It is not often that I am enthusiastic about the alarm going off at 5.45am, never mind on a Saturday morning. However, yesterday was a rare occasion in that I really felt the early start was worth the temporary pain. I headed up to Grantham to join 20 of our staff from our Lincoln, Gainsborough and Newark nurseries who were taking in part in Mary Barlow’s remarkable ‘Beginning with Babies’ course (www.thetotempole.co.uk). Mary is highly regarded as an expert on providing ideal environments for children under 2 whilst in group settings. Over recent years the emphasis from the Government has been all about providing high-quality care for our pre-school children, as that is where their funding has been directed.
At the same time, some research has suggested that for children under 2, group settings are not always ideal, but that any disadvantage inherent in the group care environment can be overcome as long as the practice is excellent and staff are well trained. Surely we should be focusing our attention on our youngest children, to give them the start in life that they deserve. When I opened the first ‘Old Station Nursery’ 8 years ago, our aim was to offer ‘home from home’ childcare, and a truly homely feel to the nursery. It was an absolute delight to open the door on Mary’s special baby room, which is furnished like a home, down to dangling ‘chandelier’ type light fittings and an electric flame-effect fire.
The discussions around how to care for babies (and their parents) clearly hit a chord with the staff attending the course as it was fantastic to feel their enthusiasm and the overall ‘buzz’ about what they had started to, and were in the process of changing. I have already been welcomed by some of our baby room staff as I travel around the nurseries, so they can proudly show me what they have been doing to move towards the Barlow school of babyhood! We have a lot more still to do, but it was such a pleasure to join in with such a positive group.
I will post some photos of the day on to our website as soon as possible and I hope you will start to see some differences around the nurseries. Next stop is ‘Fun on the Floor’ – Mary’s next round of training courses looking at 2 year olds and how to delight them; I can’t wait and may even set my alarm….