The start of the new EYFS framework 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic, or simply tired of struggling with (and losing) endless pieces of paper… There are many reasons Early Years settings are making the switch to nursery management software. But it can be a daunting task. What you’re looking for is software that will ease the current demands of running your nursery – from children to parents to staff. And without requiring an IT degree to use it.
Running our own Ofsted Outstanding nursery ourselves, we know what goes into the day-to-day runnings of a nursery business. And we wish it was all about colouring and nap times. Whether you need a solution to keep your staff from being overworked or need to better organise your billing, a modern nursery management system is able to provide you with a solution that is right for your business.
What features are worth paying for?
When it comes to searching for features that are best suited for your business, try looking at the current issues your business is facing. There must be something that prompted you to start the search for software solutions? Start there. Here are some valuable features to look out for to cover all areas of your business. We’ve separated them into what features will help children, parents, and staff specifically.
Features for Children at your Setting
Without a doubt, creating a safe environment for your children while at nursery is a high priority for your setting. And if software can help all the better! What are some ways software can help make my setting safer?
Being able to store information online about a specific child through the use of virtual child profiles keeps children safe and reduces practitioners’ stress. Essential information is ready at the click of a button. Information such as likes and dislikes, contact numbers, and medical information is instantly accessible. You want to be able to find information quickly especially in emergency situations, therefore ensure that your provider offers this feature.
Learning journeys no longer need to be recorded in a giant paper book – which parents hardly see. Make sure that functions like home moments are provided as it helps to include parents in their child’s education journey. As you know, a child thrives when practitioners and parents work together for their learning and development so this is a feature to look out for.
This is a valuable tool to ensure your provider offers. This is because the daily task of attendance recording is important for all nurseries. Sheet after sheet gets printed for the register alone, so having online registers is a weight off practitioners’ shoulders. Being able to export these as reports is another valuable feature to help keep you on top of all reporting, which is also useful during Ofsted inspections.
Birth to Five Matters 2021 and Development Matters 2021 have been the topic of conversation for EY settings for months now, with good reason. And it’s finally here. Therefore, it’s essential that your software offers the updated frameworks. Whichever document your setting has chosen to implement, ensure that the software provides it. We dive into the new EYFS framework 2021 in more detail.
Features for Parents at your Setting
Sharing information with parents is one of the best ways a nursery management system improves the overall quality of care provided at your nursery. Ensure that your software provider offers these useful features when making a decision:
It’s no surprise that our nurseries say having a parent app is a huge convincing factor for parents when choosing a setting. For better communication, increased parent inclusion, streamlined billing, and more, a parent app that functions well is powerful. However, they are not all the same and you want to ensure your software provider offers the best parent app. Make sure the app is:
These may seem simple, but they can make or break your parent app.
Ask to see the parent app during your demo. You want to experience what your parents will – and make sure that it holds up to your standards of care.
Creating and sending newsletters online instantly is extremely valuable for improving parent-nursery communication. Plus communication can become more frequent because it is faster and easier to do. Therefore this is a feature to make sure your provider offers.
Digital diaries have been a game-changer for EY settings. Parents can go into the diary after a morning of meetings at work and see what their child has been up to. Not only this, but parents are able to talk to their child about their day in a more meaningful way – for both of them. Thanks to precious photos and videos that are sent, parents, guardians, and grandparents are all kept well informed. Ensure that your provider offers this vital communication tool.
Being able to easily text a message to your nursery and receive a near instant reply provides a major communication boost for your business. Instant 2-way messaging is especially useful in emergencies or last-minute situations. This feature should be as easy as WhatsApp or iMessage to use – check this with your prospective provider during your demo.
Parents refer other parents. Think of your parents not only as your customers but your marketers. Keeping them happy and making their lives easier is a win-win-win (the parents – the nursery – the children).
This is another vital feature to ensure your software provides. Allowing parents to book ad-hoc sessions keeps parents happy while boosting your occupancy. It helps with filling those Friday afternoon ghost slots, without being under or overstaffed.
Did you know?
Blossom’s requesting extra sessions feature uses a powerful and unique algorithm to calculate session availability instantly – enabling you to reply and book up slots quickly.
This feature is essential to maximise your enrollments. Managing and following up with enquiries can be a cumbersome process – if done manually. With nursery management software automating it, less time is wasted while more slots are booked.
Fast, accurate, and automated invoices help speed up your business’s billing. It also encourages on-time payments from parents to boost your revenue. Make sure that your chosen software provider offers this feature – that functions as advertised.
Features for Staff at your Setting
It’s no secret that having happy and hard-working staff at your setting is a core factor for a successful nursery business. It’s easy to check in on staff when all the information you need is a click away in your pocket. Look out for these valuable features to optimise staff management at your setting:
This feature is for the benefit of staff and the creator of the rota, and therefore it’s important to make sure your provider offers this. With this feature, you can create staff rotas and worklogs in a matter of hours – instead of days. The main things to look for from this feature are does it simplify payroll and shift allocation? Other useful functions include that you are able to:
The shift clock in is a classic example of the daily tasks practitioners face that a nursery system is able to speed up and automate. Having a digital staff clock-in is a valuable feature, not only as it enables practitioners to start their day in a hassle-free way but because this feature also automates your staff payroll. Ensure that your provider offers this to keep staff happy and your business thriving.
This is another feature that reduces your paperwork while simultaneously making for a happier work life for your staff. With staff profiles, you are able to keep all information of an employee online. Keeping contracts, qualifications, and managing leave are the main functions to look out for when shortlisting possible providers.
Whether you find yourself under or over-staffed relates to how well you manage your room planning and ratio. It can be a tricky balance as you don’t want to over-work staff or waste money on unnecessary numbers of staff… Managing this without software often requires multiple spreadsheets, schedules, and paper files. However, with features such as room planning and occupancy, an accurate and speedy algorithm calculates this for you. During your demo, ask to see how this feature works to ensure its efficiency.
Birth to Five Matters 2021 and Development Matters 2021 bring with them some fundamental changes for practitioners. Mainly, moving away from tracking and towards more quality time spent with children instead. That is a core goal that the new EYFS and nursery management software has in common. Nevertheless, the need for features such as cohort tracking, and linking observations to older frameworks is no longer there. However, should your setting wish to continue using EYFS 2012 and Development Matters 2012, check that your software allows for this flexibility.
It’s important to keep in mind that nursery software is there as a tool to help the practitioner – not replace them. Software can’t comfort a crying child or teach them the difference between right and wrong – well not just yet anyway. Software is there to speed up the cumbersome tasks that detract from spending time with children – that practitioners have to do daily anyway.
Make sure that the nursery software is comprehensive. You don’t want to have to enter data multiple times in different places for the software to work properly. The whole point is to save time!
How much should I be willing to spend?
Good nursery management software should pay for itself quite quickly. If you calculate the costs spent on printing, paper, practitioner time on admin tasks, and more, nursery software proves itself to be a worthy investment. In fact, we’ve created a cost savings calculator to enable you to calculate the exact numbers your business could save by implementing software.
It’s also important to put it into perspective. If nursery management software helps convince more parents to join and features such as enquiries help convert prospects to enrollments faster, securing this income (and potentially for years) would be worth the software price.
Most software providers offer a basic package that costs around £60 + VAT per month. This generally gets you access to all essential features such as virtual child profiles, 2-way messaging, and diaries.
Whereas for around £140 + VAT per month you can access customised solutions that include features like enquiry management, financial forecasting, and requesting extra sessions. Free trial sessions are also often available. Why not enquire about this during your demo?
When it comes to pricing it depends on the provider. As mentioned, most offer basic, business, and premium packages. Most are priced monthly or annually, but some do base their prices on the number of children at your setting. Let’s take a look at some of the nursery management software providers currently on the market:
Blossom offers an Essentials package from £49 + VAT per month, that starts you off with features like virtual child profiles, mail merge/newsletters, and custom dashboards. A Business package of £109 + VAT per month with features such as occupancy planner, enquiry management, and staff rota is available as well. Blossom also offers customisable packages for your individual business and the option for an award-winning parent app.
Famly offers a Starters package from £69 + VAT per month which includes features like online registers and reporting. Famly offers a parent app, and a Premium package from £169 + VAT per month with features such as enquiry management and custom dashboards is also an option. Chargeable add-ons are also available.
Tapestry is an example of a provider that bases their prices on the number of children at your setting. For 20 children, prices start from £80 + VAT per year with access to features like diaries and reports. However, they do not have nursery management features as part of their offer. The option for a parent app is also available.
EyMan also bases their prices on the number of children at your setting. For example, the price for 20 children at your setting starts from £19 per month with access to features like staff profiles and occupancy planning. The option for a parent app is also available.
Many nursery system providers may offer the same features and functions. However, it’s about the way they do them. You don’t want to click 5 times to get to where you want. Therefore, consider its user-friendliness when choosing software.
How do I choose a nursery management software?
The right software will provide solutions to issues you’re facing at your specific setting. And it will prove profitable in the long run. Start by making a list of problems currently troubling your setting – nothing is too small.
For example, let’s take a pain point that your staff, parents, children, or nursery business as a whole might be facing.
From there you can research software providers that offer ways to solve these issues. Shortlist providers that appear to tick your boxes and book a demo with at least two. Asking other settings what they use and reading online reviews are excellent ways to gain a true understanding of what the software offers. We go into more detail about how to choose the best nursery management software for your business.
One important factor to keep in mind is the customer support and training the software provider offers. Having a helpful and knowledgeable voice over the phone is essential for both a smooth cross-over when first implementing the software, as well as ensuring that it continues to provide support to your business.
Blossom’s customer service team all have backgrounds in the EY sector. Chat to one of our client service managers for more.
There are many options for nursery management software providers currently on the market. And on the face of things, they all appear to do the same things. However, good software relates to its user-friendliness, and helpful customer support and training. And the right software shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg but will prove to be a profitable investment in the long run. Overall, nursery management software can help provide an easy, affordable, and long-term solution to those issues currently holding back your business.