St John’s College Nursery welcomed its first children on 28 November.

St John’s College opened the doors of its brand new Nursery for under-fives on 28 November, providing places for up to 26 children of College staff and students.

Bainton Road Nursery artist's impression

Inspired by St John’s 2013 ‘2000 Women’ campaign, which celebrated the 2000th woman to matriculate from the College, the Nursery is the culmination of several years’ planning and development, and the determination of Professor Maggie Snowling, St John’s first female President, who championed the facility for working and student parents.

‘My research specialism includes how children learn languages, and I know how vitally important Early Years learning is to their language development,’ Maggie Snowling said.

‘I also appreciate just how hard it can be for some mothers to focus on their jobs and careers if they’re worried about their child’s wellbeing while at work,’ she continued.

‘Our Nursery will allow parents and their children to flourish while they are working at St John’s. The College has long wanted to offer local, high quality nursery provision as part of its efforts to attract and support the best staff and students to work and study with us, regardless of background or personal circumstances, and I’m delighted to see that vision take shape with the opening of our new Nursery.’

Bainton Road Nursery

Located beside St John’s Sports Ground off Bainton Road in north Oxford, the Nursery incorporates a range of state-of-the-art facilities while being homely, warm and welcoming for babies and young children up to the age of five.

Nick Bradley, architect for Savills Ltd (UK), who designed the nursery said, ‘We developed the design following much discussion with nursery experts, College parents, and local residents.

‘The architectural features illustrate how we have incorporated the needs of each group. For example, the building has a low, living green roof, using sedum which will change colour with the seasons and afford neighbours uninterrupted views onto the St John’s Sports Ground beyond while also helping retain privacy inside the new building.

‘For the comfort of staff and children, the roof incorporates innovative conical-shaped roof lights which will bathe the nursery in natural light while reducing the impact of direct sunlight. They also enhance temperature control by allowing warm air to escape as required.

‘Other special architectural features including a telescopic glazed facade that disappears into a pocket to frame a picturesque view of the St John’s Sports Ground; plus a “quiet room” that has dual use as a cinema.

‘I suspect though that the children may well enjoy most a “secret garden” which has child-sized tiered “amphitheatre” seating. The garden also incorporates acoustic features designed to minimise any playground noise for the neighbours.’

Marie Gaughan, recently appointed as Nursery Manager, commented: ‘I share Maggie Snowling’s commitment to Early Years language at foundation stage, and welcome this great opportunity for me to build a new team and create a thriving nursery in a wonderful location. We have our own kitchen and the chef will be cooking fresh food every day for the children and staff.  I’ve been in nursery education all my working life, including the largest nurseries which can accommodate up to 170 children, but for me this size and setting is perfect.

Nursery, son of Professor Alison Hills

‘Nursery life is very different to school. It’s about creating a home from home environment, inspiring activities and resources for the children to explore, supporting them with loving care and attention through our keyperson system. But most important is that the children who attend Bainton Road Nursery become confident with high levels of self-esteem, and love learning. This helps support each child in taking the next big step into school.’

This picture shows Toby, son of Professor Alison Hills, Tutorial Fellow and University Lecturer in Philosophy, checking out the  building work in August. Toby will be joining Bainton Road Nursery in November.

Professor Andrew Parker, Principal Bursar at St John’s College said, ‘While the Nursery is a separate business entity, as a fully-owned subsidiary company of St John’s College we’re delighted to include it in our wider estate management and facilities best practice. There remains a shortage of nursery places in Oxford and this welcome facility will help ease some of that pressure on places.’

St John’s staff and students will have priority on places for their children at the Nursery. 
Staff and students of Oxford University may also apply for places.
Staff and students wishing to apply for a place should email the Nursery Manager, Marie Gaughan.
The Nursery has its own website here.

architecture photo credits: Nicholas Bradley RIBA (Savills (UK) Ltd)