Training, development and up-skilling – whatever we call it, we all agreed that professional development activity is vital to enhancing quality standards in the Early Years sector. It is the key to ensuring that our children are cared for by skilled professionals who understand their individual needs and are able to meet them in fun and innovative ways.
We know there is a need for training, a fact corroborated by last summer’s Nutbrown report which concluded that qualifications are the keys to high-quality Early Years education. However, in these days of economic constraint we are faced with dramatically reduced budgets and spending cuts, meaning that local authorities have, in many cases, reduced or even ceased to offer training to childcare practitioners.
How then do we find and fund our training, how do we demonstrate the return on investment and how does the investment we make improve the outcomes for the children in our care? These are all important questions to ask and the very fact that we are asking them is the first step to ensuring that we continue to meet the professional development needs of our workforce. It’s a step towards reflection and consideration, a step that helps us identify specific training needs and step by step approaches to reach our goals.
So first things first…carry out a skills gap analysis; this will identify the strengths and areas for development across your team. Link this to individual or group support and challenge sessions leading to clear goals for each practitioner.
Next you need to source the training to match your needs: remember you have lots of skills in your team already so utilise these, cascade the knowledge, allocate mentors and set up research working parties.
Ensure you get the best deal from professional training companies by asking for multi-session discounts, using free online resources and working smartly. Could the trainer present the session by video tutorial that your staff can access at a time to suit them? Consider collaborative working with other local providers, split the cost but double the benefit. Everyone’s a winner!
Finally you need to measure the impact of the training you have provided. Has it really improved things for the children in your care? I’ve seen some wonderful examples of training unlocking something magical that allows a connection between staff and children and takes early learning to new heights. Unfortunately I’ve also seen examples of training that have no significant impact on daily practice.
So what should you do to ensure your training hits the spot? In my experience the best way to ensure you achieve your goal is to have clear, specific and measurable success criteria, identify the steps needed to reach these criteria and set a timescale. Ask your team to complete pre-training expectation questionnaires, ask them at the midway point if you are on track in meeting their expectations, then at the end of the session ask if you have met their expectations.
Before your team leave the training, seek a promise from them – ask them to write down the one thing they will do differently as a result of this session. Then at their next supervision meeting revisit this and find out whether they have stuck to their promise and what impact it has had. Keep these records and promises in your staff CPD files and you will see a progression, you will see individual success stories that together make your Early Years setting and ultimately the broader sector a triumph for training.