The old red-brick schoolhouse in Idole, Camarthenshire had sat empty for three or four years, when the local authority decided to develop its plot into a housing estate.
But Heather Thomas was having none of it.
“I had a dream to open a nursery,” says Heather, “My husband is a dairy farmer and we farm the land around here. We just thought ‘Now’s the time to go for it!’”
So Camarthen-native Heather, a forest school leader and primary school teacher, bought the schoolhouse. And, after some extensive renovation, she and her husband Gareth opened Welsh-language forest school nursery, Cywion Bach, in 2018.
I sat down with Heather to find out how Famly takes care of the administration and accident reporting, so she can enjoy the adventure.
Famly is always available to record the highlights of the day, through photos and observations, but it’s also there for the worst bits.
When accidents happen, the most important thing is to care for the child, so the last thing practitioners need to worry about is chasing down the parents’ contact details and the accident book, as well as the plasters.
Luckily, Famly makes recording accidents as quick and painless as possible for staff, so they can get right back to the children.
“Reporting accidents on the tablets is so much easier than writing it out in a book, which we used to do,” says Heather, “We used to have to rush around looking for the book to write up the accident, then having to find it again for the parents to sign, and it would always be on the other side of the setting. It was a bit of a panic. Now there’s always a device with Famly on close by and the parents get it through and can acknowledge it on their phones.”
And there’s also the oversight. Heather explains that when she was out of the setting recently, she used Famly to check in on what was happening.
“I logged in to Famly and I could see that a little boy had had an accident,” says Heather, “So I was able to send a message to Mum to make sure he was alright. And he was.”
Having all the accident reports already collated in one place, where they can be sorted by location, means Heather can easily review the risker areas of the forest school and support her team and the children to manage those risks effectively.
Cywion Bach didn’t start out with Famly. In fact, when she first opened the setting in 2018, Cywion Bach had four members of staff and four children, so Heather was managing all the paperwork, administration, invoicing, and leadership herself.
“For example, the whole week at the end of the month was set aside for invoicing,” says Heather.
But, as the setting grew to have twenty-three members of staff and over a hundred children, Heather needed some help.
“As our numbers were growing, so were the administrative duties. It got to be too much so we wanted to find out how we could make things easier. That's when we looked into Famly.”
A local setting had suggested that Heather try Famly out, as it was working so well for them, so Heather started a trial.
“It’s always good to have a first-hand recommendation, I think,” says Heather, “And from someone you trust. And I liked that I could do a trial first, so I could see it would work for us. Money’s tight, so you need to know you’re making the right decision before you spend and make a commitment.”
But besides the piles of paperwork, being indoors behind a desk is not where Heather wanted to be.
“I can spend more time supervising staff, doing appraisals and supervisions, which I’d got behind on due to all the admin,” says Heather, “and of course, outdoors with the children.”
And the week she spent every month on invoicing?
“Now I do it at the click of a button!” says Heather.
Heather is proud of the communication and closeness between Cywion Bach and the families that attend.
Famly supports Heather by giving her time back so she can actually be with the children and allowing her to keep in contact with the families of the children she looks after.
“Parents are entrusting us with their most precious, precious thing,” she explains, “And they’re not just a number, each child is very important. When something happens to that child in our care, I’m the person in charge and I’m responsible. As a parent, I’d appreciate just a little message on Famly. It keeps that personal touch and Famly makes it much easier for me to do that.”
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.