Nursery fairy garden helps wean children off dummies

Nursery fairy garden helps wean children off dummies

Treetops Nursery in Belper, Derbyshire has opened its garden area to the local community. Toddlers can leave their dummies in the fairy garden and the resident fairies will then work their magic.

Manager Stefanie Reardon said: “Our fairy garden is there for families who may be struggling to get rid of the dummy, it is an important stage in speech and language development. We encourage the children to give their dummy up to the fairies and then overnight something magical will happen.”

The idea is similar to dummy trees, which are used by many other pre-school groups. But it is hoped that families will use the garden even if their children are not registered with the nursery.

The nursery also provides open services, like baby massage and stay-and-play, to make it as accessible as possible.

Any child can leave a dummy and attach a note with their name.  The next time they visit, their name will be transferred to a painted stone or garden ornament.

Stefanie, who took over the nursery in February after working in Derby for 15 years, said: “The garden is to show we’re now doing things differently now. People can have certain perceptions about a place, and we are trying to introduce positive changes and show the community can be involved.”

The nursery recently benefitted from a major refurbishment.

The fairy garden is in place, but will be officially opened by the Mayor of Belper on Monday 8th May. Parents will also have the chance to have a tour of Treetops and meet the staff.

How do you manage staff who are not performing effectively?

How do you manage staff who are not performing effectively?

Regardless of the industry you work in, you’re more than likely to come across staff members who are not performing their role effectively. There could be a variety of reasons for this, including personal problems at home interfering with work, but how do you address and manage this?

There are two different routes you can follow to deal with a staff member’s poor performance or behaviour. The first is the capability procedure, and this deals with an employee’s ability to carry out their role effectively. The second kind is the disciplinary procedure, and this deals with an employee’s poor conduct or behaviour.

Capability procedure

Before starting a capability procedure, it’s important to assess whether an employee’s poor performance is down to something like insufficient training being given or personal problems at home. If this is the case, then a capability meeting should be held with the employee, rather than a disciplinary meeting.

The member of staff should be notified of the issue and the time/date/place of the meeting. Remember that they also have the right to bring either a colleague or trade union representative along with them.

Conducting the capability meeting

During the meeting, the person conducting it (usually the employee’s line manager) will explain the reason behind the meeting and the staff member will be given a chance to respond. It is the manager’s responsibility to review all available evidence before deciding on what further action is necessary.

If the manager is happy that the employee’s work is to a satisfactory standard (after taking into account any mitigating circumstances), then no further action needs to be taken. The employee should be told this in writing.

However, if the finding of the meeting is that the employee’s work is not to a satisfactory standard, then further action should be taken under the capability procedure. Action will normally include the following:

  • Set task(s) for the employee to complete.
  • Outline a timescale to see an improvement.
  • Provide suitable training.
  • Give the employee guidance and feedback.

Follow-up meeting

Following the expiry of any period during which improvement is required, the employee will be informed in a follow-up meeting that either their performance has improved satisfactorily, that more time will be given or that further action needs to be taken. Again, the employee will need to be given written confirmation of this decision as soon as possible.

Depending on the outcome of the second meeting, the employee should be warned that failure to achieve the desired improvement in performance in the expected timeframe will result in dismissal. This being the case, if the employee is dismissed from the company, they must be given a letter stating the reason for dismissal.

Whilst it is unfortunate to have to dismiss any employee from their role, it’s important that all stages of the HR journey are documented and procedures followed correctly. Failure to do so could mean that the employee files a valid complaint for unfair dismissal and a costly employment tribunal could follow suit.

If you’re looking to build on your knowledge of managing staff performance, why not find out more with one of our courses?


Higher-quality early education does not involve substantially higher cost, according to DfE study

Higher-quality early education does not involve substantially higher cost, according to DfE study

According to research commissioned by the DfE, higher-quality early years education ‘does not cost substantially more’. It was also found that maintained provision has higher delivery costs than the PVI sector.

The findings come as part of a report on the cost and funding of early years education, under the DfE’s eight-year Study of Early Education and Development (SEED).

Dr Gillian Paull from Frontier Economics, who co-authored the research, said: “This report uses newly collected data from all types of childcare and early years providers to undertake a robust analysis of the relationships between costs and a broad range of setting and local characteristics, seeking both to contribute to discussions around free entitlement funding and to provide cost data for an analysis of the value for money of the policy.

“The study also contains a specific element on the cost and revenue for early education for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).”

A team of researchers visited a total of 166 settings, which included a mixture of private, voluntary and independent settings, nursery classes, maintained nursery schools, childminders and children’s centres. As part of the study, the team collected information on the costs of delivering funded education for babies to four-year-olds.

The geographical location of the setting, deprivation and whether the provider was part of a chain were all taken into account. In addition to this, a range of quality measures such as the Sustained Shared Thinking and Emotional Well-being (SSTEW) scale and whether the setting was ‘graduate-led’ were also taken into account.

Dr Paull said, “We had a very high response rate which means that the evidence should be representative of the overall picture. We estimated the hourly cost of delivery for early education and childcare.

“We have six types of providers, statistically tested for differences in costs between them.”

The study found that, due to higher staff costs, the maintained sector had higher costs than PVIs.

Dr Paull added, “We looked at funding information to find out how parental fees compared to the free entitlement rate.

“In line with other work, the free entitlement funding rate for two-year-olds is relatively generous compared with average parental fees, but is lower than average parental fees for three- and four-year-olds.”

Researchers acknowledged that there were substantial differences in cost estimates between the study conducted by the DfE and Ceeda’s report ‘Counting the cost’ which was published in 2015, as well as other studies for PVI settings.

Dr Paull said the more substantial differences in cost estimates appear to be related to the methodological approaches used, which could push up the cost estimates in the Ceeda report.

Dr Paull said, “For example, the Ceeda study assumed an additional 17 per cent in staff costs in addition to gross salaries (while SEED collected these additions more directly); only collected data in June and July (which the SEED evidence suggests are months with higher hourly costs); and included salaries for owners and interest on loans (which SEED omitted as investment returns/costs rather than ongoing delivery costs).”

In addition to this, Dr Paull said differences in cost estimates between SEED and the studies conducted by NLH Partnership and KPMG are only for 2 year olds.  This may be because these studies used average or statutory staff:child ratios to allocate costs across ages, which may have overstated the staff cost for two-year-olds.

Early years organisations expressed surprise at the findings of the study, which they said did not correspond with other research and information from their members.

Chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) Purnima Tanuku said, “This study is surprising in that its conclusions don’t match other research done in this field across all childcare providers, which point towards true delivery costs being much higher.

“Our members say they have real fears about remaining viable as businesses in the face of inadequate funding and rising business costs, let alone making a profit or surplus. This is the message we have been given for the past eight years in our annual nursery survey.

“This has also been the picture within nursery schools, childminders and maintained settings. We would agree that there is real variation across the sector, which outlines the difficulties in setting a fair rate of funding for all.”

Read the full SEED report here

Union makes claims of unfair suspension

Union makes claims of unfair suspension

A union has made claims that a Midland school nursery has suspended one of its employees after a successful campaign to stop cuts to its opening hours.

The Britain’s General Union (GMB) launched a petition after discovering that Rowley Owls Nursery was consulting on a proposal to open for less hours, only taking in children over the age of 2.

The proposals were put forward after 2 inspections by Ofsted in the past 9 months criticised the nursery.

Rated as “inadequate” in February, they were bumped up to “requires improvement” in August.

The setting has contested that the proposals have been made in order to improve their standards, but the governing body pulled the plug on these plans after parents rallied, pulling together a petition with 350 signatures.

The GMB has now claimed, however, that one of its members, who is employed at the setting, has been suspended in the wake of the successful campaign to thwart plans.

A spokesman for the union has said that the staff member in question was deliberately “targeted and victimised” by the school.

Gillian Whittaker, GMB Organiser, said: “We consider that this member has been targeted and victimised due to the successful campaign run by GMB earlier this month.

“We consider that this is grossly unfair and are requesting that this member is re-instated as soon as possible. We will do everything in our power for this member to get this suspension lifted.

“We are hoping that the school see sense and re-instate the staff member without delay.”

Kevin Morris, chairman of governors at Rowley Hall Primary, where the setting is based, has said:

“Suspension is a neutral act and does not imply any wrongdoing.

“While investigations continue we are unable to comment any further.”

Headteacher of the school, Nicola Stanley, has said of the thwarted plans: “The proposal was put forward by governors in a bid to improve standards in the nursery following feedback from Ofsted.

“We have been overwhelmed by the positive feedback we have received from parents with children in the nursery.

“It seems parents and children really love what we are doing and want to keep the nursery as it is.

“Ofsted have recognised we are improving but we still have some way to go to make improvements to the nursery.

“Now this decision has been made, the nursery can get on with implementing changes to improve standards.”


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