Nursery Management

Early years training – How to make sure it’s effective

  • Early years training – How to make sure it’s effective

Providing Early Years training to staff is paramount. But how can we overcome the challenges we face in doing so? Ann Poolton, head of short course delivery at Busy Bees Education and Training, investigates… 

Passion. Vocation. Calling. Whatever terminology you use, as a former nursery manager I understand the deep dedication practitioners have for what they do.

And I understand that an integral part of that staff dedication is making sure they have adequate training in the latest skills and strategies to best support the children in their care. In short, we’re talking about continuous professional development, or CPD. 

However, despite this passion and desire to offer the very best care to the children in their settings, the Social Mobility Commission’s 2020 report suggested that most practitioners don’t receive an adequate amount of training and CPD.

So, where does this disconnect come from? How can we ensure that we can overcome the barriers to consistent and high-quality training for Early Years staff? 

CPD explained 

So, what do we mean when we talk about CPD? CPD is about actively seeking out and undertaking activities and research, to learn more about your chosen work sector.

You can realise this in a variety of ways, from attending courses, webinars and industry events, to reading articles, books, magazines and newsletters.

One of the most effective ways to learn more about the role of an Early Years practitioner is to observe others who may have more experience in a particular area. This could be fellow colleagues or professionals related to the industry, such as health visitors or child development workers.  

There are elements of CPD that require individuals to proactively seek out their own learning opportunities. However, for CPD to work effectively, we need to embed a culture of learning within our workforce, starting with managers.  

You can do this by providing as many learning opportunities as possible. Some quick wins include sharing an informative online article, having industry magazines available in break-out areas or signing up to a learning bundle.

Be supportive of any requests for information or development. Managers should also set out a clear training strategy, so staff understand from day one that CPD is an important element of their role. 

There are no compulsory time requirements for CPD. However the EYFS does set out training requirements within the framework. Ofsted will look for evidence of training and development during their inspection.

They will focus particularly on key areas such as safeguarding, first aid, understanding the EYFS and specialist responsibilities.  

Feeling the benefits 

It’s no secret that giving effective CPD to staff within Early Years has a long list of benefits. In a constantly evolving environment such as education and childcare, new legislation and research appear regularly. CPD helps practitioners keep abreast of these developments. This allows you to offer the innovative and relevant care in an ever-changing landscape.  

Research has also proven that CPD helps steady the workforce. Those receiving quality training and a career pathway are more likely to stay with their employer and within the sector.

CPD gives those working in childcare a sense of achievement and makes them feel valued within their setting. This in turn motivates practitioners to invest in a future working with children. This is vital in a sector that is facing a large skills gap.  

Recognising the challenges

Most settings understand the need for CPD and the benefits it can bring. However, we must acknowledge the challenges many practitioners face if we are to overcome them.  

The first is time. To undertake training, staff often need to take time out from the day-to-day care setting. With ratios of adults to children to consider, this can be a challenge, especially for childminders and small independent settings.  

It can also be costly to deliver training to a workforce throughout their careers. With the constant struggle to keep childcare as affordable for families as possible, we can sometimes view training as a ‘non-essential’.

At one time, local authorities offered training opportunities, either free or at a manageable cost. However, this has now either become more expensive to undertake or has disappeared entirely.  

Overcoming the challenges  

So, now we know some of the main issues facing CPD in Early Years, how can we overcome these to achieve the effective training we need in our settings? 

One way to solve the dual problem of money and time could be through the cascading of information. One practitioner can attend training and then disseminate the information to the team. This is something I’ve done in the past.

Be aware of information becoming diluted, however. Colleagues may not deliver the information effectively compared to a professional trainer. You also won’t be able to ask the expert questions using this model.

Another option is to join education and childcare social media groups and forums for advice and to share knowledge. However, you may find the information there is based on opinion and open to interpretation. For example, a discussion about how to view a certain regulation may quickly become a torrent of opinions.

On-demand training

To avoid these possible pitfalls, you might want to investigate training packages offered by CPD providers that take into consideration the challenges faced in Early Years settings.

There are training bundles available that give staff access to an online training library, which they can visit within a timeframe that suits them. The ‘on-demand’ nature of this model means it can be a cost-effective way to deliver training.

Each team member can have their own log-in and track their progress. This gives them autonomy over their own CPD, and achievements. They can store certificates on their record for future reference. 

Additionally, encourage the sharing of best practice within your setting. Do this by providing opportunities for mentoring and encouraging observations and discussions. Put this on your monthly team meeting agenda to ensure there is a regular time to do this.  

It may also be worth talking to local authorities to see if they offer any CPD opportunities. For example, some local authorities are opening Stronger Practice Hubs as part of the government’s education recovery support package.   

Managers can also sign up to Early Years-focused newsletters (see our homepage) and take a look at websites for free resources.

Taking the time 

It’s important to take the time to put a training plan into place that you can share with each member of your workforce. This sets expectations of what you require of them, as well as instilling confidence that you are invested in their career progression.  

The ultimate goal is to upskill and develop your Early Years workforce, encouraging longevity and quality. This can only have a positive impact on the care children receive. 

Find out more about Busy Bees Education and Training.