Congratulations to the nominees and winners of this year’s Storal Awards!
It was a difficult choice with so many glowing nominations from colleagues, managers and parents but these 4 really stood out.

Thank you to everyone who tuned in to the virtual Awards Show, from their nurseries with their team and from their sofas at home.

Where it all began…

Our saying has always been that we pride ourselves on being a home from home setting and a little family. We decide that we wanted to bring this to life even more and start a journey to making our environment match what we believed in. We had always been a bright and colourful nursery to make us stand out from the crowd, which we both loved and embraced. However, we felt that maybe if our surroundings reflected a more homely feel then this would enhance wellbeing in both staff and children and make the environment an even better space in which to learn and enjoy which in hand would provide the best possible outcomes for the children.

Once we had discussed the possibilities we started to get very excited about what we could achieve and wanted to get the input from both the staff team and the parents to see what they felt about the approach we were looking for.

 

Staff Training Day

Wellbeing is very important to us as a setting and we feel that having hygge embedded in our day to day life would help all the staff team to feel valued and supported.

We introduced a wellbeing champion to help support staff and have a go to person if they were struggling or just having a down day. This encouraged staff to talk to someone if they needed it. The wellbeing champion is there for the team with tips on how to manage their wellbeing as well as little treats to let the staff know they are valued.

Wellbeing Treats

We often treated the staff with little gestures such as breakfast, sweets and pamper packs; these were well received and made the staff feel happy.

Hygge Training Sessions

Sooo relaxing!

As part of our training day the wellbeing champion incorporated a hygge session into the day for the staff so they could get an insight into what hygge is and how we wanted to bring it in the setting. We thought ‘my perfect Hygge day’ was a good starting point with the staff as it gave them chance to think about what they enjoy doing and what helps them to feel Hygge! It was so nice to see how each one differed. There were lots of discussions about what day to day things stressed them out and how these could be overcome. The training session really help them to think a bit about how looking after their own well-being and taking out a little time to do something that helps them to relax could have a positive impact on them as a person and the setting as a whole.

Staff’s Perfect Hygge Day

Chilling time!

The  whole staff team enjoyed sharing their perfect days with the rest of the team and it gave a real insight into all the different things we all enjoyed doing!!

We also got the staff to send in pictures on International Hygge day of them doing something ‘Hygge’ they really enjoyed sharing their pictures! Baking was a big hit.

Parent Involvement

We invited the parents to attend an online parent group to let them see what our plans involved and the improvements we were looking at making. We made a mood board of lots of inspiring images to help them capture our vision and help them to understand the reasoning behind the changes! Although some of the parents were unsure as they liked the brightness of the setting they started to understand the journey we wanted to take and knew that we had thought about ensuring we get the right balance and making sure the children were at the centre of any decision we were going to make. By the end of the group they were as excited as we were to make that next step…

The parents really got on board and were looking forward to the changes we were making.

Educating the staff team

As the staff were so use to incorporating bright and bold into the environment and experiences they offered we needed to support the team with making these changes without upsetting anyone… not everyone likes change and can struggle to embrace it so we made sure we guided those who may struggle and ensured it was a positive experience for everyone!!!

(who doesn’t like spending someone else’s money!!)

Colour scheme

The staff from each room researched lots of environments taking on board what we had already learnt from the Hygge approach and took some time to think what would work well within their rooms. We had group discussions on wall colour, flooring and carpet before looking at what resources would complement the setting.

Staff Room Transformation

We decide to surprise the staff and Hygge the staff room to give them inspiration and show them our vision for the rest of the nursery… our staff room is not very big and was a wash of policies, memos and a basic overflow of nursery life!!

We looked at how we could make this a cosy and comfortable place for the staff to enjoy while they were on their lunch break. After some hard work from the management team we fell we did them proud and couldn’t wait to unveil the transformation!

We removed all the work related stuff and repainted the room in a lovely grey tone and added a photo gallery of nights out we had had as a team and funny selfies we had all taken during lockdown, we brought fairy lights to put round the photos and a little lamp as there was soft lighting rather than having the big main light on all the time.. shelves with plants and reed diffusers finished the look and some cushions and blankets to make it feel homely… the transformation was incredible and the staff loved it, they instantly felt more relaxed and chilled out when they went into the staff room which really helped them to understand what we wanted to accomplish within the whole nursery. They absolutely love it (We struggle to get them to leave after their dinner break is over!)

The use of the warm tones and the soft lighting made the room a relaxing and chilled environment for the staff to really enjoy their break time. With some well being treats to go with a lovely cup of tea!!

We decide to trial our vision on the bathrooms too.

Our Bathrooms had always been areas with a big jungle or under the sea themed displays with lots of colour dominating the space, these were lovely to look at but took up a lot for the staffs time and for parts of them to fall down moments after they were put up. we decided that time could be spent In far better ways and actually on reflection these displays did make the bathrooms look quite small and cluttered.

Bathroom makeover…. The children loved the light and airy space with the Ivy and plants around the room!! This inspiration for the bathrooms made us determined to complete the journey!!

Time to Implement

The staff’s input was key to making the rooms both warm, inviting and cosy. We asked them to think about a wish list for their rooms incorporating what we had discussed such as the colour scheme and the restructuring of the rooms. Everyone was very excited about the journey we were taking and wanted to ensure the rooms we are welcoming for the children. We worked really hard over several weekends to get the impact we wanted, staff’s enthusiasm was shining through and they couldn’t wait to welcome the children into the room and see how the changes we made inspired the children’s awe and wonder….

How amazing does everywhere look!

Our Early Years 1 room now feels light and airy with lots of natural resources and investigation for our babies.

The babies loved all the new resources and the items we had collected to add to the environment. They were so engaged and busy investigating all the exciting areas.

 

Early Years 2 room with a welcoming environment made the children feel more relaxed for our Toddlers.

The children seemed so much more relaxed and calmer in their new environment.

Preschool 1 room inspired by loose parts and more open-ended resources.

Preschool 2 room- Fabulous reading and relaxing area and self selection…

Our Preschool children embraced the room from the moment they entered after the transformation. They were amazed by the changes and were eager to investigate further…. The fun was about to start!!!

 

The result…

After all the hard work the rooms looked amazing. We were so pleased with what we had achieved and the reactions we got it made it all worthwhile. The investigation and curiosity that was taking place inspired the staff to feel so confident in extending play and made the experiences on offer super inviting. It was like the whole setting had come alive in a calming and relaxed way.

Reflection

This journey has taught us so much and will help and support us in new ventures in the future. We overcome challenges such as the struggles with change and making sure we got it right for everyone.

We believe that the balance we have achieved incorporating areas of colour, light and investigation with the added abundance of natural resources has helped us to create the warm and welcoming environment that all the children parents and staff can thrive in and fulfil their full potential even more than before. ❤️

 

 

Nominations are now open for the Storal Awards 2021!

Staff and parents are invited to nominate individuals who stand out an deserve to be recognised. Last year was a great success with hundreds of nominations received, and we cant wait to celebrate this year’s nominees and winners.

A reminder of the categories:

The Extra Mile Award

  • Nominated by colleagues and managers

The Storal Sprouts Award

  • Nominated by colleagues and managers

The Parent Partnership Award

  • Nominated by parents and carers at the nursery

The Shining Star Award

  • Nominated by colleagues and managers

 

Ready to submit a nomination? View the award criteria and complete our online nomination form here. If you’d like to submit more than one nomination, you can send them in an email directly to awards@storal-learning.co.uk. Nominations close Monday 31st May 2021.

Dear Parents,

As we come to the end of what can only be described as a most extraordinary year, we would like to take this opportunity to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all our families for your support and cooperation, and to reflect upon the incredible work that has happened across Storal Learning in 2020.

We appreciate just how quickly and considerately you complied with all new operating procedures that came with COVID-19. It hasn’t always been easy – especially with Government guidance often arriving very late in the day and leaving us with more open questions than answers; but our dedicated nursery leadership teams have worked tirelessly to minimise any disruption and to keep parents and staff informed and updated throughout. Special thanks to our Area Managers and to our Central Support team for the many late evening and weekend Zoom calls as we tried to get ahead of each new announcement.

Over the coming days and weeks, we anticipate having to adapt at short notice to further announcements, but we draw continued strength and hope from your kindness and support, from the rapid progress being made with the vaccine roll-out, and above all, from the inspirational positivity of our children. Seeing the joy on their faces as they reunited with their friends and educators at nursery, after the first lockdown, was incredibly heart-warming and we will continue to do our utmost to provide them with consistency of care and the nurturing learning environments they deserve.

For now, we would like to share with you just a few highlights that we’re especially proud of during 2020.

Continued focus on Wellbeing

Parents who have been with us for over a year may recall that in 2019, we signed the ‘Time to Change Pledge’ – a commitment to change the way that we, as an organisation, think and act about mental health. With the profound changes that took place this year, never has a focus on mental health been more important. Since many of our staff teams were home-bound during the first lockdown, we quickly came up with the idea of creating a Staff Wellbeing pack that included information on how to practice self-care and provided opportunities to keep their brains active and learning.

As children started to return to nursery from June onwards, their wellbeing during these confusing and unsettling times took priority and we were so proud of how resilient and confident the children were across the board. Our Employee Wellbeing Champions at each site continued to do incredible work in supporting staff wellbeing, taking part in Early Years Wellbeing week and Christmas schemes to boost staff morale and to say a big ‘thank you’ for all that their colleagues do.

Curriculum enhancements and Staff Development

At the beginning of the year, we created the role of Childcare Development Manager to adopt a research-based approach to enhance the curriculum and pedagogical practices across Storal Learning. We were thrilled to offer the position to Hannah T, who was previously Area Manager for our South East nurseries.

During the summer, we successfully introduced an accelerated version of our ‘Rising Stars’ school readiness programme to support as many children as possible as they prepared for school in September under unusual circumstances. It has been wonderful to see an increase in confidence, focus and concentration, which evidences the impact this programme has on our children as they take this big step. We are excited that 2021 brings with it two new programmes – ‘Incredible Babies’, targeted at children under two and due to be rolled out in early 2021, and ‘Terrific Twos’, currently being trialled at a few nurseries and due to be rolled out closer to Easter. Not only do these programmes give staff additional tools in which to support your child’s development, but they also provide opportunities to focus on the particular needs of the children in a way that goes above and beyond our already high-quality everyday practice.

We are also pleased to have introduced multiple new methods of providing staff training over the last year as part of our commitment to developing and upskilling our teams. Our HR and Childcare teams at Central Support developed a relationship with The Skills Network, which has given us access to a wide list of funded courses, including level 3, 4 and 5 apprenticeships, which many of our staff are already undertaking. In addition, we introduced Flick training, which includes required training programmes for all staff, incorporating priority topics such as Safeguarding and Equality & Diversity, as well as dozens of optional e-learning modules. The feedback has been terrific!

Moreover, we’re proud that we are one of the few nursery groups to have two inset days a year, dedicated to staff training and development, a chance for staff to step away from their day-to-day activities and focus on key learning areas and team development.

Diversity & Inclusion

Racial tension across the globe continued to bring to our attention the importance of open conversations about diversity and inclusion within our society and within our company this year. In June, we published a blog post – ‘Let’s talk about race’ – to address how we, as early years professionals, support the cultural identity of our children and teach them about tolerance and respect for all. We also opened-up the conversation to our staff about their own experiences and how we can better create an inclusive culture. As part of this, we will be introducing a new role focusing on inclusion at each nursery in 2021 and hope that we can continue to learn and grow in this area, ultimately doing our very best for each other and the little lives we are influencing each day.

Awards and Recognition

We are delighted that Storal Learning was recognised by daynurseries.co.uk as a Top 20 Nursery Group for the second year running. The fact that this award is based entirely on parent feedback made us all feel especially proud and grateful.

In June, we hosted our inaugural Storal Awards ceremony over Zoom – a chance to acknowledge and celebrate team members who personify our values and behaviours and act as role models. We received hundreds of submissions from both staff and parents. Congratulations to Amanda, Jodie, Cheryl, Jack and Kerry, our winners on the evening. During the ceremony, we also took time to personally thank our teams of Early Years Heroes across the country. Nursery practitioners were rightly classified as Key Workers during the first lockdown, and every Thursday evening, when we clapped for carers, we also wholeheartedly clapped for our amazing teams.

 

Charity, Generosity and Community initiatives

While the news has a habit of focusing on the worst in society, this period has also showcased the very best in us, with countless small acts of kindness that have melted our hearts and reminded us of the importance of compassion, selflessness and a spirit of generosity. Thank you to Cook, the food retailer where a few of our parents work, for donating a full array of delicious meals for our children and staff at Ickle Pickles to enjoy; to Morrisons for donating enough Easter Eggs to last a lifetime; to the parent at Rocking Horse who donated such a generous quantity of hand sanitizer that we were able to share our supplies with parents and the local care home which the children used to visit before the virus struck. The list goes on and what it so clearly shows is that there is goodness to be found everywhere.

During the October half term, inspired by Marcus Rashford’s campaign, our team at Willow Tree Nursery in Clacton-on-Sea prepared 100 pack lunches a day for children on Free School Meals. We strongly believe that all children deserve to eat healthy, nourishing meals every day and that there is a strong link between nutrition and a child’s development.

Finally, to all our families who would like to give a little something back this Christmas period, we encourage you to donate to our Charity of the Year – Young Minds are the UK’s leading charity fighting for children and young people’s mental health. A £15 donation supports a Parent Helpline volunteer to provide information and support to parents who are worried about their child’s mental health. A £30 donation will provide training for a Young Activist to have the skills and confidence to talk about mental health and support their peers and local community. We are sure you will agree that this is an ever more important issue. Donations can be made through our dedicated JustGiving page.

 

With that, we wish all our families a safe and Happy Christmas! Although it will be different this year, we hope you and your children are still able to create wonderful memories together.

Please do remember to complete the parent declaration form before nursery re-opens to help us keep nursery safe, and we look forward to seeing you in the new year!

 

Warm Regards,

Ash Grover & Varun Chanrai

Managing Directors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are so excited and honoured to be nominated as North West Leicestershire local heroes.

Well done to our wonderful staff team who continued to put our children first during lockdown and went the extra mile to support our families. This nomination is truly well deserved.

Thank you all for your ongoing support.

We are so proud to be named as one of the Top 20 Large Nursery Groups in the UK by daynurseries.co.uk for the second year in a row! This is based on the ratings of parents and carers on the following areas:

  • Overall Standard
  • Facilities / Outside Space
  • Learning
  • Resources / Equipment / ICT
  • Care
  • Activities
  • Staff
  • Food / Nutrition
  • Management
  • Cleanliness
  • Safeguarding
  • Value for Money

We’d like to thank all of our parents and carers for taking the time to share their feedback and submit a review.

Most importantly, we’d like to thank our Storal Learning staff team. This is truly a reflection of the amazing work you to support local families.

We recently hosted our very first Storal Awards ceremony on Zoom where we had the chance to virtually acknowledge and celebrate our nominees and winners.

We received hundreds of submissions from both staff and parents, sharing the reasons why members of their nursery team were so deserving of these awards. We shortlisted the strongest contenders in each of these categories and winners were chosen based on the number of nominations they received as well as the strength of these nominations.

On the evening, we took some time to reflect on how nursery life changed during the coronavirus pandemic and personally thank our teams who have been working tirelessly throughout lockdown.

Thank you to all who submitted a nomination and congratulations again to all our winners!

There has been no doubt that the threat posed by COVID-19 is and has been frightening, unnerving and an unexpected time for many, not least of these our children. With lockdown, came a certain degree of social isolation and many questions.

Troubling statistics show that children are developing serious mental health conditions, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with social isolation and lack of healthcare and food playing major factors. It is important, now, to focus on the children’s wellbeing over and above any more formative development as this underpins how children will respond and adapt to the experiences they have had and how society as a whole will be affected by the fear, grief and loss that people have experienced.

Though there has been an increase in social isolation from the ‘outside world’, there will no doubt be positive to come from the connection between family during this time. These experiences are not something we could have predicted but are priceless and the life skills that children will have been developing from being at home invaluable.

Photo by Victoria Borodinova from Pexels

Social connection is fundamental to our well-being and its power cannot be under-estimated. It is what builds children’s sense of self, their co-operation skills, their fostering of trust in and respect for others. This is one of the many reasons it has been wonderful to welcome back so many children into nursery over the past weeks. The children have shown an unexpected resilience that is a consistent reminder that we cannot underestimate them!

Within the nursery, we have been working on ways to talk about COVID-19 that are not too big or scary for the children, including using stories and videos, such as the ones listed below. Consistency and routine is important, and we have tried, where possible, to keep this across all aspects of the nursery, whilst ensuring we are following the government guidelines, which were key to the development of our Standard Operating Procedures during this time.

We have also been prioritising work, particularly with the older children, on identifying their feelings and emotions to promote that understanding and resilience.  This is fundamental to our Accelerated Rising Stars programme that will be running during July and August for those children who will be heading off to school in September 2020. By identifying emotions, children are better equipped to understand and manage their own feelings, as well as to interpret other people’s emotions. This will be particularly important as children start school with new people and faces, and having the skills to be able to communicate what they are feeling will make it easier for caregivers to be able to support and comfort them better.

Here are some ways that you can support your child’s understanding of feelings and emotions at home from The Anxiety Relief Project:

  • You can help your child to identify different emotion cues and their causes by role-playing. After making a disgust face you can ask your child, “can you guess what I am feeling?” Then take turns making different emotion faces, followed by a discussion of what things might make people feel that way.
  • You can help your child build a vocabulary of emotions by recognizing and utilizing opportunities throughout the day to identify and label what they may be feeling. For example, you may say to your child: “How are you feeling right now? I know you liked petting the puppy but now we have to give it back and you look sad. Are you feeling sad?” The more you label emotions and the situations that give rise to them, the easier it will be for your children to do the same.
  • Ask your children about emotions that they or others might be feeling. In this way, you provide an opportunity for them to identify, label and express emotions. For example, you might ask, “I heard Reggie couldn’t go to play at the park today because he is sick. How do you think Reggie feels?”
  • Help your child come up with appropriate ways of expressing and handling their emotions. You can do this by brainstorming strategies your child can use the next time they feel a certain way. For example, you may say, “Remember when you got so frustrated when you couldn’t put on your helmet, and remember how you threw it across the room? Next time you can ask for my help or count to 30 and then try again. Can you think of other things you could do?”.
  • Encourage your child to express their emotion. You can praise them when they express emotion in appropriate ways and make sure to point out the ways in which they did so. For example, you might say, “I know you were mad when you lost. But, I love how you told us and took some big deep breaths instead of knocking over the game board.”
  • Use tools such as cartoons, photos, books, and videos to talk to your child about emotions. The next time you are watching TV together, point out characters that feel different emotions, label the emotion the character feels, and discuss the reason for the emotion. Talk about the different facial expressions of the characters. You can also draw similarities to your child’s own life by pointing out times when they felt and behaved that way. For example, you might say, “Look how happy Dora is that she just got a brand-new bike! Do you see her big smile? Remember when you got your new toy? You were so happy too!”

Books about Coronavirus for Children

Lucy’s in Lockdown
Coronavirus: A Book for Children
My Hero is You
The Princess in Black

YouTube videos

While we can’t hug
Rainbows in Windows

 

It’s never too early to talk about race.

Studies have shown that at birth, babies look equally at faces of all races, but by just 3 months old, they are starting to look more at faces that match the race of their main caregiver (Kelly et al, 2005). By the age of 2, children start to use race to reason about people’s behaviours (Hirschfekd, 2008), and to choose playmates (Katz & Kolkin, 1997), with expressions of racial prejudice often peaking between the ages of 4 and 5 years old (Aboud, 2008).

Within the nursery environment, we have a responsibility to promote an understanding and acceptance of ALL cultures and actively seek to embrace diversity across all elements of the care and education we provide. We seek to actively challenge gender, cultural and racial stereotyping and to help children gain an understanding of communities beyond their own immediate experiences.

The Fundamental British Values in the Early Years Foundation Stage are about actively promoting mutual respect and tolerance of all people. It is important that we accurately reflect our culturally diverse society to foster this respect for other cultures and to ensure that children from Black and Minority Ethnic groups relate to their environment and take pride in their ethnicity. The ways in which we do this need to be age appropriate, purposeful and meaningful. Here are just some of the ways we embrace diversity:

  • Reflecting all skin tones in our resources, books and displays
  • Learning and including the different languages that children within our setting speak
  • Introducing every day resources that bring awareness of different cultures into our continuous provision – such as traditional decorations and materials, home corner resources and musical instruments from around the world
  • Celebrating religious and cultural festivals in a simple and practical way
  • Actively challenging behaviour that stereotypes and lacks tolerance

If we fail to talk to our youngest children about racial inequity in our society, we are contributing to the early development of racial biases that research has already shown is in place (Winkler, 2017). However, we CAN and SHOULD be seeking to challenge this. Explicit conversations with children aged 5 – 7 years olds about interracial friendship can dramatically improve their racial attitudes in as little as a single week (Bronson & Merryman, 2009).

If you are at all worried about how to discuss race and racism with your children, here are some top tips from CBeebies and BBC Womens’ Hour about where to start:

  • First and foremost, educate yourself first
  • Talk about diversity and use diverse books with your children
  • Avoid using skin colour as a way to identify others
  • Don’t claim to ‘not see colour’
  • Showcase diverse role models, rituals and history
  • Highlight those who are creating positive change

 

 

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