Life in Lockdown at Hungerford Nursery School and Centre for Children and Families – 1 June 2020 update

What has been happening at Hungerford Nursery School and the Family Centre during Covid 19?

The Nursery School

On 27 March, the Nursery closed for most children due to the lockdown instructions from the government. It is currently running an inside nursery for anywhere between 12 and 18 children every day. These children are either vulnerable or the children of critical workers such as those working for the NHS, the care services or in food industries. Two of these children are from another setting that has closed.

The children cook and take part in normal nursery activities and enjoy learning in an environment that continues to be creative and fun – as the head teacher Suzanne Taylor observed, “it is like being part of one multi-age family.” The school has also have continued to offer all children hot lunches.

Other challenges have included setting up staff meetings via video; establishing new Covid-19 routines and protocols in the school to ensure a safe environment;  and studying, interpreting and implementing the seemingly unending guidance from government.

The School also runs a virtual nursery for the other 115 children. This uses a private Instagram page and our website to keep the children and parents connected. All staff are contributing to this and producing materials for the children to use at home to continue their learning. Staff are videoing stories and other activities on Instagram every day and there is a daily timetable. They have also put together learning packs for children and so far have delivered several packs to the children. Feedback from parents so far relating to the online instagram learning and packs has been very positive:

“Thank you very much for all the help and ideas on how to keep S busy. It’s been so good having a visual reference for S for her daily routine. S watched your Little Red Riding Hood video and had fun making up her own stories.” SD

“R has really enjoyed the tweezer challenge from his activity pack.” RK

“Thank you for the activity pack. It’s really helpful and M is enjoying it so much.” MW

“F is loving the stories and singing you ladies are doing, so a massive thank you.” FS

“Can you pass on my many thanks to the Hungerford Nursery team for all the work done on virtual learning. I have really struggled with W’s day and was beginning to lose faith that I could keep him happy, busy and learning during this time until I went onto your website today. Thanks again. I am now looking forward to tomorrow rather than being apprehensive about it.” WC

“Just thank you all so very much for the support you are giving us.  The Instagram video learning and the packs are fantastic.  I know all the teachers have their own families and we are all worried at such a strange time but they have been truly amazing each and everyone so thank you so much.” AP

The Family Centre

The Family Centre is now working completely from home and is doing a number of imaginative things. For example, one member of staff is creating bits of video for families that usually attend our ‘PEEP’groups – do have a look on Facebook at the sock sorting!  The Family Support Worker is continuing to offer virtual family support while the Co-ordinator is keeping contact with families and creating a family community online. The baby group has a zoom conference once a week. There is a parenting helpline so parents can ring in for support and guidance using the usual Family Centre number. These have received positive feedback from the parents who have really appreciated that contact during these challenging times.

This is despite the fact that thee Family Centre’s funding has been cut this year, which puts the Family Centre services and support it offers to families in jeopardy. It will have to generate an income to support the Family Centre in order to maintain services, courses and family support across the 160 square-mile area which it covers.

Nursery School Increasing places from 1 June

Suzanne Taylor said hat “The Nursery is extending and has completed a thorough risk assessment based on the core principles listed below and is based firmly on the latest guidance that the government has provided for the opening of Early Years settings and schools.  This risk assessment has been shared widely with parents, staff and governors.  We are continually reviewing and updating this risk assessment to reflect the situation and guidance that is available. We are doing our best to provide the safest environment that we can for our staff, children and parents.”

These are the four core principles that underpin the decision to open to more children:

  1. Coronavirus will not have gone away; our focus will continue to be the safety and wellbeing of children, parents and staff
  2. The school will take whatever steps it can to ensure that all children will have access to learning virtually and in the school
  3. The most vulnerable children and children of keyworkers are at the heart of the places that the school is offering
  4. We will strive to be open and clear in our communication to all our stakeholders about decisions taken

Funding issues

Many of you will recall that there has been a long-running campaign by all maintained nursery schools to ensure that our funding in the future: this continues and is being spearheaded by Early Education.

The immediate concern is to ensure that the business-rates holiday which has been announced for the non-maintained nursery sector is extended to maintained nurseries such as this (West Berkshire Council has indicated that this is likely to happen); and that additional funding promised to schools should also include maintained nurseries (the school is seeking further clarification on this).

There is also a more immediate funding issue caused by a combination of higher costs (for meals, staff and cleaning equipment) and reduced revenue (as a result of fewer pupils attending and the loss of the school-holiday clubs). The Maintained Nursery Schools such as Hungerford in many ways fall through a crack in the system as they are, despite in many ways being both a school and a nursery and, in funding terms, often treated as if they were neither.

Suzanne Taylor addressed the HTC meeting on 1 June and reminded the Council that the campaign for regularising the funding for Maintained Nursery Schools (which currently runs out in March 2021) needs to continued as it was in danger of getting swamped by the even more immediate results of Covid-19. She said that the recently-elected Newbury MP Laura Farris had already visited the school and promised her support. Both HTC and the three District Councillors reaffirmed their support.

“The campaign to preserve the Maintained Nursery Schools must be continued to ensure that supplementary funding is permanent funding, ” she said. “No school would have to work under this annual stress. We are already admitting children who will be in the Nursery School beyond March 2021.”

“The campaign for our continued survival in the big backdrop to this,” Suzanne concluded, “but, as you can see, life has gone on in the mean time. It’s been different and also very busy. Like almost every other organisation, we’ve had to re-invent how we operate. Unlike many others, however, because of the nature of our work we can’t completely separate ourselves from the outside world. Even more so than usual, every day is different.”

Contact

For more information on Hungerford Nursery School please visit the website by clicking here.

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