Newly opened nursery and forest school wins awards for environmental design

The new on-campus nursery puts play, development, wellbeing, and nature at the heart of early years education, in a carbon neutral building.

Staffordshire University Nursery and Forest School

Set adjacent to a woodland and nature reserve on the University’s Leek Road site, the new on-campus Nursery and Forest School connects early years learning with the immediate landscape and nature reserve.

As the first carbon neutral building on the Staffordshire University Campus, the Woodlands Day Nursery and Forest School is a facility that supports the community and the next generation, through learning, teaching, and embedding the University’s ambitions for a more sustainable future. We look forward to the opportunities and experiences this exciting new facility will bring to children and schools in the local area.

Sally McGill, Chief Financial Officer and Executive Lead for Sustainability at Staffordshire University

Staffordshire University has opened the doors of its award-winning £4.4m Woodlands Day Nursery and Forest School in Stoke-on-Trent.

Children and parents/guardians attended a series of transition sessions at the new purpose build facility ahead of the big move from Winton Square, the longstanding former home of the University’s nursery provision.

Set adjacent to a woodland and nature reserve on the University’s Leek Road site, the new on-campus Nursery and Forest School connects early years learning with the immediate landscape and nature reserve.

The new build has already made waves in the worlds of construction and architecture having been awarded Construction Project of the Year in the 2022 CEF Awards and the Sustainability award at the West Midlands Insider Property Awards 2022.

Sally McGill, Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Chief Executive, and Executive Lead for Sustainability said, “We’re delighted that the nursery school is having such a positive impact, both with the children and families using it, and also with staff and partners in relation to its sustainable design.

As the first carbon neutral building on the Staffordshire University Campus, the Woodlands Day Nursery and Forest School is a facility that supports the community and the next generation, through learning, teaching, and embedding the University’s ambitions for a more sustainable future. We look forward to the opportunities and experiences this exciting new facility will bring to children and schools in the local area."

Amanda Sherratt, Head of Childcare and Family Services at Staffordshire University added, “It’s fair to say that the staff, children and families are loving our new home and have settled in well. The facility brings a unique and authentic outdoor experience to children in a safe and enriching environment.”

Open to staff, students and the wider community, the sustainable new build features four inspirational learning spaces enhanced with digital technology, a forest school provision and extensive outdoor play area. One hundred full-day care places for children aged from zero to five have been created, more than doubling the capacity of the University’s Nursery provision, with the capacity to provide additional childcare and education activity for children from five to 11 years old outside of term time.

Sustainability is at the heart of the new carbon neutral facility with the design and construction focussed on creating a habitat which sits in harmony with its surroundings. The low height of the building reduces the visual impact, while the timber structure, façade and finishes blend with the natural woodland environment. Rooflights across the building were also designed to flood the building with natural light, reducing the need for artificial lighting, while avoiding unwanted heat gains from direct sunlight.

Other sustainable features of the building include REHAU earth tubes and air source heat pumps which use passive cooling/heating rather than mechanical ventilation; along with roof mounted solar photovoltaic panels to offset carbon emissions. Overall, the low predicted energy requirement for running the building and the renewable electricity generation from the solar panels, along with the stored carbon of the timber construction, means the facility is predicted to be a carbon neutral building, taking into account both its construction and operation, for at least 60 years.

Applications to join the Woodlands Day Nursery and Forest School waiting list are now live via the Staffordshire University Woodlands Day Nursery and Forest School website. Parents and Guardians can also watch a child-led tour of the facilities on the University’s YouTube channel.

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