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We've launched a NEW open training programme, to be held in various locations in England on a variety of early years and business topics. The first three events will be he... view more...
We've launched a NEW open training programme, to be held in various locations in England on a variety of early years and business topics. The first three events will be held at Phoenix Cinema and Arts Centre, 4 Midland St, Leicester, LE1 1TG
- Essential Awareness in Safeguarding (Level 2) – a great introduction to the subject or a useful refresher opportunity – Thursday 25th February 2016 9.45am to 4.00pm
- Being Outstanding Series: Supporting Children with Self-Regulation – achieving better outcomes through better practice – Thursday 3rd March 2016 9.45am to 4.00pm
-Safer Recruitment Training (accredited) – a comprehensive overview of what to do when recruiting staff and volunteers working with children and young people – Wednesday 9th March 2016 9.15am to 5.00pm
Early Bird price of £85 (+VAT) for Essential Awareness in Safeguarding and Being Outstanding and £100 (+VAT) for the accredited Safer Recruitment Training. All prices include a buffet lunch. After which, fees are £100 and £125+VAT.
To qualify for the Early Bird rate, bookings need to be made before 31 December 2015.
There are limited spaces on each of the courses so book now to avoid disappointment! http://tinyurl.com/ohng6r8
I spent a very interesting afternoon with Amanda Jenkins at Spalding Children's Centre in Lincolnshire recently. Amanda is the 2-year-old funding officer delivering a commi... view more...
I spent a very interesting afternoon with Amanda Jenkins at Spalding Children's Centre in Lincolnshire recently. Amanda is the 2-year-old funding officer delivering a commissioned contract between Lincolnshire County Council and the Pre-School Learning Alliance.
A year into her role, Amanda's focus for 12 hours each week is to reach eligible families and to support them to access their 15 hours entitlement. She says her priorities are to: encourage families to apply; signpost to providers and wider children's centre and other services; provide information as required; and liaise with local settings to encourage them to offer places for funded two-year-olds - especially important if they are a 'little unsure'.
The area of South Holland is rural and includes Spalding and other towns and villages such as Long Sutton, Sutton Bridge, Crowland, and Donington. Local employment is focused on farming and food production with seasonal and factory work. With such employment patterns it is important home visiting and outreach occurs at appropriate times and the right settings are found that can match families' needs and 6am shifts. In such small rural locations, Amanda realises her role is vital in supporting families to access what could be their only available local setting. Therefore the ability to call-in and develop relationships with these settings and practitioners is essential. This way, places can be released in even some of the most reluctant settings.
Currently there are around 164 eligible families in the area, all needing to be contacted. The data for these families is shared by the council, and Amanda uses it to monitor her engagement and progress, and importantly to plan her routes for the day. She's contacted 81 families already, before we go out for the afternoon. Many have already completed their applications following receipt of a central mailing of postcards and further details. Some families have already started, and some have said 'no thank you' for the moment. So far, she says 64 of the 164 have signed up. Families are contacted by telephone, if there is a number on file. But like others working in this role elsewhere, she has found that families' phone numbers "change a lot" as pay-as-you-go contracts end and new ones begin.
Amanda has developed a structure to her hours of work for best effect. She's created three blocks of 4 hours, usually spread over Tuesday to Thursday. Which she mainly uses as three-hours visiting and working with families, followed by an hour's administration or follow-up actions. She describes the children's centre office and colleagues as "her rock", supporting some of the generated tasks, an alternative contact, and providing the support she needs. Experience has told Amanda the best time for house visits is 5.00 to 6.30pm. This is the 'golden window' between the end of the school/work day and the routine of children's meal or bath times. However, what became crystal-clear was that Amanda had a flexible approach to her schedule and a voracious appetite to take opportunities as they present themselves. If she is "on-a-roll" she will work for longer sessions, and she builds in the occasional Saturday too. On a recent trip to the gym, on passing a house she noticed a family might be in, so wearing her ID badge and gym-kit, she was able to call-in, reach the family, and sign them up there and then.
When it comes to considering secrets of her success, Amanda believes it is crucial to check-back with a family, even after they have said they have applied or using their entitlement. This is because anything could have fallen through, or there may have been a simple misunderstanding that can be easily solved by her. She's looking forward to the next data share with the council as it will be the 'no-take-up' list so she can double-check with her records and follow them through.
So, after finding out about the approach, I was keen to see it put into practice. Casually dressed, with the clipboard hidden in her bag, and me in the role of trainee, we jumped into the car – moving the desk tidy off the passenger seat first! We punched in the first address into the satellite navigation on Amanda's iPhone – an essential piece of kit. On the way we talked about the risks of entering people's homes alone. Whilst she was comfortable with it and had very welcoming experiences, she adheres to the Alliance's lone-working policy. Visiting routes are left at the children's centre office and confidentially at home, with a code word and system that is used if she ever feels unsafe. Initial assessments of risk when arriving at various and sometimes remote locations are key and are always acted upon if she feels there is an unacceptable risk.
At the first house, we found the mother and child were still away overseas in Eastern Europe, as identified at her last visit. After a short and friendly conversation with a family member, another calling card was left, and a note and invitation to call back in 2-3 weeks was made. The card has been produced by the council and Amanda has attached a more personal typed-up note with her contact details to enrich the contact and her outreach opportunity. There is a large Eastern European community locally, working in the local farming and food industries. Whist Amanda has been made aware of the cultural experience of starting school later, she believes patterns and expectations are changing in these communities, and thinks there has been an increase in take-up of the two-year-old entitlement. In her bag is a collection of leaflets and application forms translated into Lithuanian, Polish, Russian and Latvian. She also has the contacts for PAB, a local interpretation service. There's Early Support, children's centre services, and domestic abuse information in that bag too.
The second visit was on a newly-built mixed housing estate. The biggest challenge here was the lack of road signs and there weren't many people around other than builders. The mobile phone satellite navigation came into its own. Here, there was no answer, so a card and small note was left. As we got into the car again, it was observed how exhausting it can be getting in and out of a car for three hours at a time. At the third house on the same estate, the young mother told us she had already signed up and made contact with a popular local setting and things looked all on plan for a January start. Great news! Amanda warmly offered her contact details should there be any further need for support.
Another card was left at visit number four. At number five, we met a young Polish couple, who invited us in, and then said they preferred us to return in 30 minutes when a friend with better English would help translate. We agreed and squeezed in a visit to number six. No answer here, although there was a great sense that someone was in. So, after leaving a card, we retraced our steps. Amanda said that two-visit attempts was the norm, supported by telephone calls, and where children are identified and included in children's centre priority lists a more joined-up approach is used. We watched the Polish father leave for work, at the local food factory, and entered the house. Still waiting for the friend to arrive, Amanda was able to provide translated materials in the meantime. The couple's computer screensaver gave us a clue about their child, asleep upstairs. He had a learning difficulty, something that was later disclosed. The application form was successfully completed, a relationship of trust established, and information exchanged about these and future steps through their friend's interpretation. The link with key professionals, Early Support, children's centre services, and the local special school (where the child had started attending sessions), was identified too. A good visit to end the afternoon with.
Upon returning to the children's centre, I left Amanda completing the necessary paperwork and exchanging an informal update with her colleague in reception. I reflected on the experience and the importance of the systematic data-sharing I had heard about, the need for a flexible and tenacious approach, and providing a human-bridge between parents and providers so children that need their two-year-old entitlement can use it.
James Hempsall, our Director, has been awarded the OBE in recognition of his services to childcare on 13th June 2015. The honour marks James' 25 years as an early years and... view more...
James Hempsall, our Director, has been awarded the OBE in recognition of his services to childcare on 13th June 2015. The honour marks James' 25 years as an early years and childcare trainer, researcher and consultant.
Over the past three years he has led the Department for Education's national support programme for the implementation of 15 hours a week of free early learning for up to 250,000 least advantaged two year olds (Achieving Two Year Olds - A2YO), with partners Mott MacDonald. A role and accomplishment that prompted the award of this honour.
Since 1999 he has been our director, leading a team of up to 40. And this year he also became managing editor of Children's Centre Leader, a quarterly journal for everyone leading children's centre, early help and linked services. In the course of his career he has worked with all local authorities and thousands of early years and childcare providers to raise the capacity, sustainability and quality of provision for all children. In a varied career, he has also worked as: an out of school and playscheme worker and coordinator; on-site Traveller & Gypsies worker; children's centre manager; out of school development worker; charity fundraiser, project manager and lobbyist.
"Our work is all about fairness. We have worked hard at Hempsall's to support all children's social and emotional development, and their economic well-being, so they can have the best start in life. We have particularly focused on those that are least advantaged so they can be more equal with their peers and escape the economic and social traps they may find themselves in".
"Rarely, if ever, does anyone receive such an honour without the privilege of working with amazing colleagues and partners. And I am no exception. And I would like to thank everyone who has helped me along the way from when I first started work, through to our recent project for two year olds. The team here is amazing!"
Hempsall's announce their new leadership of the Children's Centre Leader Reader Quarterly Journal Early years training, research and consultancy organisation Hempsall's ha... view more...
Hempsall's announce their new leadership of the Children's Centre Leader Reader Quarterly Journal
Early years training, research and consultancy organisation Hempsall's has announced it is to take leadership of the FREE quarterly journal for children's centre leaders the Children's Centre Leader Reader (CCLR).
Director, James Hempsall says that adding the publication to their services brings an exciting and charitable dimension to their work in the children's centre arena:
"Firstly, and on behalf of the readership of CCLR, I would like to thank Sue Webster, Vicki Lant and their team for their tremendous achievement of creating such an amazing resource and network for children's centre leaders".
"Hempsall's are committed to the achievement of children's centre aims, equality, and the highest standards of professionalism. I first managed a children's centre over 20 years ago. And in more recent times, we have supported their creation, evolution and delivery. We led the West Midlands NPQICL consortium for the past two years, and we deliver parent volunteering programmes for centres in Leicestershire amongst other activities, reviews and consultations". He added.
"So we are delighted to take the baton and support its continued development for now and a bright future. It is our aim to continue to publish, FREE of charge, on a quarterly basis, and maintain the strong editorial legacy. We hope to continue with the amazing contributions from the group of dedicated writers and experts who have supported CCLR so far*. Also, we want to invite new writers to get involved, especially those of you currently leading a centre or groups of centres, so please let us know your ideas and we will consider them for the next issues. The first of which will be around February 2015 – we will let you know nearer the time".
In return, both Sue and Vicki say they are thrilled about the new arrangements and feel the journal is in great hands.
To read CCLR, visit www.ccleaderreader.com and to subscribe FREE click on 'contact us' to receive your issues direct into your email inbox.
*Previous contributors have included: Camila Batmanghelidjh; Lord Andrew Mawson; Naomi Eisenstadt; Professor Cathy Nutbrown; Annie Davy; Jamie Oliver; Neil Leitch; and Dr Maggie Atkinson.