Ask the Experts: How do I get festive in the nursery?

June O’Sullivan, Colin Green, Jeanie Lynch and Tracie Trimmer-Platman
Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Our expert panel offers advice on Christmas preparations, child protection conferences, peer mentoring, and group uniforms.

Decorate the nursery and plan cheerful activities to brighten up the winter months. Picture: Oksana Kuzmina/Adobe Stock
Decorate the nursery and plan cheerful activities to brighten up the winter months. Picture: Oksana Kuzmina/Adobe Stock

This is my first year as a nursery manager and I want to do something special for Christmas. Any ideas?

June O'Sullivan: These days many nurseries worry about celebrating Christmas because of religious and cultural considerations and the fact Christmas has become very commercialised. The key is to treat it as a winter festival. It is cold and a bit depressing at this time of year so decorations and cheerful activities can brighten things up.

Use it as a time to support learning with new songs, stories and a concert for parents but don't start anything before 1 December. Invite families in for a festive breakfast, lunch or tea and consider inviting Father Christmas too. Think about simple gifts that form the basis of good activities at home - books are an obvious choice but you could also provide craft materials and activity sheets.

As ever, think about keeping the nursery safe in the whirl of baubles and lights but do ensure your children and staff are able to enjoy this time of year.

June O'Sullivan is chief executive of the childcare charity and social enterprise, the London Early Years Foundation

I recently completed a section 47 enquiry for a 13-year-old girl where there are serious concerns about child sexual exploitation. Following this, an initial child protection conference will take place. The parents are concerned the conference will focus on them when the risks are outside the home. How should I approach the conference?

Colin Green: It is especially important when preparing the girl and her parents for the conference that you take time to share your assessment and analysis of the risks and make it clear this is about what is happening outside the home. The concept of "contextual safeguarding" may be particularly useful as it looks at the wider picture of issues affecting the girl and her family (www.contextualsafeguarding.org.uk).

The parents have a critical role in helping keep their daughter safe. In your report and recommendations to the conference it is vital you enable them to play that role and the tone and process of the conference reflects the positive contribution mum and dad can make. It is also very important their daughter sees you are working with her parents and others in the network to keep her safe. Your ability to build strong and trusting relationships with the girl and her parents will be vital to good outcomes.

Colin Green has been a social work practitioner, manager and leader, including director of children's services, in six local authorities

One of our former service users is working as a peer mentor but there are concerns her behaviour is not always appropriate when she is with the younger people she mentors. How do I deal with this?

Jeanie Lynch: It can be difficult for people to disassociate themselves from their previous identity as a "service user" as it is this empathy that often makes peer mentors so effective.

Are you carrying out regular supervisions and reviews? This will be the place to address concerns, unless they are safeguarding concerns. If there are safeguarding concerns you need to talk to her straight away and stop her mentoring activities until things have been resolved. Make sure you have all the facts regarding any allegations and you deal with these in a clear and fair way.

If it is a simple case of overstepping boundaries because she identifies with the younger cohort then you need to give her some clear guidance. She may just need to be reminded that she is there as a role model for others.

Jeanie Lynch has more than 20 years' experience working as a senior manager developing support for vulnerable children and young people

Our community group does a lot of outdoor and sports activities and recently received funding to provide a "kit" for young members. How do we go about choosing something that works for everyone?

Tracie Trimmer-Platman: Casual and sports clothing tends to be fairly non-gender specific and it should be straightforward to choose garments like T-shirts, sweat tops and jogging bottoms that work for all. These can be provided in neutral colours and feature the name of your group.

To ensure the new kit is well received you need to get the young people involved in making decisions about the style, materials, colour and placement of your organisation name and logo.

Tracie Trimmer-Platman is senior lecturer in youth and community work at the University of East London

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