Optimism and positive thinking I believe is of paramount importance. With the negative spin the media so often has on today’s news, coming together with others that face similar challenges to ourselves is a must.

We can encourage and motivate each other, share ideas, and face the challenges full on with more confidence, seeking solutions to problems. This is a real positive. Seek out these people.

Focus on what we have control over – it is no good dwelling on what is out of our control. There will always be options and choices on some elements of our work and life – things that we can influence and/or change – focus on these and what you CAN do. What is within your control?

Consider what we want and what we need – your ‘want’ is logic-based so has sound reasoning. Your ‘need’ is more about feelings and is emotion-based; something that you feel is important and that you cannot do without.

What do I have to offer?

Five years ago, I gave up a secure role as an Early Years (EY) Officer working with the council, primarily to break free of the restraints that my work presented and to do something more fulfilling using my skills, expertise, and knowledge.

I wanted to work directly with people and support those in a profession in which I had first-hand experience. I had been an EY business owner for ten years previously and more recently worked as an advisor/trainer/coach.

At that time with the economic climate as it was, I was approached by a business owner who felt a pro-active networking group was very much needed.

Through full consultation with a wider group of individuals working in the sector, it ultimately became a forum created to meet the specific needs of the EY sector; committed to help solve common problems collectively, empowering each other, inspiring great minds to share their wisdom and to keep pace with changes to government legislation.

The group has continued with both managers and business owners of nurseries, term-time pre-schools, stand-alone settings, small and large groups of what are currently (not exclusively) Hampshire and Southampton based providers – some are well-established others are new.

Guest speakers have attended to talk on topics related to childcare and education and additional training and/or self-development has become an option too.

The forum has been a huge success for the very reasons it was set up.

If you do not know me, you can see my track record here.

You can also read more about the network here.

What are the main benefits of being part of this group?

Professional members with a range of experience and expertise – members have a vast range of backgrounds and experiences which brings different perspectives to the group. Many, but not all, started their careers in EY. Some are new to leading and managing and/or running a business, others have been doing so for many years. A truly inspirational group of individuals!

Access to SEN support if required – a pilot has been running successfully since September 2020 in response to the members request; support from local authorities has greatly reduced over recent times as well. Overseen by an experienced SEN professional and associates with their own specialisms in a range of fields: communication, behaviour, speech, and language.

Modular offers are available to include group support sessions on requested topics, facilitated peer support sessions and one-to-one SENCo support for help with individual children’s needs.

Access to other associates and tried and tested EY suppliers of goods and services – a directory is maintained of those recommended by members and shared with the group.

Regular updates – provided on changes to legislation, news, blogs, and information from the sector, or relevant to managing and/or running a business effectively. Collated and sent out regularly via email in an easy-to-read format with links, so that you can pick and choose what is of most interest to you.

No more isolation – it can be very lonely running a business or managing a setting. The group has pulled together, shared their ideas and approaches, and supported each other every step of the way. New members have joined over time and have been welcomed into the trusted group. It has become a small ‘community’ (numbers are limited) – so valuable during troubled times.

Regular reviews of training needed and current topics of interest – this has been ongoing since conception of the group – you can see what has been provided in response to members specific needs at the end of this blog article.

Managing Covid-19 within an EY setting – I am sure you will agree that this has been difficult. Being the independent facilitator of the group without the day-to-day responsibilities of running a setting means that I have been able to convene meetings and provide the liaison more easily, bringing the group together in different ways as and when needed.

Key features for the future

Flexible facilitation – meetings as and when required with a focus on the needs of the group, but at least once a month at present. With continual changes re Covid-19, Zoom has been used effectively. Face-to-face meetings will be considered again, or a mix of both, based on members wishes.

A set annual membership fee for core services of the network and further development – Pro-rata fee depending on when membership starts. Flexible payment plan if required.

Access to additional paid for services (pick-and-mix) – SEN support (as detailed above) but additional facilitation services to be further developed around members ongoing needs, based on the SEN support pilot modular approach already running successfully. To include basic awareness training for new staff (health & safety, First Aid, Safeguarding, leadership & management development, peer support, coaching & mentoring) and a range of other services at request.

All needs of members to be considered – needs change over time – we will listen and aim to provide!

Additional information

Trusted colleagues in the field of EY. Providing confidentiality on sensitive topics – the group has a mutually agreed ‘Memorandum of Understanding.

Dedicated time and space to come together – share problems, make suggestions, talk about difficult experiences with no judgement, find solutions, and even to have a rant!

Free initial meeting to get a feel for the group and to see if it right for you (no obligation to join).

Next steps

If you are interested and would like to know more about how it works or to simply express an interest just call me for an informal chat, no need to feel awkward, there is never any obligation. Or you can drop me an email make contact here.

During these times of social distancing phone, Zoom or other video calling methods can be used.