Dandelion Education reaches new heights at award celebration!

Dandelion Education reached new heights as Emma & Hayley were invited to The Shard by Nursery Management Today (NMT) to celebrate their Top 5 Inspirational Leader award!

Here is what NMT had to say about our wonderful Dandelion founders;

“Emma and Hayley have created something when they were told it wouldn’t work. Breaking the mould and taking a gamble is truly inspirational.  Hayley and Emma are passionate tenacious advocates for all children. Together they are a force majeure, outspoken when necessary , and focused on improving social mobility for every child. This duo have an unshakeable determination to improve Early Years Education, their innovation and creativity gave birth to a unique business based on the resolute belief that education should be child-led.” 

Hayley said; “…it was a wonderful evening , humbling to be amongst so many dedicated and passionate  professionals.” 
What a brilliant way to celebrate the nursery world’s most inspirational leaders and not a single set of waterproofs insight! If you’d like to find out more about the awards…visithttp://nmt-magazine.co.uk


Winners of NMT Top 5 Inspirational Leaders category!

We are very excited to share that our wonderful Dandelion founders and Managing Directors, Emma Harwood and Hayley Room have received an award from Nursery Management Today (NMT) for making a huge difference to the Under 5s childcare/early years sector through incredibly inspirational leadership.

Within this particular category, NMT were looking for exceptional people who are making a significant difference to the children within their care and their parents, and are an inspiration to the people who work round them.

This is an incredible accolade and it’s very clear to see why Emma and Hayley would be amongst the Top 5 exceptional people selected for this. They both work tirelessly to change the narrative in the nursery sector and continually challenge the status quo around the way children are cared for. Pioneers of Dandelion Education, the very first nursery in Britain to combine both PHILOSOPHY FOR CHILDREN (P4C) and FOREST SCHOOL and nurtures all round cognitive development, well-being and resilience.

To celebrate, the 5 winners have been invited to the top of The Shard for a special treat before the NMT Nursery Top 20 dinner for an adrenaline fuelled experience from London’s highest viewing gallery complete with champagne! Being great advocates for tree climbing, Emma and Hayley will be fully prepared for such heights…however, what we’re all wondering is will they be wearing their waterproofs? You’ll have to check back after the event to find out.

Each year, NMT aims to discover, recognise and reward the top 20 people and businesses who are most influential and inspiring within the childcare sector. You can see all of the award winners here http://nmt-magazine.co.uk/top20/

Inclusion should be Invisible in Early Years Settings and Beyond

Meeting the needs of children with SEND is challenging, but the best settings will find ways to adapt, says Hayley Room…

It is a sad fact that we are failing children when it comes to inclusionInclusion means adapting to meet children’s unique individual needs, but in practice, it too often involves attempting to adapt the child, to squeeze them into a one-size-fits-all box. School anxiety, self-harming, anxiety-vomiting, children alone in corridors ‘self-calming’ is not inclusion. Yet these experiences are not unusual; they occur throughout the system from early years to secondary. Funding cuts are forcing families in most need to live in educational limbo while they await places in special schools, places that don’t exist.

Currently 15% of children on school roll (maintained settings) are registered as SEND, and yet 17% of maintained nurseries receive no funding at all. And the PVI sector? Sadly, there appears to be a data black hole – the PVI sector is excluded!

The factors that threaten outstanding SEND support are numerous – from the erosion of funding leading to a reduction in specialist services and access to expertise, and a shortfall of SEND funding for two-year-olds and those using the 30 hours offer, to the excessive amount of time that must be set aside to create reports and assessments. The SEND crisis is the global warming effect on cohorts of children with SEND: the sea is rising and we are watching.

Adapting our practice

At Dandelion, as for all settings, our issue is funding. Like others, we ‘take the hit’. But, a greater problem for us is that we meet children’s needs, and do so without the need for EHC plans (EHCPs). This means that when our children eventually transition to schools, the EHCP process is delayed, hindering their access to support services. Should we therefore leave children to flounder and allow despondency and anxiety to fester? Watch as families and children drown?

The answer is obvious. We adapt, and the focus in always the child. Most vitally, we see the child before the SEND issue. Infuriatingly, you often hear the phrase ‘an autistic child’ or ‘ a disabled child’. No! The child is a child with ASD, or a child with SEND. Just as a child with cancer is a child with cancer, not a cancer child.

We spend unfunded, voluntary time meeting with parents, writing reports and contributing to assessments. Our Masters level-trained SENDCo supports parents and works with our six qualified teachers and seven practitioners, in order to develop graduated plans; we put measures into place that ensure our inclusion is invisible, yet targeted and effective. The child’s voice and the parent’s voice are intrinsic to this process. Our staff are highly qualified. Our lead teacher is senSI trained; one practitioner is completing her dissertation on attachment and our ‘invisible inclusionapproach’. Staff attend regular courses and are encouraged to read around SEND issues.

Along with our staff, our approach consists of

● flexible settling periods;

● personalised visual aids, created and reviewed in partnership with parents and the child;

● dedicated safe spaces, chosen by children, shared with all practitioners and the family;

● gradual transitions into new settings, using flexi-schooling options unique to the child;

● scripted behaviour management approaches;

● our use of Philosophy 4 Children, promoting tolerance, respect, empathy, self-awareness and an awareness of others’ needs;

● a focus on wellbeing and health – a therapy dog, daily yoga and peer massage;

● high adult-to-child ratios enabling unharried interactions – time to listen, interpret and resolve;

● few, but scheduled, interruptions to sessions; and

● unique streamlined and targeted SEND assessments, focusing on the development of executive functioning skills.

The effect is that inclusion at Dandelion is invisible. Children are empowered through a scripted, choice-based approach that enables each one to feel in control. Teaching and behaviour management is often ‘done to’ children; we talk and work with them. They know they are respected, that they are valued. This leads to a reduction in conflict and stress and fewer accidents, thus happier children and strong positive relationships.

Testament to the success of our approach is the Inclusive Practice award we received from Nursery World in 2018, and our many parent testimonials: one parent remarked of their son, “X had become a child who sat beneath a table wearing ear defenders; he began lashing out physically, screaming and running away, but he has now returned to being a confident and secure child, motivated to learn and forming special friendships.”

In this parent’s own words, “X is flourishing.” He is flourishing because Dandelion is inclusive.

Hayley Room is co-managing director of Dandelion Education.


We are recruiting!






Aylsham 14 hours per week (M 8-4, T 8.30-12.30, W 8.30-12.30)

Eaton 12 hours per week (Monday-Thursday 8.30-12.30)

Start: ASAP

Salary: National minimum wage – £8.50 per hour dependent on qualifications and experience

Job requirements:

To work as part of a professional team, focusing on the delivery of quality educational childcare, and a diverse curriculum within our setting. To reflect and implement Dandelion’s ethos and approach at all times. To work within the framework of the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework.


A relentless passion for the care, learning, and development of young children

Be open and positive to learning and gaining new skills through teamwork and training opportunities offered through the setting

Excellent communication skills

Be a reflective practitioner

At least two years proven experience in a childcare setting



Level 2+  qualification in the relevant area

GCSE Maths/English, or equivalent

A proven dedication to working with young children

At least 2 years experience of working with children aged 2-5

Some understanding of the importance of Health & Safety, First Aid and Food Hygiene in the workplace

Nice to have

A positive approach to completing relevant short courses and qualifications

Degree (or a willingness to pursue higher qualifications)

Health & Safety certificate

Paediatric First Aid certificate

Safeguarding training

We take care of our team just as well as our team take care of our little Dandelions. Everyone is treated equally and with ongoing respect. We do have high expectations, but this is why Dandelion is a wonderful place for both staff and children. We offer our team an excellent range of perks – 

  • 5.6 weeks paid holidays
  • The opportunity to further your qualifications
  • Our very unique and bespoke training program
  • The opportunity to work at our beautiful sites and be out in nature every day!
  • Competitive salaries
  • Career progression opportunities

To apply please send a CV and a covering letter explaining why you would like to become part of the Dandelion team.

To learn more about what we do at Dandelion Education, take a look at our Facebook page or our website. Alternatively please do send us an email to dandelionsnorfolk@gmail.com.

Closing date: May 6th

Interviews: W/C 13th May


Aylsham site development

The tree surgeons are in, the dead wood is down…Dandelion has arrived in Brick Kiln Wood!
Elder, Hazel, Sycamore, Sweet Chestnut…watchful squirrels…wildlife in abundance…it’s going to be stunning! Watch this space!

We’re hiring!

We’re pleased to announce that, due to popular demand, Dandelion Education Ltd is hiring 2 more staff members!

Are you passionate about working with young children, in a unique, enabling, multi-award winning environment?

Are you interested in delivering bespoke, high-quality care, learning and development of young children?

Then maybe Dandelion is your next adventure!

We’re hiring an:

Early Years Practitioner to work 13.5 h/pw; able to focus on the the delivery of quality educational childcare, and a diverse curriculum, within our setting.

A Forest School Leader to work 6 h/pw, to plan, deliver, and manage, an off-site Dandelion session, ensuring that the session runs efficiently, and that Dandelion continues to deliver outstanding educational childcare.

We’re hosting an informal meet and greet session at our Eaton site, to give you the chance to get to know us and the way we approach early years learning and development. Please email to let us know you’re coming.

If you’re interested in Dandelion and our offering, then take a look at the job descriptions below:

Early Years Practitioner

Forest School Leader

NEW application form

Dandelion is an NMT award winner!

Dandelion Education Ltd, a Norfolk based multi award-winning Nursery, has won a further accolade. On Saturday 3rd December, Dandelion was awarded first place in the Outdoor Learning Environment category in the 16th National NMT Nursery Awards 2018.

Hayley Room and Emma Harwood, founders and managing-directors of Dandelion said: “To receive an award from such a highly regarded magazine, for professionals, completes what has already been a fabulous and successful year. We can’t wait for our 2019 plans to become a reality. Watch this space!”

Winners of the 16th National NMT Nursery Awards were presented with their trophies by host Gethin Jones at the high-profile Gala Night held on Saturday, 1st December at the Hilton London Metropole attended by over 600 guests.

The judging panel stated  that ‘Dandelion Education have a greater emphasis on staff resource rather than environment and ‘man made’ commercial resources andinnovative thinking regarding using natural resources, such as leaves for writing, of bringing stones to life in the outdoors. They support children with additional needs very effectively and were able to evidence the health benefits to both children and staff. The authenticity in their approach really shone through.’

About the Awards:

NMT Nursery Awards 2018 is an annual event organised by Nursery Management Today, the leading business publication in the nursery sector and sponsored by key companies providing services in the sector. The Awards are designed to reward excellence in childcare and celebrate the very best people in the Nursery Sector. There were 17 categories to enter overall and there were four or five finalists in each category with three independent judges. For more information and all categories, please visit www.nmt-magazine.co.uk/awards/

Dandelion’s consultancy continues

We’re heading to Scotland’s Big Bird Nursery for the second time this weekend, to training their staff in Early Reading and writing, and Phonics!

And it doesn’t stop there! We’re also heading to Coventry to Beatle Woods nursery, to support them in the development of a flexi-ed provision. 

Flexi-Education/ Reception Year Deferment

It’s that time of year when many of you will be considering school options for your children.  To help with your decision making, we are holding an Information Session regarding Flexi-Education/ Reception Year DefermentWe know that age 4-5 is too young for children to begin formalised learning.
At Dandelion, we advocate deferring your child’s entry into school by spending at least their reception year with us. We also advocate flexi-educating children, whether this is for their Reception year or beyond. Last year 10% of our children deferred, of these, 38% have chosen to flexi-ed. This brings of our total of flexi-ed children to 15%.

We would like to invite all parents/carers who are interested in this child-led approach, and who would like to know more,  to an information session with Hayley and Emma Dandelion.

Eaton Vale Scout Centre
Church Lane
Eaton Vale
Saturday 3rd November
Please book a free place online and spread the word! (Spaces available to book at the end of the week!)
We advise against bringing children to the session unless unavoidable!

Finalists for Women in Business awards


We’re so proud to announce that Dandelion has been announced a finalist in the Children and Families category, for this years Women in Business awards! The ceremony will be held in London on the 11th October, where we will be celebrating our achievements with the Dandelion team.



‘Sex ed should start in the early years’

Dandelion has had an article published in Early Years magazine! The feature discusses how to approach sex education with children – explaining why it is important why early years setting should be tackling the subject to teach children about relationships, respect, body ownership and appropriate touch.

This is a comment from a reader of Dandelion’s article:

That article is amazing!! Just what I needed to read, I think all of that but sometimes feel I maybe being ‘to adult’ with my child.

We’ve had a thing about “daddy’s willy” recently and this article has helped me realise how we ‘dealt’ with it was the right way forward.

All to much to explain in an email, but just know what you are doing is helping families at home too. I’ve started singing Dandelion’s ‘body song’ at home. 

Thank you!

You can read the article below, or subscribe via this link: https://www.teachwire.net/early-years


Rural Business Awards

Dandelion Education has been shortlisted in the East Best Rural Education or Training Business category of the Rural Business Awards 2018/19!

Award news!

We’ve been shortlisted by Nursery World for 3 of their award categories:

  • Health and Well Being
  • Enabling Environment
  • Inclusive Practice

We’re keeping our fingers and toes crossed!

Dandelion to speak at ‘Excelling at Early Years Inspections’ conference

On Thursday 22nd November Dandelion will be a guest speaker at ‘Excelling at Early Years Inspections’ conference in London.

The course aims to provide you with practical advice on how to to attain the best Ofsted rating and ensure positive outcomes for all children.

Dandelion will be discussing how they provide an ‘Outstanding Early Years Curriculum’. The agenda for their session is:

  • Deliver and demonstrate ‘outstanding’ teaching, learning and assessment
  • Introduce a broad and balanced curriculum including learning through play
  • Develop ways to involve parents in supporting their children’s learning and development
  • Create strategies to improve outcomes for all children and prepare them for primary education

If you would like to get a ticket, head to this website.

A visit from Clive Lewis



Clive Lewis is a British Labour politician who is a member of parliament for Norwich South since 2015.

On June 15th Clive visited Dandelion to get a taste of what we can offer.

A visit from Jan White

On June the 12th Jan White visited us to take a look at what we do at Dandelion. Jane White is an advocate for high quality outdoor provision for services for children from birth to five.

She is also an the author of Playing and Learning Outdoors: making provision for high quality experiences in the outdoor Environment(Routledge, 2008) and Making a Mud Kitchen (Muddy Faces 2012), editor of Outdoor Provision in the Early Years (Sage, 2011) and I collaborated with Siren Films to make the training DVDs Babies OutdoorsToddlers Outdoors and Two Year-olds Outdoors (Siren Films, 2011).

Parent Partnership Workshop

We will be offering a practical, interactive workshop delivered by experienced teachers offering useful tips on:

  • Positively managing your child’s behaviour,
  • Promoting respectful relationships,
  • Using positive language to manage interactions

This is what the parents thought about our adult training sessions:

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!”


TEDxNorwichED 2018: Dream Big

Emma will be joining a wide range of other inspiring, captivating and interesting speakers at the TEDxNorwichED 2018: Dream Big event taking place on 28th April at The Space, Roundtree Way, Norwich. (more…)

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