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North-east’s first outdoor nursery in a public park to open to youngsters next summer

The East Gate Lodge in Duthie Park, Aberdeen which will be converted to house an outdoor nursery over the next year.
The East Gate Lodge in Duthie Park, Aberdeen which will be converted to house an outdoor nursery over the next year.

Children could be learning in the north-east’s first outdoor nursery in a public park by the end of next summer.

Council officers have granted listed building consent for the renovation of the B-listed East Gate Lodge in Duthie Park, paving the way for the Scandanavian-style education in Aberdeen.

The proposals include a single-storey extension of the historic building, which dates back to 1883, which would enclose the outdoor space.

Education bosses claim the project, at the Polmuir Road park gate, will usher in a new kind of early learning and childcare (ELC), to be used as a base for three and four-year-olds to learn in the natural environment.

Plans outline woodland and green spaces to be used as a playground and classroom – with outdoor play believed to develop children’s motor skills, which are essential for writing and physical activity, and neurological development, helping them to manage their emotions and make sense of the world.

The facility will also provide targeted ELC to vulnerable two-year-olds and offer intensive support for families.

An artist’s impression of the Gate Lodge extension.

Council education bosses are to build the “desperately needed” facility in one of the city’s favourite green spaces in an effort to meet incoming requirements to provide care for more children.

The Scottish Government has delayed the doubling of funded provision to 1,140 hours a year because of the pandemic, though it had been due to come into effect next month.

While building to meet the new requirements has been disrupted by the lockdown, engineers have already undertaken site surveys and contractors will soon produce a price for the work.

Building is expected to begin in autumn and should be completed by next summer, it is understood.

Education convener John Wheeler said: “There has been a huge drive towards outdoor learning as it’s hugely important to a child’s development.

“People should be excited about the learning opportunities outdoor settings provide children.

“ELC provision has been under pressure in the area too so it will certainly be a welcome addition.”

Despite the north-east enjoying limited summer weather, he added: “The early years team would always say there is no such thing as the wrong weather for outdoor learning, and with the right resources, clothes and equipment it can provide learning year-round.

“Looking at Scandinavia or Germany, they use these all year round albeit with indoor supplements there, but with the right clothing there is no reason we couldn’t here.”

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