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New Preschool Manager - Overtime Woes, Staff Leaving, Tight Committee


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This is the first time I have posted.


I am spending all of my spare time thinking and worrying about my new job as preschool manager.


I have QTS and EYPS, but in terms of management I have not got much experience.


We are a parent committee run preschool in an affluent area of a large town and I am really struggling. I have been in the job for around 3 months now. There was so much to do. There were staff members leaving children on their own, they were totally out of ratio often, the children were bored, planning was pretty much non-existent, observations/assessment were (and still are) too high in numbers and not of any high quality and the team were demotivated. I would find team members sitting on the edge of the playground with coffees chatting, just leaving the children to play. Parents said that they were not informed of their child's progress etc. Assistants were packing up so early that children were wandering around with nothing to do. The Committee are new and from the start told me that my job was on the line if we didn't retain our Outstanding (from 5/6 years ago) or at least get Good.

I have changed some bits, but basically, one staff member has left and two more have handed in their notice. I think it's because I have made them work harder (because I think that's what we should do), but the Committee are worried about how it makes the playgroup look, so they say they have to do all of their work within their hours, no overtime without asking them and that they need to have breaks. We had a big overtime bill because we were short staffed for ages (because three people had not been replaced from before when I started). They saw it and one staff member told them that they were leaving because they were doing so much work outside of their hours (at which time, not mentioning that it was not like this because of me - she'd always had to do it and in fact I have taken work from her!) I can't seem to get through to the Committee that it can't be done in these hours. Some staff do 10 hours work and still have to do their key person work within that.

We have good ratios for staff:children and I am able to be in the office and do my work sometimes. However, I am in and out of the room all the time because now, I said that we had to pack up later, so they decided to leave it to the last minute and now the children are getting out late if I am not on top of them.

How do others do this?! If we finish at a certain time, should we be letting them out five minutes before finishing time or do we start letting them out at the exact time?! Parents don't like them being late because they have to get to school to get older children, but what is practice for other people. We are packing up earlier, but then we end up sitting on the carpet for ages which our children are not ready for - they are very young 3s and developmentally progressing slowly at the moment.

When I arrived there was no way of me assessing all the children as a group, no progress summaries done and everyone except a few left at exactly home time with no help to tidy up etc.

I think this is probably making me sound as inexperienced as I am. I have tried to motivate and be positive, but apart from a couple of staff members, I have not had much give back.

We had a visit from our EYAT and she said that we were well behind. I knew this and am doing an action plan (plus have done written OFSTED SEF as can't get the online one sorted) (IF ANYONE HAS A GOOD ACTION PLAN/IMPROVEMENT PLAN FORMAT, WOULD BE SOOOO GRATEFUL) but it's not yet complete due to being in room soooo often, having to do all the planning (it's on my list to change, but can't change everything at once) and other necessary paperwork that I know needs to be in place for OFSTED and generally. Anyway, back the EYAT. She said we needed to get the progress summaries done soon. I have given the staff around three weeks to do them (whilst I recruit for the two going and do everything else that's needed....including another requested parents evening and evening meetings) because I know that we are way overdue OFSTED and that if I don't have them soon, I am going to be in trouble. I was going to wait to get them to do them (because again I was trying to manage change) but we need them done. I thought we would be allowed to do overtime for this, but apparently not. We are only allowed free training and have to get this done in work hours too (because I found free online training). I've got myself in a mess now too because I told the staff they could have the overtime without checking with treasurer. I don't know what to do now because we've promised parents that we can do these...I do not want to be unreasonable with anyone, but I am not sure that we can get all we need doing within the hours that we do. We some who do 10 hours and some who do as much as 27.

I do so much overtime and don't claim for it, however staff claim for every single second (which is their right) and I have reduced it, but not enough.

I don't know how to deal with this. Was called in for meeting that thought was for something that it wasn't with Chair. Turned into telling me the above because the two people had handed in notice.

I am still in my probationary period and I think I am going to fail it. It worries me sick to the point that I can't sleep at the moment.

I guess this doesn't make sense, but I am in a mess. I am working so hard all the time to the point that my husband is getting cross and rightly so. My life is preschool and there is only so much I can do.

I'm told I need to motivate a team that mostly do not support me, but where is my motivation? Do more, I'm told, but at the same time do it all within the hours I am given (although will be allowed to do some overtime) and be in room to show how to do it if I am not happy with them...I am doing this (I don't know why they don't think I do it at the moment)...I just feel so awful.

Should this job just be a cushty, keep everyone happy job?...Was even told, the activities are so much better but in the same breath we have to do more in less time................ARG!!!

Any advice? Am I totally unreasonable, inexperienced and crap?!

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WOW! hey slow down...you'll explode!

You need to proritise ...what is the most pressing issue? can you put them in a list and set yourself a 'to do' task a day. I'm afraid all of us do overtime without getting paid and my staff dont get paid for their 'home work' either. I suspect you need to go back to the job descriptions and check what they are entitled to. It is NOT unusual for a team to leave when a new head comes in...it gives you the opportunity to get your team right...they will be YOUR team ! I suspect you need to have a chat with the committee and make a plan with them too they need to know what to expect or they will get twitchy!.

Packing up is a tricky one and there are plenty of people here who will have more knowledge than i . If parents want to get going then i see no problem in opening doors a couple of minutes before the end of session...how many children do you have in a session? it sounds like you have quite a few staff to deal with?

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Have 28 at most (should only be 26 but numbers were mucked up last year) and 8 staff currently.


Thank you for the support - Still interested...Do others do progress summaries and all other work within their hours?

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easy for me to say, but it is early days...

you say overtime bill was high as they had not replaced staff... maybe it needs pointing out that some of this while is overtime for current staff is actually the wage for the missing member of staff being paid to those whoo are doing extra hours to cover.. gives a different perspective if it is looked at differently. Check contracts.. all our staff had a bit in there to say some work will need to be done in own time and without pay unless agreed.. it is not unusual to have this in these settings ,, often all do work unpaid.. it is a fact .. not ideal but how it has worked. The staff had 1 hour paid a week to do all the paperwork they needed , learning journeys etc.. Observations were done as needed.. snapshots, photos and quick notes, this is something that is very individual to each group and person, took us years to develop something that worked for us and was always evolving.

I ran a setting similar for many years.. and was hands on all the time.. never supernumerary, I did however have 6 hours paid to do the extra paperwork i needed to do for the week, never enough but helped..

Routine.. all part of the packing away process.. depending on the location I have done it differently in many places.. if we needed to vacate the building at end of the session fast we cleared before the end.. 15 mins max we had as the time to do it... one staff member had a group time while the others did the clearing away.. if we ended up early I always had a music and movement session with cds etc we could use for the time, parachute or large group interactive games not sitting down but up and about type stuff... and over time all my staff were able to do this sort of type thing for up to half hour if needed.. once everything was packed away plenty of space to do all sorts of things..

If we could stay in hall after all had been collected we packed up once children had left.. all staff were paid 15 mins at end of day for this.. encouraged fast work to see if we could do all before the 15 mins.. We had to pack everything away in a tardis cupboard, tables, chairs, mats all we used.. they got it down to 10 mins! Set up they paid us half hour to do... helped by asking the committee to actually come in and see what we had to do before the children arrived and once they had left... we did at one time have committee complaining about the cost so i said only way to cut it was for them to do the work unpaid.. lasted 2 weeks! they opted to pay staff ...

managing new staff is not easy.. many do leave for many reasons.. but mostly dislike of change , particularly if they had not been supervised well in the first place.. change takes time.. list what is essential, and consult with them, ask how they would do it, get opinions, but make sure they know that in the end your decision is what will happen... have trial periods for changes and evaluate with them.. I always felt anyone needs to feel valued and part of the process to co operate and change..

One thing we did do was always open / close on time . I had a radio controlled clock that was always accurate as I was so fed up of parents saying we were late opening/ closing...did not cost much and worth every penny. If we were not finished clearing we stopped let children go and finished when they had gone.. mornings if not ready we had them in and did a group time while rest of staff finished setting up..


Managing a committee setting and staff is far from easy.. needs lots of compromise, and being piggy in the middle a lot of the time.. staff complain, committee complain , advisers advise and don't always help with their suggestions.. remember they are not always correct and what is best for your children and setting may be different.. I used to listen, and change if I could see a benefit for the children, otherwise we did not always act on their advice..

Time for a deep breath and list things, prioritise, you cannot do it all... committee should be supporting you not trying to make your life harder..

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Do you have 8 staff and 26/28 children each session?

If so, then I think not paying overtime is quiet a reasonable request. (I'm assuming all over 2 with many over 3 if it's a preschool)

We are a pack-away and have 5/6 staff for 26. All staff get one hour a week non-contact to do paperwork.

We are privately owned - so I feel strongly about staff doing unpaid overtime, most do though- however that it their choice and I would never force them to. I do loads - but I love my job so don't really mind to much.

As for the pack-away bit - it depends on your set up. We have to clear away EVERTHING, and you do need to get it down to a fine art :D For this you need a detailed plan of action- with staff roted to do certain jobs.

We have a large area at the end of our hall which we use for gross physical play. Usually 3 staff are in this area with children doing circle time games, stories etc - whilst other 2 pack. (its a good workout and saves on gym membership :1b :1b :1b )



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My heart goes out to you, it's a tough job and no mistake and it seems you are quite a way away from when it is going to run smoothly - but that day will come. I don't think there is a manager on here that would say that their husbands/ partners haven't had a moan about how much work we do at home - mine has given up moaning now he knew he was fighting a losing battle! However, you must work on that work-life balance as it is so important.


If you have sorted out a simple routine for the group to follow each day that helps. Ours. Is self register, free play without interruption for 2 hours, all come together, tidy up jobs given to children and some staff put away some of the bulkier stuff we don't need any longer. We then have a whole group snack time (it suits our group but many groups have running snack bar for a hour or so during the session). When snack is over children help to collect cups etc. while others return to play quieter play inside and noisier play outside. All come together at end of session with 15 minutes to go for story time. coats on, goodbye song then I open the door to parents. Residual tidying done once parents leave. That's our basic routine changes with amount of time outside throughout the year or special occasions.


Observations are done during session on stick it's quicker and can go straight into LJs photos are taken but stuck in once every three weeks or so - this is done at home normally as a bit time consuming, I pay an hour a week for this. I also pay hour per week planning meeting.


assessments are done on observations as they happen we have a tracker at the back of the LJs we number the observation on the stick it and put a number against the dev matters statement to tie the two together. at end of 12 week period summative assessments are done from these numbered observations and next steps for planning for individuals or groups of individuals. Also at that time we do our progress matters sheets which get collated by me onto one sheet so we know where the whole group is in terms of their ages and abilities. Parents get a written report on each area at that time and have the LJs to take home and comment upon. We don't do open evenings.


You will get there - your improvement plan needs to be doable, by that I mean don't over pressurize yourself I would rather have it broken down into smaller steps so that you feel you are getting somewhere. I have the overall objective I want to improve stated at the top of the page then a grid below which has titles - action, intended outcome, who, when, evaluation/impact on setting I also define what area The development is intended for, I.e, Learning and Development, well Being, Leadership and Management, etc.


Above all please remember to come on here - there are so many people with so much experience who will listen to all your woes and understand you as we have ALL been there at some time or another. It's a superb resource for support - check out the resources section there will be all manner of helpful stuff on there.

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Hello there.


I am not quite sure where to start or quite what to say to help you feel any better about your scenario.


Welcome though, and this is the perfect place for a listening ear!


I think the advice already given is good advice....


If OFSTED come and you have a plan of action that you can refer to then they will know that you know there is an issue but having only just started the job there has not been time to do all that needs doing. I think if you are honest about your knowledge that things aren't right it helps.


I work in a nursery attached to a school but that became private in September last year.

I am lucky to have 2 good staff working with me but because we are so new and we are trying to break even, when there is sickness to cover it so difficult. In September I got time built into my hours to do all the stuff I had been doing at home previously but this only works if I am not covering Afterschool club or breakfast club..... The other parts of my responsibilities.


We have a termly summary of all areas of learning that is shared with parents each term. There are also areas for development/ next steps on there and a space for parents to comment if they want to, but to sign to say we have shared the information with them.


I am lucky that I don't have to pack everything away.... Butt then again right now Afterschool club use the room after us which is really not ideal, but we all have to have our cross to bear!


My staff have a little time built into their hours for learning journeys but I tend to do all the profiles.

Both my staff have Afterschool club hours too and if the sessions are really quiet or they have older children who do not need as much support they do try to do some learning journeys during this time. I would rather this than have them sat doing nothing.


Planning is always evolving it seems...... I doubt anyone on here has got it down to a perfect art........


Please take a breath and don't let this consume you.... Easier said than done I know.


Prioritise. Find some new staff who will be your choice and hopefully can be moulded to your idea of good practitioners!


Good luck x

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I really feel for you. Please try not to worry and remember you are in this job because you want to give the children in your care the very best pre-school experience possible. As previously mentioned you can only change one thing at a time otherwise you will feel completely overwhelmed and nothing will be achieved.

I hope you soon find some new staff who share your aims and will support you through the inevitable ups and downs.


We are a pack away setting and we have 30 minutes either side of a session to set up and clear away. This is just about possible and is dependent on staff sticking to the jobs they are assigned to on a daily rota.

Good luck and keep in touch :1b

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Hi, didnt want to read and run, just wanted to offer my support. You've been given fab advice so all I can offer is this...stop and take a breath, now spend a few days observing the routines, activities, the staff, committee, children. Smile and take notes. There is no rush. Speak to each member of staff in turn, speak to committee. They gave you the job, you are quite capable of doing it so don't doubt yourself, just give yourself time to deal with each issue and remember this too, the committee should be working with you and enabling you to do your job, not making demands! Good luck, I've been manager and now I'm chair, neither are easy, we've just lost our manager, I think she felt overwhelmed but she didnt talk to me so I couldn't help her.

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Hi just wanted to comment on the staff/paperwork/overtime bit. I manage a small team of 6 with 30 children each session. I spent many an hour trying to figure out how best to get learning journals completed and updated and then came up with a system that really works well. each key person is allocated one day a week ( which you should find manageable with 8) to have a keyworker day whereby they organise their time to either have a day to update files, sit with key children to add bits to their scrapbooks, carry out indepth obs on key children, or carry out small key group work with children.

No work is taken home and their paperwork is all up to date. all of my staff have 18 key children and this is more than manageable. They all know that if we have a crisis in the room then they must come back in to support but found this an effective way of working.

As for the rest of your troubles. Keep strong and as previous comments have said, make lists and prioritise as you will end up making yourself ill. xx Being a Manager is a tough job and I am always questioning what I do. But you will get it sorted in the end.

With the setting up and packing away. All my staff but one who has to collect her children are paid for half hour each side of the sessions to set up and pack away and they do not pack away while children are in session with a couple of staff at the end it can be done in about 20mins.

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Oh my, you sound just as overwhelmed as me! I am a new manager as of September 13 and sometimes feel completely out of my depth and I have very supportive staff! You have my sympathies when dealing with people who are not fully on board and I really do wish you well.

There are many changes to be made when starting and I agree that these should be prioritised (mine's just a tick sheet at the mo as I've not gotten round to write a proper development plan but it makes me feel better to see a load of ticks hahaha).

We all have key children and write obs on post stick notes and take photos then take our LJs home to update when we want which is unpaid. When the on track needs completing we all get half an hours pay per child overtime (even though it usually takes longer than this)

At the moment I haven't had time to do staff observations or any progress groupings and would like to ask Pander if it is possible to post an example of the progress matters sheet mentioned above please?

Also at that time we do our progress matters sheets which get collated by me onto one sheet so we know where the whole group is in terms of their ages and abilities.

Just really wanted to encourage you to keep at it - YOU CAN EAT AN ELEPHANT IN BITE SIZED CHUNKS. That's my mantra at the moment and I hope it helps you too. X

PS I look at this forum every day, learning lots and appreciate everyone posting here so thanks to you all too :)

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Hi and welcome,


Packaway same as you.


Take on board advice, go and see some packaways at work, your eyat can advise which ones would be worth a visit.


Make a list of all that needs doing

Set yourself a goal a week from your list

Tick it off - very rewarding this


Share your vision and goals with your staff



ratio does seem high we are 5 staff for 26-28 children


If you have actio plans for your list, then if Ofsted turn up they can see how you propose to move forward


Changing is a working progress look long term, it took me probably 5 years to move my setting to where I wanted it


This is working with staff to change our planning, areas within the setting, proper free flow, outings, policies etc


Be patient, don't be hard on yourself, enjoy your journey

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Hi I am in similar position but not in a pack away setting, I am a new manager as of june 2013, there hadn't been a manager for over a year the owner would pop in every now and again, so it was difficult as the deputy had been standing in. When I started I had 3 members of staff leave but to be honest they did me a favour as I employed new staff who were more suitable. But the staff did struggle with change and the deputy struggled to stand down a bit. Its not been easy I have had a lot of resistance from senior staff as they have been set in their ways for too long! but after 6 months things are starting to get easier I still across resistance at times but things are starting to settle, just give it some time I am also due ofsted and have had to implement some changes but also I have my improvement plan so keep focused you will get there x

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HI you have such good advice already but just to say that no matter how experienced you are I think as a manager we all have days, terms or even years when we feel like this. For me with the work life balance I found several things helped:

the first thing you are not your setting and you are only one person (however important) in your setting. Even the best manager in the whole world would find working with staff who are unsupportive for whatever reason (whether that is because they are lacking in confidence, not yet experienced or qualified enough or just not on the same page as you are) difficult. you are though only one part of the whole so it is not just your responsibility to make it work or put it right. Even if you feel other people are putting you in this position I think it helps to have this in mind so you are just kind to yourself and more realistic about what you can achieve. Can things wait? is it essentially to do that day or will tomorrow or next week be ok?

Secondly I started by being clear the times I would work and the times I wouldn't no matter what. So you might find that you are happy to work longer hours Monday through to Friday but the weekends are a no go as they are family times. Or maybe that you will be happy to work till say 5 every night but after that it has to wait until the following day. Sometimes having this kind of schedule (even if its only in your mind) although sounds a little inflexible it helped me keep more balanced in the beginning. Things could be put off till tomorrow knowing that I would still make time for them and my other half and the kids were happier as they knew that I would make time for them too. It didn't stop the moaning completely but it did help and it stopped me feeling guilty about saying actually I will look at that, help you with your homework etc.. but I need to do this first so this will be time it will happen (kind of thing)

As far as Ofsted goes at the time of my Ofsted I had a very hard team in some respects as I had some who were naturals with the children and some who had to work at it, some who where confident in their practice and some for various reasons who were having a confidence blip, all at different stages of their own development, experience and at different qualification levels and I had some new staff as I had lost a few quite close together (again for various reasons) on top of all of this I had had the most amazingly difficult year due to vulnerable child in setting with very vulnerable family who made life incredibly difficult and this had a knock on effect with some of the other parents too and a very big staffing problem where one of my staff had a personal circumstance which adversely effected her ability to do her job. I know we didn't do so well with our judgement but Ofsted saw clearly that I was working hard within a difficult time/situation/team and it said that quite clearly on our report. They also didn't expect me to tackle everything at once they were happy for me to prioritise. I think they don't expect to see perfection or that there will be no problems or areas to improve, what they want to see is that you have an honest and realistic view of your setting strengths and weakness and that you are making good choices about how to move forward. I think this is where you will 'show' that you are a good manager and know your stuff!! (even if one of the problems is a difficult team)

I think if you have staff handing in their notice it is hard not to take this personally but actually is that a problem if they are not on the same page as you and not pulling in the same direction then maybe it is for the best that they move on and you can get someone else in who is on the same page as you pulling in the same direction as you and will be your team!! This is sometimes less stress and less work than trying to make allowances for staff that are just not resonating with you or your setting.


please keep smiling and keep on going it will all come out in the wash eventually

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I was in your shoes 4 years ago nearly 5 now.


From experience I suggest:


1) having a meeting with committee and giving them links to the EYFS framework in particular the statutory requirements and tell them that it is as much their role as yours to meet the requirements. Ofsted will want to question them and know their level of input in the setting too.


Are you the nominated person? That's who ofsted will want to speak to in the event of anything.


Write an action plan and priorities. Write a list then letter each task A, B or C. A is must be done, b needs to be done but can wait, c is not important or can be delegated. Then no the A's 1-10 (etc) and work your way through them. Feel free to PM if needed Hun

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