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Space scheme builds for the future

The last page of Community Playthings' 16-page brochure, Spaces: a room layout for early childhood education, is a give-away as to why the company is more than just a supplier of school equipment.

The impressive bibliography of 25 books on child development that supplements the company's advice on room layout in early years'

education gives an indication of the research that has gone into providing stimulating materials for children and getting the best out of school spaces.

"Our clients know there is a community philosophy behind the company," says Martin Huleatt, one of the sales managers. (Community Playthings has its origins in the Bruderhof - meaning place of brothers- community founded in Germany.) "Our products encourage children. They are open-ended, not prescriptive, and leave a lot for the child's imagination."

Sometimes, he says, it doesn't take new equipment to enhance the character of a nursery, only a rethink of the existing facilities.

After more than 10 years of using Community Playthings materials, Aileen Scullion, headteacher of Buchlyvie Nursery in Easterhouse, Glasgow, is more convinced than ever of their value in promoting all aspects of a child's development.

"The toys are all very simple and not complicated by colour, which is important because teachers have a tendency to push a child down the road of sorting and matching, that is, impose an adult agenda," she says.

"The Community Playthings toys leave a lot for the child's imagination and children are free to interpret what they are handling based on their own previous experience."

Flexibility and storage are other key factors for her. "Storage is simple, easily accessible and allows the children to make their own choices. The units are also flexible enough to allow us to stimulate renewed interest among the children by either changing the layout of a room or the specific purpose of a piece of furniture."

Ms Scullion has been especially impressed by the opportunities offered by blocks. "In the children's independent play with blocks we see the early stages of life skills such as communication, co-operation, planning and organising, plus block play provides the context for developing all the elements of the pre-five curriculum."

The photographs in her room of children building airports and high-rise buildings from blocks make her point graphically.

In Edinburgh, the Birrell Collection of six private nurseries has used the Community Plaything Roomscapes approach to great effect.

Pamela Dalgetty, a nursery manager, was impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness she encountered when she travelled to Sussex to discuss plans with the company.

"Their furniture is very child-friendly, hard-wearing and can be arranged in various combinations to form roomscapes," she says. "Walking into a room furnished by Community Playthings has a special feel about it."

Janette Marshall, headteacher of Penilee Nursery in Glasgow, drew upon the company's expertise in addressing a congestion problem in her open plan school after several attempts to better control the flow of adults and children. Community Playthings suggested installing a teacher's gate.

"Community Playthings not only installed the gate, they advised us how to make the best use of it," she says. "As a result we now have clear and easy to follow procedures for accessing the play areas of the school."

Stephen King of Community Playthings talks about Creating Space for Children, at 2pm on November 15To acquire a brochure, take one at the seminar or contact Community Playthings, tel 0800 387457

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