Posts Tagged ‘day care’

Reducing sugar in our diet

January 31st, 2016 by Sarah Steel

As January draws to a close, many of us will have made some new year resolutions to eat and drink less, or exercise more. However, there has also been a lot in the media about sugar and how bad it is for us. We’ve been focussing on sugar in drinks with our pre-school children in nursery, showing them pictorially how much sugar is in some soft drinks, including those directly targeted at children. A small carton of Capri-sun, which some might think was ‘healthy’ as it is fruity, contains 10g of sugar in just one serving. A 471ml bottle of Friij toffee milkshake contains an amazing 12.9g of sugar.

At nursery we serve only milk and water and encouraging toothbrushing after lunch. There are some great public health resources for anyone interested in cutting down on sugar, do have a look at: http://www.nhs.uk/change4life/Pages/change-for-life.aspx

Our display may at least make you think twice, or help when you are explaining to your child why water is so good for them in so many ways!Sugardisplay

Thinking about communication friendly spaces

July 24th, 2014 by Sarah Steel

I went on a really excellent training course last night, with Elizabeth Jarman who specialises in promoting environments that help children to develop to the best of their ability. She shared with us several pieces of research which showed how our environments affect brain development in children. Some of it really made us think – for example, how we can reduce noise in our environments to help children to focus better. Often our homes are very noisy with radios, music and televisions on, yet we expect young children to pick up on new words and sounds, against a background of noise. In nursery we need to think about how we can find quiet spaces at times and reduce background noise during talking and reading activities.

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We came away full of ideas and will also be thinking about transitions from home to nursery and how we can ease these, as well as transitions between age groups. For now, do have a look at www.elizabethjarmantraining.co.uk as the page is designed for parents and practitioners alike. Over the next few weeks we hope to be sharing our learning with our nursery teams, so keep an eye out for a focus on communication friendly spaces around our settings.

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I have just returned from a few days away with my family, to a plethora of articles and comment on last week’s OFSTED report on Early Years provision. I had a taste of what was to come as I read the Sunday Times last week, which warned that parents were to hear how nurseries and childminders were failing their children. Then I caught a comment on line mid-week, with an exasperated nursery manager objecting to Sir Michael Wilshaw’s comment that nurseries were full of ‘the least able caring for the most vulnerable’.

Suffice it to say, I have been simmering gently ever since then.  My humour has hardly improved having read the report in more detail; how can OFSTED make a complete **** up of the nursery inspection regime over the last year, resulting in a significant number of inspection downgrades, most of which are currently being appealed by outraged operators? Not surprisingly, this has lead to an increase in the number of nurseries graded ‘inadequate’ – many of which have dropped from ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ due to highly questionable judgments by ill-informed inspectors. Sir Michael Wilshaw then further compounded the inevitable statistics by deciding that ‘satisfactory’ was actually no longer satisfactory, so everyone who previous sat on the right side of the ‘quality line’ has now become not good enough, with the grading being changed to ‘requires improvement’.  Next year, will he decide that ‘good’ is no longer ‘good’, thereby moving the statistics yet again?

However, one thing has come out of this week’s report. The Government, via our esteemed minister Ms Truss, has pinned its colours firmly to the mast; the best place for 2 year olds is in school. Our smallest children, whom many would see as little more than babies, some of whom are only just walking unaided and all of whom are in nappies, should be in class rooms. The Academies agenda has just been extended yet further, to encompass all bar our under-2s. Wilshaw refers to the large and varied group of experts as ‘the chattering classes’ for daring to suggest that we already push our children in to school to early.

I feel a mixture of real sadness and utter frustration that Wilshaw and Truss between them can dismiss such a large expert body with such a lack of respect.  I for one would like to call for a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the pair of them. I am proud to be part of a dedicated and professional Early Years sector and hope that I am sufficiently open-minded to weigh up the research and experience of the real experts, who believe that pre-school children should be in specialist ‘pre-school’ environments. For our political leaders – the clue is in the name, ‘pre-school’.

More Great Childcare…..really?

February 4th, 2013 by Sarah Steel

After two years of consulting on the opening of an envelope, I find it amazing that Liz Truss has announced the biggest changes to childcare for 10 years without any consultation and against a united voice of opposition from the sector.

Under these plans the ratio of children to child carers would rise from four two-year-olds for every one member of staff to six, while the ratio for children aged up to two will go up from three to four for every one member of staff.

 My real frustration is the ‘smoke and mirrors’ briefing to the media which leads parents to believe that this is about making childcare more affordable. The whole plan has not been properly thought out. Reducing ratios will not make childcare more affordable, as the Government is also saying that staff must be better trained and better paid. That means any saving on ratios will be passed on to staff salaries, or used to offset the current losses nursery care providers make as a result of too low a rate for the Government-funded spaces for three and four year olds.

This is not to mention the sheer practicalities of having one member of staff looking after six children aged two – everyone in the sector has been inviting Liz Truss to come and spend a day in their two-year-old rooms to see for herself how what she is suggesting will work.

I’ll be interested to see what comes out of the promised budget announcements.  In an ideal world, Ministers would be looking at a significant increase in Employer Childcare Vouchers rather than this, which really would make a difference to many working families.

 There are some welcome points in the announcement: a new qualification for senior practitioners is going to come in, which is the Early Years Teacher. This should go some way to address the historical inequality between Early Years Professionals and Qualified Teacher Status; EYPs were not on a par with QTS, causing bad feeling and a significant pay gap. However, the Government does not make it clear how EYTs will be paid the higher salaries they will naturally demand; this could push fees up, unless there is some subsidy available to support the higher salaries.

 As a company we introduced a requirement that our staff have the basic qualifications being set out in the report, as we felt that the rigours of delivering the Early Years Foundation Stage required a minimum level of academic qualification.  Whatever your academic background, it does not give anyone more laps to sit on, more arms for hugs, or the ability to change six nappies at once! 

 Most of all, I am concerned that the reduction in ratios will lead to a two-tier system: discerning parents who can afford to pay higher fees or feel it is vital, will use nurseries and childminders who pin their colours to the mast by maintaining or exceeding current ratios. Those in most deprived areas, where nurseries are already struggling to survive, will have to embrace lower ratios, but this may be at the cost of quality.

 I would certainly call on the Government to hold off on these changes until they have taken the time to get the full views of the sector it is proposing to change. Altogether, the current situation is not a satisfactory state of affairs. To use the alarmingly accurate parody provided by ‘Yes, Minister’ I don’t know where Liz Truss’s own Sir Humphrey was when she made these plans, but he was definitely snoozing.

I read an e-newsletter yesterday which said that one of the golden rules of blogging was to never apologise to your readers for having not posted for a while. I will therefore ignore the shameful gap since I last did exactly this, due to many reasons, not least a house move and 2 nursery moves, which seem to have kept us all fairly focused. Read the rest of this entry »

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