In her second article on training, Sally Eaton looks at some everyday opportunities.

Just as a young child learns from everything they see and do, so staff can learn from their everyday environment with minimal financial implications but big rewards in developing their capabilities and competencies.

Peer coaching

Most NVQ childcare students in their initial training learn by watching, observing, then replicating the skills of their peers, and then receiving feedback that is constructive, honest and evaluative, involving both mentor and student actively in the process.

Praise and encouragement are important. Start the interview by mentioning three good attributes, skills or developments the member of staff has displayed recently. Follow this with a clear explanation of why the meeting has been called and what training could be made available.
Mentors need to feed back assertively, and may need to practise this. Be prepared for resistance or denial and have an idea of how you might overcome this.

Assertive feedback

When the feedback involves challenging practice and standards:

  • be calm and controlled
  • be direct and say what you mean
  • keep the language simple
  • try not to accuse staff but describe their actions
  • be prepared to listen to their response
  • offer help and training.


Many people shy away from delegating because it is ‘simpler to do it themselves’.When time is invested in delegating effectively, staff can learn new skills and share tasks.

Excuses we use to avoid delegating:
‘I haven’t got time to show someone how to do it.’ ‘They may get it wrong.’ ‘They may feel “put upon”.’ ‘They may try to take over my job.’ ‘They might not be capable.’ ‘They may not do it as well as me.’

‘They may do it differently and I have very set ideas about how it must be done.’

When you overcome these hurdles in your own mind, delegation can benefit all concerned.

Delegating effectively

  • explain the task
  • give necessary training (show and tell)
  • give ongoing support the first time the task is done
  • set a date and time to check that the job has been done
  • retrain if necessary
  • staff member takes on task.

Appraisal and target setting

Appraisals allow staff time to reflect on practice and should be a two way dialogue. Keep the appraisal simple. Ensure that both you and the member of staff complete an appraisal record to focus the meeting.

  • What are my [the staff member’s] achievements this year?
  • What do I [they] do well?
  • What do I [they] need to do better?
  • Have I [they] met the targets set last year?
  • What new targets need to be achieved this year?

Make your targets SMART, ie Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time related.

Reflective learning logs

Encourage staff to evaluate their practice regularly by setting an example.
For instance, when you have organised an event, take time to meet with your team to go over the event. A simple learning log should be completed and then filed so that you can refer to it the next time you hold a similar event.

When a staff member undertakes a new task or has not performed a task well, a learning log can be used as a starting point for discussions. The staff member should complete it before the meeting is held and it should contain some simple questions to answer:

  • What was the task?
  • What did I do well?
  • What didn’t go well?
  • What could I change for next time?
  • What additional training do I need?

Simulation rooms

Set up a child’s perfect learning environment and talk the staff around the room, explaining what best practice looks like. This enables staff (especially kinaesthetic learners) to see clearly what is expected and why.

Videoing best practice

If staff agree, you could video a teaching session or register time – and show it to others as an example of best practice. Staff can make notes on what they see and discuss it together. Be ready with some questions to prompt debate and discussion.

Training videos

Whilst these can be rather expensive, this is an excellent way to get some of the country’s leading education and care experts to your staff meetings.

Many of the programmes on Teachers’ TV are relevant to the early years sector and can be downloaded from the internet.


Formal and informal monitoring is important to ensure that standards remain high and training needs are identified. Formal monitoring is usually planned in advance and the member of staff made aware of the fact that they are being observed.

 Devise a simple tick sheet so that when you observe, you can record your findings easily:

  • good planning
  • good aims and objectives that are well understood
  • appropriate resources
  • differentiated activities for children of all abilities
  • children fully engaged in activities
  • good personal organisation and staff deployment.

Make a note of any issues that need addressing.

Team building

Motivating people is easy! It involves two skills from the line manager.

  • 1. Making people feel good about themselves and the organisation that they work for.
  • 2. Making them feel involved in decision making and letting them take ownership of tasks and responsibilities.

To create an effective team takes time and effort and activities that teams do together, both social and work related, help to train them to be effective.

Whole nursery v the individual

Whilst it is good to provide training in which all staff can participate, this is not always possible. Encourage individuals to feed back their learning to the rest of the team. This consolidates the learning for them and contributes to whole staff development. If staff are committed to training it becomes an everyday part of their life to pass their skills and knowledge on to others, as and when it is appropriate.

To sum up

Creating a learning culture is a vital ingredient to establishing a successful nursery and can happen without huge expense. Encourage each member of staff to take some responsibility for their own learning and to seize opportunities as they arise on a daily basis. Challenge staff by asking ‘What have you learned today that you didn’t know yesterday?’ Remember, motivation comes from active involvement and success. It is for us as line managers to create the right environment and ethos for this to happen and to place it very high upon our list of priorities.