Featured Apprentice Story

Fennies Day Nurseries

Lauren O"Connell, a Deputy Room Leader at the nursery,started her childcare Apprenticeship at the beginning of March 2020 just 2 and a half weeks before the UK's national lockdown. Not only was this a new career for Lauren who previously worked in television as a Researcher, but the uncertain circumstances meant that changes were made to Lauren’s apprenticeship program as well as her day-to-day responsibilities.

Throughout Covid, Lauren’s role involved supporting the staff members within the nursery whilst studying and gaining valuable hands-on early years' experience. Lauren was able to build crucial bonds with key worker parents each morning during drop off and collection times to share valuable information about their child’s day such as “one of their friends was a little bit upset today and they took some toys over for them to play with and this was a really nice moment as they’d identified that they were upset and showed empathy towards their friend.”

Throughout lockdown, our nurseries remained open for key worker parents’ children. Due to the lower number of children in the setting, Lauren often had to work within different rooms and therefore different age groups. This required her to create learning opportunities and fun activities that babies could get involved in but that was also stimulating enough for preschoolers.

Lauren learned quickly to diversify her activities to accommodate the different age ranges she was now supporting. For example, her tuff tray spaghetti activities allowed babies to discover a new world of sensory fun and preschoolers could then use the spaghetti to practice tricky scissor skills.

Throughout this uncertain time, Lauren took time to engage with children that were not able to attend nursery due to lockdown. She found new ways of reaching out to these children as she was aware of the disruption and anxieties that this distance was creating. She would record songs every day, with the other children in the nursery to send home for the children that were isolating to watch. This was a great way for them to continue to feel included and see familiar faces and for the children in the nursery, this provided an element of consistency each day.

Now that all of our children have returned to the nursery, Lauren has paid close attention to the developmental effects lockdown may have had on each child. In particular, she noticed that some children’s speech and language had been delayed and came up with innovative ways to help support them. An example of this and a firm favourite amongst the children is her ‘What’s in the box’ activity where different items from around the room are placed in the box, the children are then encouraged to pick out an item and describe its features. This has been a great way for them to expand their vocabulary by introducing lots of descriptive words.

Since our parents have now also been welcomed back into the nursery, Lauren feels it’s important that parents are still offered support and kept up to date with their child’s day-to-day activities. She shares daily memos, pictures and videos on our parent app so they have as much of an insight into what their child has learnt and to keep them as informed as possible.

Lockdown was a very uncertain time and continuously reassuring parents about the measures that had been put in place were extremely important. This is something that Lauren continues to do and is always available for parents who have any questions regarding health and safety in the nursery. This has ensured that as an organisation we were still able to go above and beyond and keep our business operating at an outstanding level.

Despite the uncertainties and virtual study support, Lauren is able to look at the positives of completing her Apprenticeship during Covid. Lauren was able to learn a lot in such a short space of time and was involved in creating engaging activities as well as maintaining strict cleaning routines. This hands-on experience has enabled her to acquire valuable skills that she will draw on throughout her entire childcare career.

Working through this time and supporting our children has contributed to our business recovery as Lauren played a key role in ensuring our parents felt reassured and had a positive experience with Fennies during Covid. Having apprentices work during Covid has contributed to our business recovery ensuring we’ve had great staff to support our children and parents during this time.

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