I started working at Mere Nursery in Knutsford in February 2016 (one of 6 nurseries owned by the family-run Village Nursery Group). I had previously worked for a large chain of nurseries but felt my skills were not recognised and I didn’t really have a voice in the team. From the moment I stepped into Mere Nursery for my interview I could see the Manager had a vision for the nursery and high expectations. The nursery had been bought in October 2015 by Julie and Ian Lightley and was going through a huge change so it was exciting to know that I could be part of this journey.
I was delighted to be offered the position and on my first day I was greeted by a small but lovely team. Each person made a big effort to say hello to me and make me feel as welcome as possible. I had a thorough induction from Stacey, the Manager which included going through the policies and procedures along with safeguarding training and discussing my role in detail. Stacey also introduced me to the values of the group which was great as these helped to understand the focus each day and they also mirrored my own values. I was also introduced to my mentor. It was great to have someone to chat to who had worked for the company for a long time and was around if I was unsure about anything.
During my first few weeks I was shadowed by the Assistant Manager, Carley who had outstanding knowledge of all the children’s stages of development and their needs. I was so impressed with the relationships between the families and the staff team. In such a short time between taking over and making lots of changes, they managed to make sure that the children felt safe and secure and had built trusting relationships with the parents. Over the next few weeks I had regular meeting with the Manager to discuss my progress and she gave me small projects to work on that really helped build on my confidence.
One of the things that I found really useful was being able to access training regularly. If I needed to enhance my knowledge in any area, we would source training either in house or externally and make time for me to attend. I had always been interested in pursuing a role as Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Co-Ordinator (SENDCO) and in my previous setting I hadn’t had the opportunity to do so. This was quickly picked up on by the management team and I attended regular training run by Cheshire East to enhance my knowledge and help to support children within the setting.
Meeting with practitioners from the other five nurseries in the group was a fantastic way to expand my knowledge and share my ideas with others who were facing the same challenges. One of my first meetings was with the Two Year Old Room Leaders from other nurseries. We discussed how we could improve our planning. Some had researched into “in the moment planning” and we brain stormed some ideas about how we thought this may work. The ideas were then shared with the Manager and were put into place in all settings and all rooms. This gave me such a great sense of achievement that I had been part of something which had been implemented into all the settings. I really felt that this was a way my voice was being heard.
In August 2016, due to lots of new families joining the setting I was pleased to be promoted to Third in Charge. I was so proud of what I had achieved in such a short space of time and this was down to the support received from Stacey and the Directors. This came along with a set of new challenges and projects and I was pleased that I was able to show my developing leadership skills. I was given a new action plan which helped me to grow into my new role and develop new skills for supporting the team here at Mere.
I was soon trained as a mentor which was great as it meant I could offer the same great support I received when I first started. I also carried out my first staff training session – which was a little bit nerve wracking but with coaching from my Manager and the training I had received beforehand I felt ready.
Then in October, an opportunity arose for an Assistant Manager at our newest setting – Astbury Lane Nursery in Congleton. After chatting with my Manager, I decided to apply for the role and was so proud when I got it! Coming this far in such a short space of time has helped to boost my confidence immensely and has helped me to understand that with the right support, coaching and mentoring anything is possible. I’m looking forward to growing into my new role with help of my new Manager, Emma and our Operations Director, Emma Jones and seeing what new challenges the future holds.