A day in the life of a Packaway Nursery

The majority of the Capture Education support team comes from an early years background, which gives us valuable insight into the challenges which settings face on a daily basis.

But there’s one area where we don’t have first-hand experience, and that’s the truly unique world of packaway nurseries. To help us better understand these environments, our very own Caroline Blair jumped at the chance to spend the day with Sherwood Playgroup CIO in Nottingham and shares her story here…

Before joining Capture Education, I was fortunate to work in several well-equipped private day nurseries and to also spend time as a nanny. So, as I prepared to ‘go back into the workplace’, I was looking forward to spending time with children again, getting hands-on with the ‘learning through play’ activities and seeing how our digital learning journal can make a positive contribution to nursery life. The day at Sherwood Playgroup ticked all these boxes, but the most poignant learning I took away from the packaway experience was the additional challenges these settings have to overcome – on a daily basis.

I arrived bright and early at 8.30am, ready to sign in and complete my brief induction. By 8.40am, the rest of the team were on-site and working like a well-oiled machine. No time for a cuppa and a chin wag – it was straight to work with transforming the community hall and outdoor playspace into a fully functioning nursery setting. Affectionately known as the ‘Tardis’, I stared at the cupboard in disbelief. The whole nursery couldn’t possibly be stored in there, could it?

 

Fast forward 15 minutes and the previously bare hall had become an engaging and stimulating EYFS environment, complete with reception desk and the relevant health and safety / legislative documentation on display. Oh, and that was all done by just two people (I lent a helping hand but couldn’t help feeling I was more of a hindrance as they had the unpacking system down to a tee)!

Just as the clock was about to strike 9.30am, parents and children started to come through the doors, which meant straight to the welcome mat for registration and the official ‘start’ to the nursery day (although it felt like I’d already done a day’s work with the moving of furniture).

For the next few hours, I was able to enjoy the time – observing how the young children were fully engaged with activities and heading outside to explore the play opportunities in the garden. Jayne and Louise, the nursery managers, were absolute masters of multi-tasking – I was in awe of how the team transitioned through the roles of cook, cleaner and carer – all while doing the ‘day’ job of nurturing the children in their EYFS development.

Lunchtime came (and very quickly went), with order being restored to the setting in time for the afternoon session to start. I can’t remember the last time I did so much moving and lifting. Needless to say, I was starting to feel the strain a bit by this point!

Fast forward to 4.00 pm and I was ready for home time. Except it wasn’t home time for us. The hall had to be restored to its former empty glory, which meant leaving it exactly as we found it in the morning… I now found myself staring at the empty cupboard with even greater wonder… how on earth would it all go back in?

The ‘ah ha’ moment came when one of the staff showed me the markings on the floor. Clearly marked out zones gave everything a home. And then in the same systematic fashion that the nursery ‘popped up’ in the morning – it was ‘packed away’ like clockwork and ready to hand over to the caretakers promptly at 4.30pm.

It was a real case of ‘you had to see it to believe it’. With just a final sweep of the floor, it was like 30 children hadn’t been enjoying messy play, dressing up or making glitter cards through the day.

The most major takeaway from my day with a packaway has to be admiration. This is not only for the extra strain that physically moving furniture around puts on the team, but that this extra pressure doesn’t have any impact on the enthusiasm and dedication of the team to provide an early years environment which is supportive, engaging and ultimately creates very happy and contented children.

So, for all the packaway nurseries out there, all of the packaway managers and your practitioners – I salute you!

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