Favourite Things: Oldest nursery gives city youngsters a head start

Diane Hetherington, Headteacher at Broomhall Nursery School.
Diane Hetherington, Headteacher at Broomhall Nursery School.

Diane Hetherington has been the headteacher at Broomhall Nursery School since September 2013. The oldest nursery in Sheffield, Broomhall is one of only two standalone nursery schools in the city funded by the local authority. Diane was born and bred in South Yorkshire and lives in Brinsworth, Rotherham, with her husband, Len.

Broomhall Nursery School

My teaching career began here in 1986 straight from teacher training, so you can imagine my delight when I came back in 2013 as headteacher. It is a truly special place - as well as being graded outstanding by Ofsted on two consecutive occasions.

Many of our staff have worked here for years and some of our families have been with us for four generations. Lots of our old friends and family come back to visit for the annual Summer Fair. This year it’s on Saturday, June 27 at midday.

The nursery is in a beautiful old Victorian gentleman’s residence set in extensive walled gardens. The children play out every day, come rain or shine. It’s a great environment for children to explore and enjoy with climbing equipment, a woodland area, a huge sandpit, grass areas as well as raised beds in which the children can plant and tend fruit and vegetables.It is quite magical. Why would it be anything but a pleasure to work at Broomhall?

Lyceum Theatre

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Marti Pellow fan. I have travelled the length and breadth of the country to see him as a solo artist, with his band Wet, Wet, Wet and to perform in stage shows such as Evita. It is therefore always a real treat when he comes to Sheffield to perform at The Lyceum, as he did recently in Blood Brothers.

A Month of Sundays


If you want cheering up then there is no better place than Pete McKee’s gallery on Sharrow Vale Road. It’s packed with style and humour. Pete’s work celebrates the good, the bad and the ugly of Sheffield’s past and present. He has an uncanny knack of incorporating emotion and character into his pictures. It’s so accessible, in fact you think you may know some of the characters (and often you do). He feeds our nostalgia.

University of Sheffield Department of Psychology

Broomhall Nursery has long established links with both Universities but a particularly strong one with the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology. For over 30 years, until 2005, Broomhall Nursery had an annexe for 20 children at Mushroom Lane, next to Weston Park Museum.

It was built as a part of the psychology department and was created to enable staff and students to study the play and learning of young children. It will always be special to me because it was while working at the nursery there that I met my husband, Len and he still works in the Department which is consistently ranked as an outstanding research department and contributes greatly to research into child development.

Urban spaces

Sheffield is renowned for its many parks and open countryside but it is the urban spaces and squares that I love: the coloured lights and steam rising from the pavement grilles in Tudor Square after an excellent night at the theatre are so atmospheric; Millennium Square with the balls sparkling; children running in and out of the fountains in the Peace Garden.

If it’s food you want then there is no better place than Leopold Square. Once the Local Authority Education Offices and carpark (and the place that I was interviewed for my post as deputy head at Birley Nursery School) it is now a bustling centre for great bars and restaurants. What a transformation!

Meeting friends

for coffee

I like a good chat and a gossip as much as I enjoy good food and drink so, meeting up with friends for coffee has to be one of my favourite things. If I had to pick a favourite venue then it would be Marmadukes Café Deli on Norfolk Row.

Offering the Best of British and using mainly local ingredients it keeps things simple but does them well. And it is often full of theatre ‘lovies’ discussing roles, set design and costumes – what more could I want?

illuminated buildings

In recent years several buildings around the city have been transformed by the clever use of lighting. The Straddle Warehouse on Victoria Keys brightens up my drive to work on dark winter mornings with its façade of rainbow lights and the illumination of the Moore Street substation has softened a piece of Brutalist architecture and signals my near arrival at Broomhall.