Early Years practitioners are over stretched
The Early Years sector is a demanding environment and is constantly progressing. With these progressions and changes comes an increased work load, job responsibilities and job roles. Childcare is a sector which pride themselves on passion and dedication however it would appear that practitioners are being over stretched and this is causing passion to be replaced with resentment and stress.
How are childcare practitioners being over stretched?
Unfortunately practitioners are being over stretched in many ways and by many different forces. Managers, owners and franchise holders, Ofsted , early year’s advisors, the framework, children and parents.
There are many job roles across an early years setting and these are constantly gaining in the responsibilities that each position holds. Often managers find themselves over stretched with managing practitioners, Ofsted requirements, safeguarding , paperwork, office duties, accounts, policies and procedures, advertising and dealing with parents. Some of the job responsibilities held by a manager could be shared out as separate job roles such as needing office workers and accountants however limited funds often mean managers are unable to pay the expenses needed in hiring more employees so end up stretching themselves across multiple job responsibilities.
Room leaders can often feel stretched by having to complete tasks which managers are unable to complete such as appraisals, supervisions and peer to peer observations on top of paperwork, leading a team and meeting the individual needs of the children. Often room leaders are given extra responsibilities such as SENDCO’s, Speech and language champions or taking on key children with additional needs. Again leading to childcare workers feeling over worked, stressed and overwhelmed by the job.
Equally practitioners, students and apprentices also find themselves being over stretched and having more tasks to complete than is possible. The paperwork alone is demanding and then there are other tasks to complete such as cleaning, staying for extra meetings, parents evenings, training and the children who need outstanding care and education.
How to reduce the work load
There are a few ways in which the work load can be reduced and ensure that practitioners do not feel overstretched. These include:
· Where possible employ extra staff – Whether this be an accountant, someone to manage emails and phone calls, a cleaner, lunch time helpers and cover.
· Share out job roles – Instead of giving all the job roles to the same few practitioners split these out among all practitioners. All practitioners will have strengths, interests, potential and strong abilities. Give SENDCO positions to someone other than room leaders as they already have a great deal of responsibilities or ask various practitioners to complete peer to peer observations etc.
· Be organised – Keeping on top of the workload although will not necessarily reduce the load it will make it feel more manageable leading to practitioners feeling less over stretched. Have strong system, routines and rotas in place so everyone knows what is expected of them and when certain things need to be done.
· Set realistic expectations – Sometimes managers and or owners can have very unrealistic expectations of what should be achieved. Remember the play based curriculum which should be followed and really focus on what Ofsted actually expect against your own expectations. For example are ten observations per child per week really necessary? Do learning journals need to be 3 pages long per entry? Can practitioners realistically meet the individual care and learning needs of fifteen key children?
It is important that these issues are addressed if an childcare worker is feeling overstretched as it can quickly leads to low morale, high staff turnovers and poor quality care and education for the children.