a connecting programme that brings nurseries and care settings together in a range of ways e.g. allotment and beach school projects.

Going forwards in this post covid world, we are thinking about primary aged children who may be finding school difficult for a range of reasons e.g. austerity, anxiety, homelessness. 

We are working with headteachers and SENCOs to create a model of alternate provision that includes spending time with older people and using them as positive role models and mentors.

Local Priorities

‘We want children, families and older people to enjoy places and experiences that feel uniquely special with the people and the things that they love, in a community where everyone looks out for one another, doing the things that matter most.’

 

Scottish National Outcomes

This project if held in Scotland would contribute to the following 

Children and Young People – We grow up, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential.

Education - We are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society.

Communitities - We live in communitities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe.

Health - We are healthy and active.