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Friendly Families Nursery

all, early years

New nursery school co-designed & built by families

Friendly Family Nursery is a parent led nursery born out of an ongoing action research project initiated by the New Economic Foundation (NEF) in response to the childcare emergency in the UK. NEF partnered with Coram Children’s Charity and Peabody Communities Trust and Co‑DB to refurbish a disused nursery site in Deptford, London, and help form a new parent led nursery in its place.


This was one of NEF's first capitol projects and the team there needed to bring in external expertise in funding, planning, project management, design and delivery for the refurbishment and furnishing of the nursery space both for eventual nursery use but also as a means to engage local families right from the start.


We developed a unique capitol delivery strategy with increasingly detailed iterations of co‑production activity built in to mirror and support the inception of the new nursery organisation as a whole. Using this proposal we supported NEF to make the successful GLA funding application.


From the outset we used loose-parts play theory to inform our co-design approach, observing and adjusting spaces with children as young as 2 years old. As parental involvement increased so too did the focus of the stay-and-play sessions from exploration of architectural theory to more concrete investigations. As the new organisation incorporated and took on its first staff our focus turned to building permanent furniture and developing branding and signage. Once accredited by Ofsted and operating as a fully fledged nursery we returned to work with staff and enrolled families to continue designing additional spaces and fittings.


We undertook an initial strip back and making safe of the site and provided simple enabling furniture to set the tone and allow groups to meet. From the outset we encouraged families to make things, with 'stay, play and build' workshops taking place to build play equipment and basic furniture. Later, more permanent furniture and features were produced in the workshop and delivered to site to be installed during community build days.


Over the course of a year a community of families literally designed and built their own childcare provision, through innovative stay and play workshops and now run the nursery on an ongoing basis. Learning has been central to the whole process and for all stakeholders and core to the ability of the group to successfully go on to secure further funding to record and disseminate the learning from that initial year and beyond. Parents involved have gone on to develop self initiated support programs within the community, as well as successfully entering work whilst maintaining a close connection to their young children's learning and development.

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