Story maker, scientist, best friend

June O'Sullivan
Monday, October 19, 2020

Covid took off its invisible cloak on the 23 March when the country retrenched into lockdown.

Now, six months later, with the battle partly won, the country has to figure out how to rebuild because the Covid recession is an even bigger battle. 

Certain sectors like hospitality and the arts are being annihilated. People are conflicted, fearful of close encounters in shops, cinemas, theatres and personal services but anxious to use these places again especially as they watch friends and family lose their jobs and the Government racks up a multi trillion debt that will affect every public service still standing.

Against this backdrop, some sectors are slowly and tentatively recovering and that includes the childcare sector. Occupancy is growing gradually as parents return to work and save their jobs. To keep us safe and to allow the build-up in a way that keeps us safe, I need to over-staff the nurseries. This will reduce having to share staff and keep our bubbles intact. 

We can make a whole nursery a bubble and ask staff to support in other rooms especially at the beginning and end of the day, but I am reluctant to do this until Covid numbers consistently reduce. 

I am extremely grateful that we have managed by a combination of prudence and careful adherence to hygiene and social distancing protocols and luck  to ward off Covid since lockdown (and that includes operating 15 hub nurseries during that time). I want to maintain this position for as long as I can.

So, we need to recruit and train more staff. As well as opening our arms to qualified early years staff, we are interested in inviting people who have not worked in the sector before to consider the joy of working with small children. It is the best job in the world.

Working in Early Years has many benefits, many organisations like LEYF will provide training from entry at Cache Level 1 all the way to a LEYF degree with the University of Wolverhampton. Next year we will also have approval for the degree top up so those coming with Foundation Degrees can complete a top up programme to get their full Honours Degree. Bigger childcare organisations have development and promotion opportunities whether you are interested in leadership or pedagogical roles or both because they interconnect. 

Staff like to work in teams and be supported by colleagues who share similar values and operate in a friendly, kind and open environment and can see how they are making a difference to children and families lives. 

The international research consistently confirms the benefit of great early education and is the reason 80 per cent of the world provides some form of nursery access for children.

The role of the early years teacher is fun and demanding.

 At any time you will be teaching a child to be kind, to offer help, to share their toys with smaller children. 

You will be stretching their abilities to speak, think, read, count, draw, sing, climb, balance, ride a bike, garden, design, build - its endless. You will be introducing new ideas and give rise to their imaginative play, you will be having delightful philosophical conversations, you will be ensuring they have a nutritional diet and good care and hygiene. 

In return, they love and respect you, become your friend and play partner, teach you about dinosaurs, buses, unicorns. Challenge you to read new books, pick up worms, answer really hard questions. And this is just the first hour.

Covid has been a disaster for many but maybe like all crises it might be a catalyst for change. 

A change for the better. Working with small children is not just an ordinary job, it's magical. Where else can you be a princess getting your hair washed while being served a magic potion to help you fly.

June O'Sullivan is chief executive of London Early Years Foundation. This blog first appeared on the LEYF website.

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