Putting wellbeing at the heart of all we do

Posted by iChild, July 14, 2021 10:45 AM

By Caroline Wright, Director of Early Childhood for Bright Horizons

Bright Horizons has just completed the roll out of an exciting and innovative new child-centred curriculum across our nurseries in England. Called Bright Beginnings, it focuses on children’s emotional wellbeing as the key to learning.

Bright Beginnings

 A child’s overall wellbeing has a huge impact on their ability to learn. Feeling happy, comfortable and safe in their surroundings is especially important for children, as these factors make a considerable difference in how receptive they are to be able to listen to others, interact and learn new skills.

Bright Beginnings is designed to help young children prepare for their future by ensuring they’re confident and capable individuals. It focuses on lifelong learning, rather than being outcomes driven, as we want to nurture a lifelong love of learning and provide children with skills that will enable them to be emotionally secure now and in the future.

At the heart of our approach to developing our new curriculum has been the development of our Early Childhood Philosophy, which puts children at the centre of our practice, and highlights relationships with clients, colleagues and families as key to this. Children are capable, curious, and active in their learning. Each child is unique in their thinking, which is reflected in the nursery environment.

Our HEARTS values

Integral to Bright Beginnings are Bright Horizons Children’s HEARTS Values for Wellbeing:

  • Healthy Body
  • Emotional Wellbeing
  • (strong) Attachments
  • (secure) Relationships
  • (excellent) Teaching
  • Safe and Secure

We see these values as essential conditions for learning and key to the positive emotional wellbeing   of every child. These values are at the core of our curriculum, enabling children to learn to become confident, capable individuals with a positive disposition and high levels of self-esteem.

The Bright Beginnings curriculum comprises five areas of learning, known as Opportunities and Experiences for Learning. They focus on:

1. Feelings and Friendships
2. Sharing Thoughts and Ideas
3. Technical and Life Skills
4. Thinking Creatively
5. Exploring and Learning About My World

These skills and competencies help prepare children to become confident, secure, and proficient individuals, prepared for the next stage in their learning, whether they are moving rooms within the nursery, or making the big transition to primary school. All of the required areas of learning in the EYFS, to enable a more ‘holistic’ approach to learning.

Adults as educators

Based on extensive pedagogical theory and research, Bright Beginnings focuses on the significance of the adult role as educators. The new curriculum acknowledges the development of concepts, such as critical thinking and problem solving, in addition to developing skills, such as mindfulness and caring for self and others which will encourage children to make connections in their learning and manage the way they interact with others.

A series of ‘Pedagogy into Practice’ (PiP) cards, aligned to the curriculum, perform a vital role in supporting practitioners in our nurseries. They help them to plan opportunities and experiences that meet children’s interests and encourage them to learn. Specific to each of three age ranges (0-2 years, 2-3 years, and 3-5 years), the cards provide guidance on equipment, environment, and resources to use for an activity.

For example, the PiP card for preschool children aged 3-5 years mentions mark making. We encourage practitioners to celebrate all of a child’s attempts to make meaningful marks, in all contexts. In this case, we encourage practitioners to provide large paint brushes, paint rollers and floor brooms or mops, with a big canvas to paint on. This type of activity is essential to develop the muscles in a child’s shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands, in preparation for writing.

We pose reflective questions, such as, “If the writing tools do not excite you to use them, why do you think the child will be excited?” We encourage the practitioner to see things from a child’s perspective, so that they can adapt activities to make them exciting for every child. Home learning ideas related to mark making, would be those that encourage them to use their arms and upper body, to develop the muscle groups we talk about. For example, sweeping leaves in the garden with Daddy, or painting ‘magic pictures’ that disappear, using water on the garden fence or a wall.  

Reaction from our pilot nurseries

As part of the curriculum’s development, we ran pilots at some of our nurseries around England and the new approach has been well received by children, parents and nursery staff.

Melissa, a nursery nurse in Sale – one of the settings where the new curriculum was tested – said: “I love using the Bright Beginnings curriculum. It has made staff more confident when doing observations and assigning next steps relevant to the child’s development. It also allows families to have a better understanding of what their children can do.”

And a parent from our Highgate nursery, where Bright Beginnings was also piloted, said: “My daughter has been coming home telling me about all the great activities she has been taking part in during the day. I love that fact that the children are leading their own play which clearly is making a big difference.”

Practitioners were trained thoroughly to use the new curriculum in advance of rollout at their particular setting, with the training delivered by our Early Childhood team. The new curriculum is aligned to all areas of the EYFS, including the prime and specific areas of learning and development, as well as adhering to all statutory ‘Safeguarding and Welfare Requirements’.

Training includes an introductory face-to-face session with a member of the team and the Nursery Manager or Deputy Nursery Manager. This is followed by a longer session designed to set out the curriculum in more depth, illustrating how it aligns with all three sections of the EYFS statutory framework and what it looks like in practice in nursery settings. Nursery Managers are also given an off-the-shelf pack, which they can rollout to their wider staff team. All practitioners are asked to complete five mandatory e-modules that cover the key elements of the curriculum (including the Children’s HEARTS Values for Wellbeing and Pedagogy into Practice cards).

Bright Beginnings will be in all our nursery settings in England by 1st August, and we’re looking forward to hearing feedback from both our families and staff about the new approach.

By Caroline Wright, Director of Early Childhood for Bright Horizons

Caroline Wright Director of Early Childhood for Bright Horizons


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