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“Two Years After Joining My Setting, I’m Still To Complete My Induction”

The Secret Practitioner explains why current attitudes towards induction aren't exactly a recipe for outstanding practice…

The Secret Practitioner
by The Secret Practitioner

The childcare profession is one that carries huge responsibility, which means training is extremely important for new staff. But various settings and companies can have widely varying approaches to training their employees.

This was something I found out about personally when I joined a setting as an apprentice two years ago…

A promise unfulfilled

Having no prior experience in the industry, I remember turning up for my first day at work full of apprehension and excitement. I had been told I would be sent on an induction/training course in the next two weeks. On arrival, the first thing I was asked to do was to read through a dense booklet of staff regulations. Needless to say, I was greatly relieved when early in the afternoon I was finally allowed to get started with some real childcare. Though I was happy to get away from the paperwork, I couldn’t help but feel a growing sense of dread as I entered the two to threes room and saw eight little faces staring up at me. A voice in my head was screaming that I didn’t know what I was doing and that I was bound to mess things up somehow.

I tried to think back to the rules and regulations I had been reading earlier, but they were no help at all. How could the fire drill procedure possibly help me to interact appropriately with toddlers? But of course, as someone new to childcare, I was not immediately left alone with the children. Instead, there was always a senior member of staff nearby to support and advise me. Soon enough, I was feeling more relaxed and I realised that good support from senior staff members is one of the most important aspects of training – particularly in the case of apprentices, who learn primarily on the job. Still, when I was finally sent for my three-day-long induction/training, I was looking forward to receiving some slightly more formal guidance. The first day’s training was relatively basic as I, along with five other new apprentices, were given brief courses on health and safety, safeguarding and behaviour management. We were also taught something invaluable to any practitioner – how to make ‘gloop’, that wonderful half-solid, half-liquid mixture of cornflour and water that will keep almost any child engaged for hours… But at lunchtime on the second day, halfway through the course, we were surprised to be told that our training was over and we were being sent back to our settings. The reason given for this was that the computer system used for the rest of the course was broken, though we were promised that we would finish the course in the coming weeks.

Two years on, this promise remains unfulfilled and I am still yet to complete my basic training. I like to imagine that someday in the distant future, when I have become a wizened, grey-bearded pensioner, I will finally be summoned to finish the course.

A little shambolic

As the months went by there were more brief training courses, and through my company I attained very useful knowledge and qualifications in first aid and safeguarding. I was also visited regularly by a tutor as part of my apprenticeship. Yet this turned out to be the most disappointing of all the ‘training’ I received. Consisting largely of producing short essays on basic concepts, the NVQ course added very little quality or knowledge to my practice. One of the main problems presented by the training I received was its minimalism, with otherwise useful courses being crammed into the shortest time possible – normally an evening after a long day, or on a weekend. Some early years settings close up for several days a year to offer their staff dedicated training time. This is surely worth the added costs involved, because otherwise, as I experienced, training can become a little shambolic.

But of course, as I also found, the presence of supportive management to offer constructive criticism is probably more useful and important than any formal training. Without the help I had from the staff around me I am not sure I would have been able to get past the learning curve presented by my limited training and develop into a competent practitioner.

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

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