My name is Jane Andrews and I am the Area Manager for First Friends Day Nurseries.
My career has always been child centred from initially qualifying as a Nursery Nurse to becoming an Early Years Teacher, and most recently a Nursery Manager. I have worked at First Friends for almost nine years.
I have always loved the company of young children and am lucky enough to have my own three daughters and now three grandchildren. I love spending time with them all and being directly involved in their hobbies and interests. My personal interests revolve around reading, writing, walking and cycling.
My work at First Friends revolves around supporting our three talented Nursery Managers. I am interested in continuously improving skills and standards in the delivery of early years childcare through our nurseries. I help and guide our Managers on training and development, and in sharing best practice throughout between our nurseries. If I look for one measure of my success, it is the ever-increasing positive early years experience that children entrusted to our care receive, and the growing confidence that our parents show in our work.
Becoming a parent appears to involve entering a competitive field of behaviour, monitoring, assessment and judgement.
Parents already new to the responsibility of a dependant and feeling vulnerable about getting it ‘right’ suddenly find themselves and their offspring being measured against their peers.
Many new parents join support groups, social media and ‘what’s app’ groups with friends or parents they have met through pre and postnatal classes. Designed to help and support they are often very helpful but they can also have a very detrimental effect on new parents. Parents feel the pressure if their children are not showing the same level of development as their friends’ babies. It often becomes more competitive the older the children with sporting and academic achievements, University choices and careers and then to their own children and so the cycle is perpetuated.
As an Early Years Teacher and Nursery Manager for the past 26 years my advice to any new parents would always be not to measure their child against anyone else’s. All children develop at different rates and some show amazing early ability in speaking or mobility whilst others are developing in different areas but most reach adulthood as well rounded and unique individuals. Do not feel under pressure and follow your parental instincts with regard to your own child as you know best.
Makes 20 small or 10 larger burgers
Pre-heat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7 Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper
Place all the ingredients in a food-processor or with a hand-held blender and blend for 5-10 seconds, until the mixture is fairly coarse
Once the mixture has been pressed down with a spatula blend again for a further 10 seconds
Remove the mixture and on a clean board shape the mixture into small balls and then flatten with the back of a spoon
Bake for 15-20 until lightly coloured
Serve in a burger bun with sweet potato wedges for a nutritious and healthy meal.
Key tip to encourage an enthusiastic reception is to use the word burger when serving to young children!
Obesity has been dubbed the new smoking. There has been a reported 41% increase over three years in childhood type 2 diabetes, which is closely linked to child obesity.
In 2015, the government said that one in five children were obese by the time they started primary school. We, like a lot of conscientious pre-school providers, took umbrage to that statistic. Despite government promises, no help was offered to those responsible for pre-school years.
In 2016, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) launched its plan for action against growing child obesity. This was a 10-year plan and all we can see that they have done in the first two years is to introduce the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, which has had some success in reducing sugar in soft drinks. Now, the government sees the need to significantly upgrade its activity.
Recent reports about the “next chapter” in the government’s fight against child obesity have left all of us here at First Friends confused. The plans, largely the subject of consultation at this stage, intend to provide help to parents and children to achieve healthier, more active lifestyles by 2030. Specifically, the government is pledging to halve child obesity by then.
The DHSC is undertaking consultations on:
The new plan “promotes a new national ambition” (whatever that means), that every primary school adopts a daily ‘active mile’ initiative. Modest funding is being offered to walk-to-school projects and bicycle training programmes, but it is not clear whether this is new money, or just a reallocation of the already scarce funding for education.
Constraints on the primary school curriculum by government have shrunk the percentage of physical education being offered within some schools and this alone has devastating implications for the health and well-being of our children.
We want nothing less than the government wants, but feel very strongly that there is a different way. The government’s agenda is imposing a ‘nanny state’. It is strong-arming food manufacturers and retailers, whilst providing very little by way of encouragement and guidance to parents and children. Sooner or later, businesses will find a way around any new regulations and we will be back where we started.
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Statutory Framework requires day nurseries and pre-schools to provide opportunities for activity and healthy eating choices. In our experience, this simple plan has proved successful.
We believe that tackling pre-school child obesity is more about exercise and activity, than diet. Sure diet is important, but kids have been eating the wrong stuff for decades and are not about to become consumer angels overnight! What they have only recently started doing is living a more sedentary lifestyle.
Jane Andrews, our Area Manager will be providing advice to parents in her regular newsletter column on what can be done to increase activity levels for their children, to complement what we have them do whilst in our care.
We’ll let the government get on with its agenda, but the real challenge lies with us as individuals.
Tobie Keel joined First Friends in February 2012 as the nursery cook in our Salisbury Nursery, and shortly afterwards he realised that childcare was something he wanted to pursue. Tobie completed his apprenticeship with First Friends in the summer of 2013. He became a key team member, showing passion and commitment in his nursery practitioner role. He is popular amongst the staff team, parents and of course the children.
As a consequence of Tobie’s hard work and commitment, First Friends is proud to announce that he is now our Salisbury Nursery Manager. Cook to Manager in six years is a wonderful achievement. But Tobie is not done yet, having just started his NVQ level five in early years and management.
Male early years practitioners are important for young children as men bring a different dimension to learning and can provide stable male continuity for some children who may not otherwise have this within their home environment. Strong positive male representation within our profession is very important to help dispel preconceived prejudices and we feel that the right male staff member can only enhance the early years learning experience.
Tobie Keel says; *“I am proud to have been given this opportunity. Over the last few years I have become aware of the limited number of men who consider early years childcare as a career. I hope that my own story can inspire other men to consider working in my industry and experiencing the rewards and achievements I have been privileged to receive We have a fantastic staff team and I look forward to the next chapter at First Friends!”<*/p>