Setting up a nursery is a challenge, from staffing to room preparations; one thing you can tick off is being statutory compliant with your policies and procedures as soon as you begin. To get the inside, expert scoop on all things policy, we interviewed Natalie Bishop, TED X talker, CEO of The SEND Foundation and Director of Little Years Nursery. This article highlights which policies and procedures fall under statutory requirements. Plus, 5 top tips to support policy creation and implementation to underpin your new nursery ethos and management.
What is the difference between policy and procedure in the Early Years?
When you set up your nursery, you hear the terms, ‘policy’ and ‘procedure’ countless times. Both have separate definitions, but must work in tandem to be effective. Policy is the principles of the nursery as a whole aim to work within, linked to a scenario or topic (safeguarding, administering medication). Procedure is the official way of working and applying the policy to everyday situations.
Which policies and procedures are statutory in EYFS?
The statutory policies are listed in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework; every EYFS setting must share these with their parents and families. These mandatory policies do not need to be in separate documents; they can be detailed in the same policy (e.g. paragraph 3.3). The list below are the policies and procedures that nurseries must show evidence of:
Nursery owners or managers must review this policy at least annually; the policy will be in line with the nursery’s three local safeguarding partners (local authorities, chief officers of police, and clinical commissioning groups).
Children who are ill or infectious
As a nursery owner, you will have a generic policy in this area. However, personalised health plans may be in place for children who are ill for extended periods (degenerative diseases or cancer). This policy will highlight important information, such as the length of time away from the nursery due to vomiting or diarrhoea, to protect other children. Many nurseries also include information about Covid isolation and will regularly update with the newest guidance. Natalie champions the involvement of parents when creating or reviewing this policy: ‘Parents can become frustrated or confused with the 48 hour rule, sharing the why behind can help to empower.’
Medicine administration is an aspect of policy where clear language and wording is essential to avoid confusion in crucial situations. This section (or separate document) will detail the systems surrounding gathering important information regarding the child’s needs. It may well include helpful information on the storage of medicines, contacting parents in an emergency, and training for staff.
Covering the procedures in place in the event of a fire or other dangerous situation may also be displayed in communal areas to assist in a state of panic.
Visitors to the nursery
In an area under the umbrella of safeguarding, there is a high chance Ofsted can test the visitor identification process during inspection visits. The identification of visitors should follow a strict and consistent approach. Many schools and nurseries now use check-in screens, where pictures are taken of the visitor and recorded on their system.
Missing or left child
If a parent fails to collect a child at the given time, all staff will follow the agreed procedure. You will share this process with the families at the beginning of their journey with the nursery for transparency. The procedure explanation also covers the process followed if a child was to go missing whilst at the nursery or on a nursery outing.
Complaints or concerns
Although you and your team will try their utmost to support all families, occasionally, there can be complaints. The inclusion of the complaints process is essential within your documentation. This may also include the essential contact details of the local authority, safeguarding information, and Ofsted. It is helpful to undertake staff scenario training with your team for professional development around parental complaints using the agreed procedure due to the potential for heightened emotions during verbal complaints.
What are the benefits of having clear policies in nurseries?
When creating policies and procedures during your nursery setup, there should be clear aims and outcomes linked to each policy designed. Natalie explains the importance of remaining true to your nursery’s ethos when creating your policies. They should be a working document that allows for consistency across all staff interactions and approaches to supporting the children and families in their care.
Online information and research can be the first source of information and insight into the setting for many parents (and new staff). It is an opportunity to instil confidence in the nursery’s approach to their child’s wellbeing and progression. Without encouraging policy for paperwork’s sake, your policies and procedures should be created with setting-specific risks in mind. If your setting has high levels of safeguarding concern potential, speak to another similar setting for advice or look on their website.
Natalie reminds us to keep it simple, ‘Whether you have 1 setting or 300, straight forward policies that immediately cover the focus topic are essential’. She talks of some settings having up to 90 policies, which becomes overwhelming for induction procedures and not to mention honorous for the directors and managers who are tasked with reviewing them!
5 top tips for nursery policy creation and implementation
It can be easy to fall into the trap of creating policy upon policy for all areas of risk and potential in your setting. However, if this gives you confidence, then go for it! We have five practical tips to bear in mind, ensuring you are the most efficient and effective from the get-go.
Keep it simple
In a newly established EYFS setting, you may find grouping policies with similar topics in the one overarching document useful (safeguarding, health, communications). Equally, separate policy documents are often used in nurseries, accessible via the website. Although Ofsted does not expect to see the documents in a specific format, it must be practical and understandable for the intended audience. This could be a great first question to ask the parents about their layout preference. For example, will many policies be daunting or allow your parents and staff easy access?
Values and ethos
Your nursery is the best because you have the personal drive and passion behind your creation. Your policies need to reflect what makes your nursery special. If your setting is heavily focused on creative play or inclusion, showcase that through your systems. Natalie’s passion is inclusion, she mentions the importance to allow these unique qualities to shine through.
Your parents are your clients; they experience the setting from an alternative perspective. They may also have attended several EYFS settings before joining yours. Their input into the accessibility, language choice and content can be invaluable for necessary edits and making your families feel listened to.
Ease of access
With the frequent change in guidelines relating to health and safety in the last two years, being able to direct your parents to policy changes or adjustments easily is critical. Using an online platform where updates are highlighted can remove the assumed understanding of procedures and policies in place. It can also remove any administrative headaches linked to parental permission (outings, pictures taken, food), with each process being completed via your chosen platform.
The policies and procedures of your nursery dictate how your team will manage it; all your staff members must understand the expectations surrounding their management of situations. These documents should be actively reflected upon and altered when necessary. Create opportunities to review procedures routinely during team meetings for professional development. It is also valuable to review safeguarding policies following any safeguarding concerns or issues, no matter how small, to evaluate how the policy performed. It is good practice to have information on the policy to identify the policy creator and reviewer by name, the reviewed date, and the planned next review date.
Starting your own nursery journey and want some more information on how Blossom Educational can effectively prepare you for Ofsted inspections?