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.

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

The Magic Notebook

I have a confession to make. I love a note book. Not just any notebook, a luxurious notebook. I’ve bought cheap ones, I’ve bought bumper packs of cheap pads, but now I value and love my posh notebooks.


I use thes for meetings, courses, webinars and for making work notes. Now, if I wrote thes notes in a  paperback notebook, or on an A4 pad, the notes would disappear, never to be seen again, or sometimes to be looked at years later, when the information is out of date and I can’t remember what I was writing about! With my posh hard back note books however, I tend to look back at my notes and revise the points I made. I also seem to know which to find the notes I made on  eg. CIF workshop, or this webinar.


Or this remark that made me smile, from Alistair Bryce Clegg training describing sometimes we get carried away with setting out an araea.



I get handbag sized, so it’s handy, I don’t have to take a huge bag to meetings and courses. The best thing, like any book they look lovely and feel good. They’re nice to write in, they tell a story of how I work and develop my settings. I love them! So please don’t judge me, but go and look for a lovely notebook that is worthy of your jottings!


If anyone’s interested in how much you can fit in this little note book (so well worth the extravagance!)

Alistair Bryce Clegg ABCdoes Excellence in Early Years training notes

Laura Henry leadership and management webinar

Laura Henry Personalised Planning course notes

Susan Taylor’s safeguarding update training

2 Staff meetings

British Values and Prevent PLA onLine course notes

2X Big Ofsted Conversation notes

Neytco An Evening with notes

Astec solutions notes from visit to Day Nursery and software chat

CIF LA meeting

Notes on Tapestry

Gina Davies training on autism

EYPodcast notes on safeguarding Debbie Alcock

Notes on new work website

things to do lists

And there’s still more room!!

See, they’re magic!




Careers Day

I always get so nervous on this day. I give a careers talk to a local school and talk to their year 11’s about Early years. My fears are always unfounded and I have an enjoyable day enthusing about a subject dear to my heart!

The sessions are 50 minutes. Quite a long time for those that don’t want to go into child care, so I take TOYS! The first bit I talk about all things childcare, and then we play.

I take a variety of bits, but I always take plenty of dough! they were making models creating scenes and all sorts.The students loved the transient art, using mirrors for symmetry ( and to check their mascara.) They made a fantastic butterfly with some chain links. These year 11’s love to play, and I get the feeling that they haven’t been so freely creative in a long while.

There is always a teacher in the room (just in case!) and this year she pulled me to one side. “Look at them,” she said “They’re loving it. They’re so relaxed, so happy. What’s the recipe for dough? I’m going to try and weave it into my lessons.” Needless to say I love this lady. The potential for learning through play should be life long!

Looking back…and forwards

It’s that time of year to reflect and look back. As I finished work for the week on Friday, I just thought “I (still) love my job!”

l’m incredibly lucky to have two brilliant teams at Millies and Sparkles Pre-Schools. We have had another successful year with fabulous children and supportive parents.

The great thing about a blog is that you can look at what you’ve been doing, what’s improved, and what’s changed. Just when we thought we couldn’t get any messier, we of course did. I was influenced by Alistair Bryce Cleggs training and changed some of the things we do. Getting children to make their own dough….well we haven’t achieved it this term, as children lead the ingredient amount, we’ve made goo. But the children are getting the idea now of how to correct the goo, and occasional balls of dough have occurred! It’s all about the process.



We have encouraged children to be more experimental. Creating challenges  for children is fun and helps to achieve next steps. Here we are experimenting with colour mixing with pippettes and kitchen roll. Even the ducks are enjoying it!


We started home play bags to link our learning with home. 45 zip lock bags with goodies to help children’s learning. (See previous blog post). A simple instruction sheet included to encourage learning through play at home.

To round our year off, we had some fantastic team training from Laura Henry, (Separate blog for the new year). Huge impact too, reducing paper work, improving child centeredness (? a word!). It has shifted the mood of the whole team to a higher place! I’m sure there’s a song in there somewhere! Thanks Laura.

Just a few of the changes we have made to make our year successful! Looking forward to the next one.

I wish all my blog readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Futureworks, Future Success!

I have just had lunch with a very lovely person. Debbie Sawh heads up level 2 and 3 training at Futureworks, Croydon. I have used Fureworks for many years. Debbie’s team deliver high quality training, which produces confident and competent Early Years practitioners. It’s lovely to see staff develop in knowledge and confidence as they progress through the course. The team of assessors, with Debbie support the learners through their journey, encouraging them to question practise and improve quality.
Futureworks works closely with the setting manager, so that coaching can be seamless between setting and the classroom. We are informed of progress, we are included in reviews we work closely together to get the best out of our student employees. We look for the same qualities in people to work with children. As Debbie once told me, as well as enthusiasm for working with children they need lots of “oomph.” I know exactly what she means!
Anyone who knows me, (or my blog) will know my enthusiasm for high quality team training which Debbie has delivered to us. From her fabulous training, we have introduced HighScope Plan-Do-Review https://sparklingpreschool.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/plan-do-review/ and self-regulation of children’s behaviour using the HighScope approach. Not only has she trained us, but she has supported implementation of her training. If your willing to give things a go, Debbie is your mentor and supporter 100%.
So we agreed at lunch, we don’t see enough of each other. Roll on the next lunch…and thanks Debbie, most of my team have been trained by yours! A great partnership and collaboration.

Futureworks information:

Deborah Sawh, BA (Hons), EYP/TS

Managing Director

FutureWorks Education Ltd


email: training@futureworks.org.uk

Tel no: 020-8916-2078


Confident Talkers Conversation Cards

Before I start my story about how I used my Conversation Cards today, let me explain these little gems. There versatile and multi purpose cards are by Laura Henry titled “Confident Talkers” They contain cards with open ended questions to use with children to encourage conversations. Of course as good practitioners, we use open ended questions on a daily basis, but we could  all do with some help to enhance and build on what we do. It’s good to have a different question, which not only help the children to be confident talkers, but confident thinkers too.


Back to my story. I love talking to parents about all things children. I often have coffee chats with the parents of my settings about the many facets of childcare. Recently I have been developing a collaboration with a  Children’s Centre near to one of my new settings. The new manager and I share visions of child and family care. I was honoured that she asked me to talk to the parents in her centre about the importance of play.

Now I’ve done this before, but somehow this time, I couldn’t get my preparation quite together. I wrote a few notes, changed them round, and I was feeling restless about the presentation. Then I had a light bulb moment, and decided the way to show and talk about the importance of play…was to play! What do I consider one of the most important points? Has to be communication and language development through play. I raised my cupboards for ingredients for cloud dough (7cups of flour/ one cup of oil) borrowed some toys from the setting. Ooh a bit of transient art, some nature resources plus some maths games. You’re never too old to play!

And then in the corner of my eye I spotted my new Conversation Cards. Hmmm, brilliant! This will weave it all together beautifully with the importance of  language and communication at the heart of my chat, developing children as confident talkers is central to our practice, and should be promoted in family life.

My Conversation Cards were a huge success. Parents were interested in using the questions with play ideas. Some parents struggled to ask their children questions, other than those which the answer was “nothing”, usually to “what did you do at school?” (Not my pre-school of course!!!)  That brought the discussion to what questions would be interesting to children, maybe they don’t want that regular questions when they get home from school. All the parents had a good rummage, choosing their favourites. I was so happy that the parents showed such genuine interest in encouraging their children to be confident talkers..thanks to my little gems, Confident Talkers, by Laura Henry.









P.S I have lots more ideas for my new cards!😉

Home Play Bags

Any of my regular readers know I love training, it drives improvement making our all round provision more effective for children to progress. Earlier this year we went to “Chatter Matters” conference ( see previous blog with the title) with amazing key speakers. The workshops were equally inspiring, which is where our Home Play Bags originated. At the conference they were introduced as Home Learning Bags. This sounds a little bit like home work for me, and the essence of the bags, was to provide play opportunities at home which enhanced the learning we do in the setting. The bags vary from cornflour, bug investigation, books, play dough and craft, and much more! We hope to introduce some new play ideas into the home as well as some familiar activities. The bags come with a list of contents, some play ideas, and some suggestions of how it can affect development.



We have been using our Home Play Bags for just a week. We enclosed parent feedback forms in each back and so far, returned bags have all had a filled in feedback form, 26 so far! We asked whether the play activity was too easy, just right or too hard. Most have said just right, one said it was a mix of too easy and just right. Parents and children are loving them! Most bags have varying skills attached. While we want to challenge children we want the bags to be fun and stimulating most of all. We don’t want any pressure attached to them, but we will hopefully provide some different activities to peruse at home as well as making suggestions to enhance activities at home. We might for instance add props to our books in the bag with questions about the characters.


The parent guides…an example

Home Play Bags
Sparkles and Millies

Number 8 Cornflour
Bag of cornflour
Beware….this gets messy!
Let’s Play!
You will need a tray or flat plate, and some water.
Add water little by little and mix with your fingers and hands.
The cornflour keeps sinking so it needs to be mixed constantly. Eventually you will be able to leave trails and make marks that will disappear.
If you get it to a certain consistency you can quickly roll it into a ball, and then as if by magic, when you stop it just dribbles out of your hand!
Moving cornflour takes some finger strength for young fingers. Great for pre-writing
Communication and Language
Increase vocabulary. How does it feel? Slimey, squidgy, drippy, powdery. Any other words?

Cornflour does wash out of clothes! Let it dry and you can brush it off.
You may not want to be wearing black!

High Quality Training

I have just been on the most amazing training today delivered by Alistair Bryce Clegg. I have got so many ideas that now I’m home my brain will surely explode, because I can’t think what to change first. Good training is expensive, but I have come to the conclusion that high quality training, by Top trainers, has a bigger impact on changes in the setting. Laura Henry is another of my favourite trainers, where I come home with a “to do” list when I come home ( having had comprehensive guidance on how to achieve the “to do” list)

Budgets are so tight now, but I’ve made a very conscious effort not to spend every penny on new resources, but save some up for high quality training. After all, if you think you and your team are the best, they deserve the best. The tip top training will impact the children’s learning and well being outcomes for years, so they will reach their best attainment levels. It’s an investment for the whole pre-school.

As for the content, well of course I can’t comment, you must book for yourselves, however both the above mentioned have excellent websites, can be found on FB and Twitter, and come highly recommended by your truly, me!

Also been on some very inspiring Neytco events, of which any Early Years practitioner can be a member. An evening with….got me talking to some of my Early Years heroes, Sonia Blandford, Elizebeth Jarman talking about their own childhoods (some surprises there!) and EY experiences. Also Neytco is an excellent resource for finding trainers to suit your setting needs.




For now, I’m of to bed, so much thought provoking information today Mr Bryce Clegg has made me incredibly tired!

To my team, I’ve got some fab training coming up for you!