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Small steps,


100 days as a
nursery school

Julian Grenier, 2003

This paper has been written with the support of the SureStart/DfES
Leadership and Management Bursary, managed by Pen Green Centre.

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1. Introduction page 3
2. Integrated services for families with young children page 3
3. Context page 4
4. How does Kate Greenaway Nursery School benefit its page 7
5. The impact of government strategy to integrate services page 10
6. Quality issues in the neighbourhood nursery scheme page 11


1. Introduction page 16
2. First visit to Kate Greenaway page 17
3. Meeting with other key partners page 18
4. Building on solid ground page 19
5. Involving staff in the change process page 20
6. Getting bogged down page 23
7. What was going wrong? page 24
8. Analysis: difficult early days page 26
9. You can’t do it all on your own page 28
10. Conclusions page 30

Bibliography page 32

Appendix 1: Staff training and development at Kate page 34

Greenaway Nursery School
Appendix 2: Imagining the future at Kate Greenaway Nursery page 38
Appendix 3: First thoughts about managing a year of change at page 42
Kate Greenaway
Appendix 4: extracts from Preparing for the future at Kate page 45
Greenaway Nursery School

Margy Whalley and Patrick Whitaker, who have re-thought and re-imagined
leadership and management in the early years.
Alison Ruddock, Ian Senior and Jeff Higgins at Islington Early Years – thank
you for your support, and your belief in comprehensive early years services
for children and families.

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1. Introduction

This is an account of my first hundred days as head of Kate Greenaway

Nursery School in Islington, London. I want to write, as far as possible, an
account of what it has actually been like. I want to try to write something
which does not idealize the situation, but allows for the messy bits, the
mistakes, and the uncertainties. Inevitably, there are important bits of the
story which have been cut out, for a variety of reasons. This is a partial
account; and it is from my point of view.

I first put a proposal to the Department for Education and Skills for a
Leadership and Management Research Bursary to examine the development
of integrated services in December 2002. At that time, I was the Head of a
long-established Nursery Centre which was part of the Early Excellence Pilot

I left that post because of my desire to work for a local authority which had a
greater understanding of integrated work in the early years. I was attracted
to Islington Council in London because of its long-standing commitment to
integrating education and childcare, both in its early years centres and in two
of its three nursery schools.

We are living in a period of unprecedented expansion and change in

England’s early childhood sector. In particular, the Neighbourhood Nursery
and Children’s Centres programmes are emphasizing new ways of delivering
services for families with young children. This research presents both the
positive and negative experiences of living through these changes. We are
living in between states. Buildings are not yet finished, staff teams not yet
recruited and trained; yet we have said the last farewells to the old ways of
doing things.

2. Integrated services for families with young children

The government has clearly stated its strategy of integrating education,

childcare, health and other services for families with young children. Its main
strategy is to transform

“the way services are delivered to ensure over time the Government
better meets the needs of children and their parents, particularly for
the most vulnerable, reflecting the early lessons of Sure Start. The
Government’s longer-term aim is to establish a children’s centre in
every one of the 20 per cent most disadvantaged wards. These centres
will bring together good quality childcare with early years education,
family support and health services. These centres will also act as service
hubs within the community for parents and providers of childcare
services for children of all ages.”
Strategy Unit, 2002: 4

3. Context

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Information in the following section is taken from the North Kings Cross Baseline
Survey (Sure Start Copenhagen, 2002), unless otherwise indicated.

Kate Greenaway Nursery School was built in 1959 in the middle of York Way
Court housing estate, a few minutes from Kings Cross station in central
London. The school is next door to York Way Community Centre.

The North Kings Cross neighbourhood in central London is undergoing

substantial redevelopment and regeneration, driven by a huge programme
of building which includes the new Eurostar terminal at Kings Cross station.
New flats, hotels, bars, restaurants and shops are multiplying in the area
immediately by the station and the canal. You can walk to the West End from
here. You can stand on the roof playground of Copenhagen Primary School
and look over the canal, to a world of al fresco dining and warehouse flats.
Look the other way and you will see the Copenhagen area of Islington, a
much more disadvantaged neighbourhood of sub standard accommodation
in low and high rise local authority blocks.

Some facts about the Copenhagen area of Islington:

• It is in the Thornhill ward, one of the 6% most deprived wards in the


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• Housing is overcrowded, with 6.8% of households living with more
than one person per room and 2.6% with more than 1.5 persons per
• 33% of people speak English as an additional language.

Islington as a whole is ethnically diverse, significantly more so than the

English average:

Islington England
White 75.4 90.9
of which White Irish 5.7 1.3
Mixed 4.1 1.3
Asian or Asian British 5.4 4.6
Indian 1.6 2.1
Pakistani 0.5 1.4
Bangladeshi 2.4 0.6
Other Asian 0.8 0.5
Black or Black British 11.9 2.1
Caribbean 4.9 1.1
African 6.0 1.0
Other Black 1.0 0.2
Chinese or Other Ethnic Group 3.3 0.9

Source: 2001 C ensus, ON

• It is a young population, with 37% of people aged under 25
• The number of people in employment is very low. 28% of people are
in full time work, with a further 7% working part time. A large
proportion of people are mothers/carers.
• 7% of people are long term sick or disabled. 12.5% of people describe
themselves as having a long-term limiting illness.
• The recorded unemployment rate is high at 10.5%. Men account for
73% of all unemployment in the area. 20% of all unemployed people
have been out of work for over a year.
• Incomes are low. Most people are in unskilled, low-waged work with
only 13.4% in management/technical positions and 8.6% in skilled
manual work. 72% of people are dependent on benefits, including
means-tested benefits for those in work.
• The Thornhill ward has the worst level of child poverty in Islington. It
is in the worst 2.5% of wards nationally on this indicator.
• Thornhill has the worst ranking in Islington for educational attainment
(adults and children) and it is in the 12% most educationally deprived
wards in the country.
• Thornhill ranks as one of the worst 2% of wards nationally for poor
• Mortality rates are 6% above the national average.
• Rates of smoking are very high – for example 31% higher than the
national average for 25-34 year olds and 100% higher for the over 65s.
• 11% of people say that they have asthma.
• Islington has a higher level of drug dependency than inner London,
with 3.4% of people dependent on drugs (compared to 2.7% in inner
London as a whole).
• Rates of crime are high, with 9% of residents stating that they have
been victims of domestic burglary in a one year period. There are high

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levels of vandalism and graffiti, and high levels of verbal abuse and

In Islington as a whole, rates of crime are significantly higher than the English

Council Islington English average

Figures below are per 1,000
Theft from a vehicle 28.4 10.8
Theft of a motor vehicle 13.4 4.8
Burglary dwelling offences 17.5 6.7
Robbery offences 9.4 1.4
Sexual offences 2.4 0.8
Violence against the person 36 14.0

In Islington as a whole, property costs are very high and rising fast. The
majority of families living in the North Kings Cross Neighbourhood live in
flats. Very few will ever be able to afford a larger property. There is some
overcrowding, and there are few opportunities for safe outdoor play.

Islington England & Wales

Average Percentage of households living Average Percentage of households living
price in this type of property price in this type of property
Detached 676,398 1.0 178,806 22.8
Semi- 400,484 2.7 101,733 31.6
Terraced 407,561 16.0 89,499 26.0
Flat 216,383 80.2 120,185 19.2
All property 264,664 119,436
Sources: 2001 C ensus, ONS
The Land Registry, 2001

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4. How does Kate Greenaway Nursery School benefit its neighbourhood?

This is a disadvantaged neighbourhood. It is affected by the usual problems

that come poverty: crime, poor-health, low-paid employment and
unemployment. It is further affected by an issue which is typical to inner
London: rich and poor living very close together. The substantial
redevelopment programme in the neighbourhood is leading to a flourishing
economy of new properties, gastro-pubs and wine-bars, arts facilities and
hotels. Meanwhile, the old economies of unskilled, manual jobs are withering

Kate Greenaway Nursery School is a striking example of how traditional

services can fail this kind of neighbourhood. Despite the fact that the nursery
school is geographically at the heart of the York Way Court community, it
has traditionally provided most benefit to the children and families who live
in the more prosperous streets and squares leading up towards the north of

For example, when Ofsted inspected the school in 1998 there were only three
children on roll who were eligible for free school meals and only one child
was on the school’s special needs register. These are exceptionally low figures
even by national standards, let alone Islington’s. However, because Ofsted’s
role in the inspection was to focus solely on educational outcomes, this passes
without comment in the report.

The nursery backs onto the local community centre. The hall of the centre is
designed to look out onto the nursery garden through large glazed doors.

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Pictures are the best way to tell the story of how the closeness of the nursery
school and the community centre is geographical – and nothing more.

Photo 1 The back of York Way Community Centre seen from Kate Greenaway Nursery

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Photo 2 This is what you see through the large glazed doors of York Way Community
Centre: the back of a shed, erected by Kate Greenaway Nursery School.

Photo 3 Local parents run a drop-in for children under three at the Community Centre.
The children, who are right next door to the nursery school, play on a dangerous,
unattractive, hard terraced area with large steps.

Soon after starting as headteacher at Kate Greenaway, I saw children playing

in the hall and went over to speak to their parents. I found out that this was
the first time a member of staff from the school had ever visited them. The
drop-in has now closed.

5. The impact of government strategy to integrate services

The previous interim headteacher at Kate Greenaway successfully applied for

funding from the Neighbourhood Nurseries Initiative. Funding from NNI is
enabling the school to extend its premises with a new, purpose-built area for
children under two and to extend its services to the provision of year-round
integrated education and childcare.

Because these developments have not, at the time of writing, been completed
it is only possible to speculate on the likely impact:

Key issue for the Impact of traditional Potential impact of new,

neighbourhood nursery school services integrated services
Economic The school traditionally NNI requirement to focus on
deprivation: child mainly served the most families on low incomes will
poverty, adult affluent people living create affordable childcare
unemployment, nearby and therefore places. These may enable
high proportion had almost no impact more parents to return to
of adults in low- on these issues. work and therefore reduce
waged/low- local unemployment and
skilled jobs child poverty.

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Poor educational The nursery school was Findings from the EPPE
attainment. described by Ofsted as Project show that integrated
providing “an overall centres have better
sound standard of educational outcomes for
education for its pupils.” children than traditional
nursery schools, although the
difference is small.
Poor health. The nursery school The extended nursery school
provided an outdoor will provide outdoor play
play space which is large facilities for more local
by local standards which children, including toddlers.
enabled children aged 3- Working with Sure Start, the
4 to engage in outdoor, nursery will be able to
large-scale physical play. provide advice for parents on
Younger children only nutrition, giving up smoking,
had access to very and other health issues.
substandard drop-in Working with health visitors,
facilities. The school the nursery will provide
provided no services groups for new parents,
with local health visitors teenage parents, and other
or other health targeted groups.
Crime No data available on the Some research indicates that
impact of nursery the long-term impact of
schools on local rates of integrated services for
crime. families with young children
it to reduce rates of crime
(Zoritch, Roberts and Oakley,

In short, the signs are that the national policy drive towards integration of
services are likely to have a significant number of positive outcomes. In the
past, Kate Greenaway Nursery School provided little benefit to the people
who lived in the two surrounding estates.

However, national policies also create some significant difficulties. Again, it is

too early to quantify the impact of these difficulties but early experiences and
indications are significant.

6. Quality issues in the neighbourhood nursery scheme

Kate Greenaway will remain a nursery school and will retain its core nursery
school budget. This gives it a very significant advantage over many other
NNI schemes. But even in this comparatively favourable context levels of
funding create significant problems.

The EPPE Project clearly shows that staff teams which consist of both teachers
and trained nursery nurses provide the best education for young children.
The business-model of NNI funding is geared towards a large proportion of
staff being unqualified. This has the following implications for Kate
Greenaway Nursery School – which, as stated before, has advantageous
funding because of its core nursery school budget:

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1. Nearly fifty percent of the staff to be taken on for the new posts will be
2. The number of qualified teachers on the staff team will drop from
three to two.

In other words, the structure of the NNI is not geared to the best educational
outcomes for young children. Kate Greenaway – like most NNIs – is located
in an area where educational outcomes are, in general, poor.

Looking at the wider employment issues for the local community, the
number of adults in low-skilled/low-paid jobs has a significant impact on
overall low standards of living. But the staff structure at Kate Greenaway,
which follows the limits of NNI funding, will simply create more low-paid,
unqualified jobs for local people. The school is seeking to ameliorate this
problem by creating training posts rather than static unqualified posts, so that
local people can gain the qualifications to move onto better paid jobs in the
future. But we are constrained by lack of available funding to pay for the
support and supervision these posts in training will require.

This leads to the wider point, that providing affordable childcare may reduce
unemployment but still have a very limited impact on families living in
poverty. Recent research undertaken in Hackney (London School of Hygiene
and Tropical Medicine, 2003) has recently shown how the development of
Mapledene Early Excellence Centre in Hackney has provided more childcare
places for local parents, and enabled many of them to take up jobs. In
comparison, the parents down the road who only had the option of a short
day for their children in a nursery class were more likely to be unemployed.
But in virtually all cases, although the parents moved off benefits and into
work, the family was actually no better off as a result. As one of the mothers
commented, “I wanted to go back into work. It would have been 27 hours
and I would have £107.10, but I would have got £100 taken off my Family
Credit. I still would have had to pay £50 for rent and £15 council tax. Then
there's childcare, which is £45, and then I would be left with nothing. Even if
you work full time you're still going to be short of some money.” (London
School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 2003)

Local parents have also expressed concerns to staff in the local Sure Start
programme that the NNI places at Kate Greenaway will not enable them to
seek employment or prepare for employment, as they are geared to families
where parents are already in work.

So at this stage, experience, anecdotal feedback and research undertaken in a

comparable neighbourhood in Hackney indicate that the NNI may have
significant structural problems which will undermine the stated aims of
central government:

“Childcare can improve educational outcomes for children and their

parents. Childcare enables parents, particularly mothers, to go out to
work, or increase their hours in work, thereby lifting their families out
of poverty.” (Strategy Unit, 2002: 7)

A key concern for the programme at Kate Greenaway is its sustainability.

Spreadsheet modelling shows that, within the already discussed limitations of

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the scheme, the first two years will be adequately funded. But by years four
and five, it is necessary to make assumptions which are possible, but frankly
optimistic: that occupancy will be 100%, that there will be no bad debts, for
example. Kate Greenaway is comparatively advantaged: as a local authority
maintained nursery school, it is less likely than many other settings to go
bankrupt and close. Yet in truth, there is no obvious contingency should there
be a significant gap in revenue compared to projections.

Finally, the NNI scheme has provided the school with sufficient capital
funding for the new build, but not enough for anything more than the
“making good” of the outdoor play space. If Kate Greenaway is to develop a
playspace which is designed to be appropriate for the whole age range, from
birth to five, we will need to draw down significant funding in addition to the
NNI capital. Although some progress has been made towards receiving this
funding, we are not close to receiving the amounts we need. In the case of the
closest local setting to benefit from NNI funding, the children only have a
small roof-terrace for outdoor play. This is a neighbourhood where most
children live in flats, where some flats are overcrowded, and where public
playspaces for children under five are poor.

The daycare standards do not require settings to have any outdoor playspace;
the NNI scheme does not require this either. This is a significant omission. It
seems strange that the government, the media and others are baffled by
rising early childhood obesity, on the one hand; but the government is
unwilling to insist that children in daycare settings have space to play
outdoors as a basic entitlement. Settings will “normally” have outdoor space,
but they are allowed not to so long as the children are “safely escorted to
local parks,
playgrounds or the equivalent on a regular basis” (Sure Start: [no date], 15).
Perhaps it is coincidence, but the nearest NNI to Kate Greenaway only has a
roof terrace; the private day nursery two minutes up the road from where I
live has no outdoor space at all. So in London, it seems not to be abnormal to
have no, or only the most limited outdoor space for children to play in.

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Photo 2 It has not proved possible to take a picture of children in the play area on the
estate. There is almost nothing for children to play with.

Photo 3 The shape of the outdoor space at Kate Greenaway makes it difficult to keep
children in view. Changes in level make it unsuitable for toddlers and inaccessible for
children with physical disabilities

It is worth pausing to reflect on the likely outcomes of the Kate Greenaway

NNI. Firstly, there is no cause for regret at the passing of the traditional

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nursery school. It met virtually none of the needs of its local community.
There is practically no case to be made for a traditional, stand-alone nursery
school in North Kings Cross.

Potentially, the outcomes of the new nursery offering integrated services are
much better for local people. But it is important not to gloss over the
problems that remain.

• The type of employment which local parents may take up, might not
make much of a contribution to the living standards of their families.
• NNI funding does not provide for the quality of staff team which the
EPPE Project found most effective.
• NNI funding does not provide for a quality outdoor play

It might be argued that something is better than nothing; but this is not
necessarily the case. Bain and Barnett’s in-depth research in the 1980s found
that low-quality childcare has a negative effect on children. The children who
attended the day nursery achieved considerably less well at school, than those
who did not (Bain, A and Barnett, L, 1986).

There is the possibility of spending a large sum of capital money, and several
years of revenue funding, to create a childcare setting of questionable quality,
so that parents can access low-paid, low-skilled employment.

Not exactly a happy thought.

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1. Introduction

The story of extending the scope of Kate Greenaway Nursery School is partly
about the workings of the local context, national strategies and other
mechanisms noted above. These have a highly significant bearing on the
likelihood of the project being successful.

But the change process is also, and importantly, about relationships,

interactions, excitement and despondency, highs and lows. It is about
whether new visions, new processes for working, and new collaborations
take hold and thrive; or wither on the rocky ground of anxiety, uncertainty
and confusion.

Principally, this second section is a piece of ethnographic research which is

“concerned to understand the subjective world of human experience” (Siraj-
Blatchford and Siraj-Blatchford, 2001: 193).

I cannot give a comprehensive account of my first 100 days as headteacher of

Kate Greenaway Nursery School. Nor am I the appropriate person to
provide a wide-ranging account of the school in the act of change. But I
believe that my perspective will have some particular points of interest and
some wider relevance too.

Firstly, the early days in a leadership/management role have a particular

intensity and can be seen as a period when key decisions are made that steer
an organisation towards success, disaster, or perhaps most commonly the
choppy and hazardous waters of uncertain providence (Brown, 2002:3)

Secondly, the change process in an early years setting often starts off at an
unpromising place. The promise lies in the future – the new funding, the new
building, the new staff, children and families to come. But often the starting
point is difficult. Two typical examples which I know personally, are:

• An unsuccessful local authority nursery school merging with an

antiquated, hospital-based resource for children with disabilities.
• A successful nursery school merging with a day nursery, regarded by
the latter group of staff as a takeover and leaving a legacy of ill-feeling

In the case of Kate Greenaway, the school has recently had a most turbulent
history. There have been five headteachers/acting headteachers in as many
years. There had been significant staff turnover and staff sickness. At one
point in recent history, both the quality of the education and care on offer to
children and the maintenance of the building had become seriously

So the school faced the immediate issue of the need for rapid improvement,
as well as the longer term implications of changing from a traditional nursery
school into providing integrated education and care for children from birth to

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During these first 100 days, I have kept a journal of significant events. I have
selected a small number of these for consideration, because they seem to me
to have wider interest and relevance, and to stand for certain larger themes in
the nursery school itself.

2. First visit to Kate Greenaway

Freshly painted, the school looks bright and there is extensive display of
children’s artwork on the walls. I am reminded of the infant schools from my
early teaching practices. There are rows of paintings on the hall wall, copies of
Monet’s painting Bassin aux nymphéas. In fact, having arrived early, whilst I
am waiting for the interim headteacher to finish a conversation on the phone
I start to feel very much like I did when I visited a school before my final
teaching practice…

We talk together about how the nursery has developed, and the problems
which remain - I start to feel overwhelmed by the number of recent

Whilst we are talking a member of staff crashes in – no knock on the door -

and virtually accuses the interim head of being responsible for the fact that
something has been lost that she needs to use with the children…

The nursery class has so much stuff in it – it must be overwhelming for the
children – there are so many boxes, trays, shelves, every surface space is
crowded. There is a set of maple bricks but there isn’t a big enough space to
play with them. What space there is, has been filled with a plastic map of a
roadway and some small plastic cars…

A member of staff is in the sandpit with a child. As the child is filling up a

bucket, she issues a stream of instructions – “put more in – put it up to the top
– that’s it – now turn it over – oh no you did it too fast, you can’t make a
sandcastle – try again”…

I don’t see anyone engaged in an extended conversation with a child, or

showing close interest in what a child is doing…

At story time – children put into groups, by ability. There is a kind of

“nurture group” which focuses more on turn-taking and social skills than

Some of my notes on the tube home at the end of the day are:

• Felt very lost today, everyone looking at me, wondering what I was
• Confident I can improve this – will be important that staff understand
and are part of developing – must make sure that there is a solid core
of understanding about children, families, play, inclusion of children
with special needs
• Will need to change everything – the new building, the new remit of
working with children 0-5 – it isn’t like building something new onto
good, established practice.

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3. Meeting with other key partners

Using the funding from the DfES/Sure Start bursary, I was able to meet with
staff from the early years department, the head of a local early years centre,
two local primary school heads and local people involved in the community

Some key points from my notes after these meetings:

• The school is very well-liked and supported by some people locally –

principally parents of children who have attended.
• The school is disliked by many people who live on the estate – they say
that their children were denied places, and other children from further
away got in.
• The second view came to the fore in the Sure Start consultation with
local people – Kate Greenaway not seen as a resource for local people.
• Neither primary school head had ever visited Kate Greenaway,
though the schools are less than five minutes walk from each other.
Until my predecessor did some consultancy at one local school, heads
at Kate Greenaway had no involvement with the local primary
schools. One of the primary school heads was not sure if the nursery
was an Islington school, or a private nursery.

I was able to use the network of practitioners involved in the bursary to talk
about my very first experiences. I received a substantial amount of advice
about the building programme, which was extremely helpful but which falls
outside the remit of this paper. Some of the other advice I received was to:

• Focus immediately with the staff team on plans for the future – taking
account of the information already gathered about the local
neighbourhood and context. Establish myself as a new headteacher
with vision.
• Focus on key values – approaches to working with children and
• Build on the perceived strengths of the nursery.

Reflecting on this advice, and my own experiences, I planned three days of

staff training and development to give me time to get to know everyone, to
have sufficient time to talk through my ideas and engage in discussion with
the staff team. The outline for these days is reproduced in Appendix 1.

4. Building on solid ground

“The race is run something like this. The environment is the first priority
for changes…all the paraphernalia reflecting your predecessor’s siege
mentality – all those are ruthlessly spirited away in black
bags…curriculum guidelines are drawn up…willing and unwilling staff are
despatched to observe good practice …the illusion is that at some point
you will reach a finishing line and triumph.”

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(Anning, 1983)

Looking back at my first 100 days as headteacher at Kate Greenaway

Nursery School, Anning’s words fall on me like drops of boiling water onto
snow. They describe all too poignantly what I think about the recent history
of my leadership.

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5. Involving staff in the change process

One of my first aims as a new headteacher, was to give staff time and space to
discuss the process of change. I wanted to be part of the process of
considering where the school was positioned, in September 2003, and
imagining what change might look like.

I prepared three days of training and development for the staff team,
focussing on these two themes. I also distributed a short paper on my vision
for the future of Kate Greenaway Nursery School.

The response I received was puzzling. Staff expressed unanimous support for
the proposed changes at Kate Greenaway. Perhaps, having experienced
many years where the very continuation of the school was uncertain, this is
not unexpected. Nevertheless, there was a strong dose of realism in
discussion about what the change process would involve. The notes of this
discussion have been edited for this paper, in order to remove the more
directly personal comments made and to focus solely on the issue of change
at work.

• I need to prepare for a change – I don’t deal well with it if it’s sprung on me. I
don’t like the unknown – I need the change NOW.
• I like to imagine the worst – what terrible things could happen – then it’s a
relief to see how things turn out
• I look on the bright side – I like change but I need pushing into change. I like
to learn new things – I’m excited. I like a new start.
• Some words – excited happy frightened worried overwhelmed sad
• Change has stressed me
• Joyous and terrifying. Exciting but anxiety-provoking. Happy … but
wondered am I doing the right thing?
• Relief of going from a bad to a good situation. Stress. Fear. Coping/adjusting.
Longing for what’s gone before even though I liked the new situation. “What
have I done?”
• Thinking about it is more frightening than the reality.
• I’m a creature of habit – I like routines – I don’t mind change that creeps up on
me – change here will be gradual – your old job changing feels safer than
getting a new job.

It seemed to me that the staff team had a realistic, grounded and mainly
positive outlook on change at this stage. For example, there was no-one on
the team publicly voicing the idea that everything should just be left alone,
and change will only spoil a good school. Nor was there any comment to
indicate that the direction of the changes – to having a wider range of
children, and to providing childcare with education – is wrong. Whilst I have
often encountered staff in nursery classes and schools expressing the feeling
that the extended day is too long a time, or that children should mainly be at
home with their parents, this was not a view put forward by the staff team at
Kate Greenaway Nursery School.

In the area of nursery practice, the staff team found what I was proposing
even less controversial. I had wanted to emphasize the importance of high-
quality first-hand experiences, and of play. We spent time reading the section
on play from Tina Bruce’s Learning Through Play; Babies, Toddlers and the

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Foundation Stage (Bruce, 2001). We spent some time watching and discussing
sections from the BBC’s Tuning into Children video. Current practice at Kate
Greenaway was discussed after consideration of the practice on the video.

The staff team was somewhat bored by this. There was a strong sense that
this was exactly what the nursery staff were already doing and were already
familiar with. I was teaching grandmothers to suck eggs.

At the end of my first two weeks at Kate Greenaway, I made the following
notes to help me prepare for writing the School Improvement Plan:

Play The school states its commitment to play. Virtually all the play
going on is child-initiated and not supported by adult – e.g.
areas like the home corner are poorly resourced and
organised – so it is more a “laissez-faire” set up where
children have a lot of freedom, than a play curriculum.
Children’s Lots of negative strategies used where this is found to be
personal, challenging e.g. shouting, excluding children from activities,
social, labelling children. Other times staff seem to feel helpless and
emotional seem to be desperately asking children to behave
development appropriately. The youngest children often look lost in the
size of the nursery classroom. The key person system is
mainly administrative rather than creating close attachments
e.g. an upset child will rarely want – or be supported by –
her/his key person; key person rarely looks out for arrival of
key child at start of session.
Lunch time horrible, noisy, table far too large, difficult to get
lunch set up in the nursery room and then tidied up in time
for afternoon session, food shipped in and not very nice…
Only one soap dispenser for all the 50 children in the
bathroom and no paper towel dispenser – they all use a
couple of towels left over the partition of one of the toilet
cubicles. Feels uncaring.
Planning Planning does not link to Curriculum Guidance. For lots of
and children – masses and masses of little observations, but hardly
assessment anything about their learning – some children go 6 months
and nothing noted down about maths, or reading.
Building The building is running late – there’s no way it will start in
November – the projections are now over budget and savings
are being proposed which will make the whole programme
unsuitable (e.g. no covered area in front of the new under 2s
area). The garden – there is no money in the programme for
this and its literally eroding away in front of us now, with the
very hot summer followed by a period of rain causing the
grass areas to become bogs.

For me, the most serious problem was addressing the gap between how the
nursery school saw itself – according to previous staff self-evaluations – and
how it appeared to me, how I imagined it was experienced by children and
their parents. I thought that the only way to do this, would be to involve the
staff team in a reflective process of development. One of the most urgent
needs in the school was to improve planning and assessment – not least
because of the likelihood of an Ofsted inspection coming soon.

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I decided that the process of how this work would be done, would be very
important; as a staff team, we discussed the process of changing the planning
and assessment system and agreed to use a short cycle of action research to:

• Review current practice and the recent history of planning and

assessment at Kate Greenaway

• Visit other local schools and setting to find out about the systems they
used, and to discuss their effectiveness

• Review all the material collected

• Work together on creating a new policy and approach.

In particular, I wanted us as a staff team to feel that we all “owned” the new
procedures. Everyone needed to understand what we were doing, and why.

There was a busy period of working together, followed by a drawing-

together of work, and the main outline of the new policy was agreed with
remarkably little controversy.

Meanwhile, the staff team also spent a significant amount of time sorting
through resources and disposing of a huge amount of surplus material. The
nursery class was piled high with boxes and loose bits of equipment
everywhere. There were two stock cupboards, both full. There was a large,
garage-style shed outdoors, together with an additional structure built on the
back, and a large playhouse now filled with equipment, and a garden shed.
All of them were piled high with equipment. Sometimes, we would come
across unopened boxes lying underneath miscellaneous bits of material, half-
complete construction sets and broken chairs.

Photo 4 there was a huge amount of equipment to sort out and some needed to be
disposed of.

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Photo 5 Resource areas for the children were often dirty, dingy and uninviting.

By December 2003, a lot of work had been done.

In January 2004, the school’s link inspector reviewed a nursery session with
me, and commented that the quality of the children’s experience was
unsatisfactory, and changes were having little or no actual effect in this
significant area.

6. Getting bogged down

Meanwhile, the other developments were not going smoothly. The start date
for the building slipped from November, to December, to January, to the end
of February. The meetings about the building work ceased to focus on
optimistic hopes and desires for the new building. Instead, there were
remorseless rounds of cost-cutting as every tender came in significantly over

A consultant came to look at the outdoors, just at the point that the whole
budget for outdoor works was deleted. We had a rather mournful tour
around on a grim, grey drizzly day. The implication, that it was the worst
outdoor area she had ever seen, was not lost on me.

Staff morale plunged. I think it was best summed up by the member of staff
who, in a mix of despair, rage and exasperation, looked directly at me in a
meeting and said, “you must know what you want, none of us do. It’s like
everything we do is wrong.” I felt that I had really let down the staff team,
because they seemed so lost and uncertain as a result of my interventions.

It was all going to plan – to Angela Anning’s plan, that is.

It was all going horribly wrong.

7. What was going wrong?


Brown (2002: 13) comments that the headteacher in her study was dealing
with a school which had “few effective management systems in place.
Therefore the new headteacher needed to spend time establishing the
systems and structures that would scaffold the work of the school. The task

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was essential but time consuming and a distraction from other key concerns,
such as monitoring teaching in the classroom.”

I was fortunate to inherit good administrative systems, but unfortunately the

other management systems in the school were considerably under-
developed. For example:

• No-one was overseeing children’s profile books, which were stored in

an open-access filing cabinet in the nursery class which parents were
encouraged to access. One had a comment on its opening page, written
by a student on placement, stating that the child’s mother should
spend less time in the nursery as her presence only caused upset. Other
profile books had gaps of up to 6 months when no comment at all
would have been entered in a key area Communication, Language and
• None of the staff had copies of the individual plans for children with
special needs. Even the dedicated special needs support worker did not
have copies of the plans, and she had received no training on special
needs whatsoever.
• Children could freely access the front door of the nursery; reach the
single handle which had no locking system; and open the door.

I spent considerable time focussing on accountabilities and management

structures in the nursery, in order to address these problems. However, this
was time which was not spent looking closely at the quality of the children’s
actual day by day, hour by hour experience in the nursery.


“The frequency of changes in leadership, each bringing a different set

of ideas, could not have been helpful.”
(Brown, 2002: 14)

There were significant, and often long-standing, issues affecting the quality of
the work achieved by staff in the school. Some staff had received little or no
training. Others were unclear about their roles. There was no agreement
about who was accountable for different areas of work, or who staff could go
to if they needed help. Meetings started late. They were not minuted. People
were sometimes aggressive and rude to each other. There were no formal
support or performance management systems in place.

However, as time went by my understanding of the impact of the frequent

changes in headteacher changed considerably. There were staff working in
the school who had little recent experience of direct, close management and
supervision; of having their work looked at, talked about, or challenged.
Frequent changes in headteacher can lead to staff gaining a type of autonomy
which is unhelpful: the autonomy to do their own thing, regardless of the
stated aims or policies of the institution. For example, faced with almost
empty record books for some children, I was told that one member of staff
(who had left by then) “didn’t like doing observations and didn’t see the point
of them.”


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Despite attempts to cut back and to organise resources, week by week the
nursery seemed to get more chaotic. Areas in the nursery class almost always
looked dismal and uninviting, and any available surface quickly got piled high
with paintings, odds and ends picked up off the floor, coffee cups and
handouts from staff meetings. A member of staff, picking up on my
frustration, told me simply that everyone who had come in as head had tried
to get the nursery tidier and more organised at first, but had given up in the
end because it was an impossible task.

Photo 6 Every surface seemed to get piled high with equipment and other odds and ends.
The staff room (right) was a particular problem.

8. Analysis: difficult early days

Looking back at my thoughts when I first started as headteacher, I was naïve;

I underestimated how difficult it would be to change the culture of the
nursery. I believed that by setting out a clear vision for change, I would be
able to inspire the staff team and lead them and the nursery into a more
promising future. I had the backing of the local authority and the governors
to do this; and I had substantial funding for the building programme.

Naivety is, perhaps, rather close to vanity; it is a kind of vanity to assume that
change will happen through inspiration and excitation. It is perhaps a vanity
of our times, to believe that a new head can come in and turn an institution
around quickly, or that new names and “fresh starts” can obliterate the
troubles and histories of schools in difficulties.

In fact, my experience of bringing about change at Kate Greenaway is much

more like taking little steps in slippery mud. Take too big a step and you will
fall, or slip backwards. The skill is in searching for a bit of firm ground, or
being absolutely sure of your balance before you take a move. I am able to
look back at solid achievements we have made as a staff team –
improvements in planning, record-keeping, range of experiences offered to
children, special needs planning, and training and development for staff to
take some examples. Nevertheless, the process of change is destabilising. As
a result of this destabilising, the nursery has often got worse as a result of my
interventions, because I have caused staff to question what they are doing,
and therefore to lose confidence and assurance. One example of this is the
issue of managing children’s behaviour.

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The following is a sample of incidents which have occurred since I started at
Kate Greenaway. In writing up these incidents now, which I recorded in my
journal, I have taken out some details and made some changes so that
individuals cannot be identified. It is important to emphasize that most
parents find that the nursery provides good care for their children; and that
the staff, as individuals and as a collective, are committed to children’s
wellbeing and spends considerable time discussing and trying to find
solutions to the difficult issues which are inevitably faced working in the
Kings Cross neighbourhood.

1. A parent came to complain to a member of staff about a child’s

behaviour. The member of staff called the child to her from across the
nursery room and rebuked the child.

2. A child was picked up at the end of nursery from his key group with a
visible injury. The key person had not noticed this. When the parent
came in later to discuss the incident, she also stated that her son had
bruises all down his legs where he was being kicked, repeatedly, by
another child.

3. A parent said, in a meeting to review her child’s Individual Education

Plan, that when her child started at nursery, his behaviour had been
difficult. A member of staff spoke to her about her child’s behaviour;
her experience of this event, was that she feared her child would be
excluded from nursery. In the review meeting, she said she spent the
whole afternoon and evening crying.

The nursery could, as on these occasions, be seen to be neglectful of the

children and families in its care. It is understandable that working class
parents may feel on the one hand that they are scrutinised, judged and
condemned for their poor parenting; whilst at the same time the “authorities”
– as represented by the quality of the services provided for young children –
are negligent “parents”. In fact, there was an occasion when a child was
picked up from the nursery; and was soaking wet; and his mother wryly
commented to me that “if I brought him in like that, I bet you’d have
something to say about it.”

The consequence of these incidents was that I put considerable emphasis on

the need to give the children better care. Time was also given to discussing
positive strategies to help children learn appropriate behaviour in the

My intervention made the problems get worse. Staff were demoralised when
I told them that I thought the quality of care needed urgent improvement –
they had always seen the nursery as caring. In a previous self-evaluation
exercise they had described the quality of care as “good to excellent”. Some
staff became confused that the need to be caring of the children, meant that
they should not uphold boundaries when managing difficult behaviour.
Difficult events, when discussed, were always seen as the child’s fault, or the
result of the child’s “problem”, and as a staff team we did not find ourselves
able to reflect on how the environment or organisation might need

Page 25 of 46
I had wanted to organise for small groups at the end of each session; this
meant that the team found it more difficult to get the room tidied up
(previously the children had been in one big group of 50 and some staff had
been released to tidy up). The nursery got messier.

The combination of difficult and aggressive behaviour from the children, low
morale and confusion amongst the staff team, and a messy and unattractive
environment, contributed to an overall sense that the nursery was not getting
any better; that it is getting worse.

9. You can’t do it all on your own

“The complexity of the leadership role and the task with which Angela
was immediately confronted risked driving her to focus so much on the
immediate, and in particular the school environment, that she was
disabled from looking at the big picture and asking herself, “What’s this
got to do with improving the children’s learning and achievements?””
(Brown, 2002: 19)

It is naïve, or vain, or both, to think that as a headteacher you can implement

rapid change and improvement – even in a very small school. Working in a
small staff team, constantly striving for things to be done differently, is an
uncomfortable position for a head to take up. There is almost nothing, and
there is almost no-one, to absorb the pressures. In the school, I could draw
support from the part-time administration officer at the school; this was
important to me.

The national, school-inspection framework also creates its own, significant

pressures. Ofsted defines school leadership as first, and therefore presumably
foremost, “clear vision, a sense of purpose and high aspirations for the
school, with a relentless focus on pupils’ achievement” (Ofsted, 2003: 46)

There is a considerable gap between this kind of statement, and the types of
leadership and management that have traditionally been effective in early
years settings (Whalley, 1999a). Early years leaders have always known that
young children thrive when there is a satisfying balance in their lives of
sensitive and respectful care, with cognitive challenge. The narrowness of
Ofsted’s focus, the actual word and then the concept of relentlessness; these
do not seem helpful to me. Relentlessness is what parents and other adults
need to protect their children from.

Set against this, there is the vital importance of having a network of capable
and confident early years practitioners, colleagues and friends. In England,
the early years sector is still small enough to be friendly; and the occasional
email, telephone chat and discussion has often been enormously sustaining.
In this respect, the staff team’s decision to work with a “pedagogue”
(Whalley, 1999b:7), is likely to be highly significant. This working relationship
has not yet begun, but the important planned features are:

1. The pedagogue will specifically focus on the experiences of the

children; their learning, the care they receive, and their development.
The pedagogue will become knowledgeable about the nursery, its
children, staff and its community; but not working there daily, also

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will have a fresh and sharp focus which is not encumbered by
management responsibilities etc.

2. The role will require rigour, focussing directly on the quality of the
nursery, and drawing on a wide experience of successful practice in
England, and internationally; but the pedagogue will also be a friend
to the nursery, a supporter, encourager and helper.

3. The training and development programme which will be led by the

pedagogue, will relate backwards and forwards to the actual
experiences of life in the nursery. This will bring theory and practice
together; theory is re-examined in the light of the actual practicalities
of running the nursery provision; the practicalities are challenged by
the notion that problems can be re-thought.

The school is also engaging an external consultant to work with staff on the
issues of children’s emotional needs in a nursery setting, on working with
parents, and on team development and managing change.

Both these initiatives are discussed more fully in Appendix 4.

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10. Conclusions

Any conclusions I make at this stage are necessarily tentative.

Change in the early years

The early years sector is in the middle of huge changes. There are very good
reasons to change the type of services being offered to children and families,
as I have demonstrated with reference to the North Kings Cross
neighbourhood. It is possible that within a few years, the traditional nursery
school offering only termtime, sessional education for children aged three
and four, will be extinct – or virtually so.

Aspects of government policy are creating difficulties in this change process.

The short-term (5-year) funding of the neighbourhood nursery initiative is
unrealistic. It will be virtually impossible for the nursery to break even, solely
with the fees paid by the target group (low-paid parents in North Kings
Cross). The nature of Working Tax Credit means that no support is given to
parents actively seeking work, or families where one parent or the sole
parent is studying. More funding, through more secure and long-lasting
sources, would give the Neighbourhood Nursery a sturdier future and make
more impact on reducing child and family poverty.

The model of the NNI – with insufficient funding to employ teachers or even
an all-qualified workforce – will not give children the best outcomes. This is
demonstrated in the EPPE research, At Kate Greenaway, the funding
problem is considerably ameliorated by the core nursery school budget, and
the additional support of the local authority. All the same, major quality
issues remain: the loss of one teacher, and the lack of money to develop a
safe, stimulating and suitable outdoor space for the whole age range.

Change in a nursery school

Every early years setting, every nursery and every school, will present its
own particular strengths and difficulties when faced with the process of

All the same, despite the circumstances and contexts being very different,
there are interesting parallels between the issues which I have faced, and
those faced by “Angela” in Patricia Brown’s 1992 study of the first hundred
days of a headship in a primary school.

The most fundamental of these, is the sheer amount of necessary change:

• Building programme/improvement of the environment

• Developing basic management systems
• Developing training, development and support programmes for each
member of staff

A lot of these tasks are strategic, to do with the “architecture” of the

institution and its structures. They are important tasks. But an even more
urgent and important task is also present: the need to provide well for the
young children and their families who, right now, depend upon the nursery to
provide a good quality of care and education. It is easy for this to get lost in

Page 28 of 46
the focus; when the building programme is going all wrong, and urgent
meetings are called to cut back the works, my ability to focus on the children
was impaired. These are the “distractions” that Brown refers to, preventing
the head in her study from focussing on what was happening in the
classrooms day by day, “leading the development of the teaching and

In my experience, there has been something more than such a simple

distraction. I work in a staff team where there are understandings of
children’s needs, and how they learn, and how their parents should be
treated, which are very different to those that I hold. I have felt blocked,
depressed, and dejected on many occasions. It isn’t easy to hold to your
vision, at the times when you feel alone with it; and when your interventions
make things worse, the vision starts to look suspect, tattered, shot-through or
even shot-down. Facing the fact that as head, I have many powerful
strategies to shape and direct the institution, but also that other factors are
out of my control, or influence, or even knowledge, is facing the fact that I
might fail.

It is painful to look, when children are getting a raw deal. It is painful to

consider, that the project is going wrong. Sometimes the building budget
crisis, or the performance management system, or the need to write plans
and develop policies, stand in the way.

They are not quite welcome distractions; not exactly sirens; but something
less difficult and more solid to focus on, than the messy, difficult and
emotionally charged process of changing how people work.

Page 29 of 46

Anning, A (1983) The three year itch Times Educational Supplement, 24.6.1983

Anning, A and Edwards, A (1999) Promoting Children’s Learning from Birth to

Five: developing the new early years professional Buckingham: Open University

Bain, A and Barnett, L (1986) The design of a day care system in a nursery setting
for children under 5 London: Tavistock Institute of Human Relations

Brown, P (2002) The first 100 days: An enquiry into the first 100 days of
headship in a failing school, National College for School Leadership

Bruce, T (1997) Early Childhood Education (2nd Edition) London: Hodder and

Bruce, T (2001) Learning Through Play; Babies, Toddlers and the Foundation Stage
London: Hodder and Stoughton

Bruce, T (1997) Tuning into children (book accompanying video pack) London: BBC
Educational Developments

Cotton, T with Mann, J, Hassan, A and Nickolay, S (2003) Improving primary

schools improving communities Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (2003) Benefits of improved

access to day care cancelled out by low-pay trap

Ofsted (2003) Inspecting schools Framework for inspecting schools HMI 1525
London: Ofsted

Pascal, C and Bertram, T (2000) Early Excellence Centres Pilot Programme.

Annual Evaluation Report 2000: Research Report RR258 London: DfES

Siraj-Blatchford, I and Siraj-Blatchford, J (2001) “An ethnographic approach to

researching young children’s learning” in Mac Naughton, G, Rolfe, S and
Siraj-Blatchford, I (eds) Doing early childhood research Buckingham: Open
University Press

Strategy Unit (2002) Inter-departmental childcare review: Delivering for

children and families

Sure Start Copenhagen (2001) North Kings Cross Baseline Report

Sure Start (no date) Full day care: national standards for under 8s daycare and

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Whalley, M (1992) A question of choice Unpublished MA thesis, University of

Whalley, M (1999a) Leadership in Early Years Settings Unpublished PhD

thesis, University of Wolverhampton

Whalley, M (1999b) Parents’ Involvement in Their Children’s Learning

Whalley, M and the Pen Green Centre Team (2001) Involving parents in their
children’s learning London: Paul Chapman Publishing

Whitaker, P (1993) Managing change in schools Buckingham: Open University


Whitaker, P (1997) Primary Schools and the Future Buckingham: Open University

Zoritch B, Roberts I , Oakley A (2000) Day care for pre-school children

Page 31 of 46
Appendix 1: Staff training and development at Kate Greenaway Nursery

September 1st-September 3rd 2003.

Day one

Objectives of the day:

1. For the staff team to begin to get to know Julian, and for Julian to begin to
get to know the staff team.
2. To begin the discussion about the future of Kate Greenaway.
3. To think about what it will be like to live through change in the year ahead.

9.30am Tea, coffee, welcome back

10am • Introduction to Julian as headteacher
• A vision for the future
• Reflections, comments, questions and answers
12pm-1pm Lunch break
1pm-2pm Review and reflection time: change in the year ahead.
• What are the opportunities that the changes will
bring about?
• How might it threaten the work of the school?

Individual thinking.
Discussion in pairs.
Whole group work using a force/field diagram.
2-2.30pm Tea break
2.30-3.15pm Experiences of change.

Individual thinking.
Adding work to the force/field diagram.
3.15-3.30pm Plenary, ending

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Example of a force/field diagram

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Day two

Objectives of the day:

1. Begin to develop shared principles for working with young children
2. Begin to plan the future training and development needs of the staff team

9.30am Approaches to working with young children

Video: example of children playing from Tuning into


• How do children learn?

• First hand experiences
• Play
• Teaching and learning

Reading: extract from Learning through play in the

Foundation Stage (Tina Bruce) and extract from the most
recent report from the EPPE Project (Institute of
11.30-11.45am Tea break
11.45am- Is it play? Quiz – in pairs
12.30pm-2pm Lunch break
2pm Poster presentation: learning through play at KGNS
3.15-3.30pm Plenary, ending

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Day three

Objective of the day:

1. Prepare the nursery to welcome the children and their families tomorrow.

9.30-11am Structuring and the environment

Video: example of children using the water tray from

Tuning into Children

Using the ECERS–E scale from the EPPE Project

Discussion about routines, groups and key person work

From 11am: practical focus on preparing the nursery for the children’s arrival
the next day with flexible breaks and lunch times as appropriate.

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Appendix 2: Imagining the future at Kate Greenaway Nursery School


The vision, aims and future direction of Kate Nursery School must be
developed by, and belong to:

• The whole staff team

• Parents, carers and the local community

However, it is also important for the staff team to know where I stand at the
moment as the new headteacher.

Rethinking nursery education

The nursery school tradition in England is still powerful and important. It

respects young children as powerful learners who can make choices and who
deserve an environment which has been especially designed and staffed to
meet their needs. All the future developments at Kate Greenaway need to
build on this tradition. The quality of education and care for the young child
must remain our key concern at all times.

I also think that we need to go beyond traditional nursery education. Every

community should have a centre for children under 5 and their families.

• Parenting can be joyful. It can also be stressful, lonely, and difficult.

Communities need to come together to support the learning, growth
and development of their young children.
• Parenting is complex – services for children and families need to show
that they understand this.
• Children benefit from having experiences in groups, as well as by being
loved and cared for in their families.
• Young children are important. Centres and local services help to
promote the needs of young children.
• In many families, parents want to work.
• Many families need support and help, especially if they are bringing up
children in poverty and disadvantage. Some families need support
occasionally – others need intensive and ongoing support.
• Early years educators need the involvement and support of parents
and carers to provide a high quality early childhood education.
• It isn’t enough to think of the child – only the child – for only 2 ½ hours
per day. We need to think about the child, the family and the
community if we are going to improve the life chances of children in the
York Way area.

A Centre can provide:

• Education and daycare for children.

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• A place to access family support and help, or a referral onto the place
where help is available.
• A complete learning environment. At the heart of this is the learning of
the child. Staff must be learning all the time, too. And many carers and
parents want opportunities to learn – about their children, or to
undertake courses and take part in groups.
• A place for community development – local people having a real say in
the running of the centre. Community development which supports
people in making choices, in their personal development, in learning
and gaining qualifications, and in overcoming discrimination and

A centre can promote constructive discontent: people expressing their

discontent with the reality of their neighbourhood, their opportunities, and their
children’s opportunities – and being supported and encouraged to do
something about it.

Rethinking leadership and management in education

Centre work is year-round, responsive to family need and desires, and

flexible. It involves staff in having to make decisions by referring back to
principles and aims, rather than tradition and set structures. This is exciting as
well as challenging. It means:

• A dissipated style of leadership and management where increasingly

staff members have more autonomy to make decisions about how best
to do the work that is needed.
• Management that is about listening and collaborating, as well as being
focussed on the principles and aims of the organisation.
• Working together on the processes of communicating, making and
reviewing decisions.
• Developing support/supervision systems for each member of staff to
enable regular discussion of the work and enable personal and
professional development.
• Profiles to support staff training and development, hand in hand with
performance management systems for all staff.
• In particular – over the next 9 months there will be many opportunities
for staff training, development, visits etc. This will be a very special
time for the staff team.

The underlying principle is that the needs and rights of the child must always
be fundamental. Three and four year olds will not have their time again. So
although Kate Greenaway has nearly a year to work on its management
systems, communication, staff training and development etc the need to focus
on quality provision for the children is immediate and intense.

A learning organisation for everybody

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The best organisations believe that everyone has the ability to learn and
develop. Everyone has potential.

Children will learn best when they are in contact with adults who are excited
by their learning, and excited by their own learning.

Courses, groups and other opportunities for learning and development help
parents and carers to develop their confidence, develop their knowledge and
skills, and will help them return to work or study if they wish to.

Kate Greenaway Nursery School should offer all staff the opportunity to learn,
grow and develop.

Immediate aims

• Induction and future training/development planning for all staff with a

supervision system
• Set up a parent involvement in children’s learning group with:
o a key concepts session about children’s learning and
o individual communication between key person/parent or carer
for planning and assessment
o key group meetings where a group of parents talk together
about the learning of their children in nursery;
o a long term study group;
o issue-specific open afternoons/evenings
o focussed trips where parents are closely involved in the planning
and the support for their children’s learning
• Group work training and development for staff (before anyone is
expected to meet and work with a group of parents, they will have
completed this training and there will also be support and guidance for
• Training opportunities for parents interested in volunteering in the

Longer term aims and ambitions

• Analyse the needs and desires of the local community for education
and training.
• Parent volunteer sessions link into crèche worker training accredited
through Open College Network or City and Guilds
• Multi-agency inductions for staff with Health Visitors, Sure Start
workers, social workers etc.
• Develop a parent support network for parents to give advice to each
other, run groups on managing behaviour, sleep, eating etc. Accredit
the training sessions for volunteers. Investigate offering Open
University’s Confident Parents Confident Children course.

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• Investigate KGNS offering NVQ assessment for early childhood
• Parent involvement in children’s learning – work accredited through
Open College Network/C & G
• Investigate offering a range of adult education/training opportunities
including Family Learning (link to Step into Learning, Basic Skills
Agency) through to other qualifications including GCSEs etc (link to
Adult Education Providers in Islington)
• Offer Orientation Groups and other groups for parents and carers
seeking return to work (link to Reed UK and Job Centre Plus)
• Investigate access to BA in Early Childhood Education and Care
(London Met University) for practitioners at KGNS with some modules
possibly taught on-site or with supported distance learning

Acknowledgement: this paper owes much to the work of Margy Whalley, Patrick Whitaker and
the staff team at Pen Green Centre for the Under Fives and their Families. See or read Learning to be strong and Involving parents in their children’s

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Appendix 3: First
thoughts about managing
a year of change at Kate
The staff team: 1.9.03

Enabling factors: these strengths have been identified by the staff team as
factors which will:
• support change
• enable it to happen
• create a core of values and practices to build the new centre around

1. KGNS provides a good range of activities for children in and

outdoors. Plenty of space and opportunities.
2. Day to day practice is rock solid. The staff team are expert on
working with children 3 & 4 and are committed to freeflow play
and children’s autonomy. Record keeping is good. Good key
person system e.g. helping children with their individual needs.
3. The staff team work well with children who have SEN and
provide a differentiated curriculum (e.g. small groups at end of
sessions time which are well matched to the interest/ability
levels of the children)
4. Staff relate well to children as individuals and meet their
individual needs
5. The staff have clarified “who does what when” – previously it
was chaotic
6. Staff have sufficient meeting time to discuss issues etc and also
have time informally together e.g. at the start of day to talk
things over with each other.
7. There are plenty of other models in Islington of integrated
centres – to help sort out shift patterns etc
8. There are good relationships with parents – the school is well
thought of and in demand
9. There are a range of skills in the current staff team
10. Staff relate well to each other – pull together when short-staffed
11. The school is positively multi-cultural
12. The staff are in favour of providing a more integrated service for
children 0-5 as this will promote greater continuity

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Restraining factors: these are difficult issues which will make it harder for
KGNS to manage change

1. Pay and conditions – concern about losing holiday time – new

contracts might make childcare and other arrangements difficult
2. New staff – will they be on the same contracts? Will they mesh
into the team or will it be “them and us”?
3. Extended hours/year – could be difficult to communicate – less
time for informal talk about the children – more possibility of
KGNS not being properly cared for and “trashed” – could be
difficulties with continuity of practice
4. Induction – KGNS has not had any induction before – you are
“thrown in on the job” – “given a job description and get on with
it” – “your name is just announced in the staff room”
5. Shifts – children need to know that a person they can rely on
will be there when they arrive – shifts will undermine this.
When you go on sift – you start work straight away – there is
no time to talk, pass on messages etc. Loss of time to meet.
6. There is currently a lack of parent involvement
7. Turnover of children – some children leave for primary school
nursery and this is disruptive.
8. Current routines – parents have got the message that they are
not welcome in the nursery class – some information does not
get passed on to home.
9. Security and safety (for children) – there are problems which
could get worse during building
10. Working with children 0-3 – there is a lot to learn – a lot has
changed since some staff did their training
11. The rebuild will mean the loss of some outdoor space
12. Staff do not have enough ICT training
13. Record keeping is not good enough.

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These are first thoughts about the changes ahead.

The Force/Field analysis (Kurt Lewin) – holds that in order for change to be

• There should not be an increase in driving forces – this will lead to

more tension in the institution
• Staff should work together to develop the enabling forces and should
work on reducing/eliminating the restraining forces. This will be part of
the story for the year ahead.

Everyone in the staff team thought about personal experiences of change.

People’s thoughts and feelings about change are very different. The list below
is edited so that it does not include details about people’s personal

• I need to prepare for a change – I don’t deal well with it if it’s sprung on
me. I don’t like the unknown – I need the change NOW.
• I like to imagine the worst – what terrible things could happen – then
it’s a relief to see how things turn out
• I look on the bright side – I like change but I need pushing into change.
I like to learn new things – I’m excited. I like a new start.
• Some words – excited happy frightened worried overwhelmed sad
• Change has stressed me
• Joyous and terrifying. Exciting but anxiety-provoking. Happy … but
wondered am I doing the right thing?
• Relief of going from a bad to a good situation. Stress. Fear.
Coping/adjusting. Longing for what’s gone before even though I liked
the new situation. “What have I done?”
• Thinking about it is more frightening than the reality.
• I’m a creature of habit – I like routines – I don’t mind change that
creeps up on me – change here will be gradual – your old job changing
feels safer than getting a new job.

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Appendix 4 – extracts from
Preparing for the future at Kate
Greenaway Nursery School
Training, development, support and supervision, January-
July 2004.

The nursery school is about to enter a period of profound change.

• Immediately, there will be the disruption of the building work and the
arrival of the two Sure Start groups (New Parent group and Teenage
Parent group).
• The consultation period on the new staffing structure will begin in
• Closer working with parents and carers.
• Changing our opening hours.
• Training and development for work with children from birth to three.
• Working with our new pedagogue, Tina Bruce.
• Advertising for new staff.
• Preparing and furnishing the new building.
• Getting ready for the new start in September.

At the same time, the ongoing issues remain for the nursery school and
for the staff team:

• Improving the quality of children’s learning and play; improving the

quality of our interaction and teaching
• Developing the organisation of the school and the resource areas in
the classroom
• Improving care for children, key person working, and behaviour
• Working to performance management objectives, being observed and

So this will be a challenging as well as an exciting time. It is well worth looking

back at the notes we made together as a staff team about the process of
change, back in September 2003.

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Getting it together as a team

At its most basic, we might say that how well professional teams can “get it
together” for children is closely dependent on how well they can “get
themselves together”.

By this we mean the ability of teams to work well together, agreeing their main
tasks, sharing responsibility, valuing the different strengths of team members
and having the collective ability and preparedness honestly to review their
work together.

We might describe this as rooted in a team’s professional and emotional


Such wellbeing is key in facilitating the emotional growth and development of

the children we work with.

Peter Elfer: from notes of the Tavistock Centre Action Research Project on
Training Materials for Practitioners

The threads of this work on “Getting it Together” are:

• Developing time, space and structures to support reflective working for

each member of staff:

 1 hour per week of non-contact time

 1 hour per month of 1:1 time with Julian
 Monthly group with an external consultant for group
discussion on managing and preparing for change

• The training and development programme for the whole staff team
(staff meeting time including Thursday mornings)

 Planning
 Observation
 Assessment
 Organisation of learning resources
 Working with children who have English as an additional
 Promoting children’s personal, social and emotional
 Managing difficult behaviour

• Each person’s individual training and development programme,

established during performance management

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• The involvement of Tina Bruce as our pedagogue, focussing on:

 Effective communication with children

 Effective organisation of the learning environment
 Freeflow play

• The Birth to Threes training and development programme (staff

meeting time including Thursday mornings), focussing on:

 Visits to other centres/schools working effectively with

children from birth to three
 Whole staff training and development programme on key
person working and understanding attachment
 Whole staff training and development programme on
working closely with parents, understanding the parent
perspective, working with parents in groups, and
managing boundaries effectively.
 Joint work with the Sure Start team – working closely with
parents and children, developing a home visiting

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Staffing links/support

The nursery school has to change and develop very quickly. This requires:

• A willingness and capacity to change in each member of staff –

working in a fast-changing school is difficult and it requires a particular
type of commitment which you do not need in a more stable school.
• An acceptance from each member of staff that the nursery school does
not provide good enough education or care for the children on roll.
Children are entitled to a better deal.
• Support, coaching, help for each member of staff to improve the quality
of her/his work.
• Clear standards being set, and staff being held accountable for
achieving those standards.

[In the full document there is a grid summarising staff roles, and support
systems including regular 1:1 time with the headteacher]

Group support programme

The nursery will have a regular group for all staff working directly with children
and parents. The intention is that this group will provide a forum for discussion

• The emotional impact of working closely with young children

• Issues around working with parents
• Issues around working as a team
• Managing change, preparing for change

This group will be led by a consultant, Sharman Harding, who is experienced

in working with groups. The groundrules and remit of the group will develop in
practice, through negotiation.

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