Kids Inc: Passionate about professional development

Professional development is important to an early childhood educator
because it allows them to expand their knowledge, share best practice,
network, and most importantly, remain current in their field. Training and
development is a career-long process and one that Kids Inc is committed to
delivering says Abbey Towsey, lead early years trainer

1. You have launched a new Training Academy, what brought this decision about and why is it so important to Kids Inc?

We are very passionate about the professional development of early years educators. This is for their own potential progression or acquisition of knowledge, but it also benefits our children’s
education and quality of interactions. As we have nurseries in different Boroughs, with varied resources, we wanted to ensure that practitioners all have the same learning opportunities available.

2. How will the academy be structured?

There are 4 different elements that we offer at Kids Inc.

Our ‘Toolkit Training’ encompasses our foundation level training for early years in line with the Early Years Statutory Framework. We begin with an interactive ‘Welcome to Kids Inc’ induction to ensure that we invest in our team from their first day. There are 7 other programmes, Babies, Brains and Brilliance, Every Key Person Matters, Child Protection Fundamentals, Self- Regulation and Associated Behaviours, Early Years Statutory Framework, The Great Outdoors and Observation, and Assessment and Planning. These are face to face sessions, with additional pieces for blended learning.

We ensure that our nurseries’ monthly team meetings are fun filled, interactive experiences, with relevant course content prepared and available for our Leaders from our ‘Training Library’. We release
one a month, some examples are Birth to 5 Matters, Magical Mealtimes, Developmental Milestones and Prime Areas of Learning. We also have additional workshops available that we create to educate and inspire our practitioners, such as nature nursery.

We endeavour to provide the highest quality programmes for our Apprentices, as our future leaders. Whether they are already employed and have decided to upskill, or if they have been employed
as Apprentices through our partner Realise, they are supported by the Apprenticeship Lead with monthly visits and workshops on topics such as Special Educational Needs. This also provides
them with the opportunity to network with other Apprentices and share in their
collaborative learning.

In each of our settings we have offered a Level 3 SENCO training opportunity through SENDTAC, to which the uptake has been fantastic. We have very passionate individuals that want to ensure that we create equal opportunities for all children, so we want to give them the tools to support them with such an important responsibility.

3. What are the most important skills or concepts you want to teach within the academy?

Sarah and I approach training through coaching and facilitations. We are very passionate about our practitioners having the opportunity to share experiences and ensure that it is fun and interactive
to suit all learning styles. With any key learning pieces from the sessions we ensure that there is a post task to take back to their nurseries. We want to give them the tools to then embed within practice, as we want it to make an impact.

As mentioned in the Enfield inspection report, our training was referred to as impactful:
‘Leaders have worked hard to address the weaknesses identified at the last inspection. They work closely with staff to support their learning through training and development. For example, all staff have attended training on supporting children’s emotional well-being. This has had an impact on children’s ability to manage their emotions.

Professional development is important to an early childhood educator because it allows them to expand their knowledge, share best practice, network, and most importantly, remain current in their field. Training and development is a career-long process and one that Kids Inc is committed to delivering says Abbey Towsey, lead early years trainer.

4. When listening to staff, what is it that they want the most from this?

At Kids Inc we didn’t have internal training, we utilised what the local authorities could provide. When
listening to feedback from our educators, they have communicated that it is an exciting opportunity to have programmes available to enhance their practice. This is especially the case with Babies, Brains and Brilliance, due to the requirement for our under 2’s educators to have baby training that was originally
not easily accessible.

5. In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues across the sector and how can this academy
address them?

The biggest issue in relation to training is recruitment and retention of staff. We are lucky at Kids Inc that we have not needed to use agency, as we have team members that can go and support from other nurseries. This of course this does not mean it hasn’t had its challenges. It is about us at a training team being creative and offering pieces, like the training library pieces, or quality catch up calls to offer training on recent trends within our nurseries, so that we can still have continual professional development. We know that discussion, practice and reteaching learning are the most effective
ways of learning, so we are passionate about not removing the face to face opportunity for training.

6. Is the academy open to all staff members?

Yes! Our training is available to everyone internally at Kids Inc. As part of our Training Academy launch on the 1st September, we invite other nurseries that do not have an internal training team the opportunity to book onto our ‘Toolkit Training’ sessions. This can be done through the Eventbrite website.

This will be a great learning opportunity for practitioners to share their different experiences of how they implement practices within their nurseries. If anyone has any questions and would like to each out to us, our email is [email protected].

7. How would you like to see it evolve and grow?

In January we are launching our managers ‘Aspiring Leaders’ programme. This involves workshops for all
elements of their role. They have tailored progression plans with specific targeted workshops such as Difficult Discussions, Leading Your Inspection, Inspiring Interactions and many more. I am also a Gallup Coach, so they all have the opportunity to complete their assessments, have coaching and face to face sessions to encourage turning their themes into strengths and working in collaboration with other managers. This is then going to be available to both deputy and trainee deputy managers.

Our strategy for next year is to create a senior nursery nurse programme. This will be developed in collaboration with a range of colleagues from different nurseries and different experiences. It is
very exciting!

8. What are your goals from a training perspective for the remainder of the year?

We are creating our 8 workshops as part of our Aspiring Leaders Programme, in addition to our training sessions. We are very eager to develop these in preparation for 2023. Can you explain why further training is so critical for the wellbeing of staff and also their ability to handle different situations?

We want to empower our educators to feel like they can ask questions, challenge, have opportunities to reflect and seek support. By having the ability to signpost our colleagues to training courses that can support any areas that they wish to learn more about will make them feel like they have had investment and create a sense of belonging. Our participants are individuals with a unique set of strengths and we want them to be seen as such. We want to build a supportive environment that is empathetic, boosts their confidence and self-esteem.

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