Nursery manager Celia Andrews explains how audit tools developed by Staffordshire Quality Learning Services have enabled her to improve her team’s practice…
CA: I’m nursery manager at St Thomas’s Nursery in Kidsgrove, Staffordshire – we take children aged from two up to five-years and have two separate sites. In our toddler nursery, which takes children aged two and over, we have around about 60 children on role.
We work in quite a deprived area. A number of our families are quite poor, and we’re involved with Staffordshire Council’s Think 2 Project, which provides early years funding for disadvantaged two-year-olds.
CA: We’ve always been quite proactive in taking training and improving our knowledge. We used to take children from two-and-a-half years, but around four years ago made the decision to take them from two, so we wanted to gain a better understanding of toddler development.
Through our involvement in Think 2, we heard about the introduction of the Unique Toddler Project and were given the opportunity to pilot it for its first year.
CA: As manager, in the first instance I undertook training outside of our setting to learn about the project’s aims, and how it was to be delivered. It took about half a day, and I was then given materials to take back into the setting, where I delivered the project to my key workers.
This involved carrying out two wide-ranging audits. I had my view of the nursery – how I wanted it to run and how I thought it was being run – but the audits allowed me to get the views of the other practitioners. We did the audits individually – they each take about an hour – to help us to identify, for example, why we weren’t reaching a particular level with a child, or to find out if a member of staff didn’t understand a certain area of the children’s development. It was really useful to get all of those views back, and where there were comments suggesting something that we weren’t doing, it helped us to make changes to our practice.
CA: I think it’s been really beneficial, for staff, children and parents. Firstly, it’s a good thing for practitioners to reflect on their practice – it’s helped us all to work better as a team and we’ve put a lot of new things into practice as a result. Secondly, it’s helped us to form parent partnerships – because our key person system is running more smoothly as a result of the audits, we’re better able to help our parents to understand the development of their children. It’s given practitioners confidence to explain to parents “This is why we’re doing this…” at parents’ evenings, for example. We’ve even introduced workshops for parents with the children, too, for instance, helping them to understand why we’re doing messy play, what the benefits are – which is really helpful when some parents don’t like the idea of their children getting dirty!
On top of that, it’s had benefits for our children’s development too – they’re more confident and have an understanding of what we’ve been doing. We’ve even had schools commenting on how advanced our children are when they start with them, which is great to hear.
And it’s ongoing. We’re continuing what we’ve learned from the project. We’re always looking to develop our practice – there are always new parents so you have to respond to their needs and the needs of their children.
The Unique Toddler Project was developed by early years consultants at QLS, who recognised a need to provide training to meet the specific needs of toddlers and to enhance childcare professionals’ knowledge. The project comprises two audit tools designed to help early years practitioners to shape a varied range of opportunities and resources, helping toddlers to discover connections and think critically as well as enhancing their ability to ask questions.
Engaging with the Unique Toddler Project gives access to the following four booklets:
● The Unique Toddler: Tuning in to the Needs of Toddlers
● Emotional Development – Audit Tool
● Enabling Environments 1 – Practitioners’ Audit Tool
● Enabling Environments 2 – Examples of enhanced provision
For more information, visit qls.org.uk