Flexible ways of working - Foundation Days Nursery

The team at Foundations Day Nursery place a real emphasis on making the transition in to starting nursery a positive experience for all involved. Our process usually involves both the parent and the child spending time together in our setting, however in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, we have had to make changes to the way we welcome new starters.

We have a duty of care to the children in our nursery, and as part of that, we decided that it would be unsafe for adults, apart from the staff, to enter the children's learning rooms. This meant we had to make changes to the usual settling in process.

Our normal procedure for a ‘show round’ is for parents/carers to visit our site, and chat with our setting manager in the office. There is always lots of discussion around the service we provide, and we answer any questions the prospective parents might have. They are then given a tour of the whole building, being introduced to all the staff in the setting at that time. They are able to observe lots of activities taking place, as the times we like to show around is either 10.30am or 2.30pm, when the nursery is running at its full potential.

At the moment the show rounds happen at 7.30am or 5.30pm, when there are no children in the building. We set the appropriate learning room up for the age range of the child that they are looking for, and show the parent/carer just this room and the outside play area.

We encourage a five-hour induction period that spans over three days leading up to a child's start date. On day one, where the parent/carer would normally attend an hour-long session with child, in the room the child will be based in, we now host this session in a separate room. The parent and child still get to meet the child’s key person, and the child is still able to play while all the necessary paperwork is completed, but we are able to reduce the risk of transmission to our existing children. The child is given the option to play in the learning room in which they will be joining, or to play in the room that is set up with the parent and key person.

 

The second visit is an hour long play session in the child’s learning room without their parent/carer there to observe, which allows everyone to see how the child will cope being left in the setting. The parent/carer would normally take their child into their room and settle them in, leaving them once they are happy so that they can meet with the finance department to set up their account and discuss fees. Now, the child is handed over at the door of their learning room and the parent leaves ASAP to meet with the financial department. They are still on site if we need to contact them, and if the child does get too distressed, then the parent must come back to collect the child from the door and they must both leave the site.

The third visit is a longer stay which allows the child to experience snack time, a play session (inside/outside), lunch, toileting and maybe a nap. Again, parents/carers would normally be encouraged to enter the room and ensure their child is settled and happy before they leave, however in the current climate we ask that parents/carers leave their child at the door, do not enter the room, and leave the setting as quickly as possible.

Our families have been extremely understanding about the changes we have had to make due to COVID-19. They do express that it is not ideal, but they also understand why we have had to make these changes.

However, we do feel these new processes do not show prospective parents an accurate picture of what we have to offer their child if they take a place with us. Feedback from parents that have taken a place in the past has said how lovely and inspiring it is to see how the children are happy and engaged in what they are involved in. Our pre-COVID 19 approach also helped demonstrate the feeling of us being one big happy family. We feel viewing such a large nursery at the end of a day, with no staff or children in it, has had an impact on some family’s decisions.

Children returning from "lockdown" seem to be adapting a lot quicker and are more settled than we had expected. We were concerned that our more sensitive children would take a longer period to settle back in, and we wouldn't be able to give them a three day settling period. Fortunately, these children have settled well, with only a little upset at first, but then quickly feeling happy to leave their parents/carer at the door and enter their learning room independently.