Part 3: Leading and managing during challenging times

Part 3: Leading and managing during challenging times

Part 3: Leading and managing during challenging times 2560 1708 Nursery Story

Welcome to our ‘Leading and managing during challenging times’ mini-series with early years expert Pennie Akehurst. 

In the final installment of our mini-series, Pennie focuses on supporting you in your journey in getting back to where you want to be, implementing the revised EYFS and preparing for the future.

Preparing for the Future – Getting back to where you want to be after the COVID crisis

Getting everything back on track: So many changes!

It’s a little over a year since the COVID crisis began and throughout that time, leaders and managers across the country have done an amazing job in incredibly challenging circumstances. BUT, as things start to return to some kind of normality, we are reminded that this also means that inspections will return.

This year has been like no other. Not only have we had to contend with providing services during a pandemic, but our statutory and supporting documents have also changed. This has led to a number of providers and their teams feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things that they are having to cope with (which may  include worries about inspection readiness). So, with this in mind, here are a few tips to help you to manage the changes and to get things back to where they need to be.

The only thing that matters right now…

Is that you know whether you are meeting the legal requirements set out in the EYFS. That means undertaking monitoring activities that will give you a clear view of what’s working well and where things are going a bit pear-shaped.

Monitoring activities are set into two distinct camps…we need to monitor the effectiveness of our systems and processes, and we need to monitor the performance of our people. Having both in place will give us a rounded view of our strengths and hotspots.

Manage your greatest risks first

Before we put any plans in place to address areas of concern, we need to assess the risks associated with each issue. What would happen if we didn’t act immediately? Just how much impact could this issue have on children’s safety, staff well-being, an inspection etc.

Doing this, whether it be on paper or thinking things through will enable you to prioritise your issues and deal with the crocodiles closest to your canoe!

Don’t forget the impact! 

When we’re busy, it’s easy to forget about the actions that we’ve taken to address concerns, but there are no guarantees that those actions will have ‘fixed’ the issue. We, therefore, need to make sure that we put some time aside to review the impact or difference those actions have made. If things still aren’t where they need to be, we have the chance to respond quickly.

Implementing the revised EYFS 

The revised framework came out on 31st March and will come into effect on 1st September 2021. That gives us time to consider the changes and to make any necessary tweaks to systems and practice. 

The most significant change for anyone working in the non-maintained sector is that the educational programmes have been completely revised and now contain much more detail. The old educational programmes were fairly broad, so if a setting was delivering a broad and balanced curriculum, we could pretty much guarantee that the statutory requirements of the EYFS would be covered. Now the programmes set expectations for the role of the adult and identify activities that need to be incorporated into our delivery. It is, therefore, worth spending a little time making sure that our curriculum and programmes for delivery cover this statutory content. 

A quick guide to the significant changes that have been made to the EYFS

Section 1: Learning and Development

Section Changes
Introduction Clarification – no implications.
Section 1 – The learning & development requirements Clarification – no implications.
The areas of learning & development Changes with implications for policy and practice.
The Early Learning Goals Changes with implications for policy and practice.
Learning & development considerations Clarification – no implications.


Section 2: Assessment

Assessment Changes with implications for policy and practice.
Progress check at age two No change.
Assessment at the start of the reception year – the Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA)  Clarification – no implications.
Assessment at the end of the EYFS – the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) Changes with implications for policy and practice.
Information to be provided to the local authority  Changes with implications for policy and practice.


Section 3: Safeguarding and Welfare

Introduction No changes.
Child protection Changes with implications for policy and practice.
Suitable people Clarification – no implications.
Disqualification Changes with implications for policy and practice.
Staff taking medication/other substances Clarification – no implications.
Staff qualifications, training, support and skills  Changes with implications for policy and practice.
Key person No changes.
Staff:child ratios – all providers (including childminders)  Changes with implications for policy and practice.
Early years providers (other than childminders)  No changes.
Before/after school care and holiday provision  No changes.
Childminders Changes with implications for policy and practice.
Health – Medicines Changes with implications for policy and practice.
Food and drink Clarification – no implications.
Accident or injury No changes.
Managing children’s behaviour Clarification – no implications.
Safety  No changes.
Smoking and Vaping Changes with implications for policy and practice.
Premises Changes with implications for policy and practice.
Risk assessments No changes.
Outings No changes.
Special educational needs No changes.
Information and records Changes with implications for policy and practice.
Information about the child No changes.
Information for parents and carers No changes.
Complaints No changes.
Information about the provider No changes.
Changes that must be notified to Ofsted or the relevant childminder agency (CMA)  No changes.
Other legal duties Clarification – no implications.
Annex A: Criteria for Paediatric First Aid Changes with implications for training.


Real choice about the documents we use

For the first time in our sector’s history, we have a real choice in the documents that we use to support curriculum delivery. We can choose to use:

Development Matters ––2

Birth to Five Matters –

…or something else. 

Both Development Matters and Birth to Five Matters are non-statutory documents which means that you are in the driving seat you control when and if you want to implement either of these documents. 

If you feel like you are drowning with everything that’s going on, my advice would be to focus on the changes that have been made to the statutory framework and to park the other documents until you have the time and energy to consider something new. Please remember that the publication of Birth to Five Matters and Development Matters does not signify that anyone is doing a bad job and that you need to stop what you are doing right now. Both documents simply reflect current thinking which can be reviewed at any time in the future. 

You also need to look after yourself and your team. Adopting a new framework will increase workload for a while, so, please do not feel pressured into doing something now if you have more pressing prioritises.

Another consideration is whether you are likely to be inspected in the summer/autumn term. Rushing the implementation of a new framework without time to train staff to the depth you’d like and to monitor the impact of implementation is likely to cause additional stress and potential vulnerabilities during an inspection. So, if you think inspection is likely – time would be better spent ensuring that everything is back to where it needs to be, and that systems and practice are effective. Ofsted will not have a view on the documents that you use to support curriculum delivery, but they will have a view on the consistency of approach and staff’s understanding.

There is also a need to understand the plans of your software provider. Wherever possible, I’m encouraging leaders and managers to ask questions that will enable them to understand whether the changes made to software systems will continue to meet the needs of their setting. 

You need to understand what your software provider intends to do and what implications that has for current practice, parental contact and staff training. If the system is creating more work for you, it may be time to look for a new provider! Remember that workload was one of the key reasons for the EYFS reforms.

Getting ready for a change

Changes that affect the things that everyone does, whether small or large, need to be managed….and implementing a new framework is a big change. It needs to be planned and the timeframe for implementation needs to be realistic. 

Without a plan (however simple) assumptions can be made, and things can be missed or overlooked which could have a significant impact on staff morale and buy-in, the consistency of understanding and approach, AND poor implementation could create inspection vulnerabilities further down the road.

Take your time, research both documents thoroughly and encourage your team to do the same. In the meantime, continue using what you already have and put plans in place that will help you to come to a decision about which will be best for your setting. Both documents have their pros and cons!

Create an opportunity to share your findings with your senior leaders and/or team so that you can make an informed decision together about what will be best for your setting and then plan the way forward together. 

Whilst working this way may take longer and may seem like more effort, it pays off massively when it comes to the implementation phase of your plan. A written plan of what needs to happen, when and who will do it, will enable everyone to see how the implementation is going, but more importantly, the workload can be shared, and everyone can be part of the journey.

Pennie Akehurst

Pennie Akehurst

Managing Director
Early Years Fundamentals Ltd.

Pennie Akehurst is an author and leadership specialist with over 30 years’ experience in the early years sector. Pennie has worked in the private, voluntary, maintained and public sector, and spent 17 years delivering strategic early years and childcare priorities within two local authorities. During this time, she developed and led the implementation of challenge and intervention programmes designed to support leadership teams to improve outcomes for children (aged 0-5) and to manage changes to legislation.

In 2017, Pennie left the public sector to establish Early Years Fundamentals Ltd, a research, training and consultancy company focused on identifying and managing issues that may affect outcomes for children and inspection outcomes.

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