Like the majority of parents, I went to look around my local day nurseries armed with a long list of questions. Staff turn- over wasn't one of them. While I wanted to feel confident that my child was well looked after, I didn't consider that she may be cared for by a revolving door of childcarers. Thankfully, that hasn't been the case. DD1 (Dear Daughter 1) attended nursery for two-and-a-half years and in that time none of the nine members of staff left.
I felt quite smug when friends raised concerns about the upheaval caused by practitioners leaving their children's settings. While the issue of staff turnover must be a headache for nursery managers and owners, it's also a concern for some children and parents. We can find it confusing and unsettling.
A friend's daughter attended a nursery that recruited a lot of staff from eastern Europe. My friend noticed a pattern of nursery nurses leaving at the start of each summer. She felt that it took a couple of months for new staff to settle in and routines to be established again. Her daughter was left devastated when, after attending the nursery for two years, two of the staff that she'd bonded with left within weeks of each other. She had always been happy to go to nursery and started crying in the morning and became clingy.
My cousin removed his child from a different nursery after eight months because he felt that the staff turnover was too high. He was never formally informed that childcarers were leaving, but felt that he saw new staff practically every week. It undermined his confidence in the setting and left him feeling that he didn't know who was looking after his child.
Friends and family
It's difficult to understand why my nursery had such fantastic staff retention, but I wonder whether it was partly because they all grew up locally to the setting and some staff were related. I felt that while there was a hierarchy, the staff were friends and this added to the nursery's family atmosphere and made staff feel loyal to their workplace.
Unfortunately, DD2 (Dear Daughter 2) is not having the same consistent experience as her big sister. Three of the staff team have left in recent months, along with my feeling of smugness. I was sad but unconcerned about the first person leaving, but found subsequent departures worrying. It has made me concerned that, while on the surface the practitioners seem happy, there may be underlying management issues that I'm not aware of.
Despite knowing that each of those who left had been at the nursery for more than five years and have moved to jobs with better hours, holidays and presumably better pay, it has left me and other parents with a feeling of unease. I was speaking to a mum who has decided to find alternative childcare for her baby because she thinks it is a sign of a wider problem.
Of course, staff turnover is not an issue confined to day nurseries. My friend's nanny left after just four months and DD1's Reception class teacher went on maternity leave at the end of last term. I thought the primary school handled this fantastically, with the replacement teacher working alongside the original one for a whole term. DD1 is unconcerned by this change, especially as both teachers share the same name!
As for DD2, she loves the new nursery nurse in her room and talks about her a lot. I just hope she stays.
A WORD OF ADVICE
A stable staff team is key to a nursery's success, says National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) director of quality and workforce development Stella Ziolkowski
Retention of good staff members is vital for nurseries as recruitment becomes more of a challenge. Of course, you can't guard against unexpected waves of staff leaving - for example, due to maternity leave - but you can work to ensure your people are unlikely to go simply because they are unhappy.
Shortages of qualified workers with the right skills and experiences mean that once the right people are on board, managers and owners should be doing all they can to keep them. As well offering competitive salaries, nurseries are increasingly investing in continuing professional development. We are seeing our members arranging regular training so that employees feel they are valued and advancing their careers.
One good example is Miri Meithrin day nursery in Ruthin, Denbighshire. Manager Mari Roberts says: 'We're committed to developing and training our workforce. We also try our best to empower our staff by ensuring they contribute to the running of our service.'
Meanwhile, Hazel Moody, director at Advantage Day Nursery in Surbiton, Surrey, takes staff members out on their birthdays, gives them vouchers at Christmas and funds free events.
Despite issues with pay, our workforce survey 2014 showed that staff numbers leaving employment averaged less than one per setting, though the Department for Education survey calculated this figure at 12 per cent.
NDNA's research showed the greatest movement was in Level 3 staff and the most common reasons for leaving across all grades were higher salaries or promotion out of the sector - though there was no significant indication that EYPs or other graduate leaders were leaving settings in higher proportions than other staff. The results of this year's survey are imminent.
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