It’s 3rd September and something strange is going on at the Fennies’ nursery in Beckenham. The nursery is closed for the day but it’s far from quiet. Inside it’s full of childcare practitioners. They’ve come here from across Fennies’ ten nurseries to do woodwork.
They’re sawing through strips of balsa wood, hammering nails to attach corks to wooden planks, and decorating their models with buttons. Watching them is Early Years Creative Consultant Peter Moorhouse of Inspirational Learning. He’s teaching them the basics of the craft and how to safely introduce woodwork in nurseries.
Similar scenes are happening across Fennies’ south London and Surrey nurseries. In Epsom, childcare practitioners are learning about block play. In Beckenham, early years educators are wandering the grounds with cameras and snapping away. And in Addiscombe, another group of Fennies’ staff are mixing up baking soda and liquids to produce colourful, foamy concoctions.
This is Fennies’ annual Day of Inspiration. The day is the centrepiece of Fennies’ training offer and, as the name suggests, it exists to fire practitioners’ imagination.
Investing in staff
“Our staff get comprehensive training throughout the year but the Day of Inspiration is the most special part of our continuing professional development offer,” says Gill Medhurst, Head of Operations at Fennies.
“All our nurseries close for the day and we run different courses in each nursery. Our practitioners can attend whichever course appeals to them.
“The day’s a chance to learn and a chance to network with colleagues from other nurseries. We all come away inspired with fresh ideas that practitioners can then use in their own nursery to inspire the children they care for.”
The Day of Inspiration is a big demonstration of Fennies’ belief in investing in staff. Not only does Fennies hire the best and most forward-thinking trainers in the nursery business to deliver the training, it also foregoes an entire day’s income by shutting the chain to make the day possible.
The results are more than worth the cost, says Gill.
“It’s hugely motivating for our staff,” she says. “For days afterwards there’s a real buzz in our nurseries, on our social networks and on email. People leave the Day of Inspiration raring to go back to their nurseries with their new knowledge and put it into practice.”
Hannah Collins, an early years educator at Fennies’ nursery in Epsom, agrees. She attended the Day of Inspiration’s block play training and what she learned is already filtering into her work with children.
“I learnt about the different developmental stages of block play and how we can encourage the children to move onto the next stage,” she says.
“Since doing the training I have now observed each child in my room to see what stage they are at, so that I can build activities into their programme to progress them further.”
Beckenham Nursery Assistant Leanne Toughopted to attend the woodwork class in Beckenham. She says it’s changed her perspective on both the safety and value of doing woodwork with pre-school children.
“I was surprised because it taught me that done correctly, woodwork can be safe,” she says. “A standout piece of advice I got was to introduce the tools in small groups to ensure children have a robust understanding on the safety of the tools. Once basic safety is embedded we extend onto more complex tools.”
Leanne’s nursery is now preparing to make woodwork as a permanent feature in one of its rooms.
Photography is also set to become a more commonplace activity for Fennies’ children in the wake of the Day of Inspiration. Kerri Savage, a Deputy Manager at Fennies’ nursery in Beckenham spent the Day of Inspiration learning how to use photography to fuel children’s creativity and curiosity.
Awe and wonder
“Photography is definitely a crucial topic we want to incorporate into our nursery to support and challenge children’s development,” she says. “We have previously touched on photography at my nursery but not in depth but since the training we have been looking to implement it as a theme.
“A key element is allowing the children to show curiosity, awe and wonder using photography and their individual imaginative skills.
“An interesting trick I learnt from the day was how easy it is to assume the reasoning behind a child’s photography and jump to a conclusion about that image as an educator. The reality is that the children have a whole different concept to thinking and that’s not necessarily what the educator thinks.”
Watch the video to learn more about how the Day of Inspiration gives Fennies’ staff some of the finest training in the sector and visit Fennies’ website to discover more great reasons to be a Fennies childcare practitioner.