It is commonplace in most Early Years settings for newly qualified staff and/or apprentices to start their careers in the industry in the ‘Baby Room’ or based with the under-twos. There seems to be very little reason for this, but nonetheless, is increasingly common across the sector.
For many Baby Rooms, the main focus of the routine of the day is based upon each child’s individual feeding, sleep and care routines and this takes precedence over the day, particularly for the youngest children in this group. Perhaps, this is the reason that many leaders and managers opt to place their often youngest, less experienced members of staff in these rooms at the beginning of their careers. Ratios are smaller in these rooms which often means more colleagues to support these practitioners and guide them through their early careers and training.
But is it time for a rethink on our staffing structures? For many of these practitioners, they are at the beginning of their careers and/or training and so their overall knowledge and experience of child development is often limited or just being put into practice, should our youngest children not be supported by our most experienced staff?
We know now how critical that first year of a child’s life is in terms of their experiences, learning and development, and so we need to ask ourselves if we are keeping this in mind when planning our staffing structures and ensuring that we are striking the right balance between knowledge and experience whilst also supporting our youngest, and newly trained members of staff.
On the other hand, we could argue that apprentices and newly qualified practitioners starting their career based with the youngest children provides them with ample and relevant experience of witnessing and supporting children from their earliest stages of development and so this then essentially provides them with a more sound knowledge of how and why children develop the way they do, from the outset.
Could hands on experience with the youngest children in our setting actually shape and support our newest recruits into being knowledgeable and experienced practitioners considerably sooner than if they were placed within a pre-school environment fresh from their training?
In order to build a formidable staff team that are engaging, knowledgeable and enabling practitioners, we need to provide our teams with the flexibility, freedom and support to learn and grow professionally, within a range of different environments that challenge and push them to explore beyond their comfort zone.
Do you have certain members of staff that have been based with the same age group for some time now?
Whilst this consistency is key in supporting children and developing positive relationships within the setting, it is also essential for professional development that our teams are confident in all aspects of child development, throughout the Early Years.
This type of all-round knowledge and experience in working within each age group within your setting will not only develop practitioner knowledge and experience, but also their confidence overall.
When staff sickness or shortages occur, there is always a ‘room’ or age group where practitioners would least prefer to cover for the day; and as leaders and managers we have a responsibility to look at why that is – do they feel less confident in that area because they’ve had less experience with children of that age group? Do they feel more pressure in this area as a result of lack of knowledge of that area of child development?
As a team, we want every member of the team to be confident, knowledgeable and continually enhance their experiences with young children, not just for their own professional development and job satisfaction, but for the benefit of the children in our setting. If we have a team that are confident, knowledgeable and have hands-on, well-supported experience in each aspect of the setting, with a diverse range of children, this will also enhance the outcomes for the children in our care. They will build strong relationships with a range of knowledgeable and confident practitioners, all with their own unique skillset, thus promoting the diverse, enabling and exciting opportunities and experiences they offer, which will holistically benefit all children’s learning and development as a result.
By Chloe Webster
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