New Parents - Back to business
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
How can settings reassure parents at a time of anxiety around Covid-19, and attract new ones while adhering to safety measures, asks Laura Hoyland
Reading through social media posts and talking to clients and other providers, it seems that the number of children in settings in September is unpredictable. While some settings have waiting lists, others are struggling to replace those children leaving to start school.
With the lack of Government support during the pandemic causing financial uncertainty for thousands of early years settings, it is vital that providers focus on converting enquiries into confirmed places.
There are many ways to overcome current restrictions; in terms of receiving visitors, hygiene practices and parents’ anxiety about leaving their child in nursery with Covid-19 still a worry. It is about having clear procedures and a variety of options to attract parents.
A virtual tour
One option is to set up a virtual tour – a short video of your setting to give parents an understanding of the opportunities their child will have if they enrol.
A virtual tour is an excellent opportunity to showcase your learning spaces and activities, as well as the environments that are often missed when showing parents around in person.
As we know, the wonderful set-up in nurseries is often only beautiful until 8am when the children arrive. The virtual tour can show your setting at its best, and can be uploaded to social media platforms, sent in an email or used on your website.
Meeting the staff
One of the benefits of showing new parents around during operational hours is that they get to meet the staff team and those who will be looking after their child. While this is not currently an option, it can be adapted easily through video messages and leaflets about staff members.
Telephone calls can be set up with a room leader, which enables parents and staff to talk through routines, how the setting operates and lets both parents and staff get to know each other.
There are some settings that are still offering show-arounds to potential new parents at the setting. These are either after hours or at the weekend.
Safety measures have been put in place with no children or staff being present, hand sanitiser being used before entering the building and asking parents to not touch anything while they move around the property. Once the parents leave, any areas that have been touched are immediately cleaned with disinfectant.
For those offering visits on a Friday evening, it means deep cleaning can take place over the weekend. This can be taken one step further by having an open day on a weekend. Potential parents could book a time slot to be shown around and measures put in place to ensure that social distancing is observed.
Having a one-way system around the setting means that control measures are in place and hygiene practices followed. Staff would be present to talk to potential parents and their children, discussing what makes the setting special.
Of course, not every setting has a website or social media presence. So, it is important to use other ways to promote your setting to new parents.
Although we can’t get children out into the community, there are still ways to get noticed, such as through newspaper articles. Maybe the children have drawn rainbows for the local hospital, or have you had any charity fundraising activities during the pandemic that could be celebrated in news articles?
There have been so many community projects and uplifting events that settings can become involved in remotely. For instance, children in one nursery painted pebbles and took them home. When on their exercise and regular walks with parents, they laid these at the local park to make a snake. The snake has grown and children talked about this for weeks. Community projects that settings can get involved in are great publicity.
Special offers are a great way to draw interest into settings, offering a refer-a-friend incentive for existing parents, with maybe a free session or a credit towards their invoice. Understandably, this will not be possible for all settings, but it certainly works for some.
Word of mouth is a great way to advertise. Ask your parents to leave a review on social media, on the website or in a letter that you can display and show new parents when they come to visit. Better still, ask the children what they love about nursery and share these comments.
Children are very truthful and often say things in just the right way. In addition, asking staff to shout about how great their workplace is will draw new families in. A happy team equals happy children.
Finally, having a website is a must. It is often the first place that people look when they want to find specific information about your setting, whether that is your Ofsted report, location or the age of children who can attend. A clear and concise website is often the first window of opportunity and selling point to new families.
Ensure it is user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing, shows the setting in the best possible light and celebrates the wonderful things you do. Promoting your setting has never been more crucial, so set time aside to come up with a strategic plan. Not everything will work, but don’t give up. There are lots of families out there looking for a special setting just like yours.
Laura Hoyland is managing director of Hopscotch Early Years ConsultancyDownload Now