Taking care of our colleagues’ wellbeing is an everyday, all year round action or ritual within The Kidzrus Group. This past year we have endured challenging times with periods of great stress and uncertainty and we are aware that colleagues have experienced health related issues alongside getting used to a new kind of normal.
It is apparent that early years educators had never considered their own mental health and wellbeing and we give our colleagues across all of the settings the time and resources to take meaningful steps that put wellbeing firmly at the heart of policy and daily practice.
Collectively and individually we have so much to gain from connecting with each other and listening to life experiences and perspectives different than our own. In reality wellbeing is much more than self-care and for each of us it can mean something completely different – it is as unique as we are individuals and we all perceive the world at large in different ways.
We are aware that a variety of issues pose a risk to staff in terms of their mental health and wellbeing given the vast number of expectations that are placed on them as early years educators including Ofsted inspections, top heavy administration, frequent observation and assessment of children to record progression as well as planning and delivering fun activities that are accessible to all of our cohort children. It’s no surprise then that these can impact on our health and wellbeing and can lead to periods of sickness and burnout.
We have implemented a number of key protective factors to ensure that our colleagues benefit from positive mental health and wellbeing. After all, it is one of our core values as our colleagues are our greatest resource. So, what exactly have we done so far?
- We have a dedicated and inspirational Senior Management and Leadership Team who through consistent practice are able to encourage a happy and healthy working environment in which colleagues are valued and know that their own individual contributions are acknowledged.
- Our setting managers are able to motivate and inspire colleagues to achieve and exceed their own expectations and achieve their true potential on a daily basis.
- Our team is culturally diverse and intelligent with a deep understanding of and response to the variety of cultures within our nursery family and the wider community.
- We passionately promote equality, diversity and inclusion in our policies, procedures and daily practice and any anti-discriminatory practice is immediately challenged.
- Kidzrus advocates open door management whereby colleagues are able to discuss issues or concerns with the Leadership and Management Team and know that they will be addressed with clarity, consistency and fairness.
- Our Performance Management system is purposeful and identifies areas of strength and those that need development and these are driven forward in our Quality Improvement Plan.
- We have recently revised our Staff Handbook that outlines a shared ethos and core values with wellbeing alongside a positive work-home life balance and relationship and strong community spirit a priority.
- We have appointed and trained two Mental Health First Aiders, Anna Rollinson and Laura Shaw. They are able to support colleagues confidentially and signpost them to the best way to obtain information and professional guidance.
- We are a community of care with a positive and deep culture of wellbeing – indeed we are passionate about promoting fully inclusive practice whereby staff are valued and recognise a sense of belonging.
Of course, wellbeing has a daily focus, and alongside this we are pleased to participate in the annual Wellbeing Early Years Week that was instigated some five years ago by Kate Moxley, Early Years Consultant. Each year there is a different theme and the 2021 theme was “THIS IS ME”. We encouraged our colleagues across the Group to plan their own activities to celebrate their diversity and contributions and they did this with great gusto.
Our team at Monton kicked off the week in style with Mindful Monday planning some time out for colleagues to relax. The Staff Room set the tone with candles, soft lighting and a diffuser and classical music to unwind and colleagues were provided a range of drinks, facemasks and inspirational colouring pages. These pages have the ability to relax the fear centre of the brain; the amygdala that induces the same state of meditating and reducing the thoughts of a restless mind. This generates mindfulness and quietness and allows your mind to get some much needed rest and relaxation.
On Tuesday colleagues at The Lodge chose healthy options and mindful choices; a time to bring staff back together after a period of lockdown, social distancing and wearing face masks. Our Cook, Christine and Deputy Manager Charlene provided a wonderful platter that contained lots of feel good foods such as fresh fruits, cheeses and crackers. This was ideal, as the team had previously said that they love to eat ‘picky bits and pieces’. They were greeted at lunchtime with the lovely platter and a goody bag that contained a scented candle to remind them to relax and take time out for themselves at home, a selection of sweets and a note to brighten their day. Each bag also had a poem that explained our gratitude to our colleagues to remind them that their contributions and efforts are valued and appreciated. Throughout the day Practitioners wrote each other anonymous notes to compliment each other and they enjoyed what was written for them by others – a great way to boost morale!
Wednesday was Manchester Road Nursery and Forest School’s time to enjoy a treat and they did this with a healthy breakfast prepared by our Cook, Catia and Manager, Natalie. It gave them a chance to talk about the importance of having a good and healthy breakfast to start off the day as they are all too well aware as nursery practitioners that lead busy lives in and out of work. They also discussed their individual and collective strengths and they ways in which they support each other and our cohort children to ensure that every day is positive and productive and so that we all achieve our true potential.
Therapeutic Thursday was the theme adopted by Team Irlam. Each colleague was allocated time out of their base rooms to spend one to one time with Kati, Manager at the setting during which they were able to talk about anything and everything not work related. Topics open for discussion included any exciting upcoming events and plans for Christmas in a comfy atmosphere on the sofa with a honey and vanilla candle burning. Mariola talked about her new hobby of horse riding and how much she is enjoying learning how to look after the horse. Sarah has plans for a holiday during here much needed week off and Nicola talked about the telly and recommended some programmes to watch. All in all, the staff had a lovely time and was able to relax and have a laugh.
Friday gave our team at Media City the opportunity to set their goals for the future. They started the day off with a healthy breakfast and recognised that this alone will not change our lives. We spend the vast majority of our time working, worrying and stressing out about money, so staff took the time out to sit and reflect with each other and think about goals that will have a positive impact on their lives. Examples included to make time within the week to go to the gym and to have more confidence in decision making. This is done in a number of stages:
- Identify a dream
- Set a date when you would like the dream to be achieved. By setting a date that dream becomes a goal.
- Break that goal down into achievable steps. By doing this you will have created an action plan for achieving your goal.
- Create daily habits or changes which build towards achieving the steps of your action plan. This might involve breaking down each action further.
- Spend time reflecting on the overall progress that you are making towards your final goal. Focus on the small changes.
- Achieve your overall goal and realise that this has become a reality.
Remember… a goal without a plan is just a dream!
The Directors at The Kidzrus Group would like to say a massive thank you to every one of our colleagues from Senior Manager to Apprentice and everyone in-between for the inspirational work that they do on a daily basis and confirm our ethos of giving “Every Child – Every Chance”. We take great pride in our collective achievements in following and supporting our cohort children in their learning journeys and you do this in so many ways, from organising and delivering a wide range of exciting and innovative activities that not only meet their interests but also allow them to develop and reach their potential. Thanks also to our families in reaffirming the strong and positive relationships. It is extremely reassuring to see you all back in our settings again communicating more freely and openly with our colleagues so that we give the very best to our cohort children. Together we make Kidzrus a nationally recognised and award winning group.