Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is a term we hear often. We know it’s important – Ofsted expect us to keep our knowledge up to date and practitioners often report feeling more confident, enthused and engaged after attending courses.
First aid is now required for all newly qualified Early Years Educators. Without it, these practitioners cannot be counted in ratios. Child protection awareness must form part of the induction of new staff and courses such as food hygiene are often covered at induction, too. These are very important in ensuring the children’s wellbeing, but how do we continue to improve our day-to-day practice?
Short CPD courses such as promoting positive behaviour, supporting children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, maths in the early years and courses on working in partnership with parents provide practitioners with opportunities to reflect on their current practice and to explore suggestions for changes and improvements.
With the sector quite rightly expecting to be recognised for our professionalism and the huge emphasis placed on outcomes for children, it is important that CPD features high on our priorities list. But how do we ensure that it is effective?
Barriers to delivering CPD
There are many factors that can make delivering CPD difficult, including difficulties in releasing staff to go on courses due to ratios or the cost of covering them to be out of the setting.
Sourcing good quality CPD can be a challenge and many local authorities who used to deliver short courses have had to cut or limit these due to funding constraints. In my local authority, we are limited as to how many practitioners from each setting can attend each course. This is understandable, but with 25 staff and 2 places per setting limit, it would take 13 sessions to get our whole team on the course.
The timings of the courses can prove difficult, either due to ratios or, increasingly, because CPD courses or development days are being held at weekends. Again, this is understandable as it means for most of us that our settings are closed but it also means asking our teams to attend training on their day off, after a busy week at work.
The same can be said of delivering CPD courses at staff meetings. As a full daycare setting, we do not close for inset days so these are held in the evening after a busy day and it’s important that we remember this when we are trying to deliver effective CPD.
Cost is a huge factor, with most settings feeling the pinch of delivering the new 30-hour offer for 3 and 4-year-olds. When faced with statutory rises in our costs such as yearly increases in National Minimum Wage and statutory pension contributions, combined with increases in the cost of utilities and consumables, something has to give.
Thinking outside of the box
These difficulties mean that we have had to be selective about what CPD we offer and creative in how we deliver it. We recently delivered a first aid course which means that our staff team is now 100% first aid qualified. Although not a statutory requirement, this is best practice. If we had paid our team for their time as well as for the course, it would have cost us over £4000 and this would have been prohibitive for us.
The huge rise in online courses in recent years is both a positive and a problem. It is great that there is such a variety of online learning available and that it can be accessed 24/7 (which removes some of the time constraints) but with so much available, how do we know which courses are worthwhile and how do we ensure that our teams are actively taking in the information if they are sitting alone in front of a computer?
We have recently started buying online courses and delivering them in small groups during quieter times or to the whole of the staff team at staff meetings. For example, we purchased one food hygiene course and went through it together, with each team member having to take the test at the end in silence so that we knew the answers were their own. This meant that we trained the whole team, using an accredited course, for under £200.
The benefits of undertaking training as a team
As the nursery manager, undertaking these courses with our team allows me to see the depth and quality of the courses we purchase. I often find the conversations that happen during training sessions are where the real value comes in. For example, during a recent online course on supporting 2-year-olds in the EYFS, it was great to hear our 2-3’s staff discussing how they could implement the various suggestions in their room.
The conversation turned to a child who had used the word ‘gigantic’ in his play one day. As a result of that conversation, the room now has ‘word of the month’ where they introduce a new word and use it frequently for the month so that the children hear it often and in context. This may not have happened if the team had not had the time to sit and discuss this and take it to the next stage.
It’s interesting to consider the differences between the availability of CPD in the different parts of the sector. School nurseries, for example, will usually take inset days during which the team can undertake CPD, whilst daycare settings generally don’t so we have to try to fit it in as best we can. Nannies can be Ofsted registered but do not have the same opportunities open to them as school/ PVI teams do.
A new company based in Wiltshire has recognised this and begun delivering CPD courses for nannies. Wise Nannies (https://www.wise-nanny.co.uk) is the brainchild of Vikki Matcham and Laura LeTurner, both former nannies with a combined total of over 60 years in the sector. They recognised this gap in the market and now deliver courses for nannies so that they have easy access to CPD.
The importance of CPD at a time of budget cuts
With many local authorities having to make huge savings to their budgets, many of the support services which were available for families have now been cut, meaning that childcare professionals are taking on an increasingly wider remit of family support. Children’s centres, which were opened specifically to offer this support, are cutting services or closing in their droves which has increased the pressure on settings to step in to fill the gap.
Many families who need advice on general parenting/family issues will never meet the threshold to receive it via social services, so it can be very difficult to know where to signpost these families to go to for the answers they are looking for. Wise Nanny also offers parenting workshops which can help fill this gap.
With 94% of the sector now judged ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, we are getting something right and we should be very proud of that. CPD can only improve our provision, so it is vital that we continue to look for creative ways to deliver it.
About the author
Jo Morris has been in Early Years for 21 years; she holds the NNEB Diploma and has worked as a nanny and creche manager, working at sporting events across Europe and the Middle East.
For the past 9 years she has been the manager of a large PVI setting, gaining her Early Years Degree in 2015 and setting up a new company to grow the business.
Jo is passionate about the sector and about achieving the best possible outcome for every child.
Supporting practitioners is a key part of this and as such she is the spokesperson for Champagne Nurseries on Lemonade Funding, a campaign group supporting the sector by calling for a change in the legislation around the 30 hours ‘free’ childcare policy.
You can contact Jo at firstname.lastname@example.org