A Webinar by The Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families

on Thursday, 14 October 2021

As part of ongoing The Kidzrus Group Quality Improvement Plan we provide continued support for our colleagues mental and physical health. On Thursday, 14 October 2021 Darren Matthews our Quality Manager for Teaching, Learning and Staff Development participated in a webinar with The Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families which gave a really positive insight into the mental health issues and problems that colleagues in early years face.

The webinar started with an introduction by Tim Linehan, Lead on Early Years Staff Wellbeing resource and Head of Communications at The Anna Freud Centre.

He confirmed an A to Z of the common difficulties that young children and their families face and these are accessible by following the link: https://www.annafreud.org/early-years/early-years-in-mind/common-difficulties/.

He also discussed some of the challenges faced in working with families, and again the link can be found:

https://www.annafreud.org/early-years/early-years-in-mind/working-with-families-facing-challenges/ 

The Anna Freud Centre also provides a range of resources that support early years practitioners, children and their families and again these are available by accessing the link listed:

https://www.annafreud.org/early-years/early-years-in-mind/resources/ 

As part of the webinar, Stella Ziolkowski from The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) gave a presentation that included a review of the Covid-19 Pandemic and how it affected the early years workforce.  Overall the picture for the sector looked bleak as there were major concerns around the physically and emotionally demanding role, fears of working through the pandemic and the after effects.  

The Senior Leadership and Management Team at Kidzrus have already addressed these issues and we recognise and celebrate our colleagues hard work and contributions, we work to strengthen what we do to foster wellbeing in our workplace and as we have said before – wellbeing is at the heart of our practice; we promote wellbeing as it definitely helps to improve performance, engagement and overall job satisfaction.  We ensure that all leaders and managers within the group are extremely active and play a pivotal role in supporting wellbeing.  We have already implemented a wide range of strategies that consider workplace stress and stress management, active support by managers in conflict resolution and taking care when having difficult conversations, ensuring we have an open and inclusive culture and have effective strategies, policies and procedures that support effective people management. Additionally, if colleagues need to take sick leave then our setting managers and colleagues meet on their return to discuss supportive measures that we can put in place.

Ms Ziolkowski’s presentation also provided a couple of case studies and we are extremely pleased to confirm that The Kidzrus Group have implemented these throughout lockdown and isolation periods.  These include but are not limited to care packages to staff and familes via The Kidzrus Foodbank based at our Media City setting, the setting up of closed Facebook groups for staff and parents whereby we shared a wide range of age and stage appropriate activities and resources that allow children to still play, learn and develop whilst at home, colleagues working remotely by reading and sharing stories that the children love as well as introducing some fabulous new texts – these have been posted on Facebook and we have also set up our own You Tube Channel.  We also provided a wide range of reading material for our children as well as picnic baskets to celebrate landmark events that would otherwise have been commemorated in the nurseries.  Our Managers and Key Workers carried out zoom calls and telephone calls so that we could keep in touch with our colleagues, children and their families to provide hands on support and time for discussion on any matter that was a concern.  As a result of the outstanding proactive work during the pandemic Kidzrus Nursery, Media City was awarded The Community Nursery of The Year Award 2020 at the 18th National NMT Nursery Awards.

Tim Linehan, Head of Communications at Anna Freud worked alongside Dr Rachel Lyons, Deputy Principal Educational Psychologist at Salford and Bury Educational Psychology Services to investigate and create a resource that helps and guides early years educators.  In doing this they carried out a survey with some interesting results.  1458 people responded to the survey, of which 97% were female and 88% white.  Our sector is still predominantly white/female staffed and this is something that we at Kidzrus are keen to address in recruitment going forward so that we are representative of our local communities.  

The survey aimed at ascertaining colleague views on the impact of work on wellbeing, the causes of stress and the levels of support in the workplace. I am extremely pleased to advise that again The Kidzrus Group have been at the forefront of these issues. We have appointed and trained two Mental Health First Aiders, Anna and Laura and also we have in place many strategies that confirm we value the mental health and wellbeing of our colleagues. Through open door management and regular communication there is more support available alongside practical advice and guidance on how to manage stressful incidents, we have access to occupational health and professional mental health support, we offer flexible working patterns and as a result of other interventions and the introduction of the new EYFS administrative workloads are reduced thereby allowing colleagues more time with our cohort children.  

We offer greater support from all levels – from Director down and also have implemented a training programme via our in house Training Academy.  Our first full staff/full day training and development event on 6 September was a huge success, affording staff an opportunity to share best practice and also take on board new learning concepts and changes in what we do going forwards. Kidzrus has also rewritten its Staff Handbook and is reviewing all policies and procedures so that our teams know where to seek help.  Basically, we advocate open and honest communication, colleagues know each other and can trust each other and make time with wellbeing as a focus of what we do daily. We have supportive managers that are available and approachable who recognise and appreciate the efforts of our colleagues, they provide clear pathways for support and have the resources and facilities to signpost to other supportive networks. We provide safe spaces and access to wellbeing information and encourage creature comforts as well as “getting out of the building” activities such as social and recreational facilities for wellbeing and team connection. Alongside all of this we are able to provide training around mental health and access to first aid training as well as being proactive about self care whereby colleagues are supported in making their own individual healthy choices.  Mental health and wellbeing of our colleagues and cohort children are key features of our Quality Improvement Plan and we strive to continuously seek to be more proficient and active in making positive changes so that these issues are effectively supported.

As part of the webinar Aseeya Patel gave her personal insight from a Practice Perspective; again reviewing how we can break down barriers so that a happy and healthy workforce ensues… increased job satisfaction and reduced stress that allow us to increase concentration and aid the progress of our children in a smarter way.  This is important as we need to meet safeguarding and welfare requirements, develop our children’s skills, knowledge and behaviours, provide opportunities that may otherwise not be available to them (Culture Capital), help prepare them for school/reception class, make them more social by promoting positive relationships, provide environments that enable rich and rewarding learning experiences and promote progression by children that may have Special Educational Needs or Disabilities whilst considering and complying with ever changing legislations and statutory guidance from government.

At Kidzrus we look after our children’s and colleagues mental health by supporting emotional, psychological and social wellbeing.  Wellbeing is prioritised as we provide reassurances that we will and can return to a new normal post Covid 19.  Our big picture for positive mental health and wellbeing comes from supportive management and colleagues, a positive environment and signposting for support when and where needed and also acknowledgement, appreciation and recognition of the great work that our Leadership and Management Team and practitioners do on a daily basis to provide “Every Child – Every Chance!”.

The webinar ended with a Q&A session that was really useful; confirming that we all need guidance and direction; and all questions were skillfully answered to allay concerns that we may have had.  This proves that a shared problem can be a solved problem.

We would like to thank The Anna Freud Centre and all contributory presenters for their input into the webinar and look forward to continued professional development with their support.

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