The EY sector is appreciating the importance of child wellbeing as an integral part of the curriculum, but we need to ensure that our staff are on board to allow both the nursery and themselves to truly flourish.
Nurseries throughout the country are now actively promoting health and wellbeing to the children and families in their care, and we know the benefits that this provides them with, both immediate and as they develop throughout their lives. There are some really good examples of best practice which professionals in our sector can be proud of. In writing our CACHE Level 4 accredited Physical and Nutritional Coordinator (PANCo) training programme, we have seen the brilliant effect that structured health and wellbeing education has on our children. Active Movement, the organisation headed up by Dr Loosemore, Consultant in Sport & Exercise Medicine at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health at University College London and his business partner Peter Savage, came to the Old School House to undertake a programme to support the ingraining of children’s understanding and appreciation for health and wellbeing. The results of combining the work of our PANCos and Active Movement’s project were amazing. The children’s initial responses are starting to fall in line with wellbeing-centric activities, and ‘Stand-Up Stan’, our fictitious poster-boy for the campaign, has helped to promote a subconscious affinity to the project. We’re currently rolling out our PANCo education programme to our partner nurseries, local authorities, and the individual PANCos we’re coaching are all benefiting, but it is the children who are the real winners.
Going one step further to ensure genuine success
These developments are so exciting to see, and the prospect of children being more au fait with positive lifestyle choices is something which we should continue to insatiably promote, and be immensely proud of as a sector. However, we owe it to our staff, and to the children who will ultimately benefit even more, to go one step further.
The old adage: ‘happy staff, happy children’. We all take this as a given, and I don’t suppose that anyone disagrees with it. But as EY leaders, the term is banded around far too easily. We are responsible for ensuring that we have imbedded a working culture that enables our staff to be happy, using it as the carrot to better life at work and beyond, rather than the proverbial stick to beat them with. Therefore, we need to ensure that enough strategic focus is placed on dissecting what exactly ‘happy’ is. Only once this has been achieved and made part of the everyday culture amongst staff will our children see the maximised benefit.
Positive psychologist Martin Seligman’s ‘PERMA Model’ provides the basis of our wellbeing model in our PANCo course:
P: Positive Emotions; feeling good
E: Engagement; feeling absorbed by activities
R: Relationships; feeling connected to others
M: Purposeful Existence; feeling that one’s existence is purposeful
A: Achievement; feeling a sense of accomplishment and success
Using this framework, we can start to think about goals and essential elements that enable our staff to feel happy, and promote genuine wellbeing at work in the same manner that we are asking them to promote to our children. Only once we have had this discussion with our staff can we unlock this. As such, pivotal to the PANCo role is the ability to look at the needs of both our children and our staff. Only once our journey with Active Movement progressed did we truly start to appreciate this. We have now combined a mixture of targeted personal learning and development, alongside visual aids and reminders to make gradual behavioural changes that allow for a culture of wellbeing, rather than a drastic, intensive short-term initiative that fails to deliver longevity.
The results speak for themselves
Simple things have made such a difference. Our staff, who before the programme would largely flit between hardcore bootcamps and comfort eating in a vein attempt to achieve a healthy lifestyle, were coached through the full spectrum of wellbeing. Small changes, such as standing to rock babies in the baby room, making gentle lifestyle changes built around their practices at nursery and better defined development plans in line with our PERMA framework have had untold benefits. Our staff have given feedback to the Active Movement independent research team about the benefits they feel. Greater engagement and achievement plans give them the sense of progression that has intern increased their positive emotions so that they want to put the effort in to being more healthy. Consistency is the key, and removing the peaks and troughs approach to wellbeing is central to this new mindset. The gradual, all-encompassing nature of the programmes our PANCos have put together has provided a broader focus to their wellbeing, something that fad diets and uninspiring directives from leadership teams cannot achieve.
Having begun the process last year, our staff are beginning to make concerted changes which steadily become the norm, and our children are encouraged to a greater extent to absorb and replicate the health and wellbeing values that we are trying to impart. The programmes will continue throughout this year, and as we build our database of quantitative results we will be able to put numbers, track patterns and even monetize the value. Of course, the end result is worth far more than money, but there are tangible benefits in staffing, such as retention and greater motivation that nurseries will benefit from.
Creativity, innovation, commitment
The work we have done to develop our training programme has pulled on many sources of knowledge: Active Movement, The All Parliamentary Group on Fit and Healthy Childhood, positive psychology, and some brilliant best-practice sharing with colleagues. It has taken a great deal of dedication, starting with working internally at the Old School House to change our culture, and now helping and imploring others in our sector to look at both children and staff. The criteria for ‘Health Promoting Nursery’ status, ‘Health at Work Awards’ and Children Food Trust Awards’ will help direct your time and resourcing in the right direction, and you will start to see the commercial benefits to attaining that recognition. However, having gained these awards at the Old School House, we had to be creative and innovative with how we looked to better our provision in these areas, and are delighted with the results it is having both in our partners’ nurseries and our own.
Linda Baston-Pitt is Managing Director of the Old School House Nursery,
Director of EduVivre Training for EY professionals, and is a voluntary campaigner contributing to projects on education, research and health and wellbeing. email@example.com @LindaEarlyYears
Peter savage www.activemovement.co.uk