Transcript: Dunblane Nature Kindergarten: Covid-19 response

An interview with Jenna Henderson, Early Years Educator.

Podcast Episode: Dunblane Nature Kindergarten: Covid-19 response



What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.

MD - Michelle Drumm
JH - Jenna Henderson

MD Jenna Henderson, an Early Years Educator at Dunblane Nature kindergarten tells us about the impact of lockdown on their services and how they’re maintaining relationships with children and families at this time.

MD Can you just tell me a bit about Dunblane Nature Kindergarten and your role there?

JH Yeah, so obviously I’m an early years educator at Dunblane Nature Kindergarten. I’ve worked there for just over seven and a half years and I started off as a trainee. So it’s good, they put me through my training and stuff like that. I’m currently the team leader in the pre-school room and my role is to work alongside management and to provide professional leadership and like ensure the children receive the highest standards of care and education. We’re obviously an outdoor based kindergarten, so we focus on like being outside 80% of the time and we do fires and tool handling and go on all day walks. So it’s more nature based learning and focussing on child-led learning instead of having more structure and telling them what they’re learning. We take it from the children’s choice.

MD Okay, and how many children do you support?

JH Well we are open for 0 to 5 year olds. So we’ve got a baby room which holds nine children. We’ve got a toddler room that can hold fifteen and my room can hold twenty five, and we’ve also got an out of school club as well. So for any parents that have children going to school, they can continue their care with us, which is nice.

MD Yep, and how large is the staff team?

JH I think right now our staff team is twelve, and that’s including management as well.

MD Right, so it’s quite a big team then of people?

JH Yeah.

MD And you’re supporting quite a lot of children. Well, given a lot of your activities are outdoors, the current lockdown situation will have had a big impact on your services. So when was it that you first heard about it and how has it impacted you?

JH Well obviously we heard about coronavirus throughout the news and how it was affecting China and all that kind of stuff, but then when we had our first local positive case a lot of parents were becoming anxious about it and whether to bring their children into nursery, and then when the schools shut our numbers started dropping slowly and parents started to become more anxious and pulling their children out and kind of self-isolated themselves. So it did have a big impact on us because we were losing staff as well because a lot of staff had children in school, so they had no choice but to stay at home with their children, and then that’s when it started to have a big impact on us and we shut the nursery down on the - I can’t remember what day it was but I think it was the Friday before lockdown happened, and we shut down the nursery and only opened up to key workers’ children, but we didn’t have many so we eventually shut the nursery on the Tuesday, which was a big scare for all of us really ‘cause we didn’t really see it coming but we kind of did at the same time. It was one of those confusing situations. You didn’t really know whether you were coming or going.

MD Yeah absolutely, and what’s the situation now then?

JH So we’re shut just now. We don’t know when we’re going to reopen. We don’t even know if the lockdown lifts if we’ll reopen again. It’s literally just a waiting game and it’s really difficult. It’s not nice.

MD Okay. So you’re not supporting any children for key workers?

JH No, not at the moment. No. Some of our nurseries in the company are open but only a few.

MD And are you doing anything then to keep in touch with the children or the families?

JH Yeah we are actually. So the team leaders came together and we made a private Facebook group for the parents to stay connected, because obviously the children don’t really understand why they can’t be with their friends and can’t be at nursery. So we created that page where the parents can post in it as much as they want and the staff are posting in it as well. We’ve done stories. Our chefs put videos in of how to do some home cooking. We’ve done daily videos from all the parents. They’ve been posting in about what the kids have been getting up to. So it’s really nice to see what they’re up to as well, and we did a “Dance, it’s Friday” video, so all the staff did a little dance video and made like a wee music video for the kids to see, which is really nice. Yeah, it’s nice to stay connected with each other and just make sure that we’re all still keeping in touch.

MD Yeah. So you’re mainly using Facebook then to communicate?

JH Yeah.

MD Yeah.

JH We have this website that we use back at nursery called “Learning Journals”, where we track all the children’s learning, but we’ve been adding home learning so the parents can add in what they’ve been teaching the children at home. So we’ve been kind of giving them ideas of what they can do to continue what they’ve been doing at nursery.

MD Yeah sure, ‘cause a lot of the parents won’t be used to home-schooling.

JH Yeah.

MD So it will be difficult for them.

JH I think some of the parents are finding it a bit hard but I think the page has definitely helped ‘cause we’re kind of sharing our ideas with them and what they can do at home, which is quite good.

MD And how are you keeping in contact with the team, the staff team?

JH Well we have our group calls. The girls and I, we usually have a group FaceTime every night because we’re so used to seeing each other forty hours of every week. So we’ve been kind of FaceTiming every single day, which is nice, and we also have our group WhatsApp and our group Facebook chats, and just kind of checking in with each other and asking how were all getting along and how we’re coping and stuff, which is nice. It’s hard from going to seeing all the staff like forty hours a week. It’s the same as the children really. You spend so much time with them and from going from forty hours to nothing, it’s so hard.

MD Yeah.

JH And we’re a school nursery as well, so it’s not just separate rooms. We’re always all together, babies and toddlers and pre-school. We’re all together all the time, so we’re all like a big family, which is making it harder.

MD Yeah, and as a professional working with children 0 to 5, do you see any long-term impacts on the children perhaps as a result of this situation?

JH I just think that they’ll be finding it very confusing. They don’t understand it at all. They’ll just be thinking it’s a big holiday, but a lot of the parents have been saying to me that the children are asking when they’ll be back to nursery, and one of the parents FaceTimed me and she said that the little girl was asking when I was coming back from holiday so that she could go back to nursery. So I just think they don’t really understand it and it might have an impact on them and it might not, but we won’t know until it’s all over really. If the parents are stressed, they’re picking up on the energy, because children pick up on everything. Like if you’re in a bad mood they’ll pick up on it 100%. They might not know why but it affects them in that way. Like your mood affects their mood, if that makes sense?

MD Yeah.

JH So if you’re panicking, they’re panicking, and then they act out. Trying to stay calm, it’s easier said than done. I know myself it’s hard to stay calm in this kind of situation. None of us have ever been in it before.

MD And do you have any idea what will happen then to the nursery going forward?

JH We will reopen eventually once it’s all over and once all the schools go back and nurseries reopen, and I think that once it reopens it’s just building us back up again and picking up where we left off and getting back into the routine of things, because obviously being off for so long is so hard, and I think it’s going to impact a lot of people’s mental health. I mean everyone in general. I think that this is going to have a big impact on all of us as adults, but I think when we go back it’ll be nice to go back. We’ll be lucky to go back and see all the kids again. You don’t know until it happens really.

MD Yeah. I think you guys will play a really key role in bringing the communities and families back together.

JH Yeah, definitely. It’s just continuing to smile for the kids.

MD You’ll be missing your work as well I presume?

JH Yes. I miss the kids. I miss the parents. I miss the staff. I literally miss everything, especially the kids ‘cause I keep seeing all their posts on Facebook and I’m like, “How are they growing up so fast?” Like I’ve only being away for like a month and they’ve grown up so much in the past month, and I feel like they’re part of my family and I feel like I’m missing a lot of things that they’re doing and it’s really sad, and a lot of my children are going to school in August so I was hoping that I would see them before, but I don’t know if I will, which is even worse. We have like a mini graduation and a leavers party and stuff like that for them, so we might have to miss all that, which is sad.

MD Yeah.

JH ‘Cause we’ve looked after them since they were babies.

MD It’s a sudden break and there’s no time to celebrate.

JH Yeah, definitely.

MD Is there any advice that you would offer as well to other organisations and people in the same situation as yourselves?

JH For early years educators?

MD Yeah.

JH Yeah. So I think the page has really worked for us. If you do work in a nursery setting and you have parents that you’d like to stay in contact with - well obviously you want to stay in contact with all of them, but setting up a private page where only you can accept parents that you’re aware that come to your setting, and just posting daily check-ins for the parents and the children and encouraging home learning and just doing fun things with them just to make sure that you’re staying connected, especially for the children ‘cause it’s a very confusing time for them.

MD Fantastic. Well, Jenna, it was great to speak to you.

JH It was lovely to speak to you too.

MD Yeah, and all the best and look after yourself and keep safe and well.

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