TEY hears from nursery manager Amy Purt about the importance of CPD and quality interactions with the children…
After working as a teaching assistant, I’ve recently started a new role as a nursery manager.
This is something I have done previously and I really missed the opportunities it gives me to impact young children’s lives through our provision, learning opportunities and working in partnership with parents.
It also allows me to support, lead and provide continuing professional development for my team, which is something I am very passionate about.
At the moment, I’m studying for a BA Honours degree in Primary Education Studies to give me a greater understanding of how children learn after the early years. This will help me to ensure we provide the best chances for our children, equipping them to be lifelong learners.
If we can get it right in the early years then it can only be a positive for their future education.
I’m also completing something for my own CPD – the Early Years Leadership Accreditation – to support me in my new role.
I think we can always improve on practice. CPD in the early years is essential to ensure that we are doing our best to support ourselves, the children and their families – providing enabling environments, and engaging activities and learning opportunities.
It’s tough as there’s less local authority funding than there used to be, but we need to be on top of our game. We can do this by making the most of training opportunities on offer within our roles and seeking out our own learning opportunities.
Most people who work with young children don’t see it as ‘just a job’; it’s a passion, and we want to research, read and provide the best experiences and opportunities for the children.
I’ve noticed a big shift in how people access training since the pandemic – many are turning to online CPD as it’s more affordable and accessible.
There’s also so much more to CPD than lengthy, expensive courses. Webinars, live videos, magazines, blogs, podcasts, online articles… even reading Instagram posts can be CPD.
There are so many ways to access your own learning opportunities these days and there are so many knowledgeable and professional early years specialists within the sector.
As we work in a sector that’s always evolving and changing, we need to keep up to date, especially when it comes to safeguarding, policies and legislation, and our growing understanding of child development. I also think that as practitioners, leaders and teachers it’s important for us to take charge of our own CPD.
As part of my new role, we’re going to provide our team with half-termly CPD topics that we’ll be looking at together. This will all be bitesize CPD to ensure that it doesn’t consume too much time, but it will mean we are all on the same page.
My approach to observations, assessments and next steps is that if done correctly, and you have a well-trained team who have a deep understanding of child development, they are incredibly useful.
Observations and next steps shouldn’t be a tick-box exercise; they should be purposeful and show us something about the children we work with, providing clear next steps that will enhance a child’s learning and development.
I’ve been asked how many observations children should have within a certain period and I don’t believe there’s a magic number.
As soon as you tell a team that they need so many observations this term, people feel the need to carry out observations and next steps for the sake of it, and that’s no use to anyone.
I also strongly believe that assessments and next steps shouldn’t take us away from our valuable, high-quality interactions with the children. We should always consider – if our skilled, knowledgeable staff know the children well and where they are heading next, do we need to log everything?
Our interactions with the children should be carefully thought out – are we enhancing and scaffolding their learning or interrupting play?
There is a book called Interacting or Interfering? Improving interactions in the early years by Julie Fisher. This is an absolute must for everyone in my opinion.
The book talks about how high-quality interactions are so important for early years settings and gets us to take a look at our interactions and reflect on whether they are interacting or interfering. There are transcripts to read, reflection points and I always find something new every time I look back on it. I’ve used it for lots of staff training.
Another book I’d recommend is Schemas: A Practical Handbook by Laura England.
This is fabulous for everyone in the early years – it includes pictures of Laura’s setting alongside a breakdown of each schema, how it looks in practice, how to support children, a resource list and activity ideas.
I find that practitioners don’t always feel confident about what schemes and schemas are, how they look in learning and their significance for young children. I know this wasn’t taught during my initial training many years ago, so it’s another one that I always share with my team.
The role of the Early Years Professional
Early years apprenticeship programmes