Ready to learn

“You can never be too curious. Pursue at least one new idea or learn one new thing every day!” Source unknown.

 I have been a trainer and a facilitator – in some shape or form – for over twenty years; in that time I have encountered a wide range of individuals and situations. Recently, when delivering a course, a number of issues arose: these issues were not new to me, so I was able to handle them. As I am a solution-oriented person, I want to share these solutions with you.

 Over the years, as we know, training budgets have been squeezed; this is a shame for educators and a travesty for the young children and families with whom they work.

 It is vital educators make the most of the training courses available, that they come away feeling inspired, with a bucket load of ideas and suggestions that will help them grow – both personally and professionally – and, more importantly, improve the outcomes for children.

 Note, some of the issues stated below are not the norm for the sector.

 With this in mind, it gives me pleasure to share a few ideas on how an educator should make the most of off-site training.

 Pre – course:

 Do you know why you are going on the course? I have had many delegates say to me “I am here because my manager sent me!” If this is the case, managers, please discuss with your staff beforehand why you are sending them on this course. Discuss how it will help them personally or professionally; is it linked to developments on your SEF?


 Image copyright to Laura Henry Consultancy 

Why not do some research on the course? Is it linked to a philosophical or theoretical practice?

 Do you need to inform the trainer or venue about any additional needs, disabilities, cultural or religious issues that should be accommodated?

 How is the course linked to the age group with which you work, in terms of the ages, stages and abilities of the children?

 Are there any implications that you need to consider for your key children and for your practice?

 Can you think of any questions you would like to ask the trainer or questions for other delegates about their practices and systems in their settings?

 If you are provided with the name of the trainer, why not find out what you can about them on the internet?  One delegate said to me: ‘Yeah, I googled you last night!’ Have they written any books or articles? Is there a particular theme to their work? Note any questions you may want to ask regarding their work and passions. A good trainer will always make time for their delegates.

 Depending on the location of the venue do a ‘dummy run': make use of the internet to print a map and decide which transportation method will be best for you, for example: bus, train or car. Be mindful that most venues do not have parking facilities, especially if they are being true to their environmental policy! List at least two different ways to get to the venue.

 Make a note of the venue’s and trainer’s telephone numbers; therefore if you are late you can call to apologise.  My geography is awful (part of my dyslexia), even if I have a map and use ‘sat nav’, I always tend to get lost. This means we should add on at least 30 or 45 minutes for unforeseen eventualities such as the car breaking down or public transport delays. Better to be early than late! You never miss a plane by being too early! Some local authorities and trainers have a rule that if you are more than fifteen minutes late you are not allowed to enter the session, even if you have paid.

 Arriving late means you will miss out on important information at the start regarding the content of the course; it is also disruptive for the other delegates.

 Make sure to bring a pen and paper. I have lost count of the number of pens I have loaned to delegates because they didn’t think they needed to bring a pen. Then there was the delegate who arrived with her pen in her hair!

 Bring any supporting documentation: EYFS, Development Matters, Early Years Outcomes and any other documents that were stated in the course requirements.

 Put the course in your home diary as well as your work diary and bring the confirmation of booking with you.

 Managers: think carefully about sending a member of staff at the last minute. Will he or she benefit from the course? Sending an alternative member of staff, on the day, does sometimes happen because the setting does not want to be ‘fined’ for a no-show or they do not want to lose the course fee by no-one attending. If this is the case make sure that the staff member attending is well briefed.

 During the course:

 Sign in. The trainer should inform you about housekeeping issues, such as the location of the toilets and the timing and procedure for refreshments.

 If a number of courses are taking place in the same venue, check you are in the correct room, ask the trainer to check the register and confirm the course title and content.

 If you are attending the course with colleagues be sure to challenge yourself by not sitting together. Find a new face to sit next to, ask about them and their setting. I know this is a confidence and a security issue. This is why we need more training in the sector on topics such as effective communication and assertiveness skills.


Image copyright to Laura Henry Consultancy

 An experienced trainer will, in addition, split you into groups and further mix up the groups, especially moving people around with a bit of active learning.

 Ask the trainer any questions that you have prepared, or ask other attendees about what they do in their settings. Ask the trainer to clarify any acronyms or points. Other delegates may be thinking the same thing, but may not be as confident to ask. I was inspired to write this blog on teaching as the result of one delegate asking me a question. If you do not feel able to ask the trainer your question within the group, please email the trainer after the course.

 Make good use of break times to network further with the other delegates.

 Go out of your way to exchange details with at least two new contacts, visit their settings to continue the professional dialogue. If you are a childminder visit a nursery or pre-school or vice versa.

 If you disagree with anything stated by the trainer, be sure to ask rather than returning to your setting and saying: ‘That Jo Bloggs said xyz and I disagree!’ It could be, that what the trainer was referring to was linked to legislation or guidance, to theoretical or philosophical practice, or something about which they are personally or professionally passionate. It is acceptable to hold a point of view that differs from that held by the trainer or other delegates; however, it is important to be professionally minded when discussing your differences.

 Be sure to highlight any points that catch your eye and ensure you follow them up.

 At the end of the session make a note of what you are going to put into action when you return to your setting.

 Post – course:

 Reflect on what you have learnt: what are the key points? Will you make any changes to your setting or room, in line with your setting’s values? 

 Research any additional information; are there any extension activities that you need to complete? 

 Share resources and information with your colleagues.

 Complete your training log.

 Arrange to visit another setting or invite another setting’s colleagues to your setting.

Why not do a termly evaluation of your training to ascertain whether the training has had a real impact on you personally or professionally? How has it supported your practice and enhanced children’s learning and development?Image

Image copyright to Laura Henry Consultancy

 I have numerous templates that I have created that link to this blog and use within my ‘Training and More’ course. Please feel free to contact me for additional information.

 To quote Usain Bolt: “I’m ready, are you ready? Let’s go!” 

 Join the conversation on Twitter: @LauraChildcare


Money Matters for Children


As parents ‘tighten their belts’ in the current economic climate, they also want to know what are the best saving schemes available for their children.

It therefore gives me great pleasure to share an informative guest blog by Kalpana Fitzpatrick who is a leading UK financial journalist with over 12 years’ experience in consumer and personal finance. She is the founder of Mummy Money Matters, a family finance website. Kalpana regularly appears on TV, radio and in the press as an expert commentator on family finances as well as a consumer expert.

Her aim is to keep finance simple and accessible, as well as helping families make the most of their money. When not doing that, she is Mum to two boys: one aged four years and the other 9 months.

As a parent too, I believe it is important we sow the seeds of positive financial management with our children and – more generally – embrace a culture of financial awareness. This also helps to develop children’s numeracy from an early age.

Please feel free to share this blog with your parents.


Kalpana writes:       Image

“When it comes to saving for your children, it’s surprising how many people still opt for traditional high street accounts.

But gone are the days when we head off to the bank with our porcelain piggy, getting praise from the staff behind the counter for how well we have done to save the pennies.

So, when I ask parents if they have heard about or considered a junior ISA, it comes as no surprise when they give me a blank stare.

Junior ISAs are a fantastic new way to save for your children. They are tax-free saving accounts that can be invested in either as a cash ISA, where you get an interest payment each year, or as stocks and shares ISA, where the returns are determined by how well the companies you invest in perform.

It may sound complicated, but all you really have to do is pick a provider and the type of ISA you want, pay a lump sum or set up monthly payments, and they will do the rest.

The potential returns are significantly higher for stocks and shares ISAs, but make sure you don’t get stung by high annual management fees – the culprits are usually high street banks, so look to specialist providers instead.

I believe stocks and shares are a good option if you plan to save for at least five years or more – that gives you enough time to make up any potential losses should the stock market perform badly.  They are also attractive as interest rates are currently so poor.

If you opt for a junior cash ISA, then make sure you hunt around for the best interest rate.

Junior ISAs can also teach your child good saving habits – recent research from financial services firm Hargreaves Lansdown found that most children with these types of accounts continued saving into them in the form of adult ISAs when they reached the age of 18.

Parents can put away £3,720 until the end of this tax year, which ends on the 5 April.

The junior ISA amount for the new tax year 2014/15 is £3,840. You cannot go back to the previous tax year, so just like an adult ISA, you either use your tax-free allowance or you lose it.

Junior ISAs were introduced in November 2011 replacing child trust funds (CTFs). They are available to children born after January 2011 and to children born before September 2002, who were excluded from CTFs.

Currently, children with CTFs cannot have junior ISAs, as regulations do not allow it.

However, just before Christmas, the government announced that the rules will change from April 2015, allowing these children to have access to junior ISAs, which have a better range of choices and rates than CTFs.

Parents with CTFs should continue saving into them as normal until these new rules come into force.

This blog does not constitute financial advice.”

Follow Kaplana on Twitter @KalpanaFitz

Read Between The Lines

My first guest blog for 2014 is Dr. Jo Verrill, who is the Director at Ceeda. Dr. Jo started out life in academic research before founding an independent research agency in 1999; Jo has a passion for delivering research that makes a real difference for early years businesses. Ceeda specialises in customer and employee research for early years childcare providers, working with large national groups and small owner managed businesses across the country.  

I passionately promote self-evaluation and reflective practice and, within this blog, Jo explains how carrying out parent and staff surveys can help you to continuously develop your provision.

 Jo writes:

 “Putting families at the heart of your provision

Staff build relationships with families on a day to day basis as a fundamental part of high quality care. Whether it’s feeding back on the day or sharing information about children’s progress and development at home and in the setting, staff working at the grass roots rightly feel they know families well.

 So why do we need more structured consultation?

Robust survey research gives a bird’s eye view of your provision; helping you to evaluate families’ experience of your service as a whole. When done well, it can help you spot opportunities, improve service quality, increase occupancy and boost staff morale.

With an increased emphasis on management in the new Ofsted inspection framework, it is increasingly important to have robust self-evaluation in place, supported by a strong evidence base.

 Here are some tips that may help in planning your future surveys. 

 Making sure research adds value

If research is going to be useful it has to be timely, reliable and informative.

Planning is key – consider when how and whom you need to consult with and plan for this activity throughout the year.

 When? Our memories of events and feelings deteriorate over time, it’s key to capture feedback as soon as possible. Think about the critical points in families’ journeys through your setting and time consultation around this. Making an initial enquiry and visit, booking and settling in, moving rooms, leaving – these are all key times when feedback can give you significant insight into how well things are working.


Image copyright to Ceeda©

How? There is so much ‘noise’ in our lives today; your request for feedback has to make it through all the other demands for our time and attention. Make it easy – on-line survey tools are fast and effective, backed up with paper for those who can’t /prefer not to engage on-line. Be persistent and ALWAYS send reminders.  

Why? Plan how you are going to analyse and use the feedback you collect BEFORE you start your campaign; why are you asking these questions and how will you use the answers to inform your practice? How will feedback be used in self-evaluation and planning? Who will take responsibility for this and manage the process to make sure it is carried out effectively?


Image copyright to Ceeda©

Engage staff in the research process to build ownership and creative a positive and open culture. Include staff in planning the survey and be clear about how results will be used to review and reflect on practice in a positive and supportive way. It’s a great development opportunity for a member of staff to lead and feedback on survey results.


Image copyright to Ceeda©

 Informing practice. Establishing a consistent approach will help you to look at trends over time and see if the improvement actions you have taken in the past have had the intended effect. Stick with a set of core questions that stay the same, then add to this depending on your current priorities.

 Look for opportunities to anonymously benchmark the results of your research with other settings – helping to evaluate your strengths, opportunities, and weaknesses in the local market.

 Feedback your research findings to parents and highlight any actions you have taken as a result – this will reaffirm the value of taking part and build goodwill for future campaigns!

 Use to support inspection – a strong approach to consultation is evidence in itself of rigorous management processes, and the evidence base you collect will drive quality and improvement. 

 Quality feedback from a user from an outstanding nursery.”

“Using the CEEDA questionnaires for both staff and parents has been a fantastic tool in enabling us to monitor and check internally that all is going well. The response rate has been excellent. The system is easy to use and fully supported. It has been invaluable for the management team in supporting and building on our existing quality assurance systems.”

Linda Baston-Pitt, Director at The Old School House 

Dr. Jo is kindly currently offering a FREE nursery survey for staff.

Please contact Dr. Jo for more information on this amazing offer!

Telephone:    0845 6800631


Follow Dr. Jo in conversation on Twitter: @ceeda_uk 

Parks, parents & settling in


It is always inspiring to hear of a setting delivering outstanding practice with their children and families. With this in mind I am pleased that Lotte Hunter, Operations Director of Building Blocks Nurseries in Wimbledon, has shared her setting’s stance on how to promote positive attachments between child and Educator during the settling-in period.

Lotte writes:


“A year and a half ago I attended a conference on attachment which inspired me to review our procedures. Forming secure attachments within the nursery is important for a variety of reasons: 


  1. When a child feels secure he or she is able to freely and openly engage both with activities and with others in the environment. 


  1. Strong attachments during childhood help form ‘attachment models’ in the brain that are called upon when children enter into relationships later in life. These models form the basis of a self-identity of someone who is loveable and worthy of care. 


Our settling-in used to take place within the nursery: parent and child would come and spend time playing in the room; gradually the parent would remove themselves as the child felt more comfortable, first to the edge of the room, then popping out for a few minutes, then leaving their child for 45 minutes to an hour. This worked well for most, but some would become upset whenever left and ultimately took weeks to settle down. We thought this was ‘the norm.’ We had created an environment where children associated going to nursery as a place they would play with ‘mummy.’ On the flip side, we had children who were happy to just come in and ‘get on with it.’  Following the conference I was able to reflect upon and question what the children were gaining from our current procedure. It was then I realised our entire ethos around ‘settling’ had to change: what were ‘key workers’ became ‘key carers’, our procedure was re-modeled to allow those strong bonds between the key carer (KC) and the child to form away from the nursery setting. 



 Image copyright of Building Blocks

Our Procedure 


  • The KC makes an initial call to the parent to introduce themselves and sets a date for the home visit. Meeting the child in their home environment is very important to establish a relationship of trust with the child. 


  • At the home visit the KC goes through the ‘All About Me’ booklet with the parent to establish the child’s starting point and spends time getting to know both the parent and the child. 


  • Two further meetings are arranged at a local park. Some children also have an additional session in the nursery. It is very important to us that our procedure allows for some flexibility, though, to meet the individual needs of the child and the parent. 


  • On the child’s first day the KC is always present to greet their key child.  They inform the parent of their shift time so the parent can see them at the end of the day. If this is not possible the KC will call the parent to give detailed feedback before leaving. 


  • The child arrives with their ‘All About Me’ Poster, containing pictures of close family members; it is kept where the child can access it at all times. 


  • We always call parents once their child has settled, if there have been a few tears at drop off; comforters or transitional objects from home are encouraged to ease anxiety; parents know they can call us at any time, while our web cams offer additional reassurance. 


It is just as important that our parents feel ‘settled’, as they are leaving their most precious possession in our care. 


Feedback from parents on our new procedure has been incredibly positive.  One parent writes; “I really feel that the induction process worked well, as my child never associated the nursery with her mum being there and she developed such an affectionate bond with her key carer. The combination of welcoming the key carer into our house to see my child’s toys, followed up by the park visits, helped my child trust her key carer and get to know her outside of the confines of the nursery itself.” 


Another parent writes; “When my second son joined the nursery I was surprised that the settling procedure had changed and I was sceptical about this.  It surprised me how trusting my child was throughout the process and how happy he was to go off with his key carer. I wanted to ensure that my child had his last session in the nursery before starting in the New Year. He stayed for about three hours and it was a relief to hear he had an enjoyable afternoon. I returned to work in the January and despite not having seen his key carer for about two weeks due to the Christmas holiday, his first day was a huge success. I have no doubt that the reason why he settled so well is because of the bond he built up with his key carer in the weeks prior to him starting. My child has now moved from the baby room, but he still has a special relationship with his key carer, which is a delight to see.” 

Join the conversation on twitter: laurachildcare



Made In Chelsea: Literally!

I am very excited to share that I will be leading a training session at the world renowned Chelsea Open Air Nursery School.

Delegates will have the opportunity to have a tour of the amazing learning environment at Chelsea Open Air Nursery.


Image copyright Chelsea Open Air Nursery


Building Parent Partnerships and Championing the Home Learning Environment

  • Share research about the benefits for the child of positive parent partnerships and a strong home learning environment
  • Ways to support families to understand that they play a vital role in their child’s education
  • Listening to parents and valuing their voices
  • Links to EYFS as it is now a crucial part of the curriculum
  • What do we currently do? What could we do? How can we promote it? How can we make it meaningful?

Date: Monday 6th January 2014

Time: 9:30am – 12:30pm

Investment: ONLY £30:00 per person!

Places are limited, so please book as soon as possible.

To book a place please telephone: 020 7352 8374 or email:


Image copyright Chelsea Open Air Nursery

In the heat of the night!

On Thursday night I had the pleasure of attending the Margaret Horn lecture (United World, Entrepreneurial Leaders) which was hosted by LEYF. In brief Margret Horn, was the founder of LEYF when it was then called the ‘Westminster Health Society’.

June O’Sullivan, CEO of LEYF, eloquently chaired the evening.

It was an inspiring event and I listened attentively to three key note speakers; Greg Kyle-Langley who shared his insight on One Young World, an organisation that brings together the young people from around the world, Tom Sweetman, from Sticky Board, shared his dedication on bringing local communities together and finally Paul Spinks, a Manager from Bright Horizons and co-Chair of the London Men in Childcare.  Paul spoke passionately about the importance and challenges of men working with young children within early years.


Paul Spinks – Key Note

Another key discussion was how we, as a sector, can come together to share and collaborate together in a meaningful way.

However, I had to motivate myself to attend this event as I returned home after a day of meetings to pack my bag for a training event the next day. Who honestly wants to leave their warm home, especially on a cold dark night?

But I am so glad that I did attend as the evening was informative, engaging and inspiring on many different levels.

It was also great to see some familiar faces within early years and, more importantly, I connected and shared with a range of individuals, for example a colleague who works with young fathers and partners of colleagues.

With this in mind, do you network on a regular basis within early years/education and outside of our early years/education world?

It is very important to network to share, collaborate, challenge and open up a dialogue with others.

As well as attending early years events, I frequently attend non early years events, such as my local residents’ meeting where I listen to Reg talking with pride about his stories from being in the army during World War II.

We can learn so much from each other, by connecting in a meaningful and productive way.

During the evening, June kindly gave me the opportunity to share the topical #EYTalking, which is the weekly discussion that takes place on Twitter, on a Tuesday evening from 8:00pm – 9:00pm for the early years/education community.

I am pleased to say that we have had colleagues joining us on a Tuesday evening from as far as the USA, Australia and Canada!

Twitter is another powerful way that we can share ideas and discuss via social media. In fact on Tuesday, 19th November, we will continue to discuss how we can open up a dialogue on an international level with our colleagues from around the world.

So my challenge to you is to set yourself a goal to network and connect with others and find out about what is going on in our world and hear the professional and personal stories of others which will enhance your knowledge and inform your practice.

You may wish to set yourself a goal that you attend, for example, at least one networking event every month.

So, what are you waiting for?

Join the conversation on Twitter:



The whole thing’s daft, I don’t know why – to teach or not to teach?

I delivered an inset day training session recently to a nursery group. The session was called: ‘Are you listening to me? Really, listening to me?’  In short, looking how educators need to be tuned into children in order to effectively support them with their learning and development.

One of the delegates, who I know from previous training and who follows me on Twitter, said: ‘Laura, I know your son works for Arsenal. What does he do? Love Thierry Henry, best player Arsenal had. If your son ever meets him, please ask for a photograph and autograph!’

I then burst out into The Thierry Henry song. I am an Arsenal supporter as well and I remember going to a game and singing the ‘Thierry song’, loud and clear with the rest of the fans!

She then went on to say how a child in the nursery was an Arsenal supporter and that she’d taught him the song and shared Arsenal paraphernalia and was that OK? Of course it is ok!  Why not? (Be mindful though of any inappropriate lyrics.)

Is it that we have a degree of snobbery against football and a child learning a football song is not the thing to do? Is it that we can’t see the learning outcomes that we could explore from the child’s interest of Arsenal and football?

It also comes to mind, that we need to clarify the term ‘teaching’ and what it means in practice within early years. Especially as the Minister, Elizabeth Truss, has made reference to teaching within the early years and Ofsted, within its new guidance, has included the term several times.

Here is the thing; I think at times we have a degree of confusion regarding what the term ‘teaching’ means. To clarify – the Oxford dictionary states:  ‘impart knowledge to or instruct (someone) as to how to do something’.

Within my new book: A-Z of Inspiring Early Years Paragraphs’, I have made reference to teaching as something that we do consistently with children.

So, with the educator teaching this song to the child and talking about Thierry Henry and Arsenal, it does definitely link into the seven early learning goals. For example, analysing football results: Arsenal’s position in the league table (doing well at the moment-top of the premiership league!), what is meant when a team draws, how many players in a team. Mathematics! Not to mention developing his communication and language skills. Also Understanding the World – Thierry played for the French national team. With the child look at where France is on a globe and look in an Atlas. Not forgetting tons of literacy with all the paraphernalia. Planting surprise propositions as well to support this interest. So much more to learn… how exciting!


I am a firm believer that if we ‘teach’ around a child’s interest they will retain so much more and therefore learn. This is especially the case as we have many boys and children from disadvantaged backgrounds not reaching their full potential. This approach works to engage with children on their level and then build up their learning and thoughts. To coin the psychologist Jerome Bruner’s metaphorical term: ‘scaffolding’ children’s learning. Love that term!

This example reminded me of when I worked in a nursery (in a disadvantaged area) and we had a swing in the outdoor area and one of my key children, Martina, loved being pushed on the swing. She would often call ‘Laura, please push me?’ I decided to sit on the parallel swing and I mirrored to Martina how to move her body and lift her legs up and down with the movement of the swing. One day, whilst with another group of children, I heard Martina shout: ‘Laura, look at me, I am swinging!’ Well, as an educator, to me this was a profound moment! This experience had enhanced Martina’s physical, personal, social and emotional development. Also, as exemplified by Martina shouting with delight to me, it had definitely increased her communication and language skills! For Martina, who at home regularly witnessed domestic violence, this was an amazing achievement; this experience was a real boost to her self-esteem.

Teaching is therefore not rote learning with pre-school children sitting in rows, with the educator at the blackboard, with chalk in hand!

I believe that educators need further support on how to teach to children’s interests and personalised learning, as that is the only way that our children develop a love and passion for learning. I am willing to share my knowledge and expertise with others within this important area.

Coincidentaly, the ‘Thierry song’ uses the instrumental version of the Piranhas, 1980 song ‘Tom Hark’. The chorus, states, ‘The whole thing’s daft, I don’t know why’.

Indeed, teaching is not daft, but a unique and valuable experience for children.

Twitter: LauraChildcare