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Pulling my hair out - and looking for reassurance


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Please, please honest feedback required! It's going to be a long post, sorry in advance.


Not sure where to start, I have been managing a Pre-school since feb 2011, in march 2012 we managed an ofsted rating of good. 2 of our areas to improve was our partnership with other providers (namely our partnership with the school- we rent our premises from them) we have worked very hard on this and now whilst not perfect has improved two fold.

another area was our profiles, which try and try as I might is still sadly lacking.


I have been running basically without a committee for some time and I am struggling to be in ratio, a key person, safe guarding person, administrator, treasurer, basically feel I run the setting on my own. We have also extended from part days to full days taken on breakfast club and after school club on behalf of our school plus several other schools, financially we struggle as numbers are very low as we are a very rural area.


In December I was very ill and had to take a month off and have struggled to get back in the swing of things and basically feel very unsupported by my staff. I was struggling also with planning and on my return in jan asked my two staff members to take on planning, they agreed did a week but when I questioned the planning, they decided they needed further training. Which is fine but difficult to organise when I work 8-6 and they work split shifts.


In January I had a safeguarding complaint with regards to one of the staff members which also tied up a lot of time with regards to investigation, law call and disciplinary action.


I have also had numerous visits to doctors and nurses plus my own two children to look after homework etc.


I feel even as I write this I'm an just looking for excuses as to why I have failed, but a parent has decided to remove their child by writing to me, stating that I have failed my duty as a key person and they are going elsewhere for more structure. This child is a very bright child and was working above scale, yes the observations weren't plentiful but I was genuinely unaware with how strongly they felt. I did speak to the mum when I saw her on pick ups and tell what we had done but I did emphasise in the beginning that we taught through play not through structure. Where am I going wrong?

I spoke to my staff in September about the new eyfs and profiles and did not get chance to check on theirs until January they have not been done. However my staff have not told me they don't know what they are doing but telling my extended services staff that I have not trained them.

I'm having two meetings this week one on planning and then a staff meeting to tackle profiles, etc.

But where am I going wrong?

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I have experienced similar situations. I would question whether your staff clearly want to know. When you have one member in the team who is conscientious then it is obvious that others may not be. Unfortunately it doesn't sound like you have the staff you need and deserve. Keep up your good work.

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I truly sympathize. I run our setting and often feel overwhelmed. Until recently I had the support of a wonderful deputy unfortunately she is now off long term sick and that has brought problems to the surface.

I think most settings struggle with learning journeys and my staff certainly do. My deputy and I eventually decided to update the journeys ourselves from key person observations - leaving the key persons to identify next steps etc. We decided that we needed to play to staff strengths rather than getting stressed about the negatives. We had a good inspection in September and she was happy with this system when I explained why, that the staff did everything behind it and it was a good way of us checking what progress was being made! However they now say they do not understand the new EYFS and I have to say to them they need to look at it. I cannot do it for them! I feel as time goes on and more next steps are done it will improve.

Some people are just not happy to do paperwork or feel unable due to level of writing English etc. That does not take away from their level of work as practitioners or experience. We are looking into going electronic so an update can be quickly done at the end of each morning.

I am also in ratio and struggle with my key children but in our setting all the staff do observations on all children and I delegate my key children when needed.

Being in charge can sometimes feel lonely. Are there any other settings near by or networks in place that you can chat to?

With regards to the parent - everything does not need to be written down and if you were working to the child's ability and chatting to Mum that should have been enough. As you say some parents expect pre-school to be like school no matter what you explain to them and this will always be the way. Don't beat yourself up about it!

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Sounds like they have got a bit used to managing on their own and possibly not as thorough in some areas as it should be.??


What level are the other staff, if level 3 then they should not need more training in observing and recording, they should be able to do that as part of the qualification , maybe a bit in the way you want it recorded etc but not the basics which they should be doing..same with planning... they are after all qualified to a level to run a setting..


maybe give them a list of what is required , do they have a keyworker job description, we did and it clearly stated what was expected, and we went through one together highlighting any area they may need help in...we also paired them for keyworkers as a main and second for each child and the main completed the books but worked with the second one for support... it helped them to discuss things about the child and it worked for them, also completing the books was done with the children in session time, they loved seeing pictures go in, draw in the book, and having input..the staff member always had a few children wanting to join in and the mark making area was always well used because a staff member was there . As said the other way is for them to gather all the evidence and you complete the files... in that case i would remove myself from being allocated key children for day to day work and let the staff to all of the evidence collecting, giving you the time to complete the books.. that way you would see the progress of all the children and give the staff the next steps etc for their key children to incorporate in planning for them..( Our staff planned for key children)


Planning is very individual to the group, but they must have been doing something while you were off, or did they ignore that bit of the job and got too used to not doing it.. We had the simplest we could devise with as little as we could . maybe if they are questioning the planning they have ideas on how it could be changed or improved to make it easier for them to do...I was lucky in having a staff I had trained through from parents who wanted to do the job and a couple of students who did NVQ3 with us... so were all very able to run the setting without me there...


I do not see it as a failure for a parent to move a child, not every setting is right for every child (parent), and we often had them leave for another setting, only to return later with the next child, travelling some distance sometimes, we had no structure at all, all play based and always was...it saddened me more that children were being structured in other settings and these children were not getting what they deserve in having a play based curriculum.. they are only young!

take stock, look at the roles, list them out, have a meeting and ask staff what they feel able to do, if none come forward, state the facts, that you need help and they are being asked what they would like to help with, if no one comes forward you will have to allocate the roles and train as needed...You need to look after your health as well as everything else that needs priority... you will be no help if you do not have time to recover and follow through all that is needed there..

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Thank you some great answers, suggestions and ways forward.

Not sure but sometimes feel I'm pretty good with the theory, etc but struggle maybe with communicating my ideas and the practice.

Had a quick meeting today about planning but asked them to ask me what they didn't understand rather than go through the whole thing!

Feel maybe I should add that the staff member that caused concern has decided to leave (her decision) and I now have an official temporary deputy whilst we advertise. (- this happens to be the leader who I took over whilst she went on maternity and we worked really well together and are doing again! However she won't come back permanent as she is pregnant again and has stepped in to help me out!!!!)


But thank you for your replies its good to look at things through someone else's eyes that doesn't hold any sense of loyalty to me & can suggest ways to deal ( even if I may not choose there entirety!)

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I read through everything you're doing and felt tired. You haven't failed so please don't think that. Getting staff on boards at all times can be difficult, some don't feel confident others just aren't as committed. All you can do is calmly explain. Please try to delegate some of the committee roles too, you're no good to anyone if you're worn out.

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Networking is an excellent way of supporting each other and sorting out issues. Another is to go and visit other settings. Find out from SIP which settings they would recommend . Look through and take ideas from it. Break down the areas that need changing into bite size chunks, place them on action plan sheet, include staff in creating them, then move that forward.


Remember you are Good.

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I have to agree about children leaving. I had one leave as they were attending two settings and parents said they were happier at the other setting so would just go there. As for more structure in the setting, I have been pulled up by local early years consultant and Ofsted at inspection about too much structure....we only had one large and one small group time and everything else if free flow. Some times we just can't win! With all you are doing it sounds like you are doing a great job. The EYFS wasn't a huge change to the last one, I just provided a copy for each member of staff and they got on with it. Good luck!

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