Giant Steps At Cumnor Nursery
by Hanna Lindon
The new nursery at Cumnor House Sussex is helping this leading prep school to forge stronger links with the local community. Hanna Lindon meets headmaster Christian Heinrich to find out more.
In a sunlit nursery with views over the distant Downs, several small children have settled down cross-legged for story time. Around them are signs that an enormous amount of fun has already been had this morning – colourful clothes crammed onto dressing up racks, a mat covered in Duplo towers and low tables neatly stocked with art supplies. Through the floor to ceiling windows, I can see past a grassy playground to the expansive playing fields beyond. This is Cumnor House Sussex’s idyllic new nursery, and it’s helping the school to forge even closer links with the surrounding community.
“What’s really brilliant about the nursery is that fees are in line with other local offerings but the children have access to all the school’s incredible facilities,” nursery manager Emily Tier tells me after story time. “They use the indoor swimming pool, the theatre, the sports hall, the Woodpeckers forest school and the playing fields.”
The sleek new nursery building only opened in January 2017, but there are already plans to extend its operating hours. From September, it will provide flexible childcare from 7am to 7pm for 50 weeks per year. Pyjama-clad kids can be delivered in time to have breakfast alongside the older boarders and then picked up all ready for bed at night.
“I think that it’s going to be a real game changer for the school,” says Cumnor House Sussex’s headmaster Christian Heinrich, as we sit down in his office later for a chat. “It’s going to position us within the community and give us a real sense of belonging. The idea, you see, is that everybody can use the nursery, not just people whose children will continue to the pre-prep and prep school.”
Cumnor House Sussex now provides for children of two all the way up to 13, and it’s hard to think of a more magical place to grow up. On top of the seriously impressive facilities – 65 acres of land for the kids to roam in, 14 sports fields, a brand new state-of-the-art STEM block, two swimming pools, music barn and full-size theatre just for starters – there’s an emphasis on kindness, consideration and courtesy that gives the school a genuinely happy feel. Christian is also justly proud of Cumnor House Sussex’s involvement in the local community. The school lends its theatre for local productions, gives some nearby primary schools free use of the facilities and holds popular science enrichment days. Still more excitingly, a unique new initiative called the Cumnor Foundation offers fully paid bursaries to children who live within a 20-mile radius of the school and show a particular ability academically and in sport, music, drama, DT or art.
On the way out, I mention to Christian that I’ve got an 18-month-old daughter at home.
“Well bring her in for a visit,” he enthuses, “see what she thinks of the nursery!” I’m going to. And I’m pretty convinced that she’ll love it.
Cumnor House School
Address: Danehill, London Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH17 7HT
Telephone: 01825 792 006