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Why This ‘Outstanding’ Family-Owned Nursery Setting Can’t Wait for Ofsted

The Day Nursery in Peterborough is committed to quality, and is confident it’s getting its provision right…

  • Why This ‘Outstanding’ Family-Owned Nursery Setting Can’t Wait for Ofsted

Unassumingly named it may be, but The Day Nursery in Peterborough is far from your average early years setting.

From its listed home – the type of character building you might ordinarily expect to be housing a firm of solicitors – and feature-packed outdoor space, to its impressive Ofsted record, high-quality resources and committed and highly qualified team, this is a nursery with much to inspire other providers.

“I couldn’t imagine working at another nursery after working here; I love it so much,” manager, Lauren Linskey, says of the setting – so what exactly is The Day Nursery doing so right?

Meet the team

Lauren Linskey, manager
“I’ve had quite a whirlwind career, working at every level and with every age group, from babies through to preschool. After gaining my Level 2 and 3 NVQs, I became a supervisor at 18, worked as a nursery nurse in Wales, then returned and became a deputy manager at another setting. My then manager and I came to work here together, and I became manager myself in May 2017.”

Jenny Avill, business manager
“With the Food for Life accreditation, we didn’t just want to tick the box for
ticking the box’s sake – we wanted to make sure we were doing the best we could for our business, as well as the environment and the local economy. I contacted a number of local farms and local butchers, and went to see market traders. We could have done it quicker, but we wanted to do it properly.”

Going it alone

Owner Lynne Blyth, having initially worked alongside a co-owner, took sole charge of The Day Nursery in 2007, and she hasn’t looked back.

‘Outstanding’ Ofsted reports duly arrived in 2011 and 2013 (the last time the inspectors visited, at the time of writing), and both speak in glowing terms about the setting’s inspirational leadership, its staff’s excellent practice and children’s exceptional progress.

Given her success, it is perhaps surprising that Lynne was never tempted to try to replicate her formula elsewhere, but The Day Nursery remains a proudly independent setting.

“Lynne has always described this as her ‘one egg in one basket’,” Lauren explains. “She says one’s enough to focus on, and really drives people to make the best of what we’ve got here and do 100 per cent of the job.”

Lynne’s business certainly stands out from the crowd: the aforementioned listed building aside, it benefits from a uniquely advantageous location, set in the heart of Peterborough city centre.

It attracts parents from all walks of life, from miles around, even without the convenience of a car park. But, as you would expect given the ‘outstanding’ rating, it’s not just the setting’s proximity to places of business that is attracting parents.

High standards

Behind every successful early years setting are passionate leaders and a motivated team, and The Day Nursery is no exception.

The aforementioned ‘inspirational leadership’ starts at the very top: “Lynne is the most passionate person I’ve ever met in regard to childcare, and her positive aura rubs off on everyone else,” Lauren tells us.

While she has taken a step back from the day-to-day running of the setting, Lynne’s role as vice chair of the local NDNA group and enthusiasm for embracing the latest ideas and resources means practitioners at The Day Nursery have little opportunity to get complacent – but also the support they need to meet their employer’s high expectations.

Overseeing practice on a daily basis is an experienced leadership team, headed by Lauren, focused on both maintaining standards and finding ways to improve their offering further.

Alongside her work business manager Jenny Avill, early years coordinator Jade Smith, and quality assurance manager Deborah Hunt – a former Ofsted inspector (indeed, the inspector who assessed The Day Nursery back in 2013).

“Deborah carries out a lot of observations of staff, then provides feedback on their practice – what they’re doing well, what could be done better – which has been really valuable,” Lauren explains.

“Having somebody with experience of working for Ofsted is a real advantage for us. She’s also able to advise us on upcoming changes, so we can implement anything we need to in order to get an ‘outstanding’ again.”

According to Lauren (who was in charge during the 2013 inspection while still deputy manager, just a few months after joining the setting), retaining Ofsted’s top grade when the inspectors do come to call again is the priority: “It’s really important we stay ‘outstanding’. It means everything to us, and Lynne doesn’t want anything less than that ever!”

Aside from it being a recognition of the setting’s great practice, she admits it is also a vital part of the nursery’s appeal: “It pulls people in. When I get phone calls from people that want to join the nursery, they say, ‘Your inspection was outstanding, wasn’t it?’ and I can proudly say, yes, it was, and that I was here for that. Our reputation is what keeps people coming back and recommending us.”

Of course, being a leader is a much easier proposition when you’re managing an experienced and motivated team. Many of those working at The Day Nursery have been there for several years, and an increasing number are qualified beyond Level 3 – staff turnover is low and those who leave to have children often return with their babies.

Given the current difficulties with recruitment in the early years sector, it’s a happy position to be in, but it doesn’t happen by chance.

Practitioners at the setting are supported to develop their skills and progress through the ranks, and where positions within the standard hierarchy aren’t available, new areas of responsibility can be created to let staff members shine, and let the nursery harness their strengths.

The setting has appointed a number of ‘champions’, in areas as diverse as maths and Makaton, for exactly this purpose.

Going further

As part of their ongoing efforts to offer children and parents the best, The Day Nursery’s team have devoted much time and effort to gaining a range of early years accreditations.

Recently, the setting became the first in Peterborough to be awarded NDNA’s Millie’s Mark, which requires all staff members to be first aid-qualified and life-saving knowledge kept at the forefront of their minds (achieved, Lauren tells us, by regularly addressing queries and providing best practice updates in staff meetings), and also received the Soil Association’s Food for Life Early Years award.

Food for Life is a recognition of the setting’s commitment to providing a healthy and varied menu, but that’s not the whole story: regular cooking activities see children invited into the kitchen to make recipes with nursery chef, Denise Bridges, while growing takes place in the outdoor area, broadening their understanding of the world.

Making it a success was clearly hard work – business manager, Jenny Avill, spent a lot of time sourcing fresh, sustainably farmed ingredients at affordable prices – but the benefits, both in terms of children’s long-term health and the nursery’s reputation, are easy to appreciate.

Focused on the details

Care, attention and no little amount of money has gone into The Day Nursery, to ensure it offers children a fantastic environment in which to learn through play, and offers parents both value for money and peace of mind.

Its recently revamped interior features calming neutral tones, hessian-clad notice boards and wooden resources, while the new-look office has been decluttered and equipped with a comfortable sofa, creating a more welcoming space for parents.

Crucially, the atmosphere throughout is friendly and family-orientated, in keeping with the ownership of the business.

“Lynne puts in a lot of effort to make sure that parents are really well looked after,” Lauren tells us – highlighting a change in business hours that provided greater flexibility for those working beyond 5.30pm, and surveys to canvass opinion on what improvements might be made to the setting.

“One thing that was raised in a recent parent survey was whether we might add a second handrail on the stairs, because some people carried their child on the other side,” Lauren explains. “So we put another one up. When it was there, everyone told us how much of a difference it made – and that all came from something one mum had said.”

Communication with home has a high priority, and to strengthen links The Day Nursery has turned to technology. Its Famly software gives parents up-to-date reports on their children’s eating and sleeping habits; access to practitioners’ observations and children’s next steps; and a convenient way to keep track of invoices.

They can also share observations and images of their own, which can then be linked to the EYFS, providing a more holistic picture of children’s development.

“It’s so user-friendly – everything’s in one place, parents can access it on their phone, and we’ve had so much more communication with home since it was introduced,” Lauren says.

Alongside this is a secure NurseryCam webcam system that not only allows management to keep an eye on the rooms but also enables parents to log in and view their children in real time whenever they are in attendance.

“It offers peace of mind for parents,” Lauren says, “especially those new parents who are upset that they’ve got to go back to work and leave their baby – it stops that feeling they can have of ‘Oh god, I’m ringing again!’ though we always encourage them to call if they want to, as making sure they’re happy is really important to us.”

Continuing the technological theme, access to The Day Nursery comes via a biometric entry system (more peace of mind for parents), while the toddler and preschool rooms benefit from the latest touchscreen table computers from 10 Squared, and EducationCity software, focused on boosting skills in the core subjects of English, maths and science.

It’s not a case of ‘money is no object’, Lauren stresses, but considerable investment has gone, and continues to go, into equipping the setting to an impressively high standard.

It’s not all about technology, of course. Other efforts to forge links with home, for example, have included the introduction of a ‘lending book and game library’, featuring a wide range of titles and home learning packs.

Targeted at children approaching the transition to Reception, the latter feature whiteboard pens, sponges and wipeable boards alongside simple reading books and activities, and forms inviting parent feedback on their children’s efforts.

A scheme that helps parents solve the problem of inconvenient library opening times while developing school-readiness skills, it’s just another example of a setting that’s focused on the details.

Visit thedaynurserypeterborough.co.uk.

Learning outdoors

The Day Nursery doesn’t have the largest outdoor space, but it hasn’t been ignored. Currently undergoing an overhaul (that started life as merely a plan to replace the astroturf), it packs in a mud kitchen and picnic bench, climbing and water walls, a place for planting and, on the day of our visit, an uninvited nesting mallard. The highlights, however, have to be the two bespoke ‘bendy houses’, created by the set designer responsible for the garden in CBeebies’ show Mr Bloom’s Nursery. Equipped with electric lighting, they’re the ideal venue for imaginative role play.

Extra value

Adding value for children and parents are the varied ‘extra-curricular’ classes that The Day Nursery offers at no additional cost. Covering physical development in the form of dance and sports coaching sessions, and music and languages through Bilinguasing, the classes take place on varying days, ensuring as many children as possible can benefit, and, Lauren tells us, are a definite selling point for the setting: “I recommend trying out the taster sessions, seeing how much the children enjoy them, and then, if you can work out a way of getting them into the nursery, even if it’s only once a month, it’s definitely a benefit.”

Sensory stimulation

What was an unused space in need of a purpose at The Day Nursery has been transformed into a fully featured sensory room. “It’s really nice – the children all want to go in there!” Lauren says. “There are bubble tubes and a ball pool, bead-runners on the wall and a CD player so they can listen to music. We’re waiting for a new panel to go in that includes some interactive games.

“The room has also been a useful tool for supporting children with SEN – it can be very calming, when they need to have break from the day-to-day activity in the rooms.”

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