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The Early Years Alliance is an Early Years membership organisation in England and a registered educational charity. One of the reasons we’re so proud to call them a Famly customer is because of their work in consistently championing the voices of the early years sector, fighting to make it a better place.
Although you might be most familiar with their CEO, Neil Leitch, (he’s the one you’ll have seen on the news), a large part of their work happens on the ground, in their settings. That’s right, as well as looking after hundreds of member settings, the Alliance runs around 60 Early Years settings of their own, one of which Famly was lucky enough to visit back in 2019.
So what makes an Alliance setting so special?
“Parents know we care,” says Bobbie Jo Davies, the nursery manager at Alliance setting Storkway Neighbourhood Nursery, “I could tell you every parent’s name, every child’s name and most of their birthdays. It matters.”
I recently met with Bobbie Jo, to find out more about how they’re supporting local families and enabling children to develop and thrive… with a little help from Famly.
Bobbie Jo and her team pride themselves on the fact that interaction with the children is at the centre of their practice. Not only is this what’s best for the children themselves, but it’s what matters most to parents too.
“A parent came to visit and I met them with paint in my hair and covered in flour prints,” says Bobbie Jo, “The parent told us they’d seen six settings but wanted to send their child to ours as they could see that we were interacting with the children.”
Despite knowing you’ve made the right choice of setting, leaving your child at nursery for the first time can be really, really hard. And the second time. And probably the third time too. That’s why Bobbie Jo and her team are grateful that they can keep in contact with parents throughout the day, through Famly.
“It’s so easy for us to reassure them,” says Bobbie Jo, “The parents often cry when they have to drop off the first few times, as they’re so worried about leaving. But we can send that message or photo in Famly to say their child is fine, show them that they’ve had a bottle, they’ve had a sleep - and it’s all on their phones so it’s brilliantly accessible. It’s made the settling-in process so much better”
But it’s not just the parents who are reassured through Famly. Bobbie Jo has a system for her team to make sure all the children are accounted for at all times.
“Every time we log onto Famly, to reply to a parent or record the snack, you check the headcount,” explains Bobbie Jo, “You can see what time the last headcount was done, too, so if it was done a while ago, the team can easily and quickly re-do it.”
As a manager, Bobbie Jo can keep an eye on the headcounts through her log-in, and know everyone is safe and exactly where they should be.
Even after children have settled into Storkway, Bobbie Jo and her team work hard to continually build on their relationships with parents, carers, and families. During Covid, Bobbie Jo started a weekly check-in for parents, via Famly, to let them know that she was available to talk.
“I make a weekly post on the Famly newsfeed and ask every parent to click the ‘like’ button if everything’s ok,” explains Bobbie Jo, “If a parent doesn’t click the button, we ring them to catch up to see if they’re alright. If they want me to reach out specifically, they type a dot in the comments section, to keep things confidential.
And Famly provides a platform to keep those conversations going.
“I’m messaging a parent later on, as it’s her birthday,” says Bobbie Jo, “That’s how you build those relationships with parents - you show you care. You care that it’s their birthday or their child’s birthday or that they’ve gone away for the weekend.”
Bobbie Jo found that plenty of parents did want to connect, either to share their worries or just to talk. Giving them the low-pressure option of interacting with the newsfeed post, meant she was able to support parents who may not otherwise have had the confidence or the means to reach out.
And Famly also helps spark conversation between the parents and carers and their children too.
“Parents will ask, ‘What did you do at nursery?’ and children answer ‘Nothing!’,” says Bobbie Jo, “But the parents can say ‘Actually, I know you did this or that as I can see it on Famly!’, so it sparks that conversation. In the current climate, conversation with children is so important.”
For example, Bobbie Jo and her team have recently invited a theatre troupe to Storkway, to conduct sessions with the children, as an optional extra for parents.
“After we had the theatre group in yesterday, I put the photos and videos up on the Famly news feed,” says Bobbie Jo, “Since posting them, I’ve had 26 parents sign up because they can see that their child enjoyed it.”
Like many Early Years managers, Bobbie Jo works in the rooms 4 days a week, as well as the office, and so has her own key children to look after. Having everything on Famly means Bobbie Jo can easily access all the information she needs throughout the day (without having to leave the room or take her attention from the children) and can log observations for her key children too, all in one place.
“I have draft observations open for each of my key children,” explains Bobbie Jo, “I can add a picture and quickly make some notes and as it’s all saved, I can type it up later.”
The Storkway team used to have to record everything on paper and share everything with parents at the end of the day but now, no one has to wait for the information they need. Bobbie Jo and her team wear their iPads on straps, so they all have immediate access to Famly, where they can securely access the children’s details. Plus they can instantly share what’s going on with parents too.
“Back in the day, you’d be doing a toileting sheet, a headcount sheet, a sheet about what the children ate and then a day sheet for the parents,” explains Bobbie Jo, “We don’t do any of that any more as we do it in Famly, and it goes straight to the parents.”
“I’ve tried 7 or 8 different online systems, from my time as a teacher too, and this is the best one. I’d never go back. It’s got everything.”
Bobbie Jo Davies, Nursery Manager, Storkway Neighbourhood Nursery (Early Years Alliance)
Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.