Connect Childcare chats to Next Steps Nursery
Connect Childcare chats to Next Steps Nursery
With over 3,400 nurseries in our portfolio, we’ve decided to shine the spotlight on a different one each month, to get to know them a little better!
So, as part of our new, regular Q&A series, it’s over to Lisa Wills, nursery manager at Next Steps Nursery, to tell us more about her workplace, job role and experience of using nursery management software.
- How long have you worked in the nursery sector?
I’ve been in the industry for 20 years. I started by completing my Level 3 qualification, followed by a masters in childcare and education and additional teaching certifications. I then went on to set up my own nursery for a number of years before going on to manage other settings. I’ve been at Next Steps – which offers 200 full-time nursery places – for over eight years, where I’m responsible for managing a team of 80 staff.
- Sum up your typical working day in three words:
Different every day.
- Why did you choose Connect Childcare?
I loved the fact that everything could be recorded in one place – whether office admin, child records, registrations or parent communications. Before implementing Connect, we had a paper-based system and it wasn’t easy to access and compare information about ratios and occupancy.
- Describe our nursery management software platform in one word?
- And your favourite feature?
ParentZone. We can easily send messages directly to parents and receive them too. This doesn’t only help us to foster better relationships with families – and see how they’re feeling and seeing snapshots of children outside the nursery setting – but it also enables the extension of child development into the home.
- What’s your biggest challenge as nursery manager?
Maximising spaces. For us, if some staff members work part time, we want to make sure that our busiest days occupancy-wise complement this. With Connect’s technology, we can see what gaps we have and make informed decisions to ensure the smooth operation of our setting.
- But what do you love most about your job?
Everything. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
I’m very much a people person, so I enjoy being with staff – sharing knowledge and experiences – helping new apprentices to grow their expertise, and seeing children start at the setting as babies and graduate ready for school.
- Complete the sentence: ‘Connect’s technology has enabled us to’…
Keep in touch effectively with parents and maintain relationships with families – something that was especially important during the pandemic when we couldn’t meet face-to-face. If we’d been using our old paper system during this time, we would’ve had to do this via telephone and therefore been unable to share the children’s special moments via video or have consultations with ease.
- When you’re not at work, how do you relax?
I love being active, so you’ll often find me running or in the gym. I also have three dogs, so I’m often walking them, too.
- Finally, what advice would you give to nurseries considering investing in management software?
Make sure it does everything you need it to. A solution which integrates everything in one place was crucial for us – so whether it’s capacity and ratios or child observations and registers, it’s all accessible in one central system.
- How are you feeling ahead of the EYFS reforms in September – are you looking forward to the new framework?
Here at Next Steps, we’re all prepared and have already started using parts of the new framework – as well as referencing the Development Matters guidance to support our planning. Our staff have all been trained up too, but in reality, not that much will change for us, as we’ve been adopting this updated approach for a while.
Regarding technology, we’ve also had the ‘Snapshot’ feature turned on within our management software, which allows us to quickly add any notable moments or learning stories with ease.
I think the reforms are a positive thing and that the new framework will be much better, as it will stop children from being categorised into an age range they’re not in – as was the case with the old system. Children will have more flexibility and time to master all skills, without being rushed along or made to fit a certain tick-box. It’s a positive change I’m personally really excited about.
Feature on our blog!
If you’re a Connect Childcare client and you’d like to take part in our Q&A, complete the form by clicking the button or drop a quick note to our PR manager – via firstname.lastname@example.org – and she and the team will take it from there.