Updated: Aug 13, 2020
It is an unsettling and unprecedented time that 2020 has brought us. Not just for the early years community but all over the world. Parents have taken on the role of supporting home schooling and working at home as they set up home offices or take some time off. As a Nursery Manager and a parent of three children, this is a task that requires commitment, fun, patience and thinking outside of the box. One thing I am focusing on is keeping my children safe at home and helping them to learn not just through their academic work set by school but all the learning we know as Early Years Professionals that ‘Play’ can bring, no matter old you are.
So as an early years leader what can you do to support your families and staff during this time?
I started my own Facebook page last month, ‘Happy + Fun = Learning’ to help support my families in the many ideas, activities and links to cultural capital experiences that could be explored and adapted at home. With nearly a 100 followers and lots of positive feedback I will continue to add to this during this time to engage parents with new ideas. It keeps my brain ticking and thinking of new things to support my own practice, which is essential as a developing leader.
Setting up a social media page is easy to do and something you can do at home to further develop your business. Our nursery group ‘Chestnut Nursery Schools’ have been uploading clips of staff reading stories for families and children to share and engage with. This is a positive way for children to still be able to see their key persons and listen to their favourite stories while at home. Reading is such a fundamental part of learning that the more we encourage this the stronger the foundation.
If you use an online learning journey platform, invite your families to use this to share their learning, experiences and adventures at home. This all can be used towards evidence towards the EYFS, help you to continue to be engaged with your families and give plenty of discussion when they return to nursery planning for their next steps.
To keep in touch with my nursery team of 26 staff I started a WhatsApp group where we can keep connected and in touch while our nursery is closed. I post regular positive quotes and a few jokes, whilst remaining compliant with GDPR! We support each other when someone is having a bad day, has a worry or needs a listening ear. We share what we are doing with our families and ideas for activities rain or shine. As a manager I have found this communication valuable at this difficult time for my own well being. I really value my staff’s wellbeing so want to be able to be there when they need me now even more so. I’ve also made sure they have had access to the company’s employee assistance programme which supports and helps with all aspects of life. We are very lucky to have a company where wellbeing is central to its ethos.
Looking ahead, we as early years leaders will need to find new ways of supporting our children and families back to nursery. Also we will need to look how we can support our staff members wellbeing as they come back to work and focus on their roles again. There will be plenty of time for reflection during this time and so focus on using this time for reflection, as you know it will be full steam ahead when we are back.
In this time of uncertainty know that the Early Years Workforce will continue to be strong and committed. You are all superheroes too! A big shout out for our amazing NHS and all the key workers. Keep well, learning and safe everyone.
Helen is a Manager of a large nursery in Cambridge and has worked in Early Years for 25 years. She is also an Assessor and Verifier of Early Years qualifications. Helen graduated in 2019 with her PGCE and is a strong advocate of high quality Early Years practice, staff wellbeing and training.