Girton village website

Focus on Nurseries and Pre-schools

COTTONTAILS is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year as the longest established pre-school facility in the village. It is run by a committee of parents of children attending the pre-school and other interested parties, for the benefit of the village community. Cottontails is currently managed by Emma Pell, Pre-School Manager, and takes children from the term in which they turn three until the rising fives leave for Primary School. The overwhelming majority of children who attend live in Girton, and most will plan to go on to the Glebe School (if there are places!). They meet in the Cotton Hall from 9 am to 12 noon on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, with a lunch club on those days from 12 to 12.30, then an afternoon session from 12.30 to 3 pm. On Tuesdays and Fridays they operate in the morning only. Most children attend for just half a day, but a few stay all day. Children who stay for the lunch club bring their own packed lunch, while the school provides simple, healthy daytime snacks such as fruit and breadsticks.

If you have ever attended events in the Cotton Hall you would not believe it is the same place when Cottontails is in session. It is vibrant with colour, with the space partitioned with screens (adorned with children's artwork) into areas for messy play, construction, drawing and marking, home play, snack table, and quiet areas, and of course lots of toys. The staff perform a miraculous feat of 3-D jigsaw-puzzling to make all the toys, tables, and child-sized chairs disappear after school closes! Doors lead onto the pleasant outdoor play area, and children are constantly running in and out, getting lots of lovely fresh air. Outside, the same sort of activities are set up as indoors, with the addition of lots of scope for biking and scootering around the hard playground. There is also a brand new play house outside which is a big success with the children.

The ethos, as in all modern pre-schools, is that children learn through play. However, Ofsted takes an interest - there is an Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum which has to be followed. It isn't a Victorian regime, however, and children are encouraged to explore and discover things (and abilities) for themselves in a relatively unstructured environment, and gently acquire the skills they will need at school. Thursday afternoon sessions are exclusively for the 4-pluses who will be going on to primary school at the end of the school year. So outings are arranged, for example to Wimpole Home Farm or to Hamerton Zoo near Peterborough, and the children have also visited local businesses like Peter Graves Florist and the Co-op, as well as going for picnics on the Recreation Ground. At this stage, slightly more structure is introduced, so that the routines of school won't seem strange, such as taking the register, sitting on the carpet and listening, and participating in adult-led activities.

Currently there are 62 children on the register, with 28 children attending each session.

Contact: Emma Pell, tel. 07935-224607; email; website

SCALLYWAGS day nursery has been established in Cambridge Road for nineteen years. The nursery, owned by Ian and Alison Bradley, started in April 1994 with 15 children, and today the school has 37 on the register, with 35 children attending most days. Not many of the children attend full-time; most come 3 or 4 days per week. Ages range from the tiniest at around 6 months, to the 4-pluses who are about to move on to 'Big School'. As most of the children are from Girton, they will move on to the Glebe School, just across the road, which makes for a very nice and easy transition.

Currently the nursery occupies three rooms, with 0-2-year-olds upstairs and the older children in the two downstairs rooms. However, a major refurbishment is in the works, which should be close to completion by the time you read this article. This will involve creating a wonderful open-plan space downstairs with a new reception area and new toilets, and lots of new toys, as well as updating amenities throughout. The outside play area will also be upgraded, with a new play surface and areas for digging and growing things.

Any pre-school is a hive of activity and Scallywags is no exception. Open from 7.30 in the morning until 6 in the evening, the day for many children starts with breakfast provided by the school. Some of the children have siblings at the Glebe, and they may also come along to enjoy a healthy breakfast before Scallywags staff escort them across the road to the Glebe. Then at the end of the school day, staff will meet the brothers and sisters and bring them back to Scallywags until their parents are ready to collect them. Breakfast, a hot lunch, tea and snacks are all prepared from fresh ingredients at Scallywags in Westwick (also owned by Alison), and brought over by Debbie, their full-time cook. All children are offered '5-a-day' of fresh fruit and vegetables, the food is sourced locally, and local suppliers are used.

There is no time for children to get bored. Apart from all the delightful, messy, noisy pre-school activities such as finger painting, modelling, building things (and knocking them down), once a week there are football, Tumbletots, and Spanish lessons. Twice a week the school minibus takes children over to the Westwick site where Scallywags runs a Scandinavian-style 'Forest School'. This outside play area in a woodland setting gives the children the opportunity to 'be wild', building dens, climbing trees, and playing in the mud kitchen. They play outside whatever the weather, and the school provides wellies and waterproofs to keep everyone dry. At Westwick there is also a small menagerie of animals, and Clare, the dedicated Animal Carer, regularly brings over to Girton one or more of the ducks, rabbits, goats, sheep, or chickens, for the children to get to know.

Scallywags loves to be involved with the village. The children are taken on picnics at the Recreation Ground and on shopping expeditions to the Co-op to buy supplies for class projects, and have entertained (and been entertained by) the residents of Orchard Close for tea, as well as sharing their Christmas Play with them. They would especially love to visit the Allotments - would any allotment holder like to entertain a band of eager little helpers from time to time?

To celebrate its newly refurbished premises, Scallywags is holding an Open Day on 27th April to which all are welcome, whether prospective parents or simply the curious. Put the date in your diaries!

Contact: Scallywags Day Nursery, 48 Cambridge Road, Girton, CB3 0PJ; tel. (01223) 232400; website


Girton Nursery is a relatively new arrival, having opened on 1st August, 2012 in a newly refurbished building in the Camboro Business Park in Oakington Road, next to the Barn gym. It is part of HRH Nurseries, a family-run business owned by Glenda (aka Glen) Perrott and her husband David, together with daughter Charlotte Anderson, a Girton resident, who is in charge of the day-to-day running of the Girton facility. Glen and Charlotte are both qualified teachers, with Glen now focusing on the care aspects of the business and Charlotte on the educational aspects. In addition to the Girton facility, they own and run nurseries in Hinchingbrooke and St Ives, and hope to open another facility in Cambridge in due course.

They love the building and its surroundings. There are two big gardens where the children can play outside, and inside the space is divided into two huge, open-plan rooms, one for children up to 2 years 3 months and the other for the older children. Quiet corners and a carefully planned use of space mean that there is room for running about, yet the atmosphere is not overwhelming. The nursery could accommodate up to 50 children from 0 to 8. Charlotte collects some older siblings from the Glebe after school, a boon for working parents. There is a mixture of full and part-time children.

This is very much a local nursery: 75 per cent of the children come from Girton. The majority of the others are from Oakington and Histon, and there are a few children of people who work at other businesses on the site. In these days of diversity, however, the children come from many different cultural backgrounds and 10 different languages are spoken, something the nursery celebrates by honouring holidays and festivals from around the world that are relevant to the children. In addition, the nursery has started Spanish lessons through song and play with a qualified teacher from Spain.

Outside activities play a big part in the nursery day. In the gardens, apart from the usual range of messy, energetic, and role-playing activities, the children will be growing herbs and vegetables in the coming year, which they plan to use in cooking. Just across from the school they can access the end of the Recreation Ground from Manor Farm Road, so walking expeditions give the children an opportunity to jump in puddles and squelch in the mud - there's been rather a lot of that since they moved in! - and go for picnics in the summer. Inside, in accordance with each child's needs and abilities, children will be prepared gently for the transition to school, with access to a computer with age-appropriate programs, and a dedicated and well-qualified staff to give plenty of individual attention. And we mustn't forget 'Dancing Emma', who comes in to conduct Street Dancing classes which are very much enjoyed!

All meals are prepared using fresh ingredients, in the kitchen on the premises by a fully qualified cook. Special dietary needs are well catered for.

A book library enables parents to borrow books that the children may have been reading in their groups, thus strengthening the links between nursery and home. Finally, in the entrance hall is an electronic photo screen which plays pictures of what the children have been doing during the week, so parents can see what their little ones have been up to (having fun!) and feel included in the life of the nursery.

Contact: Glen Perrott or Charlotte Anderson, Girton Nursery, Camboro Business Park, Oakington Road, Girton CB3 0QH; tel. (01223) 233751; email; website

Angela Blackburn

"Focus on Girton" is a series of occasional articles on the organisations of Girton. Articles are written independently by members of the editorial team of the Girton Parish News with the consent and cooperation of the organisation concerned. The selection of organisations featured is entirely at the discretion of the editorial team. The articles do not in themselves represent an endorsement of the aims or activities of organisations. No link exists between the publication of an article and any paid advertising in the Girton Parish News, whether in the same issue or more generally. The article may also be found on the Girton Parish website at