Rebuilding Your Staff Team, Part 2 – Change for good

Jo Caswell
Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Now is the time to encourage staff to see change as a positive process and to reflect on their practice and identify any areas for improvement, explains Jo Caswell

As leaders juggle the challenge of welcoming children back into settings, they must also prioritise the need for updated staff training. Now is a key time to review practice and ensure all staff fully understand, and adhere to, new guidance which dictates how settings can stay open safely. Reflecting on the professional development of staff has never been more important.

In my first article, I wrote about the importance of ensuring staff felt fully supported by leaders on their return to work. The importance of pastoral care and the assessment of individual need is vital. So, what have staff meetings and individual discussions told you? What do staff need and how will you provide for this? In my experience, many leaders devise setting improvement plans and annual training logs. But how relevant are these now? Are targets which were set prior to the coronavirus outbreak still relevant?

The development of staff is addressed in various ways. Some settings follow a programme of mandatory training which all staff complete, giving less opportunity for more individualised learning. Others view training as a more personal process and allow staff to reflect on their skills and follow their own programmes of learning. There is no right or wrong way, but some ways are more effective and beneficial to the setting and individual than others.

Sending staff on certificated courses is costly. When budgets are tight, sometimes training slips further down the priority list. However, training does not need to be an expensive workshop. Training is about the development and enhancement of knowledge. This could be learning from others, shadowing more experienced, competent staff. It could be through team meetings or visits to other settings. Things you can do in your own setting.

Adapting to change

As settings re-open, managers need to be sure that all staff are fully competent in adhering to stringent infection-control procedures. Staff need to work safely to protect themselves and others.

How well do staff understand how to do this? Who will monitor this to make sure it is done consistently well and to the highest standard? How relevant is the setting’s risk assessment now? Does it need to change? What further training or reminders may staff need about safe working environments?

If the setting has a designated health and safety officer, how well trained and conversant with the new Covid-19 infection-control procedures are they? Are they competent enough to monitor new ways of working carefully and demonstrate excellence themselves? Delegating responsibility is important, but leaders must ensure that good practice is thoroughly embedded at all levels.

Since re-opening, some adaptations to the daily routine may have been needed. How well have these been communicated to staff so they clearly understand and implement them? How well do leaders help less- confident staff, or those who find change more challenging, adapt their practice? What about students and unqualified staff?

These are unprecedented times for the most experienced of us, so it is imperative that leaders support younger, less-experienced staff well to help them understand what changes to routines, policies and practice are needed.

Think carefully about how this is managed. For staff to adapt to change, they need to fully understand it. Use team meetings and individual discussions to reflect on specific routines. For example, how well are children supervised when washing their hands before lunch? Is this stringent enough to meet current health advice? How might this routine need to change now?

Change can be unsettling for some. But with strong leadership, it can be a positive process. Many children will be returning to settings following long breaks away. Other children will be starting without having all the usual transition visits.

How well prepared are staff for this? The key person system is vital here in ensuring children’s emotional security is fully supported. How well do staff understand the impact of emotional attachment and how this can be promoted? How can leaders remind staff about this, especially those who are less experienced in working with children? (See case study.)

Leaders must ensure that all staff are fully conversant in safeguarding arrangements. They may notice new concerns about a child’s welfare, or changes in a child’s behaviour which may indicate concern. Do all staff clearly understand the setting’s safeguarding policies? How well will leaders monitor this?

New ways of working

Every child’s developmental progress will need to be fully reviewed. What can a child do now that they could not do before lockdown? What next steps now need to be planned? Is any child slipping behind in any aspects of development? How will this be addressed? All staff must clearly understand how to assess children’s learning precisely.

Managers need to oversee this and make sure any gaps in children’s development are quickly addressed. The accuracy of assessment is vital now. Those carrying out assessments on children must be fully competent in recognising what a child can and cannot yet do. Leaders must ensure that less experienced staff are fully supervised in planning for children’s development and that the assessment process is consistently moderated.

Change does not need to be scary. Strong leadership will help settings adapt as needed and embrace the new ways of working. The impact of training and development should always be evaluated. What have staff learnt from change? What new ideas have been introduced and why do they work well? What may still need to change? The coronavirus outbreak has instigated many significant changes to practice. Now is the time for leaders to encourage staff to view change as a positive process and to actively reflect on their practice and identify their own areas for continuous improvement.

CASE STUDY: PRIORITISING SAFEGUARDING

Mark is the manager of a pre-school. More than half of his staff are qualified to Level 2 and above. During the lockdown process, Mark held team meetings using social media to discuss the training and development needs of his staff. He completed a skills audit to identify the strengths of each member of his team and reviewed the setting’s training plan.

Mark has now prioritised updated safeguarding training for his team, in addition to specific training relating to managing children’s behaviour, supporting emotional well-being, and working in partnership with parents.

Mark recognises that several members of his team are relatively new. They each have responsibility for a small group of key children. Mark has thoroughly reviewed his staffing structure to ensure that every staff member is linked to a more experienced colleague. He has reflected on the setting’s assessment process and ensured that protected time is set aside during one-to-one meetings for all children’s records to be regularly monitored and audited.

Mark is aware he needs to fully support all his staff through this revised way of working. He knows that some children will return to the setting having slipped behind in their learning following lockdown. He recognises this must be acted on promptly and that precise and targeted next steps must be identified to ensure every child catches up quickly. Mark recognises some staff may need support in planning for this and he will prioritise this in his role as manager.

Jo Caswell is a former senior manager with Ofsted and is director of JLC Early Years Consultancy.

Part 3 of this series, in the October issue, will focus on the importance of reflection and evaluation.

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