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(Photograph) - Visitors to Hedon nursery in the East Riding of Yorkshire may be forgiven for thinking that the children there are just playing. One group of three-year-olds - (above, from left, Phoebe, Alex and Isabel) is busy pretending to write a shopping list for the three bears, who need oats, milk and sugar for their porridge.

Another group is concentrating on whether the tape they are listening to is of a clock ticking or the clatter of horses' hooves.

In fact, these children are working on learning literacy. The activities have been chosen to prepare them to write by making marks and to read by distinguishing sounds.

Karen Hunter, the headteacher, said: "We put out activities for the children. The children pick for themselves what to do, but adults are there observing and interacting when they see an opportunity for learning arise."

Inspectors have described the nursery as exceptional and Mrs Hunter's leadership as outstanding, praising the meticulous planning of activities. Photograph:Steve Hill

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