Staff Spotlight ~ Arabelle Dunne, Head of Early Years

Posted: 29th May 2024

We are delighted to feature Arabelle Dunne, our Head of Early Years, in our next staff spotlight. With her wealth of experience and deep passion for early childhood education, Arabelle has been instrumental in shaping the nurturing and stimulating environment we pride ourselves on. Let’s get to know Arabelle a bit better through her journey and insights.

Q&A with Miss Dunne

Q: Why did you become a teacher?

I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As a child, I loved playing ‘teachers’ and aspired to emulate my wonderful Year 2 teacher, Miss Smith. She was truly inspirational, and I wanted to be just like her. Interestingly, when I was a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT), I bumped into her and shared how much she had inspired me. She sent me a beautiful email, reminiscing about me pushing my pram to school. Another memorable teacher was a fantastic storyteller, and seeing her again was like stepping back in time—she looked exactly the same! My own school experiences and memories of teachers have shaped my vision of what I want children to remember when they grow up.

Q: What’s your teaching experience been like to date?

My journey to Sherborne House has been quite varied. During my four-year degree in Primary Education, I gained invaluable experience in Thailand, teaching in a bilingual school and a school for blind children. I also did an eight-week placement in America, working in the Montessori section of a state-run school. While I found the Montessori approach challenging to fully integrate, I deeply appreciate its ethos of child-led discovery. I also taught Year 6 during my training, where I was asked to stay, but my passion was always with Early Years. 

Alongside my degree, I volunteered weekly at an outdoor nursery run by a lady in a converted barn. It was a natural environment where children spent every day outside, regardless of the weather. My final degree placement was at Mason Moor in Millbrook, which was both challenging and rewarding due to the diverse range of needs. I also nannied for two boys from Pilgrims School, balancing this with my teaching placement.

My first teaching post was at Shirley Infants, where I taught Reception for three years. I then joined Sherborne House and have been here for three years, taking on the role of Head of Early Years this year, overseeing Pre-Reception and Reception.

Q: What would you consider to be best practice in the Early Years?

 I always tell parents that we want their children to feel happy and safe. Building strong relationships and rapport with the adults in the room helps children feel confident to share their worries or concerns. My vision for Pre-Reception is to prepare them for school, equipping them with essential skills like doing up their coat, using a knife and fork, and recognising their left and right shoes. These small steps build their independence, allowing them to come in ready to learn without worrying about these skills.

In Reception, we build on these skills to excel their learning, while ensuring that the children remain at the centre of everything we do. It’s crucial to know the children well to understand their current level and next steps. Also, to value and celebrate their interests to promote engagement. For instance, our Pre-Reception children showed keen interest in a little crocodile, so we planned a whole Child Interests Week around crocodiles, including life cycles, habitats, and an art project.

I strive to provide immersive learning experiences that are relevant and engaging. We’ve explored topics like Diwali, Anti-Bullying Week, Switch Off Week, and more, whilst always taking into account the specific interests of our pupils.

Q: If you could summarise your experience of working with children in the Early Years, what would you say?

It’s like no other experience, really. Children bring so much joy. Walking into Pre-Reception always brings a smile to my face. It’s important to stop and reflect to realise the impact we have on children. I treasure watching them learn, and even when they move on to different year groups, I cherish the times when they come back to have a chat with me. 


Miss Dunne’s dedication and teaching experiences make her an exceptional Head of Early Years. Her commitment to nurturing each child’s development and creating a positive, engaging learning environment is truly inspiring. Thank you, Arabelle, for your remarkable contribution to Sherborne House!

To find out more about the Early Years at Sherborne House, visit us or give us a call. You can speak to our registrar, Estelle Szasz, or Miss Dunne herself.

02380 252440. 





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