Switching off and Back on Again

For the first time since managing my settings I went on holiday in term time! It’s a long story how that happened, but the opportunity to visit New York with my daughter (who works in one of my Pre-Schools) came up, and I couldn’t resist. I have good managers in place, good teams that are dedicated….no Ofsted visits due. So switch off, ok?

A few emails with contact details, phone me if you need to, I’ll pay you back for the call, email me if there’s a problem, any worries here are some contacts that may help you. Yes I really trust you, but just in case. Sorry managers, couldn’t help myself!

So off we went. Despite a shaky start with a yellow cab reversing into another car and dropping us at the wrong hotel (we can laugh now!) we had a fabulous time. Did I completely forget about work? No.

One of our first visits was the Museum of Modern Art, where Van Gogh’s Starry Night lives. So many inspiring pictures using all sorts of shapes, patterns, materials. Hmmm, could we do a version of that? I must put some pics of famous artists as provocations for art. Great ideas for our little ones.




We visited Brooklyn bridge. We both named children who would love this structure! They would be so excited. It snowed as we walked across, an amazing atmospheric visit. Then there’s the Statton Island ferry, seeing the Statue of Liberty. Lots of policeman around, the lovely American fire engines. We agreed that American trucks looked more “truckie” in their 50’s style cabs. There was so much to see and do. Central Park, Empire State Building, Top of the Rock. New York really does buzz with excitement.




As we looked for souvenirs for family, we still talked about what the children would like. I asked my daughter was it ok not to totally forget about work? She said it was ok. In Early Years we get to know our children well. It’s not that we don’t switch off, it doesn’t get in the way of enjoying a holiday, but it’s in our blood to think of our jobs and Early Years in general. We had many moments that weren’t thinking of children, but wherever we are, we can be reminded of our jobs and the children we care for, but in a good and positive way.

Thanks to my teams who, no surprises, coped very (almost too) well without me. You’re amazing!


After the staff training.

Well…following on from my previous post…it was brilliant! (Please read my previous post on Team Training.) The whole team (almost) went on the first National Early Years Safeguarding conference organised by Laura Henry. I’m not going to go into masses of detail, Penny Webb did an excellent blog about the whole day which you can read by following this link https://pennysplacechildminding.com/2016/11/11/safeguarding-and-protecting-every-child-conference-feedback/

Having said that, some of the team arrived early to help Laura prepare. We got frustratingly delayed by signal problems on the train, but once we got there we were excited to be involved in the setting up. Here we are organising the certificates.


It looks a mess, but we knew exactly what we were doing! We were privaliged to welcome delegates and guide them into the conference room, giving them their goody bags on the way.

So we were already excited. Laura had organised some amazing speakers, including our home grown ( and well used) Safeguarding trainer Susan Taylor from Tailormade Training Solutions (http://www.tailormade-training.co.uk). We all had our favourites, but every speaker had important messages, with the common theme that Early Years is the most important time to get things right. We all have our part to play in this to ensure children have the best start to continue to be successful in future life. We are all advocates for our children too, and need to speak up for them. We are their champions, we mustn’t let them down.

I want to return to my team theme here. As we caught the train home, we had very active discussions. It was interesting that some of us had different interpretations of what was said, which led to scrutiny of some of our own practices. Jane Evans key note speech led to different interpretations to what she meant. We all agreed we could have listened to the speakers for longer, and would reflect on certain aspects of practice.

My 1-1 supervisions are in full flow at the moment, giving me the chance to see the impact the conference has had. For the workshops I spread my team out. There were workshops that some of them didn’t think pertained to them, such as safer recruitment, that must surely be for managers! But they were greatful for the insight and realise it goes beyond recruitment. What ever level your at in your career, we are all responsible for monitoring staff, speaking out about maltreatment or safeguarding issues. It was useful that they knew why I’m so nosey getting them to make declarations about the people they live with etc! I tell them, but now they really get it! It doesn’t end at recruitment, but is ongoing monitoring that those we have recruited are safe.

Another theme running through the feedback is the use of real examples by the speakers brought safeguarding to life. The outcome is they know more what they are looking for, observing for with our children and families. More alert to get Early Intervention if a family need it. More confident to make the call should it be necessary to protect children.

As manager of two settings I am very confident that all members of staff have extended their safeguarding knowledge, and feel empowered to truly safeguard our children.

A great team experience! If you missed it, no worries, next year another  National Safeguarding Confernce already being organised with fabulous speakers! Follow the link http://www.laurahenryconsultancy.com/safeguarding-and-protecting-every-child/



Staff training…all of us…EXCTED!!

Once a year I organise training for the whole team. Extravagant I hear you say! Well, I would say it’s a must! The reason I’m so excited this year is it’s a conference. Safeguarding and Protecting Every Child http://www.laurahenryconsultancy.com/safeguarding-and-protecting-every-child/ where we will be listening to fantastic speakers, some renown for their work all over the world! I almost feel like we’re famous ourselves. My team are buzzing, that are so happy to be part of what is going to be an inspirational day. I’m looking forward to seeing our home grown safeguarding trainer Susan Taylor who is amazing!

CPPD takes many forms, and in our settings we do use all types from online ( recently Kathy Brodie’s Early Years Summit) to sending individuals on courses, picking things up from EY twitter and FB groups, books and magazines. BUT the one thing that has the most impact is team training. Last year we had Laura Henry’s Keep it Simple Planning (KiSP). Amazing impact. It has not only made the whole system so much easier, but it means so much more. Less is definitely more! Less work and happier staff.

Here are some of the other reasons I believe team training is the best!

Team spirit

The team rarely get together all on one shift. On a staff inset day all staff are with you. It’s a chance to bring them all together and treat them to top class training. You are on the same page when you start, you are on the same page when you finish. “Together” is the word here. Together because we are dedicated practitioners, together because we will embrace changes from the training as a unit together.


If you sift through my posts you will see that some of the great changes we have made in our settings have been as a direct result of team training. Laura Henry and Debbie Sawh have been our main contributors to changes and improvement. This is far more effective than sending one member of staff, who with the best will in the world has to disseminate the information, convince us it’s great, (and they do) and then try and action the plan. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but with the whole team the change is quick and seamless, together we have more power to make the changes.


Some may see these as chores or hard work? Training should impact to make your life easier. The team uses new skills and with Laura armed with instantly usable templates, ready to go! We changed to KiSP in a week. Impact powerful and improvements could be seen on children’s outcomes.


We all know we shouldn’t do things for Ofsted, and I agree. Do this for your setting. It’s cost effective for the reasons above. Ofsted will love the impact of your team training, and you can show off the impact this has on your children. They will nod so loudly you hear the whoosh of air as their head goes up and down, well maybe not that much! Throughout the last inspection, many of our outstanding features were team training based. It also shows outstanding leadership, even if I say so myself!

So for you, for your team, for you children and families, please endulge in staff training days. Enjoy the day, and enjoy the results. Let me know how it goes!





My Teachers…what I remember from primary school.

After watching Rita Pierson on YouTube TED talk, my first thought was, I wish she’d been my teacher. Seven and a half minutes of pure inspiration! You can see it here https://youtu.be/SFnMTHhKdkw. Sadly she is no longer with us, but her legacy is to inspire others. So it got me thinking, and I looked back at my primary teachers. I remember nearly every one! Sometimes funny, sometimes painful. I can see why I always have a problem with confidence. Even though people tell me I’m good at my job (even Ofsted!) I never quite believe it. Good news is I surround myself with good people, who maybe see qualities I don’t recognise myself. If they say I’m good…there has to be some truth in it. Anyway, I digress. Here we go…

First primary school reception teacher–

Not there for long as we moved. On my first day, I didn’t like it, told my Mum school wasn’t for me, then she delivered the news that I would be at school till 16!!!! At 4, that’s forever! Cried all night….second day, slept on my desk so I’m told! Outside toilets were freezing!

Second reception teacher Mrs LeFevre. Nice lady, dark hair. Indoor toilets!

Year 1 Mrs Lowe- lovely lady, told us she was 94, knew EVERYTHING, and we believed her! I remember telling my dad she REALLY was 94. We were on tables of 6. If we all did well on the table she put a big T on it for trustworthy. Horrible if she ever had to wipe it off!

Year 2 Mrs Brearly. Loved her, she had the patience of a saint, except when I couldn’t spell WEDNESDAY, then she “had to move away from me.” I wouldn’t write it…it didn’t look right!  In the Old building, so back to outside toilets!

Year 3 Mr Sharp also music teacher. His initial was A so his name was A Sharp, really A# and he was a music teacher! He was strict but mostly fair…except when he made me stand up in front of the whole school for not looking at the hymn book in assembly. But I’d had eye drops in that made my vision blurry for days. He apologised secretly later. Maybe not so fair.

Year 4 Mrs McNally, Scottish, drove to school on a moped. Curley hair and long cardigans, red crash helmet. Hmmm, that’s all I remember, so I can’t have annoyed her!

Year 5 Mr Price. Terrified of him before he was my teacher, tall, loud Welsh accent. From the “valleys” Loved him as a teacher. Used to tell us all sorts of interesting things. Also did basketry and pottery this year. There was a kiln in the back room of the class room…honest! Very creative year. Lovely man in teaching.

Year 6 Mr Parks. Quiet, patient, helpful. Did lots of tests this year, was absolutely hopeless at them!!

So this is a whistle stop tour of my primary school education back in the 60’s. Amazing what we remember, and points out negative events in my school have been remembered throughout my life. I remember friendships warmly, living in the countryside, playing in the woods daily, playing tennis in the road and happy childhood memories. Great childhood, not so happy at school.

So I go back to Rita… And the importance of building relationships, liking the people that teach you help you to learn, building self esteem sets you up for life. Lets do that!





The Cap and Gown thing.

I very rarely (honest!) get a bee in my bonnet about other peoples practice,  but this Cap and Gown graduation, I really don’t get it. I see endless posts on FB on how bored children get while they are asked to go up and get their scroll. Sometimes a line of 40+ children. Questions about how to speed things up ping back anf forth. Fine if you’re first! If you’re last and aged 3, it must be torture. Somebody has just posted that children’s behaviour deteriorates during this ceremony…..no suprise there then!


Who are the graduations for? I can’t see that they are for the children. They don’t understand the concept of graduation. Neither have they passed a test or done research (thank goodness)  to achieve cap and gown status. My daughter has just finished High school with an age appropriate Prom to mark the end of an era. So why do we give our youngest transition such an adult ceremony? Give them something age appropriate as we would always do and advocate in practice.

Our last day is fun, we have family craft, sports, play activities, and a family picnic. No waiting, no dressing up in gowns that the children don’t understand, the day is for all the family to have fun all the time, and celebrate their time with us. A thoroughly enjoyable day for all of us!

Early Years Podcast @EYpodcast

There are some people I know who are inspirational in Early Years. Richard Duddy and Heather Stallard have started to do great Early Years Podcasts, about all things good in Early years ranging from safeguarding, what to do when the manager goes sick, to musicality in the Early Years. When they asked me to do a podcast on our recent outstanding Ofsted inspection, I of course said YES! Just one problem Richard….how do we do this? “It’s easy” he said, ” you just need Skype,  headphones and Internet connection.” Well….one out of three isn’t bad!  A slight panic attack for a minute, but with Skype downloaded, a new set of head phones, I was ready. Thanks Richard and Heather, it was great to talk to you. Here it is:-

Kim Benham – Early Years Podcast 009

“Keep it Simple: Planning”, from Laura Henry

This is just a little ” blogette” (new word) re Laura Henry’s “Keep it Simple: planning” training. It has to be a blogette, because there is nothing like going on the training to get this right, and I don’t  want give away the content. You’ll thoroughly enjoy the training.

In Early Years, we tend to be guilty of being told to do something, and then from various sources we tend to over complicate and embroider what we need to do until we are drowning in paperwork, which is not helpful to practice, and overwhelms us to the point we lose sight of what the main aim is, to be with the children and to support their development.

Enter Laura Henry’s training. I’m quite protective of my systems I have in place, and I have to admit to squirming a bit at first (it’s ok , I already told Laura that!)….it all seemed ….so easy! It made much more sense, put the child firmly in the middle of the planning, listening to them, meeting their needs. We did the training as a team, it was like they were all sighing with relief! At last, somebody saying less is so definitely more! Staff started to smile, the sun started to shine on us, and with Laura’s templates we were ready to go. I turned from squirming to feeling quite liberated.

For those who might say “what about Ofsted?” we were inspected recently, the planning and tracking progress was very clear to see, and the inspector liked how it all linked to the key person knowing the key children. We achieved Outstanding for the second time. It ticked so many boxes, knowing the children “extremely” well, effective planning, closing gaps and putting training into practice (CPD box ticked) to benefit the children.

The training helps the key persons role to be extremely effective and involves collaboration of the team to plan for the children. It does exactly what it says on the tin, keeps planning simple! Thanks Laura.

For more information visit http://www.laurahenryconsultancy.com/keep-it-simple-planning/

Well worth it. Highly recommend.

Do We Need English and Maths GCSE’s for Early Years?

To me, quality doesn’t always equate to academia. It’s the mix and balance of staff that build a successful childcare and early education team. Some of my brilliant level 3 staff have been non academic type people. On the other hand, I have some staff  doing their Early Years degrees, passing on  their new knowledge to the team and keeping us all up to date with latest best practice. If we suddenly switch to insistence on English and maths grade C to undertake level 3 training we are going to lose out on those practitioners with a natural flare to work with children. I’m all for functional skills which seem far more relevant to our environment. Does that make us any less deserving of recognition (and adequate funding for financial reward) as being professional high quality outfit. No! Always pick the person with a passion for early years, quality will follow. I end how I began, academia doesn’t always equate to quality.  Continue reading

The Safeguarding Audit

I am so lucky to know such great trainers who help me improve practice in my settings. No exception is Susan Taylor from “Tailor Made Training” offering fantastic safeguarding training at all levels. She has trained all my staff as they come to work in my settings. All come back raving about how good the training was as can they do the next level?

The offer of one of Susan’s Safeguarding Audits was a great opportunity to look at all we do to safeguard and protect children. Is it enough and can we do better? Being on site and having Susan to ourselves was a tremendous help to perfect policies, improve the look and feel of safeguarding at the Pre-School, and ask questions, however silly they felt! I Always feel comfortable talking to Susan about all we do to safeguard and protect children. Lots of applauding what we do right, and support to put tighter measures in place if there are gaps. Fortunately none of the gaps to huge! I was inspired to create this simple poster to put on the parent notice board, so it’s clear from the entry into the room, we protect children.


I’m not going to give away too much, because it’s all in the process! You need to book your own settings audit. I highly recommend!

I  have a “to do” list to address but all positive. One thing I love about Susan, is the support you get as you go through the “to do” list. The poor woman, I pestered her for days!!

Thanks Susan Taylor, you are amazing!

Contact Details

Susan Taylor
Approved Trainer

Email: susan@tailor made-training.co.uk


Tel:07538 130 617