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Under 5 Magazine of the Pre-school Learning Alliance

January 2018


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New data protection rules What you need to know

Exploring nature

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How to be allergy aware Allergy advice for your setting

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Contents 4 8

News round up

All the latest news, research and policy updates from the early years sector


My Under 5

A chance for Alliance member settings to share news of recent events and projects

10 Letters to the editor

Under 5 readers share their views on the early years sector

12 GDPR: what you need to know

How changing data protection rules will impact your setting this year


14 Hiring the best

Top tips for recruiting great staff at your setting

15 How can we help?

A guide to the new member’s area available on the Alliance website

16 Making music together

Anna Ryder explains how you can bring music into your setting

18 Exploring nature

Under 5 speaks to Forest School Learning Initiative Founder Christina Dee


20 The big birdwatch

The RSPB invites settings to join its annual birdwatch event

22 How to be allergy aware

Advice for dealing with allergies in your setting

24 Setting the scene for 2018

Fresh ideas for your events calendar

26 Managing maternity leave

The team behind the Law-Call service explains how to manage maternity leave

28 Move to the beat

How to use music to encourage physical activity

30 Best behaviour

Alliance inclusion manager Nicky Gibson explains how you can promote positive behaviour

32 Healthy habits for the new year

The Infant and Toddler Forum offers advice for promoting healthy eating in the year ahead

33 Competition


Welcome Welcome to Under 5 Happy New Year and welcome to the January issue of Under 5! I hope you’ve all had an enjoyable break and well-earned rest. 2017 was a busy year for the early years sector and already 2018 is shaping up to be another eventful one. This year will see big changes to the rules on how companies handle data, thanks to the introduction of GDPR in May. There’s still plenty of time to make sure you are prepared for the changes and to help we’ve explained the new regulations and how they will impact your business this issue (page 12). The New Year is also a popular time for settings to review their staffing levels and think about taking on new recruits. Michelle Brown, HR business partner at the Alliance, has shared her top tips for finding the best staff for your setting (page 14). We’ve also tackled some of the issues around managing maternity leave as an employer (page 25). With some consideration your maternity policy can help you retain your best staff, even after a break. If you are looking to refresh your setting’s menus ready for a healthy new start to the year, the Infant and Toddler Forum has shared some tips for making healthy eating a habit (page 32). We’ve also heard from Allergy UK about the best way to keep children with allergies safe at your setting by being ‘allergy aware’ (page 22). This month will also see many practitioners drawing up an events calendar for the year ahead. Alliance quality and standards manager Melanie Pilcher has shared some ideas for expanding your plans this year with a more diverse selection of events (page 24). We’ve also got lots of ideas for getting your setting outdoors, whatever the weather brings this January. The Forest School Learning Initiative has shared some ideas for introducing forest school sessions – no matter how limited your outdoor space is (page 18). The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is asking early years settings to join in its Big Schools Birdwatch this year. We’ve got all the details on how you can take part this month (page 20). As ever, we are keen to hear how you and your setting are getting on. Please keep sharing your news and photos with us for My Under 5, as well as your opinions for our letters page. Email us at Rachel Lawler, editor




in brief...

SUGAR DROP: Kellogg’s says it is going to cut the amount of sugar in its best-sellng children’s cereals by 20-40% by mid 2018. It also plans to stop promoting Frosties to children.

SEED study reports a rise in early years quality

round-up Justine Greening announces £50m funding for school nurseries Education secretary Justine Greening has announced plans to tackle social mobility in the UK, including £50m in funding for school nurseries. The plan aims to improve outcomes for disadvantaged children. Greening announced the plans in a speech given at the Social Mobility Conference in London. The Department for E ducation has also shared a new policy paper, called Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential, detailing the plans. Greening said that tackling social mobility was the “smart thing to do for our country and our economy”. She said: “No one should be held back because of who they are or where they are born.” She identified the early years as “the cornerstone of social mobility” and said that too many children are still falling behind early on. The report outlines the government’s plans to “Close the ‘word gap’ in the early years”. It says that by age three, disadvantaged children are an average of 18 months behind their more advantaged peers in their level of early language development. The government plans to invest £5 million in identifying and implementing a home-learning programme to support early language development. It will also work with Public Health England to help early years practitioners check children’s early language development. The report also promises an additional £50 million in funding to be spent on creating school-based nursery provision for disadvantaged children. The report also




pledged to identify communities with low take-up of early education and provide bespoke support to help improve this. Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented on the plans: “While, in theory, the government’s plan to put education at the heart of efforts to improve social mobility is a positive one, this kind of rhetoric only has value if it is backed up by meaningful action - and unfortunately, such action has been lacking to date.” He added: “Research has shown that investment into the early years is the most effective way to improve children’s long-term life chances, and yet, for years now, the sector has been chronically underfunded. As a result, we’ve seen quality early years providers across the country being forced out of business, while many children’s centres have been reduced to offering little more than a skeleton service, if they haven’t closed down all together. “A commitment to improving access to early language and literacy is of course welcome, but quality early years provision is so much more than this - and until the government is willing to fund the whole sector adequately, it’s hard to see plans to improve social mobility being anything more than an aspiration. “The education secretary is right to say that where you start in life often decides where you finish. It’s time, then, that the government put its money where its mouth is and invested what’s needed to ensure that all children get the start they deserve.”

The latest report from the government’s Study of Early Education and Development (SEED) has concluded that early childhood education and care in England is “generally sufficient” and of a “generally high” quality. The report says that the quality of provision has improved over the past 16 years, which it said was linked to improvements in staff qualifications as well as other areas. However, the report also said that there was scope to increase the quality of provision in some areas. It also argued that it is particularly important to focus on improving the quality of settings that offer places to two-yearold children. The report identified a number of potential targets to help improve quality, noting that staff training and development are closely linked to quality across the sector. Higher staffs to child ratios and offering specialist SEND provision were also linked to higher quality provision. The Alliance welcomed the study’s findings, which demonstrate an improvement in quality despite the sector’s current struggle with funding. Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “Few working in the sector will be surprised to hear that staff qualifications, training and development, and low staff-child ratios all contribute to better quality provision – but of course, at a time when so many providers are facing such financial pressure, this is easier said than done.” Neil added: “There is simply no doubt that the government’s continued underfunding of the early years sector is making the retention of quality staff and maintaining of ratios increasingly difficult, and if this doesn’t change soon, we are likely to see a real downward pressure on the quality of provision in a growing number of settings.” “As such, rather than using these findings to congratulate themselves on a job well done, we hope that this study serves as a wake-up call to those in government of the value of the services that they are currently putting at risk.”

BUSINESS RATES: More than 100 nurseries in Wales will not pay business rates this year as part of a permanent rate-relief scheme from the Welsh Government

BUDGET: Statistics from the DfE have revealed that the government’s budget for Sure Start and early years services has fallen by £650 million since 2010

Ofsted’s annual report calls for changes to the EYFS to “better prepare” children for school Ofsted has released its annual report, announcing that 94% of early years providers are now rated either good or outstanding – up 20% from 2012. It also found that the number of childcare providers has fallen by 16% overall since 2012, with a 26% drop in the number of childminders in the sector largely behind the decline. The report says that there is “some genuine improvement in the sector” behind these figures, but argues that the EYFS “could be improved to ensure that children are better prepared for the national curriculum”. The report adds: “If the EYFS reflected a genuine preparation for Year 1, inspection outcomes across the sector might not be as high.” In a speech made at the launch of the report, Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, said that the rollout of the 30-hours offer “has largely been a success” but she added: “I continue to believe that supply could increase further if the government allowed the additional 15 hours to be used for childcare rather than early education.”

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said that it was “disappointing” to see Ofsted criticising the EYFS. Neil said: “Let’s be clear: the purpose of the EYFS should never be about ‘preparing’ children for formal schooling. It should be about fostering a love of learning through supporting the broad range of skills, such as physical development and personal, social and emotional development, that children need in order to flourish – both inside and outside of school.” Neil also responded to Spielman’s comments on the 30-hours policy. He said: “Given that it is now widely accepted that separating early years provision into ‘childcare’ and ‘early education’ is a deeply flawed approach, it is galling to see such a misinformed statement being made by the chief inspector. Such a comment not only suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of what early years provision is, but also risks devaluing the professionalism of a highly rated and highly skilled sector.”

“Let’s be clear: the purpose of the EYFS should never be about ‘preparing’ children for formal schooling.”

Only 7% of eligible parents sign up for tax-free childcare The expected cost of tax-free childcare has plummeted after just 7% of eligible parents signed up to the scheme after its launch in April 2017. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), a public body that provides independent economic forecasts and independent analysis, had estimated that the scheme would cost £0.8 billion in 2017-18. The organisation has now forecast that tax-free childcare will cost as little as £37 million after just 30,000 parents signed up to the scheme – far less than the 415,000 initially expected.

In its Autumn Budget 2017 policy measures document, the OBR said that while it had expected take-up of the offer to be slower than initially expected after several delays to the scheme and a staggered rollout, the number of parents joining the scheme was still lower than they had expected. Earlier this month, a petition calling for the childcare vouchers scheme to be kept open attracted more than 100,000 signatures on the government’s website. The vouchers are currently due to close to new applicants in April 2018.

Universal credit could open up early years funding for 8,000 more two-year-old children The government’s new universal credit scheme will make 8,000 more children eligible for a funded early years place aged two, according to plans suggested by the Department for Education (DfE). The universal credit scheme is due to replace jobseeker’s allowance and five other work-related benefits with a single payment. Once it is fully rolled-out it will be used to determine which disadvantaged families will be able to access funded childcare for two-year-olds. The DfE estimates that an additional 8,000 children will be entitled to a funded two-year-old place under universal credit. It is now asking for comments from the sector, as well as families, to help shape the scheme’s future. Robert Goodwill, minister for children and families, commented: “The introduction of universal credit lies at the heart of the government’s commitment to help people improve their lives and raise their incomes. This consultation will make sure the two-year-old entitlement continues to be targeted where it is needed most.” Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “We have always argued that all children, and especially those from more disadvantaged backgrounds, should have access to quality early years provision. So a policy change that would result in more two-year-olds being eligible for the funded entitlement – even a relatively small increase of 8,000 – is a positive move in principle.” However, Neil also wanted that the government would need to ensure that the sector was ready to take an additional 8,000 children. He added: “With the introduction of the 30-hours scheme, there is a real danger that childcare providers struggling to balance the books will opt to reduce the number of two-yearold funded places in order to deliver the extended three- and four-year old offer.” A recent Alliance survey found that more than four in 10 providers who planned to deliver the 30 hours were likely to reduce the number of places offered to children of other ages as a result of the policy.




Ofsted report calls on government to “raise the profile” of mathematics Ofsted has called on the government to review the EYFS to include a clearer focus on reading, writing and maths in a new report, titled ‘Bold beginnings: The Reception curriculum in a sample of good and outstanding primary schools’. The report argues that the Department for Education (DfE) should review the EYFS and the EYFS Profile and bring Early Learning Goals more in line with the national curriculum for Year 1. Ofsted has also argued that reception year is a “missed opportunity” for too many children who are at risk of being left “falling behind their peers”. The findings are based on feedback from inspectors who visited 41 ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ primary schools in England in the summer term of 2017 and analysed inspection reports from 150 ‘inadequate’ or ‘requiring improvement’ primary schools inspected in 2016/17.

National living wage increases to £7.83 Plans to increase the national living wage by 4.4% to £7.83 an hour have been announced in the latest Budget. Chancellor Phillip Hammond has also announced an increase in the national minimum wage for employees under 25. The new minimum rates are as follows: • £7.38 per hour for 21 to 24 year olds • £5.90 per hour for 18 to 20 year olds • £4.20 per hour for 16 to 17 year olds • £3.70 per hour for apprentices The announcement is likely to be met with concern from many early years settings, following the recent publication of local authority funding rates for 2018/19 which confirmed that most councils will not see any increase in funding next year, while 14% will have their hourly rate reduced. Commenting on the announcement, the Alliance said that it supports the principle of the National Living Wage and that the early years workforce should be paid a fair wage, but warned that that this 4.4% increase and target of £9 an hour by 2020 will put additional pressure on already struggling providers.




Ofsted said that reception leaders were “much clearer about their expectations for children’s literacy than for mathematics”. The report argues that the DfE should “raise the profile” of maths teaching and make a similar investment in resources and schemes as it has with literacy. The Alliance has voiced concern over the report. Chief executive Neil Leitch said that it was “disappointing” that the report had focused on aligning the reception year with Key Stage 1 and literacy and mathematics. Neil said: “While both skills are of course vital for early development, research has shown that a focus on them over and above broader skills such as physical development and personal, social and emotional development, is likely to be detrimental to children’s early learning experiences.” “We urge both the government and Ofsted to work with early years experts to ensure that the reception year is focused on all the skills that children will need during their primary years, and throughout their longer educational journeys.”

Neil Leitch, chief executive at the Alliance, commented: “The Chancellor’s announcement of an increase in the national living wage should, in theory, be warmly welcomed by a workforce that has long been underpaid – and there’s no doubt that pay in the early years sector needs to increase. But without being matched by an increase in government funding – and given that staff wages make up around 70-80% of childcare providers’ overall costs – this move will only serve to compound providers’ struggles at a time when a lack of government investment is threatening their long-term sustainability.”

Alliance Annual Conference 2018 Minds matter: protection the wellbeing of children and practitioners in the early years The 2018 annual Alliance member conference will take place on Friday 1 June 2018 at the Hilton London Bankside in Southwark, London SE1 0UG. Confirmed speakers include Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman and political aide and author Alastair Campbell. The Alliance Outstanding Member Awards will also be presented at the event, hosted by writer and actor Ben Faulks, best known as Mr Bloom on CBeebies.

DfE statistics reveal inequalities at reception level Just over half of children eligible for free school meals and less than a quarter of children with special education needs are achieving a “good level of development” by the end of reception, according to new statistics from the Department for Education (DfE). In October, the DfE released statistics for results from the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Profile in 2016-17, showing that 70.7% of children in England achieve a “good level of development” by the end of reception – an increase of 1.4% since last year. However, new figures which break down these results by ‘pupil characteristics’ show the number of children eligible for free school meals reaching this level of development is just 56%, compared to 73% of those not eligible for free school meals. The statistics also demonstrated that just 23% of children with special educational needs reach a “good level of development” compared to 76% of children with no identified special educational needs. Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “Although we of course recognise that children are individuals who naturally learn and develop at different rates, this persistent trend of poorer children generally achieving lower EYFS Profile results than their wealthier peers is simply not acceptable.” ‘Equally, these statistics should serve as a sharp reminder to government of the need to ensure that children with special educational needs receive the support they both need and deserve in the early years. Far too often, we hear of providers struggling to deliver the level of care and education that children with SEN need dude to a lack of sufficient funding, and it is not right that many of these children continue to miss out on vital quality early years experiences as a result.” Neil called on the government to commit to adequate investment in the sector to ensure that every child has access to quality early years provision.

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Letters to the editor STAR LETTER Tax-free childcare Earlier this year we were asked to register our setting to enable parents to take advantage of the new tax-free childcare scheme. After several weeks of telephone calls and emails we were eventually registered. In the summer term we sent parents emails with the link to the appropriate webpage and advised them that we had signed up for the scheme and that they would be able to pay their fees using this method. Imagine my surprise when the new term began in September and none of our families had opted to use this method to pay their fees. Our manager attends network meetings with other providers in the area and they have seen a similar response. We already have several parents who use the Childcare Vouchers scheme. All the admin associated with this scheme is taken care of by their employers but it is usually only larger companies that offer this service. I do think that the option of tax-free childcare should be available to all. But the government has put this scheme into place when working families have busy lives juggling both work and home. Tax-free childcare has just added another time-consuming task for them, especially when parents have to reconfirm their eligibility every three months. Sheila Wallace, Appleton Thorn Pre-school Tax-free childcare An article recently appeared on the front page of the Sunday Times (‘Rhymes and misdemeanours’, 5 November 2017) about the apparent decline of nursery rhymes in the early years. According to Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman, ‘old fashioned’ nursery rhymes are no longer being taught in nurseries and pre-schools. “It’s a great shame,” Spielman said. “I imagine most of you could recite ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’, but we can’t say that is the case for children today,” she told a childcare conference the following week. Well, I beg to differ. In the Bedfordshire and Luton Service Hub and our member settings we know that children are well versed in the fate of Humpty Dumpty and Little Miss Muffet. They regularly recite and march to the tune of ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’. The Alliance’s appreciation of traditional rhymes is probably best demonstrated by the much loved 50 favourite stories and rhymes released in 2013 as a celebration of its 50th anniversary. Spielman said that children who can sing a song and know a story off by heart aged four are better prepared for school. She said that nursery rhymes provide a collective experience and teach a bit of social history as well. We agree. Start reciting or singing any rhyme in your setting, throw in a couple of musical instruments and a choir and band are soon formed. Helen Middleton, Bedfordshire and Luton Service Hub




Inspection concerns Having just read the ‘Rushing reports’ letter in your latest issue (Under 5, November/December 2017) I felt compelled to write a letter of my own. My setting has recently experienced an almost identical inspection from Ofsted. Similarly to the writer of the previous letter I felt we had reflected on our previous inspection comments and evolved into an ‘outstanding’ setting. My team and I were thankful for the halfday notification we received so we could discuss and plan for the following day and we were feeling confident. The majority of our staff had been through an inspection before and I had reassured them all to relax and just be themselves. When our inspector arrived she asked us where I thought we were in terms of grading. She knew that we had secured a good grade with outstanding elements in 2014 and that our last selfevaluation form also rated us as ‘good’. I said that we felt that we were better than good now and she asked by I hadn’t put that on the self-evaluation form – I explained that I don’t like to boast and said that she could be the judge. We emerged with another ‘good’ grading. I have owned my pre-school for nearly seven years under increasing cost pressures. Despite cutbacks, including to training courses available through the local authority, my staff and I have continued to work extremely hard for all our children and families. I could easily have thrown in the towel after this inspection. Similarly to the previous letter-writer, the report I received was certainly less detailed than earlier ones. I agree that hard three years’ worth of hard work should not be summed up on one page. We are continually full and have been for almost seven years. We have watched so many of our fabulous children move on to school and continue to thrive. So, having had time to reflect, I know that we are outstanding. Name supplied Send your letters to Under 5 magazine, Pre-school Learning Alliance, 50 Featherstone Street, London, EC1Y 8RT or email: using the subject line ‘Letters’.

Stay in touch: Share your views with us on social media:

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This month’s star letter prize wins a set of books from the Alliance shop. The collection includes: • Re-connecting with Nature, which explores how children can enjoy outdoor spaces in today’s modern world; • My Favourite Colour is Green, which helps practitioners bring environmental awareness into their setting; • and Healthy and Active Lifestyles for the Early Years, which explains how practitioners can support healthy and active lifestyles. All three titles are available to buy online at:


t: 0800 195 4255


50th anniversary

Hickling Pre-school in Leicestershire has celebrated its 50th anniversary. The setting was opened by local resident Angela Sweet in 1967 and still offers daily sessions from within the village hall. The pre-school has helped many children prepare for the transition to primary school over the years. Staff held a traditional tea party to celebrate the occasion, welcoming parents, children, staff and committee members to join them.

In remembrance

WUFA Pre-school in Woodstock visited nearby church St Mary Magdale ne’s to observe Armistice Day 2017. The children made their own floral wreath to place on a monument at the church and took an autumnal walk from the setting into the church. The church’s curate Alice also treated the children to a story during their visit.

Planting trees

ed Nursery in Upper Tysoe have help Children at Winchombe Farm Day ity by the Woodland Trust. The char to plant 30 trees donated to them hedge in tually grow into an eight-metre said that the saplings will even the setting’s paddock. dock planted the trees along the pad Manager Allie Aves said: “We’ve and s dland, which will help hedgehog fence to connect to existing woo the t children enjoyed helping to plan dormice stay on the move.” The carefully as they start to grow. new trees and are now watching

Playground revamp Rainbow Children’s Nursery in Norfolk has been given a £5,000 grant from Solar Century’s community fund. The setting has used the grant to fund a revamp of its outdoor play area. The setting has invested in several new pieces of play equipment as well as some new markings on the playground, which the children are already enjoying.




Christmas celebrations

Business awards

The Mon Ami Childr en’s Nurseries group is celebrating after being named ‘Busin ess of the Year’ at the Bolton Business Awards. The group’s owner, Samantha Bri tto n, also won ‘Business Person of the Year’ at the cerem ony, organised by local newspaper Bo ston Standard.

chool in Longbridge, Children from Jellybabies Nursery & Pre-s tmas traditions Chris about ng Birmingham, have been learni the festivities. d behin story the celebrated in Bethlehem and front of parents in play tmas The group also performed a Chris the toy shop on in toys of story and grandparents, following the Jacqueline tmas. Chris of ing Christmas Eve and the true mean proud of very were staff the said g, Walker, manager at the settin all the children who joined in.

Samantha said: “We’r e absolutely delighted to win at the Boston Business Aw ards. They’re a real tes tam ent to our outstanding team, wh ich is what makes Mo n Ami such a successful business .”

Care home visit

Rotherfield Village Pre-school in East Sussex has paid a visit to Rotherfield St Martin – a local charity that supports older residents in the area and helps them to lead healthy and happy lives with a variety of services. The children attended the charity’s Monday afternoon meeting and enjoyed playing games and completing jigsaws with members. Liz Burnett, office manager at the setting, said: “The afternoon was a huge success and will be repeated – one of the club members said our visit had really brightened up their afternoon.”

What’s been happening in your setting? Under 5 wants to know! To share your own stories, please email with the subject line ‘My Under 5’.





what you need to know

Paul Donaldson, director of human resources at the Alliance, explains how changing data protection rules will impact your business this year






he General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new EU law that will come into effect on 25 May 2018. It will replace the current Data Protection Act 1998 and the changes will remain in place even after the UK leaves the EU in 2019. GDPR will give individuals greater control over their own personal data. Your setting may already have a data protection policy in place but GDPR will introduce some significant changes to the current rules. You need to be aware of these now and should try to identify any gaps in your compliance with the new rules . With less than six months to go, settings should be looking at making changes ready to be compliant in May. However, GDPR is an evolutionary, not revolutionary, change so there is no need to panic – but you do need to prepare.

Principles GDPR will condense the Data Protection Principles into six areas, which are referred to as the Privacy Principles. They are: 1. You must have a lawful reason for collecting personal data and must do it in a fair and transparent way. 2. You must only use the data for the reason it is initially obtained. 3. You must not collect any more data than is necessary. 4. It has to be accurate and there must be mechanisms in place to keep it up to date. 5. You cannot keep it any longer than needed. 6. You must protect the personal data. These privacy principles are supported by a further principle – accountability. This means that your setting must not only do the right thing with data but must also show that all the correct measures are in place to demonstrate how compliance is achieved. Your setting must be able to demonstrate that written policies and procedures are in place and that they are being followed. There is also an expectation that staff will be trained on data protection. Documentation on policies, procedures and training is going to be a key part of any effective compliance programme.

Data protection officer GDPR will mean that some organisations need to appoint a data protection officer. For most settings, an individual who takes the lead on your compliance programme will be sufficient. Some chains, which handle larger amounts of data, may need to appoint an officer. Data protection

officers have mandatory requirements so if you do not need to appoint one you might decide that it would be better to give the appointed member of staff a different title instead.

Privacy notices When you collect any data you must tell people exactly how you are going to use it, who you might share it with, how long you will keep it and any international transfers that might occur. You must also inform people that they have the right to withdraw their consent for you to have the data at any time and that they have the right to lodge a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office. This is much more than the existing requirement and should be communicated to families in plain and clear English.

Individual rights Under GDPR people will have new and enhanced rights. Your organisation must ensure that it has mechanisms to allow individuals to exercise these rights. These include: telling people what data you will collect and what you will do with it allowing them to see it after you have collected it making any changes if it is incorrect removing it if you have no legal right to hold it not processing it if they don’t want to you informing other data processors if someone asks you not to use their data letting people take their data away taking account of objections to what you hold and do with their data allowing people to ask you not to make any automated decisions about their data

Consent GDPR will require early years providers to have a legitimate reason for processing any personal data. Where you rely on consent for processing data, you must be able to demonstrate that the consent was freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous for each purpose for which the data is being processed. Silence, pre-ticked boxes or inactivity will no longer suffice – people will have to actively opt-in. If your existing consent standard does not comply with the requirements under GDPR, you will need to contact data subjects to update their consent.

Data processing GDPR sets out the lawful basis for processing personal data. This means that personal data can only be processed if one or more of the

lawful conditions are met. For example, using the information to comply with a legal obligation or using it after the data subject has given their consent would meet the requirements. Other examples include where the data subject has given their consent or if the information is needed to protect the vital interests of the data subject. Processing the data might also be necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest.

Data agreements GDPR will place an obligation on early years providers to ensure that any arrangements they make with data processors are governed by written agreements. Early years providers must only use processors offering sufficient guarantees that processing will meet GDPR requirements. You are also expected to re-negotiate any pre-existing agreements to ensure that they meet the GDPR standard if they are due to continue beyond 25 May 2018.

New projects GDPR places a requirement on early years providers to ensure that data protection is incorporated into the development phase of new projects and services, rather than it being an afterthought. In certain circumstances, risk assessments must also be undertaken to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to keep personal data secure.

Breach notification GDPR introduces an obligation to notify the ICO of a data breach within 72 hours of becoming aware of the breach. If it’s a high risk to the individual, for example, if the type of data compromised could lead to identity theft and fraud, then you would also have to notify the individuals concerned.

Fines One of the key drivers for compliance will be that organisations can be fined up to €20 million or 4% of their annual global takeover – whichever is bigger. However, it is important to focus on the benefits of the fact that you are ensuring that you are handling people’s data appropriately.

More information The Alliance will be running a series of member webinars covering different aspects of GDPR between now and May 2018. Find out about the upcoming Alliance webinars at: webinars





Hiring the best Michelle Brown, HR business partner at the Alliance, shares top tips for recruiting staff at your setting


t can be difficult at times to know the best way to advertise vacancies at your setting. Particularly in a time with so many different places available - online job boards, social media, local newspapers, and so on. The most important thing is to ensure that your target audience sees the vacancy. But you may also be looking to keep costs down and make sure that you attract the right candidates for your setting. Here are some tips you can use to ensure that you find the right people the next time you have a vacancy, while also balancing costs: Job boards – You can list all your vacancies and accept job applications and CVs directly through multinational and national job boards. There is now a wide variety of job boards to choose from - including Indeed and Monster as well as specialist early years sites. Think about local and national job boards that would be appropriate for an early years vacancy.

Local colleges and universities – Some colleges and universities offer local employers a chance to advertise their vacancies on notice boards or websites. There may be an opportunity for local employers to contact students. You could do a presentation for current students, highlighting the benefits of working in the early years sector and mention your own setting. This is a good way of building links with local students who are studying childcare and looking for a potential future employer. Open days – Host a recruitment open day at your setting. This is a good way to encourage applicants to visit your setting. They will see the work environment, watch staff interacting with children and have a chance to ask any questions they have about the vacancy or your setting. This offers a chance to market your setting to potential new recruits.

Facebook – If you have a Facebook Page or Group for your setting, think about using the site to advertise any vacancies you have available. Facebook also offers a chance to create a dialogue with potential candidates, so make sure you are ready to answer any questions they have about your setting or the vacancy.

Local newspapers – Think about the different ways that people in your area look for jobs. There is often a particular newspaper that local people will use for jobs. Think also about the role you are recruiting for and whether or not a local newspaper is the best place to advertise it. For example, you may wish to advertise for a cleaner or chef in a different place than you would a practitioner.

Local authority websites – Your local authority may allow your setting to advertise a vacancy on its jobs board. There may be a small fee for this service, so always have a quick check beforehand to make sure you can see similar types of roles advertised on there first.

Universal jobmatch – This service is offered through a government gateway, a secure online account that allows you to access government services. It is designed to help employers find and employ the most suitable jobseekers. The service is free to use, you just need to




set up an account online for your setting at You may already have an account if you have previously dealt with the Department for Work and Pensions as an employer. Community centre – If your setting is based in a close community, you may wish to advertise job vacancies on a community centre notice board, if the service is available. The advantage of this is that you will receive applications from local people who should be able to travel to your setting easily. Local noticeboards – Your local shop may have a section that allows local businesses to advertise vacancies in the shop windows. This is also a positive way to encourage local interest in your setting.

Recruiting Early Years Staff Member price £10.95 Standard price £13.95 This Alliance publication is designed to make the task of selecting high quality staff straightforward and efficient for trustees, directors, owners and managers. The book also offers detailed information on induction and probation procedures to help successful candidates make a positive contribution. Sample documents including job descriptions, application forms, contracts and standard letters are also included.


How can we help? A guide to the new look members’ area available for members on the Alliance website One of best benefits of Alliance membership is the opportunity to access hundreds of resources full of practical and up-to-date advice for early years practitioners. The Alliance’s Information Service and Quality Improvement teams are constantly monitoring important topics within the early years. Using their wealth of expert knowledge and experience, they provide the clear and concise information you will need to tackle day-to-day tasks with the children and families in your care. The team has recently added a series of new mini-guides to the members’ area, ready for you to use. These guides and factsheets cover a diverse range of subjects to reflect the unique nature of the early years and have been made available in the exclusive members’ area of the Alliance website. The members’ area has also recently been redesigned to make it quicker and easier for you to find the resources you need. To try out the new-look members’ area for yourself, visit:

leading your team. Great for those in leadership positions of all kinds or for those who aspire to be the managers of the future.

Near you From attendance at sector shows and exhibitions, to hosting local events to bring the early years community in your area together, we are always eager to meet with our members. In this section you will find out what is happening near you and how we can support you at a local level.

Frequently asked questions If you have a question about your membership or anything else to do with the early years then visit the members’ area FAQs. We frequently update this page to reflect feedback from members so we hope that even if you can’t find the exact answer you are looking for we will be able to direct you towards the right people to ask.

Benefits Remember, your Alliance membership opens up access to all kinds of benefits. Make sure you aren’t missing out on any of the perks and stop by the benefits page regularly to see how you can get something a little extra as a member.

Member exclusives The members’ area offers free resources including:

Early Years Foundation Stage Specifically developed guidance and advice on the key areas of the EYFS can be accessed in the members’ area. There are around 30 different guides available on this subject, split into three subject areas.

The members’ area is also where you will be able to find the latest exclusive member-only content. We regularly host specialist webinars for members and publish brand new guides first in the members’ area so remember to keep an eye out for these.

Tell us what you think

Good governance and the right structure is an essential part of any childcare provision. This section of the members’ area provides guidance for both charitable and privately run providers. The section contains 10 guides and structure charts to help you set up or review your governance.

Our members’ area is designed for you. We’d love to hear what you think of the new section, what additional content you’d like to see and any other suggestions for how we can keep making it better for you. To share your thoughts on the new members’ area, visit www. and log in, take a look around and send any comments or feedback you have with us at feedback@

Business management

MEMBER EXCLUSIVE: 10% off your next order in January

Whether you are a charitable organisation or a private provider, the best way to ensure you keep making a difference to the lives of children and families is to run a well-managed business. The guides and information in our business management section cover everything from social media marketing to developing your cash reserves, recruiting staff and

This month, we’re giving you an extra reason to visit the members’ area. We’ll give you 10% off your next order from the Alliance shop if you visit in January. Go online now to access your promotional code.






Making music together Anna Ryder explains how you can bring music into your setting – even if you think you can’t!


any childcare professionals question whether they can ever be as effective as a trained musician when running music sessions, and the answer is – yes! You can and you will be. Effectiveness in music-making is not measured by how musical you are, or whether you can play an instrument. What really matters is having the right approach.

and play them all, one at a time. Others got interested and then everyone wanted to have a try. There weren’t enough drumsticks to go around, but we rearranged the drums and found some wooden spoons to hit the drums with. This developed into a musical game, where everyone got to play, going up and down the line of drums and hitting each one as they walked past.

Give it time

Limited budgets

You can’t run an effective music session in 20 minutes. If you think you already are, they you might just be singing some known songs together. Try extending your session to an hour.

Your budget is less important than your approach. Let’s look at what you really need…

Encourage exploration Allow everyone to explore and try out what they want. Things will noisy but you can always start again or take away a particularly noisy instrument! These are new objects for many children and they are still finding out how to use them. You can’t possibly expect tem to make music on them straight away, without exploring and experimenting first.

Listen Listen to the children and what they are doing and support them. Don’t try to make them do what you want to do. If someone is doing something interesting, try to respond. For example, a three-year-old I was working with once wanted to place all the drums around her




Instruments – you really don’t need fancy or expensive instruments. You just need some things to make sounds with and you can make your own shakers and simple drums from recycled materials. Making your own instruments is great fun and an education in its own right. Or you can buy your own for a few pounds each if you shop around – but do try to buy real instruments, not plastic ones! If and when you have the budget do buy good quality, age-appropriate instruments, and as many as possible! Support – you will almost certainly need advice and support, so it can be very helpful to have an experienced expert on call, to answer questions and give you a sounding board. Some instrument suppliers now provide this as a free service.

Training – you certainly don’t need loads of training, though you may find and introductory workshop helpful as a confidence-booster and a way to get quickly immersed in the nitty-gritty of music making. Settings with budgets may also wish the invite a musician in to demonstrate music making with the children. This can be really useful for children and practitioners. Session ideas and knowledge – you’ll probably find that your sessions take on a life of their own if you follow the ‘exploration’ approach, but it’s also useful to have a little store of musical ideas in reserve. You can find these easily online. I put a big emphasis on practitioners learning together with children but it really is a very effective approach. I think it’s true of all early years learning – most practitioners do the activity with the children, don’t they? With music it works particularly well precisely because many practitioners don’t think of themselves as ‘musical’. This can be a real advantage as it puts children and practitioners on the same level. The practitioner will therefore genuinely be discovering things, which they would want to share with the children, and the children will be sharing discoveries with the practitioner. This kind of learning is instantaneous and gets deeply embedded in both children and practitioner because it can be a first for both.

annA rydeR is a music educator, singer/songwriter, performer and musical advisor to Sound Children.For more information, visit or

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Exploring Under 5 asks Forest School Learning Initiative founder Christina Dee how settings can make the most of the outdoors, even with limited space

Pictures by David Simpson


earning outdoors is a great experience for all children – and not one that should be restricted to those attending rural settings. Thankfully, the concept of outdoor learning is proving popular across the board and even those providers with limited outdoor space are enjoying forest school activities. Christina Dee, founder at the Forest School Learning Initiative, says that 65% of the practitioners and managers they work with do not have direct access to a forest space. Instead, most settings learn to work with the environment around them – however limited it might seem on first glance.

Choose your space Christina says that the most important thing is that any outdoor space used must be sustainable and accessible for children. If you want to enjoy forest school activities regularly, you need to be able to reach the space easily. A bus ride, for example, might make the journey too long for regular visits – although some city-based settings might find bus journeys easier than others,




depending on your local transport links. Crucially, it needs to work for you as Christina says that children really need to enjoy forest school activities every week in order to see the benefits of them. It takes a surprisingly small amount of space to start enjoying outdoor activities. “Even just two or three trees seems enormous when you are three- or fouryears-old,” Christina says, adding: “The exact amount of space you need will really depend on how many children you have at your setting.” Some settings make use of a local park or nearby allotments and some London-based locations have teamed up with community farms based within the city. If needed, you could plant your own trees within your outdoor space.

Collecting equipment Once you’ve got your space sorted, the next key consideration is your equipment. “Clothing is very important so collect some cheap items to keep as spares – gloves and hats, waterproofs and wellies,” Christina suggests. Other than clothing, much of

the equipment you will need can be found in nature – leaves, sticks and places for children to dig. Christina suggests collecting some of these things up elsewhere and bringing them in if you don’t have many readily available in your own outdoor space. You might only need to make one or two trips to the woods each year to secure a steady supply of sticks. The natural resources you do have will help shape your sessions. Christina suggests mud painting, mud modelling and stick collection or even leaf snap – where children match up leaves instead of cards. If you have the budget to purchase some insect pots, you could also start looking for mini-beasts in your outdoor space. Any empty, unused containers can also be used to help children collect items outdoors such as pebbles, pine cones or conkers.

Outdoor activities One thing Christina does warn against is relying too heavily on your usual activities when exploring outdoors. “Don’t use pencils and paper unless you really think it’s going


g nature to help a child’s learning – it’s too much of a reinforcement of the indoor environment,” she suggests. Whatever you want to do, remember to let the children take the lead. Christina explains: “The forest school ethos is based around child-led learning. You should give them a range of resources and allow them to make their own choices and decisions about what they want to do.” Christina says this will help the children learn to be more independent and naturally more motivated.

Managing risks As ever, it’s also important to minimise any risk associated with your outdoor activities. However, Christina warns that you don’t want to remove too many of the risks associated with outdoor sessions. She says: “It’s about empowering children to manage risks themselves – look out for the things they consider to be dangerous and how they keep themselves safe.” For example, Christina says one group she works with located a large hole in the ground – which had already been spotted

on an earlier risk assessment by the forest-school leader. The children were asked how they could minimise the risk of someone tripping or falling. They decided to put a marker next to the hole to warn anyone walking past and moved their activity away from the area. “If you involve the children in minimising risks, they can own it and enjoy the responsibility,” Christina explains.

Reaping the rewards The added risks and unpredictability of forest school sessions can be off-putting for some staff. “Some staff are quite nervous of working outdoors,” Christina says. But she usually finds that after a few sessions, most find that they begin to relax and enjoy the forest school sessions. “Many people tell us that forest school has helped change the way they practice, giving them fresh enthusiasm for helping children learn,” she adds. Some practitioners report other unexpected benefits from adding a regular outdoor session to their schedule. “Children

tend to become really quite calm and stop running around quite as much,” Christina says. “You might also notice that some children find it easier to concentrate or that different social groups form in these sessions.” Outdoor sessions are usually very popular with children too. “Attendance is often highest on the days that a setting chooses to do forest school,” she adds. In an increasingly technology-focused world, forest school offers many children a welcome break from gadgets, and so taking your setting outside for a session can help give children a valuable opportunity to connect with nature. “Many children live a life by screen,” Christina says. “I think forest school offers children the best opportunity for children’s learning – they are learning and they don’t even realise it.” The Forest School Learning Initiative offers training that can be applied to all age groups and link to the Early Years Foundation Stage. To find out more, visit or email




The big birdwatch The RSPB is inviting early years settings to join its Big Schools’ Birdwatch – here’s how you can get involved


irdwatching is one of the easiest ways to explore nature with children in your setting. You don’t need any special equipment and just a small amount of outdoor space. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ (RSPB’s) Big Schools’ Birdwatch is taking place this term and is open to all early years settings. The national birdwatch has been held every year since 2002 and offers participants free resources including activity ideas and downloadable stories




in return for taking part. This year the RSPB has introduced activities specifically designed for early years practitioners. The wildlife charity has also teamed up with CBeebies’ Twirlywoos to encourage younger children to join in with the event. The birdwatch is taking place from 2 January to 23 February and is set to be the biggest ever wildlife survey in education settings. Anyone can join in: pre-schools, nurseries, childminders and playgroups, as well as schools. In 2017, 73,000 children helped the RSPB count more than 100,000 birds.

The RSPB is asking children to spend one hour watching and recording any birds that visit their outdoor space. Settings are asked to share their results with the RSPB so they can be analysed. This offers the charity an insight into which species are the most common and how the numbers are changing.

Early learning Not only does the birdwatch help with the RSPB’s conservation work, but it also provides a fun activity for children. Birdwatching helps bring children closer to nature and could inspire


How to make pastry maggots an interest in wildlife. You can use the birdwatch as a platform for other related activities, exploring any interests children show in response. Nicky Thomas, early years project officer at the RSPB, explains: “The Big Schools Birdwatch works well for the free-flow structure of early years settings making it easy for all children to access and participate during the hour and beyond.” The RSPB has worked to ensure that the plan works with Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage to help support children’s ‘understanding the world’ journey. Nicky says: “They will be able to comment and ask questions about their familiar world, recognise similarities, differences, patterns and change in what they see and experience as well as showing care and concern for living things and the environment.” Every setting that takes part will receive a personalised certificate, a wildlife poster and Twirlywoos stickers to share. Every early years setting that joins in will also be entered into a prize draw to win a visit from the Twirlywoos. Providers can also download the “Lucky Duck” story from the RSPB website, which helps explain some of the differences between common birds. Nicky explains: “This story has been written to inspire children’s thinking and to provide a childcentred starting point that we hope will start a journey of engagement.” By learning about birds, children will develop new skills – making links between their own needs and those of the birds that visit their outdoor space. Nicky says: “They will be finding out and exploring what is already welcoming birds to the setting and feel proud as they achieve what they set out to do by counting and identifying some familiar birds.” These skills will also help children make transferable experiences at home and other familiar places, wherever they see wild birds. Adding extra activities will expand the learning opportunities. “Making these crumbly pastry maggots to feed the birds with is a great finger gym and fine motor skills activity,” Nicky suggests.

How to join in The birdwatch should last for just one hour – you can pick any time of the day that suits. It could be offered as part of a wider project, or just as a oneoff. It could even take place over an outdoor lunch break. The only restriction is that it must take place in the first half of this spring term. Register to take part online at uk/schoolswatch You’ll find everything you need to take part including more suggested activites.

Ingredients: 86g flour, 30g lard Method: 1. Put the flour in a bowl 2. Mix in the lard with the tips of your fingers 3. Rub the dry mixture into little pieces that look like maggots 4. Sprinkle these onto the ground, on your birdtable or around bushes and flowerbeds

Paper plate birds Equipment: paper plates, paint, paintbrushes, googly eyes, glue, pipe cleaners, pieces of card, paper Method: 1. Fold the plate in half and unfold it 2. Paint the base colour – for example black for a blackbird or orange for a robin. 3. Fold the plate again so it can stand up. 4. Use the eyes, paper, pipecleaners and card to add a beak, wings and a tail


Common birds in the UK


Last year, the most commonly-seen bird was the blackbird, with 88% of settings reporting seeing them. 1. Blackbird – Black feathers with bright orangeyellow beaks and eye-rings. 2. Starling – Look black from a distance but purples and greens can be seen up close. They tend to be smaller than blackbirds


3. Woodpigeon – Grey with a white patch on its neck.


4.  Carrion crow – All black, including the beak and feet. These are usually seen alone or in pairs. 5. B  lack headed gull – All white, or white with a chocolate-brown head.


6. H  ouse sparrow – Speckled with blacks and browns, but the males will also have a strip of blue on their heads. 7. M  agpie – Distinctive black and white bird with a long tail – up close you might notice purple-blue hues on its feathers.

5 7

8.  Robin – Golden brown with a bright red vest. These are found all year round – not just at Christmas.


9. B  lue tit – Blue, yellow and white bird that often travels in groups. Younger birds will have yellow instead of white cheeks. 10. Jack Daw – A small black crow with pale eyes and a slightly silver patch behind its head.


Get in touch Did your setting take part in this year’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch? We’d love to hear about it – please send your stories and pictures for My Under 5 at


10 UNDER 5



alle How to be

aware A

s children grow older, they start to spend more time at early years settings and begin attending more group activities. For those with known allergies, this starts a new phase in which their condition is no longer solely managed by their parents or guardians. Practitioners working in early years settings have a duty of care and must provide a safe and healthy environment for all the children in their care. When addressing allergies as part of this, practitioners must consider the unique environment of the early years setting. ‘Allergy’ is an umbrella term that includes not only food allergies, but also conditions including asthma, eczema, hay fever, drugs (such as penicillin) and venom (such as bee or wasp) allergy. Allergic conditions tend to develop in the under-five age group, so many children in your setting may have one or more allergic conditions.




Holly Shaw, nurse advisor for Allergy UK, explains how early years settings can deal with allergies and prevent accidental exposure

Getting started

Allergen-free environments

1. Introduce a policy – An allergy and anaphylaxis policy will help to safeguard those with allergies by giving you and your staff practical strategies to follow. It will also reassure parents that you understand the seriousness of allergic disease. You should remember to regularly review and update the policy when needed.

It is commonly thought that banning a food completely because of an allergy is the most practical solution and that avoidance is the main stay of allergy treatment. However, while the most common allergies in childhood include cow’s milk, egg and peanut, it is possible for children to be allergic to many other things. This makes creating a completely allergen-free environment unrealistic. Allergen-free environments can also create a false sense of security – particularly for young children who haven’t learned how to keep themselves safe yet. Instead, you should focus on ‘allergy awareness’ within your setting and aim for an inclusive approach.

2. Reduce the risk – Identify any situations in which a child may be accidentally exposed to an allergen and put practical measures in place to reduce the risk. 3. Undertake training – Being able to reassure parents/guardians that staff have relevant training will help put their mind at ease. It will also help you feel more confident about treating allergic reactions should they occur in your setting.

Communication Parents and guardians will naturally feel anxious about handling over responsibilities


ergy so developing a partnership between parents/ guardians and caregivers is vital. Early communication enables open conversations about the child’s allergy needs and if they can be met. Staff will also need to share information and may have questions they wish to raise. The child’s needs, health and wellbeing should be at the centre of all communication. Providing a safe and supportive environment for children with allergic conditions in early years settings is really important. Children with allergies can sometimes be excluded from certain activities, which can leave them feeling isolated. With practical allergen management in place, and a good awareness and understanding of allergy, even a child with the most severe allergies can still feel included in all activities.

A key consideration of allergy management is recognising signs and symptoms and knowing how to treat an allergic reaction. This can be addressed by ensuring that you and your staff are trained in first aid, including allergy and anaphylaxis, using an accredited trainer. First aid training should be undertaken regularly to ensure you don’t miss any updates on best practice. Make sure you are familiar with each child’s individual health plan (IHP) and/or their allergy action plan – this is a written document detailing any known allergies, symptoms of allergic reactions and clear instructions on what action to take. Designated staff should know where copies of the plan are kept, as well as the child’s medication,s and understand how to use them.

Meal and snack times Flexible approach Consider adapting your allergy management policies to meet the specific needs of the children currently at your setting, taking into account the size of your setting and available resources. Let parents/guardians know about the procedures that have been introduced and what it means for them. For example, this could mean asking their child not to share food and promoting hand washing after eating to reduce the risk of cross contamination.

Children with food allergies should only eat foods provided by their parents, or that have been specifically prepared with their dietary needs in mind. Children with food allergies should not be allowed to trade or swap food so close supervision of younger children at mealtimes is particularly important. All children should wash their hands before and after eating to prevent crosscontamination. This should also apply to

any activities involving food handling – such as cooking or messy play.

Treats Consider using non-food items as rewards – such as stickers. If food rewards must be given, offer parents a chance to provide safe snacks. To avoid isolation, provide safe treats for children who cannot eat food brought in by others to share as part of birthday or other celebrations.

Arts and crafts Organise your classrooms, play environments, dining rooms and playgrounds to avoid cross contamination and prevent allergic reactions. Additional care should be taken with materials such as play dough, which often contains wheat and recycled items such as egg boxes. Craft supplies such as paints can be tricky as they sometimes contain food allergens such as egg, peanut, tree nut or milk. Make sure you check the labels and if you think there could be a risk of cross-contamination, try to find a suitable alternative.

More information For more information, including educational materials, training devices and advice, contact Allergy UK at or call their helpline on 01322 619898. UNDER 5



Setting the scene for

2018 Melanie Pilcher, quality and standards manager at the Alliance, shares some ideas for mixing up your events calendar


s we welcome 2018, early years practitioners pin new calendars on office walls, make notes in satisfyingly clear diaries and start to plot key events as part of their long-term planning for sessions. This year is likely to consist of the usual fixed dates for the annual cycle of events – including transitions and seasons. Staff rotas, shift patterns and holidays must also be carefully recorded. Then there are other regular events to consider – such as planned outings, photo days, fund raising and events in your local community. The months ahead are full of possibilities and opportunities for cohesion as routines are established. This in turn brings a sense of security and belonging for children that are essential to their personal, social and emotional development.




It is within this supportive framework that practitioners nurture all areas of learning and development. Children learn about each other, their community and establish friendships. They explore their immediate environment and are encouraged to be curious and interested in the world around them.

Celebrating diversity In order to further develop children’s knowledge and understanding of the world it is important that they are also able to celebrate and explore diversity. Practitioners can teach children to respect and value others regardless of their skin colour, their physical capabilities or the language they speak. Opportunities to learn about each other should be incorporated into appropriate, realistic experiences that build on

children’s personal interests and their innate curiosity. Nicola Gibson, inclusion manager at the Alliance, says: “Children learn positive attitudes and behaviours towards those with different identifies to their own. By providing children with naturally occurring day-to-day experiences of diversity rather than just periodic events, children will learn to embrace and not fear difference.” In an increasingly diverse society, many early years settings will benefit from the cultures and traditions of the children who attend. Children will enjoy learning about their friends’ home lives using resources that are likely to be available in the community. However, not all communities are diverse – so some thought and planning might be needed to ensure that you are broadening children’s experiences in a meaningful way.


Immersive approach There can be a temptation to plot a few key festivals and celebrations into the calendar as single-day events, even though the occasion itself might usually be celebrated over several days with weeks of build up – much like Christmas. Practitioners should do their research and consider what they want children to gain from each experience. You should give equal prominence to each festival and celebration you decide to take part in. Allow children to fully immerse themselves in each experience so that the characteristics of effective learning are enabled as their curiosity is ignited. It is a good idea to start with a list of significant dates that reflect the diversity of the children and families who are attending the setting and build up from there. The emphasis should be on the cultural aspect of the celebration, rather than any religious significance. It is not appropriate for early years settings to teach religion to very young children, but they should raise awareness that people can have different beliefs. Practitioners should focus on the wider learning opportunities in the activities they offer rather than any tokenistic one-off events – these might look good on planning sheets but they will have little impact on

children’s knowledge and understanding. Most festivals and celebrations will encompass some or all of the following that cover many areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage:  Decorations – These could be lanterns, wall hangings, patterns and greetings cards. The emphasis is often on lights, vibrant colours and symbols that are easily recognisable as belonging to a distinct culture.  Music – Different musical instruments, songs, nursery rhymes and verse can soon become regular favourites during circle time activities. Tell stories in their first language, as well as English, to help children recognise some key words.

world. There are many beautiful, unusual costumes and headdresses worn for special events  Gifts – The tradition of exchanging gifts during festivals or celebrations can teach children about the gift of caring and sharing. Not all gifts have to have a monetary value. Children can be encouraged to think about the many ways they can give to others by being a good friend.  Art – There are endless opportunities for creativity as children replicate designs such as Hindu Rangoli patterns, Indonesian Batik or Aboriginal art that uses only the colours found in nature to tell stories with painted dots, patterns and symbols.

 Dance – Along with the music comes an opportunity to move. Watch DVDs or invite a guest, perhaps a family member or parent, to teach the children a traditional dance.  Food – There are endless opportunities to make and bake traditional festival food. Search online for healthy recipes enjoyed by different cultures or ask families to suggest popular dishes.  Traditional dress – Clothing is important for people and cultures all over the

When we see examples of how divisions in communities can cause feelings of resentment or isolation, what better time to remind ourselves that the children we are working with now will shape the world that we live in tomorrow. If they learn acceptance and tolerance through understanding difference in their early years, they will have the skills needed to flourish in a global society where prejudice and racism are never accepted.





Managing maternity leave The legal team behind the Law-Call service, available to Alliance members, explains how to effectively manage maternity leave at your setting

When one of your employees is expecting a new baby, it can be an exciting time for them and their family. Being prepared with your own maternity policy can help you and your colleagues enjoy their news – and even help you retain staff in the longterm if your employees feel happy and welcome to return after the birth. Employees can choose take up to a full year of maternity leave, and must take two weeks after giving birth as a minimum. Employees must have been working at a setting for at least 26 weeks before the 25th week of their pregnancy and be earning at least £107 a week. The earliest date that maternity leave can start is 11 weeks before the baby’s due date, unless the baby is born early. In these cases, leave will start automatically on the day of the birth. If an employee works right up to their due date and becomes unable to work due to a pregnancy-related illness in the four weeks prior to this date, their leave will also be automatically triggered. Unless it is not reasonably practical to do so, your employee must tell you when their baby is due and when they want to start maternity leave at least 15 weeks before their expected due date. You then have 28 days to confirm in writing their start and end dates for maternity leave. As an employer, you should assume that the employee will take their full entitlement of 52 weeks unless they notify you otherwise. However, employees can change their return to work date if they wish – but they must give you eight weeks’ notice. You cannot refuse maternity leave or change the amount of leave your employee chooses to take.

you can’t afford to make statutory payments, you can apply for HMRC to pay you in advance. Pregnant employees are also entitled to reasonable paid time off for antenatal care, including any travel time needed. Fathers and partners of pregnant women are entitled to unpaid time off to attend two antenatal appointments capped at six and a half hours for each appointment.

Holidays Your employee will continue to accrue their full holiday entitlement during the period that they are on maternity leave and will be able to take this holiday during the period that they are on maternity leave and will be able to take this holiday during the period they are still at work or when they return from maternity leave. They cannot, however, take annual leave and maternity leave at the same time.

Keeping in touch Employees can take up to 10 days during their maternity leave known as ‘keeping in touch days’. These are optional and both the employee and employer need to agree on the type of work they will be doing and their rate of pay before the employee comes into work.

Shared parental leave

Shared parental leave and statutory shared parental pay are also available for the mother, father or the mother’s spouse or partner, including civil partners and same sex partners. This can be taken in three blocks, rather than all in one go, but it must be taken between the baby’s birth and first birthday (or within one year of adoption). Maternity pay Shared parental leave cannot be taken before Eligible employees will be entitled to be paid the mother has given birth or the adoption has statutory maternity pay for up to 39 weeks of their taken place. Any leave taken before the birth maternity leave at 90% of their average weekly should still be taken as maternity leave, after which earnings before tax for the first six weeks. After they can opt to cancel the maternity leave and start that, they will be paid 90% of their average weekly shared parental leave. The remainder of the 52 earnings or £140.98 per week – whichever is lower weeks leave can be shared between the parents as – for 33 weeks. If the employee wishes to take the they choose. full 52 weeks, the last 13 weeks would be unpaid. Each individual pregnancy or adoption comes If an employee is not entitled to statutory with its own variables and unique circumstances. maternity pay, they may be able to get Maternity Please feel free to contact Law-Call for further Allowance instead using a SMP1 form. The advice and support if you need to discuss government offers a handy calculator online to help anything further. you work it out (available at More information You can ask employees for proof of pregnancy Alliance members can access a 24-hours legal before you pay any statutory maternity pay. helpline offering advice on issues concerning This will usually be a document called a MATB1 your setting or childminding business. Contact certificate, issued by midwives and doctors 20 details can be found on your membership card. weeks before the due date. As an employer, you Alternatively, contact Information Services (with can usually reclaim between 92% and 103% of your membership number) for Law-Call’s details on your employees’ statutory maternity, paternity, 0207 697 2595. adoption and shared parental pay from HMRC. If




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Helen Battelley, consultant and speaker on physical development and movement in early education and founder of training company Music and Movement, explains how you can use music to encourage physical activity


anuary can sometimes mark the start of a long wait for springtime. With the night still starting early and many cold and wet days ahead, children can be reluctant to head outside for physical activities. So how can we ensure children are still moving enough? Whatever the weather, early years practitioners still need to help children meet their recommended target of 180 minutes of physical activity each day. We know that exercise is the best medicine for lethargy, releasing happy hormones, or endorphins, called dopamine and serotonin, alongside a host of other health benefits. Fundamentally, we were born to move. From grasping a hand, reaching to touch, lifting your head, learning to crawl and walk – all movement triggers sensory receptors and builds neural pathways in the brain. The more physical experiences a child has, the more they will learn. We learn more physical skills in our first five years than at any other time in our lives. Therefore it is important that young children have plenty of time to practice and develop those essential movement skills.

So how can we increase physical activity levels in our setting? Increase outdoor play opportunities – Even in the rain – as the famous quote says: ‘There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing!’ Children love to splash and jump in puddles, so try adding a dash of food colouring to puddles, and ask: “Can you jump in the red puddle?” For older children, ask the children to demonstrate the answers – for example: “What colour is




a tomato?” (cueing them to jump in the red puddle). Ensure activities are inclusive: all children should have the opportunity to participate – On a windy day, make and create ribbon streamers using florist ribbon, and ask the children to discover which way the wind is blowing. Use some expressive music to create a ribbon dance. You could use Stravinksy’s Fireworks and ask the children to ‘be’ the fireworks while dancing. Let them explore their language by adding sounds. Provide exciting stimuli – Who doesn’t love bubbles? They are not only visually stimulating but encourage hand/eye control and temporal awareness. Try blowing bubbles when underneath a parachute. Be more active yourself – We are role models for the children in our care. If we are to encourage them to be more active, we must also be active too and ready to join in activities. Reduce sedentary options – Last year I started a revolution in some settings by challenging staff to remove all chairs from their setting for one day each week. The initial response was not good, and I met a lot of opposition. However, after the first few trial days, all settings have since decided to adopt the ‘no chair day’ approach every week. Children will squat, lay, stand, lean and move more freely. This does not limit their experiences but increases them. Find time to explore free movement using music – I am sure we can all associate with

a certain song which will ‘get us dancing’; it may be at a wedding or in the kitchen while cooking. The children in your setting can see if you are engaged with a song. They also know and can certainly tell if we don’t want to do something, so use music that you enjoy. Make a staff playlist by adding three favourite songs from each member of staff and dedicate time for dancing/moving to this music every day. It will boost their confidence and encourage self-expression. Here are some great tracks I have in my musical repertoire: Nefeli – Ludovicio Einaudi Dancing Queen – Abba Bicycle Race – Queen Volare – Gypsy Kings Can’t Stop The Feeling – Justin Timberlake Sette Bello – Rene Aubry Practitioners often ask me how long should our ‘dance session’ last. Five minutes? 10? 20? The answer is: for as long as every one is engaged and interested, or whoever tires first – the child or practitioner!

Further information Watch the Alliance’s free webinar on the Importance of Physical Activity in the Early Years for free online at: If you would like to know more about Music and Movement’s staff training on EYFS Inspirational dance and movement, or Baby Music and Sensory play CPD, please take a look at the website: www.musicandmovement. or you can contact Helen directly at


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haviour Alliance inclusion manager Nicola Gibson explains the factors that can influence children’s behaviour and explores ways that practitioners can promote positive behaviour


uring the first three years of life, young children grow rapidly. It is during this time that they start to develop the skills they need to communicate and socialise with others. By the time most children have started attending early years settings, they will have already mastered the basics of these social skills and will already be practicing them in their interactions and play. Early years settings are safe, fun paces for young children to practice because these environments are planned specifically to engage and encourage young children’s development and, of course, they are also filled with many other likeminded children.

Tricky moments Inevitably there will be some difficult moments as children start to learn these complex skills. Taking turns, problem solving, regulation and negotiation can all present challenges to children. Their initial attempts at these skills may seem clumsy and inconsistent but they may be juggling several difficult areas of development together and many of the associated skills will still be immature. Each area of learning and development should not be viewed in isolation. They should all be considered as different parts of the development jigsaw, which eventually fits together to make a whole. If a child is struggling in one area of development then it is likely to impact on other areas. For example, if a child is struggling with communication they might also find it difficult to interact, formulate and sustain friendships.

Setting an example At this early age it helps if practitioners can model desired behaviours to children. If a child is finding interactions with others difficult then practitioners can guide their use of language

and actions. It also helps to be proactive, so if a particular area or toy is known to cause friction try to think of some different solutions to the problem before it next arises. Even from a very young age, children have a good grasp of what is fair. Consult with them on the different ways you can make sharing and taking turns fun and fair. Some of the simplest ideas work the best – such as using a sand timer. This type of resource offers a tangible way of giving children the tools they need to be autonomous and problem solve.

only fully develop these skills later on. Be aware that sometimes children’s behaviour can indicate a more serious underlying issue. Although most minor blips in children’s behaviour will be related to a developmental or physiological cause, some can indicate a more serious concern such as an underlying SEND or safeguarding issue. If you suspect that this could be the case, then you must raise these concerns through the appropriate channels before you try to deal with the behaviour itself.

Reflection and support

Realistic expectations

Children will sometimes need support during difficult and stressful situations in order to help them reflect and understand what has gone on. This will help them regulate how they deal with similar situations in the future. The very process of managing difficult emotions is especially challenging for young children so it can be helpful to name and explore emotions. Try using puppets and storytelling to help them express any feelings that they can’t articulate. A certain amount of spirited behaviour between children can be helpful because it helps them deal with problems and learn to communicate more effectively. However, if a lively debate then becomes more heated or a child is getting distressed, then timely intervention from a practitioner will usually help guide the situation and get children back on track. It is important that the intervening practitioner’s behaviour is calm and consistent – try to use clear and simple language. By raising your voice, you will simply be reinforcing the very behaviour you want to avoid. There is little point trying to reason with children at this age. The definition of ‘sorry’ is difficult for many young children to understand. Understanding the connection between upsetting others and feeling remorse requires empathy and children

As children grow and their understanding and reasoning skills improve, they become much better at understanding and dealing with complex concepts, situations and relationships. By demonstrating how much you want a child to behave and preparing them, you can guide them through even quite difficult situations. However, it is important that you remain realistic about your expectations – even the most mature four-year-olds may find some unfamiliar social situations difficult. By the time most children start school they will have mastered a complex set of interconnected skills which will help them communicate, negotiate, follow rules, solve problems, selfreflect, take turns, share and be considerate. Even once these skills have been mastered, they will continue to be developed into adulthood. Considering that there are so many variations in young children’s development and life experiences – some of which can change from day to day – most children will make the transition into school without any lasting behavioural issues. This is a testament to the skills of early years practitioners who support children as they happily play and engage with others in what can be a very challenging period in their lives.





Healthy habits for the new year

The Infant & Toddler Forum provides advice on preparing to promote healthy eating in the year ahead The start of a new year is the perfect time for settings to reaffirm healthy feeding habits for toddlers ready for the year ahead. A varied and nutritious diet and good eating habits are essential for toddlers’ health, growth and development. Remember that toddlers’ nutritional requirements differ from those of older children and adults. Here are five steps you can take to keep healthy eating in mind, developed by experts specialising in early years nutrition and development:

1. Have a routine, offering three meals and 2-3 snacks each day Toddlers need to eat small amounts of food regularly throughout the day to maintain their energy levels. Those who graze on snack foods without a routine usually eat a less nutritious diet and are more likely to suffer dental cavities. A routine consisting of three meals and two or three planned snacks ensures a more balanced diet. After eating a savoury course, toddlers may still be interested in eating a second course of different, sweeter foods, such as fruit and yoghurt. By offering two courses of different foods at meals, toddlers will be eating a wider variety of nutrients.

2. Offer foods from all five food groups each day Each of the five food groups supplies a different combination of nutrients – eating from




all five, along with a vitamin D supplement, will provide toddlers with a balanced, nutritional and enjoyable diet. Sugary foods should be eaten in smaller and limited qualities as these foods provide energy, but fewer nutrients. The five food groups: Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods – include some at each meal and in some snacks  Fruit and vegetables – include in each meal and some snacks Milk, cheese and yoghurt – offer one of these three times each day. A serving should be 120ml of milk or yoghurt. Meat, fish, eggs, nuts and pulses – offer these two or three times daily  Oils, butter and fat spreads – include small amounts when preparing food. Top tip: By limiting sweet foods to less than four times in each day, such as three meals and no more than one snack, the risk of dental cavities is reduced.

3. Offer 6-8 drinks a day Fresh drinking water should be available to toddlers at all times – this should be offered in a beaker or cup, not in bottles. Around 100–120ml is about right. Toddlers need to drink adequate fluids to maintain hydration and prevent constipation. They should be offered a drink with each meal and snack. Bear in mind that they may need to

drink more in hot weather or when they are particularly active. Remember that bottles should not be used by the time a child is about 12 months old. Bottles of milk can become a comfort for toddlers, which some may stubbornly refuse to give up. Those who drink excess amounts of milk are at risk of iron deficiency.

4. Encourage parents to give vitamin D every day Even toddlers eating nutritious diets do not always get enough vitamin D as the main source of this vitamin is not food and drink but the skin. Vitamin D is made by the skin in response to sunlight but in the UK this only happens from April to September. This means that toddlers should be given 10 micrograms of vitamin D in a supplement each day.

5. Eat in social groups Toddlers learn by copying other children and adults, so eating together helps toddlers to try new foods and over time to learn to like them. Parents and carers should be advised not to say: “Eat up your vegetables, then you can have your pudding.” This makes the pudding more desirable than the vegetables in the toddler’s mind – the opposite of a healthy eating message. For more information, read the Infant & Toddler Forum’s Ten Steps for Healthy Toddlers leaflet online at

The Infant & Toddler Forum is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition. The views and outputs of the group, however, remain independent of Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition and its commercial interests.


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Under 5, the official magazine of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, is one of the most trusted and respected sources of information and advi...