Overview of our setting
We are in a rural area of Cambridgeshire, in the village of Parson Drove. We are based in a mobile building in the grounds of the local primary school in a residential area and we mainly have children from the village attend, but occasionally attract families from Lincolnshire and neighbouring villages. We mostly have white British families attend with children from the Travelling community also. We have Multi Language Learners attend (currently Lithuanian) and we regularly have Care Experienced Children. We have children with additional needs that include speech, language and communication, behaviour and autism. We lease the building from Cambridgeshire County Council. The building was installed new over the summer 2018 and gives us twice the area we had previously, including a large covered decking.
We have our own play area that we operate as a free flow system. We also use the large school playground and field, including a trim trail and den making area. Security onto the site is rigorous with visitors being required to use the intercom system which also has a camera at a locked gate entering the school playground. This provides a direct link to the pre-school mobile and once their identity or intent is established visitors are then escorted to the building which is locked at all times.
The village has several businesses within walking distance and we frequently take advantage of this valuable resource through village walks and visits. We have ramp access to the building and it meets the requirements for access. We are open all day Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (8.30am – 3pm) and Fridays until 11.50am during term time and have up to 22 children at any one time, ranging from, on average, 2 years to school age. From September 2020 we will be open all day on Fridays.
We are committee run and affiliated with the Early Years Alliance. Our Annual General Meeting is usually held in November each year and we maintain links to the primary school as the head teacher sits on our committee. The Manager is the nominated person. We have a good working relationship with the Child and Families Centres in the nearby town.
Staff include the Manager (Level 5), Deputy Manager (Level 3) and one general practitioner (Level 3) and two relief staff (Level 3). The Manager, Deputy and one Relief Practitioner are all trained to Designated Person level for Child Protection. The Manager is trained to Designated Person level in ENCO and SENCO along with another practitioner.
Staff are committed to training with the Manager having completed her Foundation Degree in Early Years in August 2010. All staff work towards their continuous professional development by attending relevant training through the Early Years and Childcare service. We organise and host some training courses that we require and offer places to other settings to spread the cost. This allows all staff to participate and training is planned around a time that suits us. In October 2015 we arranged bereavement, loss and separation training. Other courses attended during 2015 include ‘Fun with phonics’, ‘CIF’, ‘Health & Safety’, ‘Five to Thrive’, ‘Babies in mind’, ‘Think Family’ and some Designated Person Refresher training. The bereavement, loss and separation training was paid for using Early Years Pupil Premium money to support us in addressing the growing trend in regard to families separating and Care Experienced Children.
Training in October 2016 was attended due to the changing needs of our group; the Manager attended drug and alcohol awareness training and also LAC training – especially the new requirements to complete Personal Education Plans (PEP’s) online. The Manager has recently completed some basic Play Therapy training.
We have experienced problems in the past recruiting and retaining staff but feel that we have a positive outlook for the future with all staff working towards the EYFS together. Staff are deployed according to their strengths, for example, creativity, physical play, gardening etc…
At the start of a day staff are directed to the area/activities they will be involved with and this information can also be found on the weekly plan.
Views of those who use our setting or who work with us.
We recently undertook a survey to assess how effective our methods of communication are. At this early stage of our survey the following have been expressed:
Here is an email from a parent about our new style communication with families.
Just a quick e-mail to say that I LOVE the fortnightly 'Whats on'
As a parent this is really great to see as nice to know what wee ones are doing and also reminds the parents who educational the pre school is and that its not just a form of childcare!
Newsletter also great :-) Great job, well done!
These are comments from families during the 2020 Pandemic…
Just emailing to say thank you
to you and the other staff from Pre-school for putting together the resources on the ap to help parents during this difficult and uncertain time. It has been really helpful to have the resources and
ideas to do with Evie while my older daughter has done her school work.
Take care and stay safe.
These are some general comments made by parents…
“Our daughter, E, settled fantastically well at the pre-school. Her keyworker has been amazing and really got to know our little girl and her interests. E adores going to pre-school and when she is not there she will often role-play being at pre-school”.
Stay safe. Hope to see you soon.
Ella thoroughly enjoyed the 2 years that she spent at Parson Drove Pre School and this special time not only prepared her for her subsequent journey into primary education, but also gave her the routine and passion for learning that was always nurtured and encouraged by all pre school staff members.
Ella's key worker, Dani was a great influence and covering all areas of the EYFS curriculum, really helped to develop her skills and prepare her for school. Ella always enjoyed doing her number work in Mathematics and practising letter formation in Literacy as well as having the opportunity to be creative in Expressive Art and Design. Evidence of her work was always sent home which was lovely to see and homework tasks were regularly given which allowed us to support Ella's learning at home and reinforce the good work that she was doing at pre school. Pre school also provided the opportunity for Ella to develop her social and emotional skills and all staff were very supportive if she found situations difficult or upsetting.
We, as parents, cannot praise you Carol, Dani and your team highly enough for your kind, caring, nurturing approach to Ella during her time with you and we would not hesitate in recommending this setting to others with younger children of pre school age. The new building is fantastic and has provided such a wonderful learning environment for the children to really enjoy and excel in. It really is a superb pre school with an equally superb team!
Thank you so much and kind regards
We received the replies to our December 2020 questionnaire where 100% replied and they all either agreed strongly or agreed in all areas.
On the whole, parents feel part of the life of the pre-school, which is also reflected in the fact that we are managed by a committee that parents can serve on. We also collect Impact Stories where parents are willing to share their experience of our setting, including the Head Teacher and the Reception Class teacher from the school we mostly feed into.
Our local early years and childcare service support us with regard to quality through our EYCCA (Early Years Childcare Advisor). During 2016 our local authority underwent a re-structure with regard to the early year’s support they offer. Groups were invited to pay a membership fee to gain access to a certain level of support. We decided to become a member and have access to adviser telephone and email support and annual visits, including training at a reduced cost.
Staff take part in staff meetings and half-termly supervision meetings. They also have the chance to share views during these meetings and their annual appraisal and through the Manager/Deputy at committee meetings
Children’s views are seen through the observations that we do as part of the daily routine and through conversations with parents. One such conversation showed that one child was so eager to come that he asks every day if he can attend and then runs into the school playground.
We have comprehensive action plans in place, including ones that cover issues that can be highlighted on a day to day basis and Safeguarding evaluation tool, employment standards, equalities audit tool. This includes the action plan to address the maths target given by the inspector during our last Ofsted inspection in 2018. We feel that we work in a respectful way with other professionals and have received positive comments that support this.
Our local Speech & Language Therapy Assistant said this about us:
“It’s been just over four years since I started work on the Children’s Centre contract & throughout that time I’ve always found you & your staff to be very approachable. You have all attended the training sessions that we have offered in order to develop your own skills & have also encouraged the take up of the Chattersacks by parents & children in turn developing parents understanding of language development & improving children’s outcomes. Staff have also promoted our drop-in sessions to families ensuring they can readily access our service. In turn, if you have needed our support or assistance with a matter you have contacted us directly & we have then worked together to ensure that the speech & language needs of children attending the setting have been met.”
As I mentioned earlier parents make up part of the management committee and often help staff to organise fundraising events.
Questionnaires that were mentioned earlier show that parents feel that we offer a welcoming service, and we are constantly striving to involve parents and carers as partners in our group. We also have a suggestion box on display in the corridor.
Following a complaint from a family from the local Travelling community in January 2016 we reviewed our registration process in regards to recording conversations about cultural requirements (including signatures), building on links with professionals to help with hard to reach families. We also expanded on our equalities information in our prospectus and updated our equality policy and intimate care policy. Parents now have a much clearer idea about how we act on cultural expectations (in this case toileting with other children) and the EYFS ethos. We regularly have children from the Traveller community and hopefully this will clearly explain our intentions on the subject.
Through our planning around the current interests of children (identified through observations of their play and conversations with parents) and seasonal interests, we find that we are able to encourage a more positive approach to their learning and find that the activities that we plan balance our curriculum and encourage inquisitive and independent learning.
We encourage children to develop collaborative skills and work together to sort out problems or be creative through staff encouragement and as mentioned above, working from the basis of their interests.
We work effectively with the local primary school, especially around times of transition and have found them to be a good source of information and support on a variety of topics. We have recently worked in partnership with a Primary School in the next village throughout the first few months of the COVID 19 pandemic. We only had one family who required key-worker childcare cover initially and an older sibling attended the Primary School and they invited us to send a member of our staff to look after the child in their building.
The quality of education.
Upon entry children’s starting points are plotted against the EYFS using information provided by parents during the home visit and any early observations made by their appointed key worker, including any information from previous settings. We concentrate on the Prime Areas to begin with and this has a positive impact on identifying individual needs. One such situation was where a boy who attended as a Funded 2 was identified as having a language delay and referred immediately with parent’s permission and received intensive help and made progress. The family were new to the village and said they were relieved to finally understand what was wrong and for something to be done about it since it hadn’t been picked up at their previous setting. From the family’s perspective, this has had a great impact on the quality of their life. We have been successful in our bid to get two children EHCP’s in the last 3 years. We also liaise with other settings who have had a child prior to them starting with us or with whom we now share the placement.
The manager monitors all children’s development through staff supervisions, tracking data and random moderation of individual key working files. Independent moderation also occurs periodically throughout the year when the manager meets with other local settings and they check age and stage decisions on 2-year progress checks and EYFS summative assessments. We also have a graduated response to identify families who may need extra help for themselves and/or their children. This approach allows the manager to track concerns or potential problems and act before the situation escalates. (More detailed description later)
Since the implementation of the EYFS we have altered our approach to planning and assessment, making it based more on children’s interests and interesting topics. We have found this approach to have a positive impact on children’s learning especially when it goes hand in hand with parent and child comments. This year we have several boys for whom it is essential that they have access to outdoor play as seen by their boisterous behaviour. However, the concentration and thought that they put into constructing dens in the wild area provided by the school is amazing. (See comments about Forest Schools) It has also demonstrated a side to friendships and working together that we may have missed had we not provided the raw materials to fuel their imagination. Children that we never thought would play together collaborate to achieve their plans and the language that is used is rich in vocabulary, especially where family members include their children in conversations outside the setting. Adults are available if help is required and to promote thought through participation and providing additional resources if desired. If a child doesn’t make progress then staff plan a different approach based on their knowledge of the child, information from parents and friendship groups.
Part of our liaising with other Managers of early year’s settings covers developing materials that assist in making the job easier. One such occurrence was a recording sheet based on the Characteristics of Effective Learning (CoEL) with prompts of what to look for to be able to record progress in this area. This form has been beneficial to those staff members who require reminders on this aspect of their practice. We also had a trainer come into the setting to deliver a 2-hour course on COEL during our training day at the start of the autumn term 2017.
We have a range of open-ended resources and activities that promote children to develop the Characteristics of Effective Learning. The fact that we extend activities and interests that children have shown or parents have talked about help them to be interested. Provision can be tweaked, including enhancing the environment that will extend or encourage an interest further. One example we observed was a child who was fascinated by water (anywhere!) and we provided assorted bottles with lids, jugs, funnels and different lengths of pipe and guttering to the outdoor water play and he spent a great deal of time exploring, including talking about his discoveries with other children and thinking of new ways to use the resources. In this particular case the child’s EYPP helped to fund their interest but also had a positive impact on others also. We provide information for families on the CoEL to help them understand what they are witnessing when their children play.
Activities are provided with a range of ages in mind and the majority can be adapted to be suitable for the youngest children but also enhanced for the more able children. With adult support younger children can often manage the more ‘challenging’ activities though.
We have an average rate of SEN/D children, mostly displaying speech and language difficulties and occasionally behaviour, with 2 diagnosed as autistic. Our involvement in the ECaT National Strategy has improved our ability to identify and support children with Speech & Language difficulties, including the Manager having completed the Elklan training. The implementation of the Graduated Response for SEN/D, based on assess, plan, do, review, allows staff to seek appropriate help for children who require it.
We currently children for whom English is an additional language, and we have been proactive in working alongside families to encourage language development and a language rich environment in their home language and resource labels. The resulting work we did with a Lithuanian family resulted to a referral to a specialist EAL speech and language therapist who diagnosed a delay. We also extended the ‘Talking Together in Cambridgeshire’ initiative by using the underspend to produce talking photo albums with photos of items where the parents recorded the word in English and their first language. This has proved popular with families and we have also realised the potential for children with SEN/D.
We encourage equality of opportunity and diversity in almost all aspects of our time with children from their early days with us where they help to set the rules to how we promote British Values and support Cultural Capital through activities and everyday interactions and routines. Since we do not live in an area that reflects varied cultures and beliefs we travel into the nearby town and provide various posters, books and resources in the setting. A trip to Tesco’s as part of their community project ‘Farm to Fork’ led to many conversations with children and their families. We used deprivation funding to take children and their families to Frankie and Benny’s restaurant to experience cooking in a real restaurant.
Our partnership with parents starts from the moment we send out the invitation to join our group, laying out the expectations for their involvement to work alongside us in the learning process. This new addition to our registration pack was inspired by attendance of the February 2016 Early Years Conference ‘Yes we can! Supporting children to achieve’ where the key note speakers spoke passionately about the importance of involving parents and the various ways to achieve this during children’s earliest years. They spoke of providing opportunities on a daily basis for children to become scientists, botanists, entomologists, meteorologists, teachers and architects. We have expanded on inexpensive resources to encourage language rich exchanges in the setting and at home where parents do not have to worry about items being broken or lost. This has been a stumbling point to families accessing the resources provided to enhance home learning. We also introduced cards with an individual activity that parents could carry out with their children that do not involve a cost yet would encourage conversation and increase time spent in the company of others in a productive way. One such card reads ‘Find 5 things in your garden that makes a noise.’ There is also a set of cards that encourage families to go on a sound hunt with a link to an online website where they can hear the correct sound.
This last year we have taken part in the home learning opportunity presented by ‘Easy Peasy’ in the form of a text message link sent to their phones. This idea was endorsed by the County Council and was extended throughout the pandemic to support families during lockdown.
We have recently re-worked our website and App, adding more ideas to help families help children to learn and signpost them to helpful websites for a wealth of issues that crop up in life and to explain the new Childcare Choices funding options. We have altered the way that we involve parents in daily life at pre-school. We now post on the App the newsletter that has term dates and general information and any fundraising events, including dates that we offer parent’s evenings and afternoon stay and play sessions. The second is purely about what their child will experience over a 2-week period such as what the book of the week is, activities on offer, any visitors in or visits planned and the learning outcomes. Initial responses have been positive and comments can be found earlier on.
Outcomes for children.
Data for the academic year 2019/20 only shows the development for half a year since the COVID-19 Pandemic and subsequent lockdown meant that children were unable to access our setting. Progress made from starting points:
2019/20 cohort of children overall
o 50% good level of development
o 36.4% steady rate of progress (37.5% had only been attending for 2 months)
o 13.6% below expected level of progress
o 50% steady rate of progress (in their 2nd year of attending and under Early Support)
o 50% below expected level of progress (in their 1st year of attending and just accepted for Early Support and both with a diagnosis of autism)
o 66% good level of development
o 33% steady rate of progress
o 61% good level of development
o 33.3% steady rate of progress
o 5.5% below expected level of progress
Behaviour and attitudes and personal development.
Key people develop a bond with the children that they key work for and communicate with their parents over a range of issues. This closeness allows for them to ‘tune into’ the children and be more sensitive to changes in their personality. Home Visits are carried out. A member of staff attended REAL (Raising Early Achievement in Literacy) training and as a result we implemented a programme that expands on the home visits we currently undertake. We applied for, and were successful in obtaining funding to purchase books and mark making resources, including bags. We introduce these items to families during the home visit and the key worker uses the opportunity to engage with the children. During this training we had the opportunity to network with other settings and as a result introduced a more visually appealing approach to gathering information on children’s personality and preferences. It has proven popular and another member of staff has recently attended REAL training but ideas are on hold at present due to the pandemic.
We have found that children form appropriate attachments with key people quicker since we introduced the home visit which also has the added benefit of allowing parents peace of mind when leaving them in those early days.
This secure attachment, along with observations and assessment, allows the key person to plan individually for the children and is helped by working in partnership with parents through the communication channels mentioned earlier.
Overall, the majority of families attend regularly and where attendance drops on the odd occasion it can usually be explained by an unavoidable course of events, such as illness of either the child or parents or transport issues. Every time a child is absent the senior member of staff contacts the family to find out the reason and then logs it. We have procedures in place for when a child might stop attending all together.
We are confident that the children who attend are happy and enjoy their time with us through conversations with parents and through observing their play in the setting. Not all staff were confident about how the Characteristics of Effective Learning would look like in practice so, in collaboration with neighbouring groups we adopted a way of tracking observations that demonstrated these traits, therefore, allowing key workers to have their individual children’s information in one place. (This was mentioned earlier)
By following our Health and Safety Policy, we actively encourage children to use tissues, cover mouths when coughing and wash hands after toileting and before eating. We also encourage parents/carers not to send children who are unwell into a session using half-termly newsletters, the App and Facebook. This is a difficult policy decision to enforce since parents don’t always say if their child has been unwell. It can tie up a staff member for a considerable amount of time until parents are able to collect and generally alters the ‘feel’ of the session.
We draw up group rules in consultation with the children at the start of the Autumn Term and refer to them as necessary.
We provide a range of food and help children to consider the differences between nutritious food and unhealthy food through our curriculum. In the past we have organised a Healthy lunch box session that was held on site via the Child and Families Centre to provide ideas for parents on alternatives to pack for lunch times. We created an eye-catching leaflet for families with ideas for portion sizes for small children and a list of handy hints.
We are ready to implement the NHS dental awareness campaign where we will be undertaking supervised toothbrushing in the setting. This will start once the pandemic is behind us.
We carry out risk assessments on aspects of the premises and activities, accordingly. We try not to prevent children from reasonable risk-taking on the school’s trim trail and recently introduced woodwork with proper tools.
As mentioned previously, we introduced home visits during 2013 and have found that we have generally experienced smoother transitions into the setting. Key people are on hand to spend time supporting children at any point during a session whether they are new or experienced children.
We encourage children to develop the habits and behaviours appropriate to good learning, their own needs and those of others by being good role models. We also use a persona doll to engage the children in thinking about different behaviours and the consequences of actions. During the autumn term 2013 we introduced group registration at the start of the day and a dedicated time for delivering the Letters and Sounds activities.
· Giving consistent responses to dealing with behavioural issues, everyday routines, everyday hygiene, for example, nose wiping, hand over mouth etc…
· Encouraging children to replace resources and equipment when they have finished with them.
· Promoting independence through play, eg. Placing a wet picture on the drying rack, hanging painting aprons on the hooks and so on.
· Prompting children with regards personal hygiene, especially when they are toilet training.
· We try to encourage children to empathise with their peers through sensitive explanations of their behaviour towards others
One area that we have been careful to cultivate over the years is helping children to progress in understanding self-regulation. We were very lucky to be gifted two ‘My First Emotions’ boxes from Skylark Learning. It is an innovative learning resource for early years children and was developed with psychologist Dr John Lambie (Reader in Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge) and is designed to help children manage and understand their emotions. It does this through a fabulous range of interactive resources. Dr Lambie was interested in gaining feedback from early years settings about this resource and attended one of our managers meetings. This resource is well used by staff and goes a long way to helping children to learn emotional literacy. We have a box in our lending library and key-workers encourage families to take it home when it is felt to be necessary and it also helps to keep the children engaged in learning about feelings when they are not with us.
We are able to help children to understand the benefits of physical activity and healthy eating through a range of means. We start the Autumn Term with activities that help children to understand the benefits of eating healthy food and the differences between those and sweets, for example. However, we offer a wide range of snacks which include salad items, fruit, vegetables as well as cheese and cereal and so on. We offer water throughout the session at all times of the year allowing children to pour water from a jug independently. At snack time children have the choice of water or milk to drink. Snack is a café style affair and we purchased a self-serve trolley as part of the Funded 2’s registration to encourage independence. Children can visit for snack as often as they like between 9.40 and 10.30am and are then required to wash their dishes.
We support children’s understanding of personal safety by covering the NSPCC’s PANTS initiative and two staff have undergone the ‘Protective Behaviours’ training.
As mentioned earlier, in September 2020 we will be offering a hot meal daily and are working with a local setting to give us pointers on how to make this a success.
We believe that by allowing the children to be independent and explore the choices available to them, explaining and exploring with regards to food, we have made a difference in their understanding. We see this over time when children are repeating key messages to new children about health and hygiene and behavioural issues.
Attendance is generally good but occasionally we have a family whose attendance is not consistent. We explain that children need to attend consistently to reap the benefits, not to mention to meet the funding requirements and now signpost families to the ‘Attendance Matters’ leaflet that is in the introductory pack and on the App. We appreciate the impact that non-attendance has on a child’s time with us resulting in poor concentration, a lack of emotional attachment with their key-worker and therefore not in the correct emotional state to learn. The child’s tracker often demonstrates this problem. This information has also been added to our website.
We incorporate school readiness into our routines (personal skills, physical, visiting the school environment, concentrating on listening skills and so on). We liaise with the local school and produce a booklet for each child that documents their visits to school and has photos of some key staff members that they will have regular contact with once they start. It was the success of this transition tool that prompted us to use the same idea for our new starters. Comments on how well the local primary school felt we prepared the children to start in the Reception class were positive and well received by staff as a reflection of our work. They commented on how well all of the children sat appropriately ready for the school day and followed instructions when given.
Leadership and management.
OUR MISSION STATEMENT:
We endeavour to provide an educational foundation and experiences that will provide children with the tools to develop to their full potential.
Our is to develop a community which recognises each child as a unique individual. We are committed to:
* providing equal opportunities for all children attending.
* offering a safe, happy and caring and stimulating environment with a positive ethos.
* setting high, realistic expectations to ensure individual children realise their full potential.
* valuing links with Alderman Payne Primary School and within the local community.
* creating positive and purposeful partnerships with parents/carers and their children.
* providing equal opportunities for staff to continue to develop their knowledge and skills as part of a valued team.
We aim to develop a shared vision for all by:
· promoting fairness and equality of opportunity for all families attending.
· involving the whole community in the life of the nursery.
· developing and sharing the Pre-schools Quality Improvement Plan and Inspection Reports with all families and stakeholders.
Effective leadership achieved by:
· promoting a shared vision, values and aims
· setting high expectations
· promoting effective teamwork
· promoting professional dialogue
· facilitating the continual professional development of staff through high quality training opportunities
We aim to work together with parents to improve learning by:
· sharing information
· promoting an open-door policy
· welcoming parents’ views and contributions to pre-school activities
· working in partnership to support children’s development and learning
· promoting a shared vision, values and aims
· building and sustaining strong and respectful relationships
The committee oversee all aspects of the pre-school through the Manager who sits on the committee. A committee member, usually the Primary School’s head teacher liaises with the Manager to support the role with carrying out the Managers supervisions and appraisals. The head teacher is also the designated committee member for child protection.
We encourage children to develop the habits and behaviours appropriate to good learning, their own needs and those of others by being good role models. We start this process with the Home Visit which occurs for all families when they commit to joining our setting. By this stage in the registration system families would have visited us and hopefully have visited our website at www.parsondrovepreschool.co.uk and begin to have an understanding of our commitment to caring for their children. They will understand that we have a set of policies and procedures that we are governed by and a committee that comprises mostly of parents like themselves and that is in fact staffed by past parents who felt compelled to train to work in early years.
September 2016 saw us improving our settling in process with new families joining us for a taster session to try activities with their children. They will have developed a sense of their child’s day once they went solo and will be able to chat to staff, hopefully easing some of their anxieties. Children are given a book with photos of the rooms and gardens so that families are able to discuss the time spent in the setting in a positive way.
The home visit occurs a few days prior to a child starting and is undertaken by the manager and the child’s allocated key-worker. A welcome pack is taken along which consists of a book bag with crayons, pad of coloured paper and an age appropriate story books for the child and information leaflets on a variety of subjects and the ‘What to expect when!’ booklet described earlier. During the visit, the key-worker engages with the child and the resources in the safety of close proximity to parents whilst the manager talks parents through our expectations and answers any questions or concerns, they may have. We also introduce the parents to our App which allows us to provide up to date information, policies, newsletters etc… This is free and we have found that the majority of families are able to access it.
Earlier, our expectations around parent partnership and children’s development are explained in detail. In addition to this we are also signpost families to SALT drop in’s and local Child and Family Centres for advice and support on a variety of subjects.
Staff well-being is addressed through several channels: supervisions, training, leaflets and posters. This seems to work well, especially, I believe since we are a small team of 5. We are currently in the process of compiling an anonymous survey amongst staff to monitor how well our methods of support are working.
Action plans over the last few years have seen our commitment to offering the best environment and practice possible. We have re-modelled our outdoor area to better reflect all areas of learning and incorporated our mud kitchen so that it can be used all year round. We also jumped at the opportunity to become a part of a local initiative which encourages best practice in regards of communication, language and literacy. It was called ‘Chattering Champions’ and as well as the obvious advantages we have benefited from the visits to other settings, several of whom were judged ‘Outstanding’ during their inspections.
In the autumn 2018 we applied for a grant to run a project through the ‘Talking Together in Cambridgeshire’ initiative in collaboration with 6 other early years settings with us as project lead. As a result of our success we were invited to present workshops at the Early Years Conference over 2 days to share our good practice with other settings.
During early 2020 we are now lead on an Opportunity Area project that we have named ‘Chatter Matters’ when the original setting dropped out. This project has a literacy-based theme and incorporates 3 early years settings working alongside Primary Schools. To date the project is on hold due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
We evaluate the quality of our provision in a number of ways as mentioned prior.
As well as the general action plans mentioned earlier, we also distribute questionnaires to families attending.
Our overall approach to children’s learning and development consists of staff observing what they are doing and then planning activities or new experiences based on these observations. We also have a range of adult-initiated topics that help to expand children’s experiences. We use ‘Home/Setting’ Books to communicate what children have done and take on board what parent’s say during informal chats at the start/finish of a session. These informal chats and information from the ‘Getting to Know You’ forms help us to provide activities for the children. All of this information, including the observations, is discussed during planning and we pool ideas on how to advance children’s learning the following week. This is in addition to the ‘moment by moment’ planning we do on a daily basis where opportunities present themselves. We track their learning and development through their individual records so that we can see where they have progressed and what worked or didn’t work.
We are confident that this system works as feedback during planning meetings and supervisions show that individual children make progress. Verbal feedback from parents also demonstrates that children have moved on in their learning.
Decisions on the allocation of EYPP funding are made in partnership with parents/carers. We have a combination of larger projects, such as the bereavement training and individual projects that meet specific needs of children. We recently spent EYPP+ funding for a Care Experienced Child on his key-worker accompanying him into his new school for a couple of days as he was joining half way through the Autumn Term. His foster Carer commented that this worked well to aid in his transition. Maths in the outdoor environment was expanded by the addition of a water wall to meet several of the children’s needs who were in receipt of EYPP.
During the spring term 2018, EYPP for one child was spent on his attending a Forest School held in a neighbouring village and run by the local Child and Families Centre. It proved extremely helpful and has also given us the taste of what this style of learning can achieve.
More recently the EYPP and deprivation funding has been spent on getting children active with a weekly sports coaching session and dance sessions.
Staff attempt to support all children in their learning during a session. It was through some of the more challenging behaviour that a member of staff attended ‘Supporting Boys’ training which has proved incredibly helpful. We have since altered our approach to caring for boys and increased the learning opportunities in our outdoor environment.
We have further developed our approach in regard to early identification of children’s needs. We have a register that lists all children in different areas of need: Universal, Monitoring, Focused and Complex. Universal covers all children who are developing at an age appropriate rate. Monitoring is where children are not meeting age-related expectations and additional activities are added to the plans in these areas. Focused covers those children who do not progress through the Monitoring stage and they end up having Targeted Support Plans (TSP) put in place. Parents’ input is important and activities are also sent home from our lending library to support the plan. We have not had a great deal of success in the past with encouraging families to support their home learning which is why we put in a bid for funding through a local company. We were successful and spent the autumn term of 2016 purchasing resources and reworking the paperwork and advertising of the scheme. Complex covers those children who do not make progress in spite of having a TSP and are then referred to a specialist agency (with parents’ permission). This stage of support can lead to a request for Early Support or an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). The graduated response runs alongside our triangle of need rag rating system that helps to link possible issues in families lives with their learning and development through the EYFS.
All staff have received training in promoting equality and diversity and we are well resourced in this area. When children first start with us we concentrate on the prime areas of development and this links with activities we plan that promote British Values such as inviting the children to make decisions that affect them: ‘Democracy’. Occasionally this can be as simple as a choice of activities or what to spend some money on, such as during the re-modelling of the mud kitchen, or setting the rules of the group.
The changes made through the training to support boys has direct links to ‘Individual liberty’ demonstrating that we take their decisions seriously in regard to their style of learning: more space and preferably outside.
A great deal of the British Values is threaded through general practice such as care and kindness, building self-esteem and managing behaviour. We have a display in the setting and are compiling a folder that evidences our practice with regard to British Values.
Behaviour plans are put into place when children struggle to control their impulses.
Statutory requirements are met through the process of committee meetings and adopting/writing of policies, as are other government requirements. We have a cycle of checking that all things ‘not children’ are in place and reviewed annually. These include things like music licence, ICO registration (GDPR from May 2018), training in First Aid and Food Hygiene, PAT testing etc… All staff have completed the online Prevent Duty training and the manager attended the more in-depth county held training. Staff are aware that our curriculum covers the British Values and what to do if they felt a child was in an environment of radicalisation and extremism. We have made the relevant changes to practice and procedures in line with the updated Safeguarding Inspecting in early years in September 2019. Our code of conduct was revised and adopted as the staff behaviour policy and we adopted the most up to date version of the Local Authority Child Protection policies. All staff and committee and volunteers receive safeguarding updates as they occur. The Manager meets with Managers from local settings to discuss safeguarding changes where the aim is to support each other in this area. (We also have a similar group with regards to equalities and moderating EYFS and Two-year-old reports.)
With regard to Cultural Capital we use the knowledge from our regular observations, working as key persons and what we know of the children’s home lives to develop children’s experiences and learning.
Basically, it is the exciting and stimulating activities that we do with children every day. These may include:
· finding books on a child’s favourite topic
· creating role-play activities that further their interest in a particular idea
· taking trips to the park
· or organising visits from community figures such as the police.
All staff understand that in an early years setting, cultural capital means that each child arrives with a number of experiences and ideas based on their own personal circumstances. Since the essence of cultural capital already lies within the EYFS, we continue to focus on giving each child the best start in life and the support that enables them to fulfil their full potential.
We regularly signpost families to information on being careful with online safety and children. Safeguarding has always been on the agenda at team meetings and has now been added to committee meeting agendas. Attendance on Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Safeguarding Boards training was mentioned prior. All staff are encouraged to join the DBS Update Service and the Manager uses this service twice a year to check their suitability status. We hold a record of all staff and committee and their DBS certificate numbers and the results of the Update Service checks.
Staff are encouraged to improve through a cycle of peer observations (adapted from the ECaT materials) and supervisions and appraisals. They attend training and both the Manager and Deputy support them in carrying out their duties as key workers. The Manager and Deputy meet with the reception class teacher later in the Autumn term to discuss accuracy and content of the EYFS reports. Last year’s feedback was positive in all areas.
Our vision of the future includes the opportunity to expand the service we offer to include hot meals daily to those families who would like them.
Staff workload and well-being are supported through the supervision process and the variety of posters and booklets that are provided. The recent pandemic made the need to support staff well-being even more necessary as worries over supporting key-worker children and the return to work as the Government phased in more children returning became a reality. We all embarked on ‘Zoom’ team meetings!
We have undertaken much self-evaluation over the last few years around all areas of our provision and practice, including children’s learning and development, through the Quality Framework and Action plans.
Our self-evaluation process involves parents, staff and committee; and we try hard to incorporate children’s views.
We feel that the changes we have made to date have had a positive impact on the provision we offer. For example, better communication through ‘Home/Setting’ books, the App and Facebook with some families and a continuous flow of play with the introduction of a Café style snack time (including clearing away and washing up), and the links with the school aiding the transition of children between the groups.
Tackling identified weakness is an on-going process and we feel that we achieve well in this area. During our last inspection it was recommended:
“To further improve the quality of the early years provision the provider should:
strengthen staff's awareness of how to promote children's mathematical skills
develop staff's confidence in knowing when and how to join in and enhance children's freely chosen play.” (10/5/18 Inspection)
We are working to improve our partnership working with parents/carers; inviting various professionals into the setting, such as, speech and language therapists, a dance teacher and sports coach.
We have staff who have advanced further along the qualifications pathway, having gained the EYFD, therefore in line with government targets within this industry.
We try to support families wherever possible to allow their children to thrive and get the best they can from us at home. In the past a member of staff has accompanied a Traveller family to a speech and language assessment and group session in their own time with our pre-school paying for transport since the family didn’t have a car. We wrote to a local charitable group asking for money to cover transport costs.
We feel that we support children with additional needs effectively and have all of the relevant support paperwork in place to help them make good progress.
In the past we have put into place 1:1 support staff to work alongside a boy who had severe behavioural difficulties. This became necessary as several children appeared wary of him and there was an increase in incidents where both children and staff were being hurt. Since he left, he has now moved to a specialist school. We have recently been successful in our application for SENIF funding to support a child.
Comments from families demonstrate that children like staff and are happy to attend. The comments mentioned prior from the primary school support our judgement that we are effective in helping children become school ready.
All requirements for children’s safeguarding and welfare are met. We keep staff training up to date and our records demonstrate that we log concerns and act on them accordingly and taking advice as necessary. We were over the moon when we moved into our purpose built mobile, complete with an office, kitchen, disabled toilet, covered decking for all weather play and a larger entrance way.
We are effective in evaluating practice and implementing changes that impact the environment and how we deliver the curriculum to children. We doggedly persist in trying to engage families to support us and their children and live in hope that one of our strategies will prove effective.
Parson Drove Pre-School
c/o Alderman Payne Primary School