How did you get into early years education?
I always wanted to work with children and qualified as a nursery practitioner in 1990, after which I started my career as a private nanny, working for a family in Hove. Next, I joined a private nursery chain operating in and around southern England, where I progressed to nursery manager. After the birth of my son I returned to early years, and in 2015 I established Pebbles Childcare.
Tell us about your current role
Being a home practitioner, I do a bit of everything; planning, all the paperwork that's involved in running a business, preparing meals, organising activities and outings, meeting parents and playing with the children.
It's always different because it's all about meeting the needs of the children. We might go to the beach, or a museum, or walk the dog and play on the swings. Because we are a small set-up we can take advantage of opportunities as they arise. If it's snowing for example, we'll go for it. The freedom we have ensures every day is different, but we also base out themes around children's interests. So for example, if a child has a particular interest in trains, we might go on a train journey and look at the trains for the day.
What are you doing for sustainability in the setting?
We recycle our waste wherever possible, take refillable water bottles with us when we go out and use second hand play equipment as much as possible to take the up-cycling approach. It is all about striking a balance though, as our plastic ‘fairy happy-land’ figures are a much-loved favourite resource and there's no way we can get rid of them. Here at Pebbles we have taken the ‘Hygge’ philosophy on board and aim to create a positive environment with lots of opportunities to explore lovely, tactile materials through approaches such as small parts play. Chloe Webster, who runs the setting with me, has accreditation for Curiosity Approach training which looks at the background to Hygge.
How would you describe the ethos of your setting?
It's all about family and nurturing the child, this is at the very centre of all we do.
How will you link children's learning with the natural world this spring?
We are blessed with the area we live in, with so many opportunities for outdoor learning. We will be foraging for interesting materials while on our nature walks, with older children using cameras and spotter's sheets, and we will go on bluebell walks just to look at the wild bluebells. As the weather gets warmer we'll have some great Beach School days, with literally limitless possibilities for learning which changes and develops within this unique environment.
Have you experienced any challenges working in early years?
Funding is probably the biggest challenge, but not the only one; I'm a professional outstanding provider, but home providers are just not given the regard they deserve.
I feel the way forward should be for all home providers to hold a Level 3 qualification.
What advice would you give for getting into early years education?
You have to love it and have a passion for childcare. You're not going to retire a millionaire – unless you're really lucky! You need to find it fun and also understand your job, but, if you fit the bill it's the best job ever, for example, we have a little girl coming to us who really wanted to win an Anna – from Frozen – keyring, which she'd seen in the arcade on our local pier, so Chloe took the children down to the seafront to play on the 2p machines. When they came back Chloe said to me, ‘There can be no other job where you spend a day playing at the pier’ – so much fun!