Nursery Managers Open Space

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 June 2, 2020   |   comments

A place to chat and explore the challenges and solutions.

Last week we had an Open Space forum to discuss the challenges and solutions during re-opening after COVID 19. Here are some of the notes from the session. We hope you find it useful.


We discussed three settings one that had mainly funding a Montesorri nursery and a multi- discipline nursery. Three key areas were brought to the group

  1. Challenges
    a. Parents and staff
    b. Financial
  2. Managing the unknowns
    a. How safe is it?
    b. Things to discuss with staff
    c. Ways to minimise risk
    d. Minimising risk in the staff room
  3. Scenarios
    a. Settling in
    b. Viable to open
  4. Funding
  5. Resources
    a. Good things to put out
    b. Things not to put out


Early Years professionals are ready to rise to the challenges of bringing children back to the nursery. It’s not the norm for children to be inside. EY experts will teach children to eat well, wash their hands and play and stay safe and healthy.


This forum is a great way to work together to come up with solutions. A safe space to collaborate and look to peer to peer support. Challenges outlined in the session were:

  1. Getting advice – The local authorities are very stretched so getting through to them can be challenging
  2. Parents anxiety – some are worried about the safety issue
  3. Bubbles – how will they work
  4. Resource sharing – Children will be sharing some of the resources – be mindful of sterilisation
  5. Choice play is tricky
    • Adult led may work better.

Other challenges are financial
• High staff ratio (than normal)
• Higher cleaning bills
• Higher binning of resources after use.
• Additional resources that will be easier to clean will need to be bought.
o Plastic boxes will be needed rather than wicker baskets or wooden boxes
• Cost of Milton has gone up
• Hand sanitisers are expensive
• Sterilising solutions need to be factored in
• It may be difficult to get hold of resources as well as PPE
o Need to stock up to ensure access


We can’t eradicate the virus at the moment. It wont be going away soon. It’s about managing the risks within the setting to minimise getting the virus.

“How do we know it’s ok? They’ve not opened pubs or other places. I know children are a low risk but what about them being super carriers?”

If we look at what we can control we can keep on top of the hygiene and keep ourselves and our staff safe. Remember all materials need to be sterilised in Milton for 15 mins max.

Things to discuss with staff: how to keep yourself safe:

  1. Children don’t seem to virus as much as adults but it’s about parents and staff catching it.
  2. If you have childcare providers who are 60+ – even with no underlying problems there is a risk. You need to think about how you can minimise contact if they do choose to go back to work.
  3. Start with the parents – what are their challenges and what are the needs – this is what can be looked at. There may not be the need to open, if the majority of parents aren’t going back to work.
  4. Explore the sustainability of setting and staff and wages. There is the furlough scheme but not all settings get the furlough scheme especially if they are a funded place (CHECK?)

Ways to minimise risks

We can’t social distance as children need love and affection – so we need to show love. Here are things we can do:

  1. PPE – use it; plan for it and order in advance.
  2. HEIGHT – Make sure you are higher than children’s faces – that way if they cough or sneeze they normally cough down so it’s not into your space
  3. SIDE STEP – When changing nappies stand to the side because if they do sneeze or cough they wont sneeze or cough in towards you.
  4. HANDWASH – DO Lots of handwashing
  5. CLEAN – Lots of cleaning – PUT method statements in each room with cleaning schedule at times and sanitising to minimise risks
    a. Parents are not allowed on the premises.
    b. Parents need to social distance on pick up
    a. Children wash hands immediately as they walk in.
    b. Monitor the children’s behaviour and their temperature.
    c. You could take temperature as they walk in – they don’t recommend taking temperatures at the door
  8. RISK ASSESS – Staff need briefed on risk assessment

It will never be 100% safe until we have a vaccine. We hope the summer months will encourage a fizzling out but the autumn and winter mean it comes more prominent.

We can minimise the risk and make it as safe as we can.

• The smaller the children the safe you are.
• The smaller the groups the safer you are. The number of children in the bubble affect the risk
• Number of children you come in contact with and their families – are they social distancing or not.


WE NEED A NEW WAY OF THINKING AND WORKING IN THE EARLY YEARS. It will be harder for adults than it will be for the children. Hardest bit will be for the staff to learn. Need to work hard in the baby room – the dynamics there are different – they need more from the adults so it may be quite hard and new way of thinking

Need to emphasis with staff their own hygiene and get their children into the routine of washing their hands on a regular basis. More cleaning will need to be done.

Staff need reassurance – especially those that need public transport.

We need to nurture creativity in the staff. EY Staff are hugely creative so this will be easily done – probably in less than a week they will get the new creativity approaches!

If anything starts in the nursery it will start in the staff room. It’s essential to do proper risk assessments for the staff room.
As country opens up the risks get higher and its important managers are monitoring that.

Scenario One

Say a child arrives and is crying what would you do?

Settling in.

If parents need to stay to help the children settle then we can use the garden as outdoors – if you have one.

• There needs to be only one parent
• You have to social distance from other children (and parents)
• Parents will be asked to talk to their children about the new procedures and the fact that they wont be coming onto the premises. Sharing that mummy and daddy will drop off at the door
• Some children may need more settling in and they will be phased back – not everyone will come back at once. Different children will come at different phases.
• Some parents aren’t ready until September and aren’t included into the phasing plan.
• We have separate entrances for the children
• Staff can only socialise in their bubble – no cuddles outside their bubbles
• Staggering breaks – only one person per staff room – need to navigate and leave building
• Children need to socialise and we need to think about their emotional and social development.

Scenario Two

What makes it viable to open?

There could be 3 or 4 parents coming back. Would that be a case for opening with only 4 children.

That is your decision. If you have a younger member of staff that wants to come back – then look at that. IS it viable to open for 4 children? Could you pay the staff? If there is an older member they can social distance more as an older more vulnerable adult.

Is it viable for you to open?
Lone working is not viable.

Funding Question

Has funding for the summer term already gone through?

• We don’t know!
• If you are a term time only nursery you will only be open 6 weeks
• If parents don’t want to return or aren’t ready and you’ve not had key workers or vulnerable children – then you tell local authority


It’s been challenging for some managers to get a clear steer on this.


• Cushions
• Soft toys
• Clothes,
• Intricate wooden toys
• towels
• soft furnishings
• Children’s bedding will need to be washed daily
• Lamination because virus can survive for 6 days on smooth surfaces
o You could put the laminated signs higher so they don’t get touched.
• Clean light switches, door handles
• Most role play and dress up
• Remove all toys it’s impossible to clean
• Removed all books (see solutions for reading below)
• Remove chairs so you reduce the number of highly touchable areas.
o Maybe use chairs for lunchtime when they’re eating
o Stand up or work on the floor


Set equipment out so children have plenty of space – you could get the children to both face the same way and be a metre apart

Have a book box – three options to encourage book reading with safety:

  1. Individual child has their own book for a week (note the book case needs to be empty)
  2. Book box per day. Each day has books in it – MONDAY TUEDAY WEDNESDAY THURSDAY FRIDAY
  3. The box doesn’t go out until following week – as virus only survives for 6 days. They say it lasts 6 hours on rough surfaces. This means we don’t need to sterilise every day.

School attenders need books and stories. You need to find the right solution for you!

Latest research shows they don’t know how long for sure it lives on surfaces. They don’t seem to know for certain how many hours or days it is. They do know crowded places and handwashing is essential.


Water and soap activities were a definite go to activity. Here are some others.

  1. Put things on the shelf – that can be washed eg little activities transfer materials from one bowls to another
    a. Pour water into jugs
    b. More 121
    c. Lego – Can have lego to play and then they clean it themselves and pack it away
    d. Octonauts
    e. Construction
    i. Then put in bucket and rinse them with Milton –
  2. Devise their own bespoke toys
    a. Their own drawers
    b. Mark makers for school readiness – our priorities
    c. Tray with their resources for their activity
    d. Malleable play and they will have their own
    e. Their own tray of flour
    f. Mark making with sand – own tray
    g. Lots of water play that can be washed or disinfected eg water bottles that are cheap and can be thrown away.
    h. Wool can be used and thrown away
  3. Resources
    a. Put resources away and bring out
    b. Individualisation of trays
    c. Given a piece of information
    d. Throw away play dough
    e. Big blocks which can be wiped down.
  4. Outside area for bubbles
    a. Split the garden area for physical activities using
    b. Hoops
    c. Cones
    d. Easy to clean materials
  5. Home corner
    a. Keep plastic and metal that is easily cleaned not the wood which are more difficult to clean
    b. Keep all soft furnishings way
    c. All dressing up needs to be put away and not used
    d. Things we can wash we include.
  6. FOOD
    a. Plastic bowls that can be washed or thrown away
    b. Be aware of hands in food.
  7. Washing
    a. Designated washing area
  8. Child led vs adult led
    a. Put only small number of chairs out
    b. When adults move children tend to move
    c. Minimise risk while having enough resources.

Give the children the responsibility to clean it – it takes a lot of time to clean it – the activity therefore takes them a lot longer to complete and is also learning.

To join our next Nursery Managers Open Space please email to register.

Every Wednesday 5.30 to 6.30pm.