Spotlight on Becky Haynes, Codsall Community Nursery
How did you get into EYFS?
It was what I’d always wanted to do – we’ve always had young children in the family, so when I was about 12-13 years old and we started thinking about what we’d like to do in the future, I started to wonder if children could be my forte.
I went straight into doing my Level 3 when I left school: a two-year full-time course. I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to do school-age or early years children, but as soon as I did my first placement in a private day nursery I was like, ‘yeah, that’s where I want to be’.
As soon as I qualified, I got a full-time job, and I’ve been full-time in early years since august 2006.
So where was your first full-time job, and how many nurseries have you worked at since?
My first job was at a college nursery local to me in Wolverhampton. The only jobs around then were unqualified jobs, so although I was qualified, I took an unqualified role just so I was working and doing the job I wanted to do.
I was there for 11 years, and there was a big change during that time too because we were taken over by Cooperative Childcare, now Little Pioneers, while I was there. I went from being an unqualified practitioner to qualified, then did a maternity cover as deputy. I then became a room leader and room manager.
At that point, I felt that unless my deputy and my manager left my nursery, there was no scope for progression. So I found a deputy manager role in Walsall, and after I’d been there a year, the manager left, and I was promoted – so I was manager there for just under four years.
I then saw the job here at Codsall last April, and I thought, what have I got to lose? And I was successful.
How do you find being a manager?
It’s really good and really rewarding – but it can be stressful. Sometimes you have to take a step back, especially on a stressful day when you’ve had three staff phone in sick, and a child throwing up and you need to phone their parents. At the end of the day, you sometimes think, ‘how did we get through that?’ But you do; you learn to cope.
And if you’ve got a good team around you, and a good leader inspiring you, you get through it together. The culture we have here is more of a family than a work team, so you don’t feel you’re coming to work – because we all gel with each other.
What kind of manager are you?
I’ve always been happy to trial changes – if it doesn’t work, we have to go back to the drawing board, so as long as my staff respect that and know something might not be permanent, I’m happy to try things.
I’ve got a lady at the moment who wants to drop her hours by five hours a week and do it over three days rather than five. I said ‘that’s fine’, I came up with some ideas, and she chose one to try. It may not work but I will try and do anything for my team to build a really nice culture.
How do you reflect on your own practice? How do you continue your own growth as a manager?
Obviously my supervisions are a good time to sit and reflect on how I’ve been doing and what I want to achieve going forward. But Kelly [Hill, Codsall’s owner] advises managers to take time during the week to reflect on your own practices; what’s going well, what’s not – and I always set that for Friday afternoon and give myself 30 minutes to do a spider diagram to do a reflection for me personally.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
Making that difference to the children, to the staff, and to the parents. Especially being a community nursery, we don’t just provide a service for the children; we provide it for the parents as well.
Parents are having a tough time; some of them are still getting over the effects of Covid, and we’re in a cost of living crisis. Parents need that bit more help, whether that be pushing the payment deadline a bit or whatever.
We’ve got a library and café near us, so I say to parents, if you want an adult chat, let me know and we’ll go and get a coffee.
What have you learned in your time working in the early years?
That you have to embrace change, because there are always changes going on in early years. There’s always a spanner [in the works] from time to time!
How do you find working at Codsall – what opportunities have you had since joining last year?
Not only am I the manager here, I also do things now with Kelly on Early Years Leadership [Hill’s company that supports leaders in the early years].
I’ve helped Kelly deliver training to other settings and I’m also training my own team from an EYL point of view as well. Where we used to have Kelly come in and do it, she’s now saying to me, start with your own team because in the future, there might be two nurseries that want training on a Saturday, say – and Kelly can only be in one place.
Do you enjoy leading the training?
Yeah – it’s nerve-wracking but it’s nice – I like to network. Kelly also has the EYL Coaching Club, an exclusive group on Facebook that people can pay £10/month to join – so I’ve helped Kelly record videos for that.
The opportunities I’m being provided here at Codsall and EYL; there’s no way I would have got those at another nursery. The way I’ve been pushed to develop myself since I’ve been here in such a short period of time is amazing.
Where do you see your career going from here?
When I joined Codsall, there was a plan put into place of what my future could look like with the setting, so I know what I’m working towards. Kelly would like to get more nurseries, so when she has two nurseries I’ll oversee the two. And then when she gets her third, I’ll become an area manager.
What would be your message to nursery managers across the UK reading this?
Believe in yourself. If you can’t believe in yourself, your team’s not going to believe in you – and if you’re always saying to your team, ‘oh this has just failed or this has just gone wrong’, it’s going to bring them down.
Build a positive and inspiring culture at your nursery, so your team want to do well to push the nursery and themselves forward.
Have an open-door policy for parents and staff. And remember you’re only human; you are going to make mistakes along the way, just hold your hands up, reflect on it, and move forward. And develop a culture for your staff to be able to say it as well.
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