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How Can Nurseries Recruit Great Staff if they can’t get the Basics Right?

“I was alone and no one had checked my ID” – The Secret Practitioner on when nursery recruitment goes wrong...

  • How Can Nurseries Recruit Great Staff if they can’t get the Basics Right?

It’s not rocket science – any childcare setting that strives to be outstanding needs high-quality staff. And to get high-quality staff you need a high-quality recruitment process. Or at least a reasonably good one.

But some settings struggle to even get the basics right, as I found out for myself a few weeks ago…

To cut to the chase, I received an email out of the blue from a recruitment agency offering me an interview with a local franchise of day nurseries and preschools.

It so happens that I’d heard some less-than-complimentary things about this particular franchise, but I decided to throw my prejudices aside and give them a go. How bad could it be?

Just a couple of days later I went for my interview, prepared and confident. The outdoor facilities looked good and the whole building was clean and pleasant. A positive first impression, at least – important, since you only get to make one. But then the deputy manager opened the door.

A professional welcome it wasn’t. She greeted me with, “Oh, it’s today you’re coming?” Not off to a good start!

I had only arranged the interview two days prior, as mentioned, and already they appeared to have forgotten about it. But childcare settings are busy places, as I well know, and no one can be expected to remember everything, so I smiled and told them not to worry.

Inside, nobody seemed entirely sure what to do with me.

Based on past experience I assumed that I would be taken up to an office for an ID check and a chat with the manager before heading into a room to show off my childcare skills.

But things didn’t progress in quite the order I had expected…

Instead, I was sent straight into a toddler room without anyone having checked my ID. I quickly got involved in the room’s activities, chatting to the children and joining in with their games. But something was bothering me.

The room was heavily over-ratio and the children were running wild. The small space was filled with two-year-olds running and screaming, and there seemed to be little organisation.

I spent more than an hour in that room without anyone telling me what was going on or when I would get the chance to talk with the manager. I started wondering at about this point whether I should just walk out of the place and be done with it. But the worst was yet to come.

I had quickly noticed that the staff were in and out of the room seemingly with no regard to the ratio, but at one point they left me completely alone in the room with the kids.

I was probably unsupervised for no more than a minute, but let me reiterate: no one had checked my ID.

You and I know that I am a trustworthy writer of anonymous Secret Practitioner articles, but of course they didn’t. I could have been anyone.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, after all this had transpired the co-owner finally saw fit to take me upstairs for an interview. She raved about the high standards in her setting and how special her nursery was.

It was a bit surreal. She offered me the job (on minimum wage, obviously) and I said I’d think about it.

I realised the next day I’d left my brand new jacket there, so I went back and retrieved it before telling them that I thought I’d be better off staying where I was. Needless to say they were not impressed – but then nor was I!

The Secret Practitioner works in a private nursery and preschool in Greater Manchester.

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