Hampstead and Highgate Express

11 March 2005

School News

A PRIMROSE Hill nursery where tots discuss their dreams and learn yogic principles has been given full marks by education watchdogs.

Ofsted inspectors have vindicated the unorthodox methods at St Mark's Square nursery school, saying it is a "good" school with a "positive impact on the children's overall development".

The 50-pupil nursery in the crypt of St Mark's Church - a favourite among celebrity parents - encourages its two to six-year-olds to take part in animal yoga and meditation where they take a stroll around the garden repeating the week's word of wisdom.

Nursery founder Sheema Parsons, who says its holistic ethos is a mix of philosophy and yogic beliefs, concentrates on the whole child.

She said: "I want children to grow up into respectful, tolerant human beings, who look after the planet and society. I want them to read and write but if they are fundamentally decent people, I have really achieved something.

The school where singer Suggs from Madness, rocket Noel Gallagher, photographer David Bailey and restaurateur Jeremy King have sent their youngsters, also teaches pupils violin, ballet and French and encourages them to express themselves through art.

Chris McMinn who has two children at the school, loved St Mark's so much, he started as a part-time administrator in January.

The 41-year-old said: "Friends of ours had children at the school and before 1 knew anything about it, 1 did think they were friendly and self confident but without being precocious.

"They don't talk down to the children here - they talk up to them. It's a stimulating environment and I want my children to enjoy learning.

Sinead Hennessy was appointed deputy head teacher in September. The 30-year-old Irishwoman has been teaching in nursery schools for 10 years, and this is the first where she meditates for 20 minutes before the children arrive and again after they leave.

She said: "The meditation really clears your mind and also calms you down at the end of the day.

"St Mark's is like a breath of fresh air. We do a principle a week. We explain it and then talk about everyday examples to help them understand it. What the children feed back is really amazing."

The school also works on Montessori principles, a structured type of nursery teaching, and everything is learned through play.

Ms Parsons added: "It's not easy to run this school and we are always on the lookout for good teachers.

I could have got bigger, become a chain, but I have my values. I'm driving a battered up old mini but I have got richer on the inside."