Meet the manager: Abigail Poole

In our series showcasing the sector’s nursery managers, we talk to Abigail Poole, practice-based manager at Charnwood Nursery and Pre Schools, Leicestershire. Her passion is literacy and language, and she developed a ‘literacy fairy’ role that supports sister settings located in deprived areas with high cohorts of vulnerable children.

Why did you want to work in early years?

I initially wanted to be a solicitor, but quickly realised I had an affinity with children. I enjoyed just being in the moment with them, watching them learn difficult concepts through play. Using stories in early years is a huge passion of mine, not just storytelling but using stories as a resource in the environment.

What was your route to becoming a manager?

Slow and steady. I started my career through college with the trusty Level 3 diploma, and gained a position with a company that facilitated crèche and holiday care. I completed my QTS only to realise teaching in primary school was not where my passion was. I became room leader in a pre-school, and when the company then acquired a small pack away pre-school I went to manage it. I began a master’s in working with parents and families, and after a short break for starting my own little family returned to my original setting as practice-based deputy manager, overseeing the now larger pre-school room with a team of nine staff and 48 children. I am now the practice-based manager, paving the way for me to fully fit into my literacy fairy robes and promote a love of books to all the children.

What are you most proud of achieving as a manager?

I am most proud of my team and their achievements. The little everyday wins with staff, such as empowering them to have challenging conversations and stretch the children’s learning and seeing the pride they have when they or their children achieve something new. Encouraging new approaches and thinking outside of the box with new initiatives is something I am incredibly proud of with my setting.

What is the best thing about the setting you manage?

Not only are we forward-thinking with our own curriculum and expectations of children’s educations, we are hugely passionate about the education of staff members, and confident that all can achieve, we research thoroughly so all within the building are constantly learning and improving on our practice.

What is the most challenging part of being a nursery manager?

Trying to make the right decision all the time. I have worked up to this role and a lot of my colleagues have been and continue to be my friends, so it’s hard when you have to make the tough decisions.

What is the best training you have been on?

Due to our learning culture within the company, we are fortunate enough to have a strong knowledge base. Our qualifications range and length of experience and commitment to research within early education means we have the ability to hold ‘in house training’. Staff cascade training provided by Alice Sharpe, The Solihull Approach, and our own research about what we want our staff and children to learn moving forward. I feel this is the most valuable training I have.

What three things would you take to a desert island?

My favorite book because I am the literacy fairy. Definitely, Chris Hemsworth for a bit of company and lots and lots of chocolates.

If you could invite three people to dinner, who would they be and why?

Julia Donaldson, her stories are excellent with rhyme and rhythm, and it would be lovely to see what inspired them. Beyoncé!  She has so much energy and passion and can really lead her team. Also, early years trainer Alice Sharp – she is fabulous and has so many curious ideas and inspirations.

What do you do to look after yourself when things get stressful?

 Breathe and tackle things off your list one at a time.

What advice would you give your younger self?

You can learn and make a career from doing and being around who you love, so do not worry, you are loved and you are certainly not stupid.

What is the one thing you would change about the early years sector?

I would 100% change the respect the sector receives. Our early years professionals work incredibly hard to achieve their qualifications and truly care about the children in their care; they have such professional love for the children and their families. The staff play such a vital role in providing the children an early educations and thirst for learning. They really lay the foundations for a good relationship with education so that children can flourish

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