These last few months have forced a rethink on many levels. One thing is for sure the traditional ‘care’ element of our role has returned. We have taken great care to provide an environment that meets the needs of all children and staff, to ensure their safety and wellbeing. We have shifted the focus from Ofsted requirements and the EYFS Areas of Learning to care practices. Prioritising care has meant that we are protectors of health for our staff, families and communities who are heavily dependent on us. We are essential to the economic recovery and play an important part in children’s holistic development. The EYFS disapplications have allowed a focus on children being cared for in their setting, as we make ‘reasonable endeavours’ to meet the learning and development requirements. We have embraced care practices through transition, wellbeing, safeguarding, increasing self-help skills alongside increased cleaning and awareness. All of these have proved to be rich ‘educational opportunities’ and if we look a little deeper all fit into the Areas of Learning. Children have love being with other children once more, less resources has meant more imaginative play and parents dropping off has been so much easier. Our caring nature has recognised the educational benefits of these changes, therefore care and education are closely intertwined.
Care has, for some time been absent from role profiles, responsibilities, book titles, blogs etc. in an effort to raise our self-esteem as educators and teachers as we strive to portray a professional identity. This hasn’t had the desired effect though, we are still undervalued, underfunded and underpaid. We need to celebrate the importance of care, place a value on the care elements of our role and be proud of a professional identity that places care at the centre of what we do.
Staying healthy and safe inevitably leads to learning and developing. It’s because we care that we are worried about pressures from baseline and EYFS reforms. Caring is precisely why we stay in our jobs that are poorly paid and underfunded. That caring relationship is what makes parents ready to connect and children ready for school. We are caring role models for children, demonstrating care means that they grow up to care too, about themselves, about their environment and about each other and this time has proved that we need children to care more than ever. So, let’s celebrate care and give it the credibility that it deserves.
I have been privileged to talk to Kathy Brodie a few times, I always sign post everyone to this great form of Continued Professional Development. Kathy asks the questions we all want answers to and interviews a wide variety of people to give us an informed perspective of everything to do with our sector. My interview with Kathy focused on the positives of these past few months. It will go live on 17th July 2020!
I have had a long career in Early Years and many varied roles within that. I came to further studies just over 13 years ago, with a secure knowledge in child development I was not sure what more I could learn! How wrong I was! Theory and research held all the answers for me, explained why I interreacted as I did, why I provided opportunities for children to explore and why I enjoyed observing children as they found out things for themselves. This whole new world gave me a new zest for my chosen profession and this is where I first found out about Schema. Patterns of repeated behaviour were referred to as Schemas then, we now know that what we traditionally referred to a Schemas are in fact Schemes, this was because Piaget?s work was misinterpreted through translation, the training explores the meaning of Schemes and Schemas in much more detail and these are both very relevant to children learning through play.
My Early Years Teacher Status led me to being an Early Years Development Officer for my local authority. The role allowed me to share my knowledge and experience and train EYFS providers. Six years ago I was made redundant and I started up my own independent consultancy Orange Caterpillar. I support providers across the South East and into London with all aspects of the EYFS. I have always been interested in the way that children learn, how adults plan and guide the learning and the way that ?a whole setting approach? nurtures and centres around the child. So for me, the opportunity to find out more about Schemes and Schema and the SchemaPlay pedagogy allowed me to deepen my understanding as well as widen my training offer and this felt the natural thing to do. Thinking I?d have enough knowledge to work my way easily through the training, yes, you?ve guessed it, I was blown away again! We learnt so much more about being in ?flow?, the wide range of schemes that children displayed and some new ones such as ?dabbing? and ?swiping?. We looked closely at how children learn through play with the help of a simple and easy to understand info graphic that now forms the basis of all the other trainings that I deliver. I?ve now recognised that I am in ?flow? too when I deliver!
Play is a much talked about and contentious issue but actually it?s simple. Children need to explore freely, be given opportunities, experiences and resources to inspire them, feel happy, safe and be given the time to be ?in the zone?. They also need adults who are willing to learn from their observations to seed, interact and provide critical thinking and of course other children to connect with, learn from and teach too. The SchemaPlay pedagogy really does deepen this, practitioners experience ?a real moment of ?I get play now?, and leaders delight in the reignited environment where wellbeing and involvement is at its highest and leaps in outcomes quickly emerge.
Being an accredited trainer for SchemaPlay also tapped into my skills as an external mentor for Early Years Teacher students at the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton. As a SchemaPlay accredited trainer I quickly establish what?s working well and build on the learning and go on a journey with providers and practitioners. This means that we, together, tap into current knowledge and build the understanding in the SchemaPlay pedagogy until, quite honestly, it reaches a crescendo! ?Practitioners are inspired and intrigued to know more, observations become richer and connections with children grow deeper. Of course it?s children who benefit most and observing this is like watching a little bit of magic happen and honestly makes you feel all warm inside! Children never forget the way that they learn and will, in turn, make great teachers themselves.
I have been very interested in sustainability for some time, on my own journey to saving more energy, being eco friendly and eating a plant based diet, but it?s only recently that I have linked this with my training and consultancy. SchemaPlay and the OMEP UK Early Childhood Sustainable Citizenship Award are intertwined. The Bronze award really focuses on ?children as sustainable citizens and links their learning through SchemaPlay pedagogy to caring for each other, the community and the planet. Parents play an important part in the setting achieving this award and when? we think back to learning through play the role of the parent is crucial to the developing child. Children become really animated about the things that they care about and a nature based curriculum really lends itself to connecting with living things and children come to their own conclusions about saving water, recycling and thinking about each other.
So, two separate but closely linked objectives for you, your team, parents and children. Be prepared to be ?blown away?! I am currently training to deliver the Silver OMEP award ? so much more to learn!
Delivering advice, consultancy, support and training at this time virtually. I am currently adapting the accreditation for SchemaPlay and the OMEP award to support you at this time.
SchemaPlay Licensed Trainer
Interviewing for a new role can be stressful experience at the best of times, without the added complication of our roles and responsibilities due toCOVID-19. Being interviewed whilst social distancing just takes a little bit of thought and preparation.
Advertising for a post needs to be right, it?s an important part of the process and you can find top tips here on the pinned post? https://www.facebook.com/EyfsS/
Make sure you also describe the selection process at this time. A closing date is a must and set yourself an interview date so applicants can see your time line.
If you can, make sure your process of applying can be done remotely. Sending the application form on an email, so that it can be typed on and sent back. Make sure your form does this easily as forms that shift around are hard to manage. Look into google forms, these work well.
Invite people to an interview via Skype, Teams or Zoom (other virtual platforms are available). This will take some preparing and make sure you explain the process in your emails, so that everyone feels confident. Not everyone is familiar with Skype or Zoom, you will also need to make sure they have the latest compatible versions. Be mindful that some computers may not upgrade to latest versions.
Explain about the process of an interview or selection virtually, what time will you contact them, they will need to make sure there is no interruptions and have a ?how are you? to make people feel relaxed. It may be that you provide some questions in advance so that people can make some notes. Tell people if you are recording the session and if anyone else is in the room either listening and taking notes or working on other things.
Preparation is key, have all of their information to hand. Not being able to visit you in person may mean that you have a physical show round opportunity as part of the process. You can organise this at the end of the day when no children are around. It is also a good idea to tell people to research you. This means looking at your website and social media or Ofsted inspection. Applicants will understand your vision, aims and future plans and you can talk to them about that.
It is possible to get an idea about a setting from research and so the applicant can decide if they would be a good fit for you and be able to demonstrate this in their interview.
Applicants biggest concern will be how they come across virtually. Help them to feel relaxed by sending some top tips. These could include
- Make sure the background is uncluttered
- Keep the interview ?family-free?
- Lighting is important for virtual discussions
- It?s also still important to present well and dress like it was a face to face interview
- Giving eye contact is hard virtually ? some computers cameras are better than others, whilst this is important you will have to make allowances
- Technical difficulties ? have phone numbers to hand to carry on the conversation
- Be yourself and relax!
Consider how you are going to make sure the usual elements of an interview still take place. Formally welcoming and thanking for the application, certificate and qualification information and checking, as well as a discussion about references and DBS information at this time. You will still need to see original documentation ? get it sent recorded delivery and get it sent back recorded asap.
Here are some other preparation considerations
- Contact the applicant well in advance and provide instructions and a time line
- Gather all the information you need including phone number in case anything goes wrong
- Send a reminder the day before and an hour before with joining instructions
- Think about any necessary adjustments that need to be made to accommodate any special needs
- Choose a well-lit space for your interview with a clean background and wall
- Limit background noise and distractions during your interview time
- Dress as you would for a formal face-to-face interview
- Focus on positive body language – sit up straight, smile, maintain eye contact and make sure you look at the webcam and not the computer screen. Try not to fill the whole screen with your face!
- Follow up the interview with a ?thank you? message and invite any additional questions that might not have been covered on the interview
- Make sure your access to the software that you are going to be used is working well
- Test your connection and internet speed
- Run a mock interview with a colleague to check your position on camera
Ready to take the next step in virtual safer recruitment? If you need formats, emails responses, further training, support and advice, do get in touch.
Virtual EYFS Support
It’s that time of year when students are finalising their studies. I am extremely fortunate to be an external mentor for students every year. As part of my reflections on my support I send out a questionnaire. If you have secured a place on the EYTS at either the University of Sussex or the University of Brighton, I am available for September 2020. I will only be able to support 3 students for the forthcoming year.
Here is some lovely feedback
Q Did I provide appropriate challenge to enable you to reflect on your practice?
Yes, you inspired us all, and opened up lots of interesting avenues for me to explore, that I am still exploring, and guided me expertly in my ‘learning journey’.
Q Did I provide you with support and / or model practice in planning, teaching, understanding behaviour and assessment? If so what was most helpful in developing your practice?
Yes, the most helpful was your advice and help around managing conflict.
Q Were my observations accurate and did they provide constructive feedback to deepen your pedagogical knowledge?
Yes. My pedagogy has developed beyond my imaginings with your help and support. The general trajectory’s been from a very individualised understanding, to an increasingly relational perspective, and I continue learn and deepen my understanding.
Thank you so much
Sarah ? University of Sussex MA in Early Years Education with EYTS
It’s a honour and a privilege to provide external mentoring and allows me to continue to learn too!
Available now an – Ask the Expert – Power Hour!
? Book your Live Q&A with Alison Featherbe from Orange Caterpillar. Virtual EYFS Support for you and your team.
?? It can be a bespoke session guided by you. You could use this time for
- Parent Session
- Staff team support
- Senior team advice
- Or as external supervision and support
‘Alison has been a real rock at this challenging time. Its not been easy making huge decisions on your own! With Alison’s guidance and ongoing support I feel confident that I have made informed decisions and thankful that I have had someone to turn to.’ L.Evans Hove Sussex
Get the help you need: Book ?99 Power hour Here https://py.pl/PBecR
I am pleased to announce that I am diversifying! I am available ‘virtually’ for advice, support, consultancy and training! External supervision, team training, senior team Q & A, as well as consultancy on environments, learning and development, leadership and management and all aspects of the EYFS. This will mean that I can support more people and reach providers that need help. The NEW VIP membership for Very Important Providers group on Facebook. A rolling subscription with access for one personal profile page. Limited Level 1 subscriber spaces available, so please email asap for more info and a quick sign up link.
Please fill out the contact form or sign up to the newsletter for more, regular information
A timeline to provide some clarity in light of the ambiguous guidance released to the Early Years sector on April 17th 2020.
On the 17th March Early Years settings were told that funding received through the government?s early years entitlements will continue during any period of closure via a News Story ?Free childcare offers to continue during coronavirus closures. This was gratefully received and provided ?reassurance for early years settings? in light of the coronavirus pandemic. There was an expectation that Local Authorities would pass on this entitlement in full, (some sadly haven?t), to provide stability. Ofsted inspections were temporarily suspended to reduce the burden on staff providing vital services at this time.
Providers began to plan their Coronavirus Response alongside Guidance for schools, childcare providers, colleges and local authorities in England on maintaining educational provision that came out on the 19th March. ?For many it was clear that they would have no children and were being forced to close. Some had small numbers of children and therefore would remain open with a core team or they networked with other local providers to ensure children of key workers and vulnerable children had access to childcare at this time. Significant numbers of providers remain open and should be applauded in doing so, despite a drastically reduced income and the fragility of staffing and continuing to provide an environment based on social distancing. In all cases the ?on furlough? scheme was a better option that reducing hours and redundancies.
came out on the 19th March too. This acknowledged that the large majority of providers didn?t have insurance that covered them for loss of income due to Covid-19 closures, told parents that the funding is continuing and that the funding protected ?a significant proportion of early years providers? income?, (whilst this may be the case for some, for the majority of providers the funding is a lesser proportion and does not cover the costs associated with providing high quality care and education). This guidance also detailed other help providers could access and referred to the ?significant support for workers?, which was to form a part of ensuring viability long term. Providers were then considering their options and began to be ?reasonable and balanced? in communicating with parents. Their responses were heavily reliant on individual circumstances and the ?moral compass? in asking for a percentage of fees, a contribution or no charge at this very difficult time. Staff and parents were kept fully informed as the gravity of the situation unfolded.
Vicky Ford MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families sent Early Years and Childcare providers a letter on the 24th March Vicky Ford letter to the EY Sector. This highlighted the ?package of support? for the sector including access to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), reiterating the fact that they can access the scheme whilst still receiving the funding, acknowledging that staffing is the largest expense and detailing the ?significant contribution? that the CJRS will make to manage outgoings.
The 24th March also brought the Guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19): early years and childcare closures for all childcare providers registered with Ofsted. It recognised the vital role of the sector in supporting children and families who qualify to attend, yet also recognised it was not possible for all settings to remain open. Again, reference to the CJRS for employees who are not working but kept on the payroll. ?The government will contribute 80% of each worker?s wages of up to ?2,500, backdated to 1 March 2020?. More definitive confirmation ?settings can access this scheme while continuing to be paid the early entitlements funding via local authorities?. This document continued to be updated (last on 15th April) yet the reference to claiming CJRS together with receiving funding remained.
Notifications in writing (a requirement of the ?on furlough? process) at this point have been sent to staff, promises of 80% of their pay or 100% if the provider chose to ?top up?, emails sent to parents clarifying fees (whilst continuing to remain reasonable and balanced), have been sent out, decisions made on reducing outgoings and applications made for other grants and loans to potentially benefit from (everything crossed).
The viability of many settings hung in the air at this point, we know that early years are vital to the economic recovery but what this will look like for the sector no one knows. With assurance in guidance that the CJRS and funding could be claimed for together, providers could at least have some figures to base projections onto.
On 26th March the guidance? Check if you can claim for your employees’ wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme came out, it seemed that for a period of time (now extended to end of June) that employers can claim a grant covering 80% of their employees usual wages. The uncertainty appeared at this point with reference to the use of public money, the guidance referring to public funding that it is used for ?staff costs?. Now we know that staff are the biggest outgoing for most providers and the funding makes up a proportion of income, therefore allocating funding entirely for staffing simply doesn?t add up. The funding has always been a contentious issue, with many providers sadly leaving the sector over the last few years due to this policy. The hourly rate doesn?t cover staffing, there are many other costs of providing high quality care and education. Parents have been confused and been sold a ?free entitlement?, local authorities have placed undue pressure on providers to deliver a policy that doesn?t allow flexibility and providers have been required to take public money that doesn?t cover increasing ?and ongoing costs. The funding provides all children who are 3 years of age and above with a space for 15 hours and for some, 30 hours a week term time only or stretched over the year if a provider is open all year round. This policy has been welcomed by parents who are faced with increased childcare costs and enables less advantaged parents to take up a place in an early years setting prior to school. We all recognise that these places are crucial, but this policy has left providers striving to make ends meet, frustrated and for many, no longer sustainable.
Providers are unique, just like children, with incomes and outgoings that are hugely variable. So, having just got their heads around this, liaised with payroll, HR and accountants (if they were lucky enough to have them), worked through all of the guidance with no help and support and were all set for the portal to open at HMRC on the 20th April, then, during the evening of 17th April (out of business hours and on a Friday night) the realisation that all previous promises of claiming CJRS whilst receiving the early years funding came crashing down. The guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19): financial support for education, early years and children?s social care Published 17 April 2020 is not only contradictory of all other guidance and reassurances, it is confusing, complicated and unclear. The Department of Education recognising the confusion over when CJRS applies themselves have already turned to Twitter to clarify and interpret their own guidance.
It seems it is all down to the proportions of income now and with only the weekend to prepare for submitting information onto the HMRC portal and the online tool to help with the guidance not yet available, no wonder providers feel upset and betrayed. If the funding covers the staffing costs entirely then it is clear you don?t need to furlough your staff, but the fact that guidance, up until now has suggested that you could, will mean that providers will have to recalculate and step into reserves that? they don?t have. These providers are the ones who are more likely to rely on fundraising to supplement their income and for now, that simply won?t be there. For staff and settings in this situation sadly the options are ?limited, closure and / or redundancies.
Providers now have to calculate what proportion of their paybill comes from private income in order to claim for the CJRS grant and base this on February 2020 figures initially (remember this month contains a half term where income could be far less). No formula has been? supplied or ?consideration for the wide range of variables the sector has. Certainly no guidance can be gleaned for the figures suggested, ?if 40% comes from funding and 60% from other income then you can claim 60% of your paybill. ?This would be done by furloughing staff whose usual salary / combined salaries come to no greater than 60% of the provider?s total paybill?. So then how much is the grant for? What if the percentages are less? Does the provider have to pay the furloughed staff member 80% even if they don?t qualify for it? Then to add insult to injury when the funding goes up, as it does in the summer term, your income from parents is still the February figure and then you can claim even less? How can this be fair? Oh, then there?s a link to the guidance updated last on the 15th of April for ?further guidance? and this says you can claim CJRS and the funding! You couldn?t make it up and neither would you want to.
Providers should only furlough employees if they meet certain conditions and would be subject to ?appropriate measures to monitor the use of these schemes in order to detect any duplication of funding, and will be considering potential options to recover misused public funding as required?, those very schemes they have been told they can benefit from in guidance that has not been withdrawn and? is still ?live?, now a threat of investigation! The ?significant package of support? ripped from under providers feet, the reassurances made in current guidance removed and pledged support for staff and parents no longer an option.
The Early Years Alliance and others are working on the sectors response and we hope to receive further guidance and support soon. One thing for sure is that it is not as simple as calculating 80% of a persons wage anymore and waiting for the portal to crash. ?Until we have further guidance and a tool to calculate the amounts, it would be wise to wait for further clarification before submitting claims to the HMRC portal.
Early Years Consultant
Leaving your baby or young child for the first time with someone, other than a family member, is one of the hardest things to do for a parent. As practitioners and teachers we assign children a key person, settle them in and before we know it they are in the system, in numbers and in rooms. This all happens very quickly. We have to ask ourselves have we truly provided that child with the time to connect to a stranger? Have we really got to know what that child is thinking, feeling and telling us?
Let?s think back to the first opportunity to connect. What was it the child saw first in the middle of this new experience? The answer is lots of new and different faces also known as strangers. Hopefully all smiling and chatting busily but nonetheless unfamiliar. The child?s senses are on high alert, they can feel their parent is tense too and the interactions you deliver are not yet providing a safe and secure emotional environment. Now I know every child is unique in how they settle, some of those personal social dispositions are already in place and these can either help or hinder the process.? Settling is of course dependent on so many factors. Taking the time to connect however is vital in those first few days and weeks but that?s not the end of the connection, it?s the start.
What every child needs is consistency and the key person approach is the basis of that. There are many other people in this new environment. Each has a different face, all as unique as every child. It?s those faces and facial expressions that centre around those interactions that ?we know make a difference to children?s outcomes. Let?s critically think about the face and those expressions because even if they are not ?interacting? they are still telling the child something each and every minute of the day.
The wellbeing of the child starts with the wellbeing of the adult. Children are super sensitive and pick up on your feelings of not being well, not happy in your job, not having a sense of purpose or just generally feeling like you don?t want to be ?at work?. That ?flat face? expression tells a child ?it?s not safe here?, ?you?re not happy therefore I?m not either?, ?you?re not giving me eye contact and I can?t therefore regulate my feelings, I?m confused and my behaviour will tell you that?, ?you were smiling when my special person left, now you look blank? or worse still, ?I?ve shut down, I?ve tried to feel safe but your inconsistent approach is confusing and I?m scared?. ? I show no emotion because that is what will get me through the day?. Basically the child is in ?fight or flight? at this stage and suffering trauma.
This may sound dramatic but I am seeing more and more practitioners with little or no facial expressions in their practice. We need more laughing out loud, gasps when something happens, big smiling eyes to praise and puzzled looks when faced with a joint challenge. Please read that sentence again and make some big facial movements and you?ll see what I mean. There may indeed be many faces that do this but if there is one or two that don?t we have to ask ourselves ?is this consistent?? Babies and young children need that ability to identify both simple and complex emotions from your facial expressions, this is key to feeling safe and therefore learning. Without those big expressive facial movements from us children won?t develop ?emotional literacy? and we know this is closely linked to emotional intelligence. Those big facial expressions honestly make us feel better too! They make sure we are connected to our role, in tune with the child, alert to the learning opportunities and knowing how important they are gives us a sense of pride in what we do.
I hope my observations made you think not only about your own facial expressions but of those around you. Reflect and make some observations of your own. The children that you professionally love and care for need your commitment to connecting with them. You make a difference to every child every day. This generation of children need more facial expressions than ever before. As a society we are seeing these less and less, I blame the selfie and the Botox. Next time you are out take a look around at everyone?s face, no wonder we need to focus on our wellbeing! Take some time to connect, look someone in the eye and smile, you just might make a strangers day!
If you have a few minutes please take a look at this YouTube clip.
This will make you think and you?ll recognise that those 3 minutes referred to in the clip could be 3 days or more for some children. Don?t let that happen.
The Government invested heavily in the early years some year ago, with the aim to develop and improve provision as part of the modern welfare state. This led to an increase in the number of early learning and childcare places available, the provision of an entitlement to funded early learning for all three- and four-year-olds and subsequently to two-year-old funded places. Some children benefit from 30 hours funding and Early Years Pupil Premium to support working parents and to close the gap for disadvantaged children.? The gap in funding received via the Local Authority and the cost of providing high quality childcare, has meant that many providers have had to reduce their costs or have sadly had to close.
Over a period of time Local Authority support has diminished and continued professional development is no longer free or subsidised. Funding and overheads are an increasing issue yet providers still have to deliver the statutory requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework.? They continue to focus on ensuring every child benefits from a high quality experience in their early learning and care? and with Ofsted as the only ‘arbiter of quality’, many providers have turned to social media to answer their burning questions. Whilst this has many benefits, it is also a concern when questions are being asked about staff, parents and children in a public space.
Children who need additional help are identified and supported and providers continue to ensure all children are safe through the safeguarding and welfare requirements. However, cuts in support from the LA has meant that those who are constantly aiming to raise standards and improve quality are finding themselves? with so many other ‘hats’ to wear.? All too often it’s hard to find the time, inspiration or specific expertise to maintain and develop a high quality learning environment.
Investing in an Independent Early Years Consultant may seem like an additional cost that you could do without, but can you really afford not to have that ‘critical friend’ to support you? Consultants keep themselves updated, reading? new documentation from Ofsted, research and articles from many other sources so that you can focus on leading and managing your settings. We bring this information to you in our consultancy, training, social media and regular emails. We create a?two-way relationship that builds a ‘culture of collaboration’, we reflect together to evaluate where you are and determine how to move forward and when you are working alone this is really important. We also signpost confidently if you need support outside of our remit, this means you don’t spend ages finding a solution!
We certainly hope that through the Government’s spending review that funding increases, in many LA’s a programme of social mobility has seen the DfE is invest to improve children?s outcomes through the home, early years settings and local services.? Look out for free training, resources, and events.?https://foundationyears.org.uk/2019/06/government-action-to-boost-social-mobility-in-the-early-years/
It is very important to keep yourself updated – sign up to newsletters and follow a wide range of Early Years Consultants on Social Media.
Whilst it is really easy to ask questions via Facebook pages, please remember your professional integrity and rules around confidentiality – create a network of trusted providers in your locality, a safe space to share your thoughts.
Lastly, it is so important to look after yourself! Eat well , sleep well. Set aside some ‘you’ time, try not to work weekends! Plan your working week to include time outside getting back to nature! Use SMART targets for your ‘to do’ list, having an action plan will help. Reconnect and spend time with those families and children that you work so hard to support, time reading a story, investigating or sharing the learning with a parent will be just the boost that you need.