Tall Trees Kindergarten

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Tall Trees Kindergarten is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.


Highlighting best practice
Director Emma Comer
One of our many outdoor
exploration areas
Tall Trees Kindergarten has forged a unique path for
childcare, under the belief that children have creative
abilities that, if they are to flourish, must be nurtured
– a belief that is founded on research and observation. By
amalgamating the principles of early “outdoor education” and
the rich, hands-on exploration of the Montessori method, Tall
Trees Kindergarten has become an exemplar of a thriving early
years environment. At the fore of this effort is Emma Comer,
the nursery’s Founder, who is doing everything she can to place
children in as natural and creative an environment as possible.
Our distinctive method
In the course of setting up Tall Trees Kindergarten over 12 years ago, I came across
research on childcare that had not yet been put into action in many early years
settings. I realised that too many children were being boxed into unsuitable indoor
environments that did not take sufficient account of children’s need to be in a
calm, creative and natural setting.
As a Montessori teacher, I knew that the Montessori teaching method was an effective,
hands-on learning method but felt that there was an additional need for a more natural
way of enhancing young children’s learning. By combining “outdoor education” and
the Montessori method, I began the realisation of my goal of creating an exceptional
early years environment precisely suited to young children’s needs.
We have taken a great deal of conventional wisdom and turned it on its head. When
we first opened in 2006, for example, the idea of outdoor education – of exposing
»Director: Emma Comer
»Founded in 2006
»Based in Frome, Somerset
»Services: Nursery services
»No. of employees: 37
»Spaces: 100
»Uses the Montessori method
and outdoor education
Tall Trees
children to the elements – was frowned
upon. When Ofsted first saw that we
were allowing children to climb on
a small climbing frame, they were
horrified. We were told that it was an
“accident waiting tohappen”.
As time has gone on, however, there
has been greater recognition across the
board – including Ofsted now – that
children need managed risk. This is
because children have a strong need for
exploration; denying them the chance to
express their true inner nature can stunt
their overall development. Knowing
exactly what we wanted to achieve in
our market and sticking to it firmly were
therefore important components in our
success – something that could only
stem from being experts in the field.
Another example of innovation is with
regard to something seemingly simple:
flooring. I was told that coloured
flooring would be most suitable for
a nursery. This was under the flawed
assumption that children want to be
endlessly overstimulated with colour.
Instead, I asked for a more natural and
wood-like flooring, which was unusual
at the time. All of our rooms are now
natural, homely and calming – absent
of bright primary colours.
In tandem with this, the children do not
have access to screens – tablets, TVs
and computers – in the nursery. Some
might regard this as controversial, as
children ought to fit in with the modern
digital world. However, my research
and observation have strongly indicated
that young children pick up the ability
to use technology easily at any point
in early childhood. Indeed, research
shows that, in excess, technology use
can have a damaging effect on young
children’s development. This decision
ended up being popular, and we often
observe a sigh of relief when we tell
families on their first visit that we do
not use technology.
Young children should interact with the
world as it is, which is why we also have
our outdoor “Nature School”: a place
where children play and learn with
natural objects in fresh air, whatever
the season. All children, from babies
to pre-schoolers, are out in all weather
conditions for two to three hours per
day, and the older age groups are out
even longer. This natural environment Managed risk activities
in the Tall Trees Mud
there has been
across the
board –
Ofsted now
– that children
need managed
Highlighting best practice
relaxes our children and nourishes their
development in myriad ways.
Moreover, virtually all of the food
is home-cooked, locally sourced
and organic. In doing this, we have
earned ourselves a Soil Association
Gold Award and have attracted much
positive attention. Ultimately, we
want to provide the very best for our
children in all that we do.
We’re looking to expand and develop
wherever it offers us potential
improvement, regularly evaluating our
performance to see what works and
what doesn’t. We have no dogmatic
attachment to certain ways of doing
things. Getting our practices right
is not just a matter of providing the
best possible care and education for
young children; it’s also a matter of us
thriving in a competitive market.
Parents have recognised our strong
vision of excellence and are therefore
willing to pay that little bit extra.
Indeed, we are successful enough to
have long waiting lists and to not need
advertising campaigns, as most of our
custom is via reputation.
Issues in the sector
There is a government drive for
the early years sector to provide
cheap childcare, probably under the
assumption that this will encourage
more parents to work, therefore
boosting the economy. This line of
thinking is flawed, however, as many
parents will not go back to work unless
their children have the right childcare.
Our families regularly tell us that they’re
willing to pay a premium because this
ensures that their children get the best
possible experience. We have a diverse
range of families that come to us.
Every parent, whatever their financial
position, wants the best for their child,
and many families can take advantage
of the government funding, tax credit
and voucherschemes.
On the issue of finance, however, we
find that the systems in place for parents
to claim nursery funding, as well as other
sources of help, are too complex. The
administration costs required to oversee
them have therefore rocketed in recent
years. Various early years organisations
have been campaigning vigorously
for the government to recognise the
financial and administrative challenges
in early years education.
Additionally, the government have not
created a level playing field between
private and school-based early years
providers. School-based settings can
run on much lower ratios and do not
have the same overheads (such as
business rates) as the private early
years sector and appear to receive
more government support.
We sincerely wish that the government
would start to listen to, and place more
value on, a sector
that is so central
to the economic development of our
country and, most importantly, to the
welfare and developmental potential
of the next generation.
Nevertheless, we confidently believe in
our more natural approach to childcare
and believe that we are well equipped
to help to raise a generation of well-
adjusted, independent, thoughtful,
creative, caring and inquisitive children
– and therein lies the ultimate goal of
Tall Trees Kindergarten.
All of our
rooms are
now natural,
homely and
calming –
absent of
bright primary
Our homely, natural
and calming indoor


This article was sponsored by Tall Trees Kindergarten. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.