How did Margaret McMillan change early years education?


The nursery is comprised of six shelters and they’re called shelters because the children were encouraged to do most of their learning outdoors and seek shelter if the weather wasn’t nice or if they needed a more quiet space. In 1914, upcoming to the war, the McMillan sisters realised that there was a need for nursery education, particularly for the mothers who were going into the local munitions factories. This created a huge change for these children, who were either playing in the streets while their parents were at work, or stuck in these tenement flats with nothing to do and nowhere to go. This ethos of children’s entire wellbeing and education has carried through to contemporary society and it is still the focus of early years education not only in England, but in a lot of the Western world. Now if you look over here, what they’ve done is they’ve created a water feature, there’s both sand and water, and the children absolutely love it, and they have the idea of flow that they can work with. Margaret and Rachel McMillan’s fight for young children and their education is still the fight that we are facing as early years educators in contemporary society. People don’t necessarily embrace the need for children to play in order to learn, that it’s important for children to make choices about what they want to engage. Nurseries are being absorbed into primary schools, rather than having nursery schools. My research, I hope, will help people understand the importance of nursery schools, the importance of keeping these children centres open and all of these ideas that the McMillan sisters really embraced for parents, for children and for future teachers, are what I help my current student teachers understand and embrace and try to replicate when they go into their learning environment. Some of the original garden features are still here, this memoriam to Margaret McMillan, as you can see the children use chalk and paint and draw on it, and there was a deep discussion about whether the children should be allowed to continue doing that, and the decision was to let them keep doing that, because that’s what children do.

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