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Early Years Collaboration in Bolton

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At the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, a small group of managers and owners of Early Years providers in Bolton, including Bolton School Nursery, formed an open discussion group. The aim was to help one another in any way they could. Since then, the group has gone from strength to strength: a number of additional providers have joined and the scope of discussions has widened beyond those related to Covid-19.

Jasmin Sanders, the Manager at Bolton School Nursery, explains: ‘Initially this was to provide a forum where we could discuss and work out how to interpret guidance and work within the government restrictions due to the pandemic. As time has gone on, we have discussed lots of other issues in Early Years. From the meetings, a closed Facebook group has also taken off, where we share ideas for training, CPD and anything else that may be helpful.

‘Currently, our discussions are around the upcoming changes to the Development Matters, EYFS and the new Birth to 5 Matters document. We always discuss how the pandemic is affecting settings, and share solutions and ideas; it really is very helpful, informative and connects providers in a way that hasn’t been accessible before. It is quite informal, and a lot of frustrations and issues have been shared in the group, always with the aim of finding a solution or doing something about it.

‘The group makes suggestions to the Local Authority (LA) about how they can support us further. We put together a series of questions that have arisen between us and we then send these to Bolton’s Early Years team in the LA. They are answered either directly or integrated into the regular update webinars every couple of weeks. The group has continued lobbying for Lateral Flow testing for Early Years, as well as PPE and the continuation of conversations with Central Government regarding the funding crisis in Early Years.

‘The group is currently collaborating with other Early Years groups, with the aim of promoting a united front in Early Years. However, we need a big enough voice; the more providers who can get involved the better.’

Julie Robinson, owner of Eagley School House Nursery, was part of the initial discussion to set up the group and found it beneficial to discuss bubbles, Covid testing and additional operational issues with other settings. She said of the group: ‘Personally, I have found it more relatable and easier to share issues. Sharing ideas with people on the front line was absolutely crucial.’

Vicky Hough, owner of Saplings Day Nursery agreed that it has been helpful to discuss changes in practice and the impact of the pandemic on practitioners, children, families and nursery owners and managers, as well as more recently EYFS reform and general good practice in Early Years. She said: ‘This group has been a very valuable support to not only my setting but me personally throughout this period. Whilst some of the issues and practices are different due to the size of settings, it has been reassuring to know we are not alone in the issues we face and the extra worries and pressure we have gained.’

Vicky also reiterated the importance of going forward as a group of providers, to give nurseries and Early Years groups a strong voice.

If you are interested in joining the group, please contact Jasmin Sanders via email (JJSanders@boltonschool.org) or phone (01204 434732).

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