• The Award for Early Years Team of the Year
  • Rathcoole Primary School and Nursery Unit
  • Silver Winners
  • 2023
  • Newtownabbey, County Antrim

At the heart of a Northern Irish community on an estate deeply affected by the Troubles and still with a paramilitary presence, this school has been described by inspectors as “remarkable and revolutionary”. A highly inclusive Nurture Champion and Forest School Champion school, the team adopts a trauma-informed, child-centred approach to teaching and learning.  

All children learn together through playing in a stimulating and nurturing environment. Many have Special and Educational Needs and families with difficult pastoral needs. They spend the majority of their day directing their own play in a free-flow system between indoors and outdoors, enabling staff to build relationships with the children through supporting their play and engaging them in plenty of meaningful chat.  

Whilst the idea of child-centred learning is not new, in Northern Ireland it is far from usual. Free-flowing play like this, with an emphasis on building on children’s interests, is not the norm, and required a leap of faith from the Principal. The approach has resulted in a significant decrease in behaviour management issues.