A SCHOOL has been rated outstanding by an education watchdog.

Willow Garden Day Nursery in Heath Road, Grays, received praise across the board by Ofsted in its latest inspection.

The nursery is based within a three-quarter acre of woodland with mature gardens.

It is a mini forest school with a huge outdoor classroom providing opportunities for children to learn in every season – and whatever the weather – with natural materials and in natural surroundings.

This includes a fish pond, a wide variety of fruit trees and an abundance of wildlife, birdlife and insect life.

It cares for children up to the age of five.

In its report, published on May 8, Ofsted said: “Children are extremely happy and content.

“They say they love ‘everything’ about their nursery. Children settle quickly as the dedicated and nurturing staff team help them to feel welcome and part of the nursery community from their first day.

“Children form close bonds with their key persons and other staff.

“They enjoy exploring the fascinating resources available to them and demonstrate, by their calm and relaxed demeanour, that they feel secure and safe.”

The nursery’s staff have been trained in the forest school approach to learning by Essex Wildlife Trust and the nursery has achieved the Gold Level in Environmental Management (STEM).

It received a Special Recognition Award for this at the LOCASE (Low Carbon Across the South East) Business Awards in July 2019.

Ofsted added: “Staff are exceptionally skilled and talented, and the quality of teaching is high.

“Managers are conscientious about the personal and professional development of the staff and are extremely mindful of their wellbeing.

“Staff observe each other’s practice and continually reflect on the effectiveness of the activities they provide.”