AN Italian woman has taken over a well established children’s nursery in Carleton - has made it a Montessori nursery and has installed a top chef as her menu advisor.

Maria Cristina Branchetti read about a fundraising event in the Craven Herald in memory of the former owner of The Rocking Horse Nursery, Jackie Asquith, who ran the nursery for more than 20 years and who sadly died early last year.

Maria Cristina approached Jackie’s husband Brian, with a view to taking the nursery on, he agreed, and after a few months refurbishing the premises, Maria has now reopened the nursery as the Rocking Horse Montessori Nursery - keeping the name that Jackie gave it.

Maria Cristina, who lives in Skipton with her partner, has a strong background in Montessori - a system of education for children developed by Italian physician Maria Montessori that seeks to develop natural interests and activities rather than formal teaching methods.

She said: “It’s taken quite a few months and lots of effort to refurbish the nursery - I am keeping the name as a continuation of Jackie’s work, and it is now a Montessori nursery. Ofsted came for an inspection two weeks ago and I’m delighted to say that we are now fully registered and ready to open.”

Maria Cristina started her training 20 years ago at an international Montessori and Reggio Emilia inspired nursery in Rome where she gained her NVQ Level 3 in Early Years Childcare and Education.

Since then she has completed a degree in Education Sciences and gained valuable experience working with children in different countries.

She is currently completing an MA in Education with Montessori at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge.

She says the countryside setting of the nursery with its outdoor lay areas fits well with Montessori methods.

“The modern, purpose-built nursery has a lovely garden with outdoor play areas where children can enjoy learning experiences adapted to their age and stage of development while birds, rabbits and squirrels play hide and seek amongst the ancient trees nearby.

“The natural environment continues into the nursery’s open plan interior with indoor plants, natural materials, and plenty of light from its large windows.”

Food is sourced locally, where possible and the menu advisor is a local five-star Italian chef and restaurateur who developed his knowledge of children’s nutrition through a research collaboration with the University of Manchester.

Babies and children from five months to five years old are welcome and the nursery is open all year round, from 8am to 5.30pm, with extended hours available on request.

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