The Stepping Stones pre-school website can be reached at

Stepping Stones is William Barnes' on site nursery led by Val Cuff and Donna Peters.

Contact Details

If you wish to contact Stepping Stones then please contact Val or Donna using the details below

mobile 07778 336928 or  e-mail  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Address : Stepping Stones Preschool, Bridge Street, Sturminster Newton Dorset DT10 1BZ


Ten years ago in September, Stepping Stones preschool moved on site at William Barnes for the first time.  For fifteen years prior to that, Stepping Stones had used the Scout hut (north of the school’s netball court) as the base for their preschool provision.  However, as the ambitions of the staff grew, Val and her team became disenfranchised with this space.  Each day all the resources and learning equipment had to be packed away into cupboards.  At the same time, William Barnes was preparing plans to set up its breakfast club and was also aware that other schools in the area were offering on-site preschool provision.  Mr Hull (deputy head at William Barnes since 2003) remembers walking up to the scout hut to hand deliver a letter from the Governors formally inviting the preschool to come on site in the Autumn of 2008. 

However, this was just the beginning of a year long process.  At the time grants were available from Dorset Council (via Surestart) to support such moves, but a tremendous amount of planning and paperwork was required before a sum of £12,000 was released.  The preschool committee had a number of imaginative ideas for developing the grounds, but a major headache was how to provide the preschool with a safe outdoor space so near to the swimming pool.  Eventually, decisions were made, local builders contracted and in September Stepping Stones began a new era in their history. 

More recently, Val, Donna and the Stepping Stones committee took matters into their own hands when they began the process of applying for grants to extend the preschool’s buildings.  However, they had not foreseen how complex and difficult the process of sourcing funding would be, with support eventually coming from two funding streams, a North Dorset Local Action Group Grant, and a second grant from the EEC.  After building work began in the Summer of 2018, time rushed forward to the opening of the new building in January 2019.  Following the completion of the project, the indoor space available to the preschool has now more than doubled, Val has a private office for confidential meetings, there is a new food preparation area and improved storage for resources and equipment.

Looking to the future, it will be interesting to see how Stepping Stones can develop further as the only preschool setting available to parents in the town of Sturminster Newton.

Links with William Barnes

William Barnes Primary School and Stepping Stones Preschool both share the same site. This enables staff from both settings to meet regularly to discuss best practice in early years education.

Here is a list of ways in which the preschool and the primary liaise and work together.

  • regular planning meetings between Stepping Stones staff and the reception class teachers
  • shared use of swimming pool and school grounds
  • preschool come as an audience for the dress rehearsal of the Christmas KS1 production
  • preschool come as an audience for dress rehearsal of the Summer KS2 production
  • regular strategy meetings between the preschool leader Val Cuff and William Barnes’ headteacher Karen Wrixon
  • preschool join the main school for services at St Mary’s church from time to time

Parents often worry about the move from preschool to the beginning of a child’s formal education in a reception class.  This time can be very unsettling for a child and their behaviour at home can deteriorate in the run up to the change.  At William Barnes, a tried and tested timetable of weekly ‘rising five’ sessions that begins in the Spring term, ensures that this change occurs as gently and smoothly as possible for the youngsters about to join the main school.  Children from the preschool are brought over for the afternoon each Tuesday, and spend time learning in the main school’s reception classroom.  They have a chance to have a run around on the KS1 playground and take part in activities jointly planned and delivered by the Stepping Stones and Reception class’s staff.  The preschool are also invited to dress rehearsals for KS1 and KS2 productions at Christmas and the end of term respectively, all helping to ensure that their transition to full time education is as friction-less as possible.

We have been the major feeder pre school into William Barnes Primary School for many years. We also work with local child minders providing joint care for some children enhancing their transitions into school. Having a new extension has meant that we have flexibility to accept children who move into the area during term time and can give them the same support for transitions. We join the school children for plays, church carol services and for some of the school visitors forming those strong links to school.

Breakfast Club

William Barnes breakfast club is open to children who attend Stepping Stones.

Breakfast club is open from 7.30 – 8.30 am during school term times. Stepping Stones opens at 8.30 am for children who attend breakfast club.William Barnes breakfast club has been running for ten years now and has proven to be very popular. Under the experienced guidance of Mrs Ridout (our school’s site manager) and Mrs Palmer (a teaching assistant), children are given the opportunity to share a quiet breakfast of cereal and toast, before choosing from a variety of calm and tranquil activities. The club provides a friendly and sociable start to the day for the children.

After School Club

Children must be taken to the school hall from 7.30 when the breakfast club staff will make them feel welcome and safe. Children who are attending Stepping Stones will then be taken to the Stepping Stones area at 8.30 when breakfast club ends.

All children at Stepping Stones can be considered for a place at breakfast club, but your child’s needs must be such that the existing staff at breakfast club will not be overstretched. Please speak to Val or Donna if you would like your child to attend breakfast club and they will advise you.

After school club is open at 3.15 am and runs though until 5.15 am. Children are given a healthy snack and then take part in a range of supervised activities including sitting down games, active games, sports and crafts. The club is currently led by Mrs Sarah Selby (a member of staff at the preschool) with support from Mrs Vine (an experienced teaching assistant).

Attendance is allowed as long as the parents and the preschool staff agree that your child can cope with an extended day and that they are mature enough to attend without their needs overstretching the after school club staff.  Please talk to Val or Donna or Sarah and they will advise you on whether the after school club is right for your child.

To increase the number of spaces available and to improve the quality of our indoor space, a new extension to the pre-school opened in January 2019.

At present the pre-school offers full days for children from two years old in line with the primary school hours. Stepping Stones is a committee managed pre-school and is non profit making. This allows Val, Donna and the rest of the team to provide the very best in early years education but at very affordable rates per session. Two year funding and 3/4 year old funding can be used in the setting.

William Barnes Primary School also has close links with the Tops Day Nursery in Sturminster Newton, who provide after school child care (collecting children from the school at the end of the school day) and also holiday clubs.  To find out more about their after school and holiday clubs please visit.

The Stepping Stones Pre-School extension was part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development increasing early years provision for local children and employment in Sturminster Newton. 

 euopean falg

The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development

Europe Investing in Rural Areas

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