“The Standards are underpinned by five principles: dignity and respect, compassion, be included, responsive care, and support and wellbeing”
The new Health & Social Care standards are designed to complement, not replace the ‘old standards’ which were previously called National Care Standards and laid out what someone could expect when accessing care, health and social services; to add further depth and detail. These ethos driven and holistic Standards offer a more comprehensive review, when combined or overlaid with the existing legislation and best practice of those working in the Health and Social Care fields.
So why are we excited? These are some of the most progressive and human centric standards anywhere in the world, focused on the individual in receipt of the service. But mostly we are excited because we recognise our setting in those standards, they are speaking our language! The things we do and the choices we make every day, as a result of our vision and shared values are reflected in this new document. That, is pretty exciting!
Over the next few blogs we’re going to look at the Standards and select a few things (relevant to our setting) and discuss how we aim to deliver them, in real terms, day to day in Nursery.
Standard 1: I experience high quality care and support that is right for me.
1:6 Compassion: I get the most out of life because the people and organisation who support and care for me have an enabling attitude and believe in my potential.
Well of course! I hear you cry. Everyone believes in the potential of children! However, our actions (however well intentioned or as a result of time or other pressures) sometimes undermine this belief.
How does that look in our setting? You’d expect it to be all about tree climbing or some other ‘risky play’ thing right? Well it might look for example, like spending 10 minutes coaching a wee one on how to open their cereal bar themselves (over the 10 seconds it takes to take it away and do it yourself!) Such a simple thing, but we believe in remaining mindful of the messages we send the children through our everyday actions.
So yes, we are their number one cheerleaders when they are climbing a tree or counting to 100, we truly believe in the environment (outdoors) being able to enrich our practice and support us in supporting the children to achieve their potential; it is the vehicle not the driver of what we do. Often those ‘wow moments’ are interspersed with the more ‘ordinary’ moments; the eating and the toiletting and such like. But there is no such thing as Ordinary in a Stramash nursery!
These moments are not just an opportunity to support our learners to develop key skills for life (like getting into packets, putting a jacket on or wiping their own bums!) They also provide us as their carers the chance to show the children that we truly do believe in their ability, we know they can do it, we are there to support, encourage and guide but ultimately ‘they got this!’ Whatever ‘this’ is, consistently.
It’s the same reason we don’t have ‘rooms’ or separate the children based on age. Yes of course at different times and stages each child will require different support, equipment or resources to challenge or extend their learning and development and unique support to achieve their potential, it is our sincere pleasure to do that. However a child of 2 is an equal member of our nursery community, with the same intrinsic value, rights and respect as anyone else.
Our team want the children in our care to be their best selves, to develop independence, resilience and self esteem. It takes time, it cannot be rushed, there isn’t a shortcut. It is not always glamorous or the stuff you’ll find pictures of on Pinterest! What matters is that children feel empowered, capable and supported.
The key components of our ‘snack ethos’ is that we ‘open snack’ when the first child comes to us to say they’re hungry and close it when the children are done/tidy up time (whichever comes first).
Throughout this time practitioners will gently remind children that ‘snack is open’ and they can self assess if they are hungry. If they are, they collect their things and head to the tipi or snack area, if not they carry on playing.
The only time we would ‘steer’ a child towards snack is if we see ‘behaviour as communication’ – we know our children well and observe closely and can generally predict if a child needs to eat. However we have seen far fewer instances of this too since our new system.
This gives us smaller groups at snack so we are able to spend more 121 time chatting and (more importantly listening) to children about all manner of things; building a sense of community and a positive relationship with eating and food.
It also affords us the time to spend coaching them in the techniques to open their packaging/put their things away, do zips, work water bottles etc. Rather than doing it for them out of efficiency needs. Therefore we have 2,3 and 4 year olds who can confidently peel an orange or open a foil bag.
We have seen a marked improvement in independence and confidence, as well as children supporting each other and ‘showing off their new yoghurt opening skills’ for their friends! Along with this it feels like a much more natural fit with our ethos of bodily autonomy, encouraging children to problem solve and develop the skills they need for life.
Children can also choose what they eat, how much and in what order… I know right?
Don’t tell me, this couldn’t happen in your house/setting because children would ONLY eat the exciting stuff and then leave all the healthy stuff! I mean we only eat salads as adults, if we are promised a biscuit after, no?
Well no, that’s not our experience. Sure it takes the support of our families, who make sure kids have a box full of healthy food, so whatever they choose doesn’t need ‘labelling’ as good or bad or used as a reward for doing something they don’t want to – because really, those words and emotions have no place being around food and our relationship to it anyway.
So if a child wants to eat their sandwiches at 10:20 thats fine, they soon understand that once they’re gone they aren’t coming back! If they are hungry, they eat. Some children will not come to morning snack, but will sit for almost an hour eating in afternoon snack. That’s ok. They are listening to their bodies, they are fuelling their bodies and brains and recognising the effects that food has on their energy, emotions and sense of wellbeing. They are taking control of their own learning.
So no arguments, bribery, tears or tantrums, while all the time we are communicating to our children that we respect them and we trust them, to know their own bodies and minds.