The Hazelwood Early Years and Nursery team, part of Hazelwood School, pride themselves on their unique provision. With free flow to the outdoors in each of their rooms, phonics, maths and P.E. lessons with school teachers, and a forest school the children have plenty to choose from. And as if that wasn’t enough, the team recently constructed a new nature area for the children to explore.
“When we obtained the site, it came with an old outdoor swimming pool,” says Manager, Matt Weeks, “It was left unused for a while until we discovered some endangered species living in it. We took the opportunity to turn the whole thing into a nature area. Now we do pond-dipping, planting, and learning about all the birds and bugs.”
But it’s not just the facilities that are impressive - the leadership team make knowing the children as individuals their highest priority. The setting is extremely popular and, with such a volume of children, there’s a risk some could get lost in the group. But Matt and his team are ensuring that doesn’t happen through their robust key-person system, enabling them to meet the needs of every child.
“Myself, and all of the management team know all of the children and all the parents,” explains Matt, “We’re a big setting but we make sure the children aren’t just numbers. We want children to be as well-rounded as possible.”
But even with these amazing facilities and dedicated leadership, finding the time to individually care for and educate the 187 children on role, from 9 months to the end of reception, is no easy feat. It helps though, when you have the right tools to take care of the admin, so you can get back to the important jobs.
Matt shared that as a leadership team, they don’t want their educators on iPads all the time, and here at Famly, we agree. Time, and more importantly time with the children, is a precious commodity, and it shouldn’t be interrupted constantly with admin and piles of paper.
“Because we can send those Newsfeed posts of a nice picture or activity, our actual observations in the learning journeys are so much more powerful. It’s been great to differentiate those,” explains Matt, “And we’re able to do fewer observations as the ones we do make are so powerful. The staff are off the iPads more and the observations they write are much more about what the children are learning and how they’re developing.
And it’s not just the educators (and the children) reaping the benefits of all that saved time. The leadership are freeing up their schedules too.
“We’ve been with Famly for about two years now and it’s honestly a game-changer,” says Matt, “It’s just so much easier than our previous systems. It’s saved us a huge amount of admin time. On our old system, booking in an extra session would take me half an hour as you’d have to redo the whole register. It was a nightmare. Now, I can do it in five seconds with Famly - it’s a huge benefit.”
Ultimately, all that time that was spent on a laptop or filing away paper, can now be spent on far more valuable things.
“We are busy and there’s a lot to do,” says Matt, “As managers, the time we’re saving with Famly will mean we can spend more time in the rooms. Being with the staff, being with the children. We want to be there to proactively find any issues or problems than waiting for someone to come to us, in the office.”
“It’s allowed us to go pretty much paper-free now,” says Matt, “No more paper registers, no more medicine books, no more accident books. It’s all online, in Famly. It’s saved us quite a bit of money as we’re not having to print all that paper all the time.”
Matt Weeks, Manager, Hazelwood Nursery and Early Years
Even with facilities as exciting as the children have at Hazelwood, there will always be one or two who find it particularly hard to separate from their parents or carers in the morning. Supporting this transition can be challenging, especially when Mum or Dad must get off to work and leave a crying child. Luckily, Matt and his team found a solution.
“Something that really helps with the home-to-nursery transition in the morning is sending a photo to the newsfeed of the room, set-up,” says Matt, “The parents can show them the picture and children can see the activities they’re going to do. Particularly for those children who are new to the setting or a bit unsettled, it makes the drop-off so much easier because they know what to expect.”
Matt and the team have also invited parents to have a go at Famly’s professional package live translation feature, so they can choose to receive communication from the setting in their home language. Matt recalls a child who attended the setting previously and was often collected by his grandmother, for whom English was an additional language. The team found that communication was more of a challenge through the language barrier, whereas translation would have made it easier for everyone.
The main thing we’ve seen an improvement in is communication with parents. That’s been the biggest advantage. Whenever I talk to parents, the feedback I get is how much better our communication is with them, especially based on what their children are doing. It’s a huge success.
Matt Weeks, Manager, Hazelwood Nursery and Early Years
Recently, Matt and the Hazelwood team have been trying out Famly’s new professional package, and are pleased to see the new features.
“At the moment, for our admissions, we’re very paper-based,” explains Matt, “Currently, parents fill out their paper registration form, send it back and there tends to be a lot of back and forth. To have all that online would be great, so we’re looking forward to getting the custom registration forms set up in Famly.”
Registration forms aren’t the only customisable feature in the professional package, you can also design your own Famly Home screen too. Matt and the team love having the easy overview of room ratios, calculated for the children and staff present, front and centre on their Famly platform.
“That whole overhaul of the home screen to include all those details was fantastic,” says Matt, “And you change some of the views, which is great.”
And it’s not just the current features that Matt appreciates - it’s that things are improving all the time. “I like that new things are added, as we never had that with our old platforms,” says Matt, “On our old systems, nothing new was added the whole time we used them - it got so stale. Now in Famly, I regularly get the little red dot in the platform and I think, ‘Ooh! What’s come out now?’ That’s been really good to see.”
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.