Forest School and Philosophy-Led Learning
Dandelion Education Ltd is a unique outdoor nursery based in Norfolk, England.
It is the first entirely outdoors nursery in Britain to combine both the approaches of Philosophy for Children (P4C) and Forest School together in a unique approach to learning and development which nurtures cognitive development, well-being and resilience. It has been judged as Outstanding in all areas, by Ofsted; has won 3 national awards; and is the only nursery in Norfolk/Suffolk to hold a Sapere kitemark for its use of Philosophy 4 Children.
See all our accolades
Dandelion Education Ltd is a place where children grow and flourish through exploring their natural environment under the skilled guidance and support of a team led by founders Hayley Staniforth-Room and Emma Harwood.
The seed of the idea came to Emma and Hayley, as they sat drinking tea under a flowering magnolia tree, dreaming of a perfect learning environment for children.
This seed became Dandelion Education Ltd.
And now, in a land not so far, far away, there is a place where children play under the sky, climb trees, feed chickens, nap in the warmth of a cosy yurt, and take pleasure in learning with friends in nature.
We have two fantastic locations...
One minute from Aylsham , 12 minutes from Reepham, 9 minutes from Cawston, 23 minutes from Cromer. As close as it gets to heaven on earth!
Dandelion Eaton Vale
Five minutes from Norwich city centre, close to heaven on earth!
Dandelion is a magical world where children can grow at their own pace; where they have the time and freedom to develop creative and critical thought; where they can become independent, confident, and resilient.
One word – Amazing! You are all amazing!
We are delighted with the education Dandelion provides. He has become a much more confident child and his problem solving has really developed.
Staff are amazing; it is clear that the child is at the centre of all that they do. They move kiddies on when they’re ready!
T is a much happier, more engaged than he ever was in his other setting. It is a joy to see!
We are so pleased we chose Dandelion. We’ve been impressed by the level of care and the range of activities on offer. We have the themes you have, it makes us feel involved and it seems fantastic in stimulating imaginary play. Interactions are warm and caring with lots of individual attention.
The settings have produced a brilliant supplementary education alongside home-education. B’s phonic’s skills have improved. It is really important that B has fun while learning and discovering new things, and making brilliant childhood memories. I believe he gets all that and more from Dandelion!
We love Dandelion and think the whole concept and environment is amazing! J is full of excitement when going AND when I pick him up.
Since being at Dandelion, R has developed his self-esteem and is beginning to seem more independent from his brother. We’re having another baby just so they can join Dandelion!
A year ago, having only just turned 4, our daughter was in no way socially or emotionally ready to start school. With the support of Emma and Hayley, we were granted a deferred reception place at our chosen school, and our daughter was able to spend an extra year attending Dandelion three days per week. Spending her reception year at Dandelion was the best decision we could have made to help prepare her for school. At Dandelion our daughter was able to develop her social skills and grow in confidence at her own pace. She thrived in an environment where she felt secure and nurtured, whilst also having plenty of opportunities to learn and develop new skills through role play and creative exploration. In the last year our shy little girl, who used to find it difficult to speak to other children, has developed into a socially confident girl with many friends, who often initiates and leads role play games, and confidently expresses her ideas in the group. Thanks to the creative early years curriculum and excellent teaching skills of the Dandelion staff, our daughter’s Maths and phonics skills are impressive for her age. She will be starting school already able to add up numbers and read and write simple words. Our daughter is now excited about starting school in September and we feel that she is ready to, even though we will all miss Dandelion a lot….
All staff members at Dandelions are magical and Julie is no exception. In fact she’s a shining light for myself and my son. Julie always has a smile on her face. She accepts children for who they are and she sees the positive in every aspect of a child’s personality.
Understanding them and adapting her guidance around what works for each individual child. From a parents point of view, Julie is excellent at calming any worries in me, she explains perfectly and honestly on my sons day and behaviours. Julie is a very positive, patient and caring woman. I consider myself and my son to be very lucky to have her as part of his growth.
Donovan responds beautifully to Julie’s guidance (not always immediately because he’s a stubborn monkey) however Julie has the patience and understanding of his behaviour to be able to get him where he needs to be. My sons behaviour has flourished and I’m always shocked with how much knowledge he comes home with. He responds beautifully to positive encouragement and especially when Julie sits with him to go through her emotion cards. He acts out the faces and is now able to explain how he’s feeling rather than just expressing it.
I am confident to say Dandelion is a dream come true for children. Izzy has been going to Dandelion for nearly two years enjoying every single day she has spent there. Emma, Hayley and the Dandelion team, who are always positive and enthusiastic, have created a wonderful space and atmosphere where children are encouraged to grow, be curious and imaginative, face challenges and embrace the outdoors with great enjoyment. Every day is a magical experience for Izzy. She enjoys using tools and creating things to bring home, climbing trees, baking her favourite cakes in the mud kitchen but ultimately the freedom to play and learn in her own way. Thank you.
Dandelion are extremely passionate about emotional literacy and wellbeing and this is reflected in everything they do – from getting the children involved in fundraising for a local youth mental health charity to teaching the children to talk about and reflect on their emotions on a daily basis.
I remember one morning not long after our daughter first started Dandelion at age 2.5, she enthusiastically woke us up asking “how are you feeling daddy – are you content?”. More recently we’ve experienced the benefit of Dandelion’s emphasis on speaking up and expressing emotions as a way to resolve conflict between children. When our daughter told us about an incident at Dandelion involving two other children, the Dandelion staff facilitated a powerful session where all the children involved were invited to reflect on what had happened, express how it made them feel and discuss boundaries and treating each other with respect. Our daughter felt very good about being encouraged to make her voice heard and telling the other children how she felt, in a safe contained environment.
Dandelion’s ethos is also reflected in how the staff communicate with the children, which is always extremely respectful, using positive language, and encouraging autonomy and critical thinking. I believe Dandelion’s approach to emotional wellbeing has had a huge impact on our daughters development over the last 2 years and helped turn her from a very shy little girl into the confident and empathic person she is today.
- Tom and Charlotte
Our daughter loves Dandelions! Having been in a small indoor nursery for several months, she loves the space to run around and explore. As parents we have seen an enormous difference – she is more confident, happy, energetic and enthusiastic. Thank you Hayley, Emma and the other staff for all your efforts. If only there were more forest schools around!
I’m just beginning on the path to get an autism diagnosis for Alexander and forwarded Dandelions report to the GP for a telephone appointment. When I described Dandelions the GP said it sounded ‘amazing and perfect for Alex’. In addition we’ve had the Local Authority visit for Home Educating and the officer was very happy with the education Alex receives in Dandelions and home combination.
Dandelions allows Alex to socialise and learn in an outdoor setting. He especially loves Heath days: often leading us on family walks there to show us where he goes with his friends. Alex struggles with noise and cannot concentrate in crowded or noisy indoor settings, he also was afraid of heights from a young age. At Dandelions he has flourished in confidence, has firm friends and with kind support and encouragement can climb really confidently now. After one Heath day last term Alex described a lava game he was playing where himself and a group of friendy climbed up on the fallen tree and jumped down: he said he felt a ‘bit frightened but was brave and jumped’ and was so proud of himself they kept climbing and jumping down.
‘Although our son has been at dandelions for some time, he had recently been through a ‘wobble’ and been anxious at drop off time. I have noticed however that when Julie is around, he will trot in quite happily! She takes the time to engage with him, and knows just what will help him to forget his anxieties. Their time at the tool table has resulted in some wonderful creations!’
You’re all amazing!
‘Our sensitive son took quite some time to settle in at nursery, it was the first time he’d ever been away from us, but I found that the supportive and inclusive ethos of dandelion made a challenging situation very smooth and almost painless! They allowed us to settle him in slowly, taking our time and were truly parent/child led, which worked really well for our family. There were no tears! (Not even ours!)’
Thanks for all that you have done and still do!
Like many parents, we’re worried about the pressure placed on young children in conventional primary schools, but home-education wasn’t for us. We’ve found flexi-education to be the perfect solution for our Year 1 daughter, Esme. She’s attended Dandelion for two days a week and her usual primary school for three.
When we picked her up after her first day at Dandelion, we knew that flexi-education was the right choice. Esme looked like a weight had been taken off her shoulders. There was none of the stress we saw at the school gate.
Dandelion has given her new confidence, resilience and independence, and its Philosophy For Children (P4C) is a wonderful tool for children to make sense of the world. Dandelion has also been a release valve for some of that school pressure. Luckily, Esme going to three days a week at school hasn’t disadvantaged her socially or academically; we think she stays more enthusiastic about school this way too.
Dandelion’s Emma and Hayley came to meetings to help us make a case to our primary school. They have supported us, and Esme, all the way.
We really hope more parents are able to flexi-educate their children!
- Siobhan and Chris
Dandelions has been a breath of fresh air for our family and a real game changer. Here we have found a place where our child’s self confidence, independence and awareness of others is being lovingly nurtured. Whilst at the same time, his desire to explore, experiment, create and question is supported and encouraged. The adults are very conscious and considered in their use of language to show the children that they are respected and in turn, they are guided to treat others with respect and compassion. Our son is treated as the individual human that he is and we couldn’t be happier with this approach. Plus we LOVE seeing his gigantic grin shining through his muddy little face at the end of the day. We only wish there were a Dandelions for grown-ups…we’d be first in line!
“The trainers were very knowledgable and gave lots of positive ideas to go forward.”
“The trainers had a great dynamic and the role play was great!”
“It was good to giggle and not feeling awkward contributing!”
“The workshop was excellent. Exactly what I’d hoped for!”
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