Carrying on with ‘business as usual’ just isn’t a possibility in these times. In fact, it has become more like ‘business as unusual’ with the pandemic throwing everything into chaos.
Managing a group of 5 nurseries ourselves, we know first hand the struggles you are facing trying to keep everything afloat. That’s why we’ve laid some methods and advice on how to operate a nursery school successfully during Covid.
Please note that these are our learnings and do not constitute formal or governmental advice
It’s important for staff (and children) to adhere to Covid safety protocols. These help keep staff and anyone who enters the building safe. This means:
Testing staff frequently is also important to keep them, and everyone in your nursery, healthy. You can test every 7 days with a Rapid Covid Test. It takes only a few seconds and you get the results within 45 minutes. Isolate the testee during this time until you know they are negative and safe to return to the nursery. Should they be positive, they need to go into immediate isolation, have a governmental Covid test and the process we outlined later in the article can guide you.
Also consider using ‘bubbles’ in your nursery school. This has worked for our nurseries as by creating these for specific staff and children it reduces the risk of cross contamination. Remember this means, unfortunately, no common areas for staff.
It’s been difficult to interact with parents and potential new parents coming to your nursery during the pandemic. Families don’t go into the nursery itself which makes getting new families to join an additional challenge. Consider virtual tours. Simply using your phone to take a video of the setting with your voice-over can go a long way to giving parents a feel of life within your nursery. We advise trying to give as much additional information as possible over the phone.
Additionally, we know that parents don’t get to see the full value your nursery is providing for their children, and this can all get very frustrating. Our advice is to communicate with your parents through available online tools. On top of this, your current parents are probably feeling very anxious about their children returning to nursery school.
When operating a nursery school in a Covid-19 world, you have to be prepared for when (and if) the worst strikes. The first thing to remember is: don’t panic. It’s easy to get overwhelmed at the thought of the procedure that follows. Having had an unfortunate few cases of Covid at our own nurseries, we have broken it down into simple steps to make the process a little less intimidating. This is what has worked for us:
Should a child be tested positive, it is important to look at facts: Which room is the child in? With which teachers/staff/children did they come into contact? These are vital questions to ask. We recommend looking back at the child’s schedule for the 2 days prior to your nursery learning of the test results. Keeping track of this type of data comes into critical use. This is where nursery management software comes in handy. Check out Blossom’s children’s attendance and tracking feature that is proving useful to our users.
Once you have this data, you need to inform certain authorities about the positive case. Firstly, make the call to Public Health. They will ask you 1001 questions, so have your cup of tea (or something stronger) close by. They will also provide you with important letters that need to be sent. One letter will be sent out to all families at the nursery, informing them that your nursery has had a positive case. The second letter will be sent to everyone who had recent contact with the person/child who tested positive. These families will then need to isolate for the subsequent 10 days. Reaching out to these families/staff with a phone call or Zoom chat makes it more personal – during a very unpleasant situation for them.
Don’t forget to contact Ofsted as well. They will require certain information such as how the positive case has impacted your nursery school, how many children and staff will be away from the setting, etc. And lastly, a deep clean of your nursery is next. However, it is important to wait 72 hours before anyone goes in to clean as the virus could still be live in the environment.
If your nursery (or part of) needs to go into isolation, there is the alternative way of hosting classes online. Zoom is proving a popular (and reliable) choice. What worked for us was hosting about 5-6 online classes per day, for different age groups. Parents particularly liked these classes because they could be more involved with their child’s learning and development. It made it more personal. Additionally, it reassures parents that your nursery is taking active steps to find solutions to the never-ending challenges that Covid brings. Essentially, you are offering parents a different type of service – which they appreciate.
These sessions are successful because they are led by practitioners (whom the children and parents know and like) and it is something different to focus on. The children also enjoyed the classes because they get to see their friends and teachers, and have fun. During these sessions you can really get creative. Host French lessons, bake cupcakes, sing, dance- are some examples of fun online sessions. Check out our online lesson plan we sent to our parents.
Anxiety is running high at the moment. Remember that your staff are human too and they most likely are experiencing feelings of anxiety themselves. Some of your staff (or their families) may even be vulnerable and high risk. How are you offering them support? Create an outlet for staff to communicate any issues/ concerns they may have. And don’t forget to reassure them. Remember simply to be honest with the families and staff. You don’t know when the pandemic will end or when the vaccine will be dispersed to all. However, this is what you do know:
Operating a nursery school during Covid is no easy task. In fact, operating a nursery school is no easy task full stop. During these uncertain times, we are all simply doing our best.