Thursday, 26 November 2015

Road Safety Week

Elspeth Pitman

It is Road Safety Week and Brake’s theme this year is “Drive less, live more” which in turn will allow us to “Save more, Talk more, Care more and Live more”.

According to Brake: “Children who are encouraged to walk, cycle, scoot or skateboard to school tend to engage more with their community, stay healthy, and arrive alert, relaxed and ready to start the day.” This statement surely encompasses what we want for all of our children, an opportunity to live their life to the full. So even when the weather is not inviting, whenever possible, Norland would promote walking, scooting or cycling to nursery or school.

Here at Norland we think this week is a great opportunity to talk about how we can keep children in our care, safe on the roads. Research has found that when driving, children can be more distracting than mobile phones. We take our responsibility to ensure children are safe in the hands of our Norland Nannies when on the road very seriously. Students cover road safety as a topic on the Norland Diploma, we provide additional training in fitting car seats properly and on being safe in icy and wet conditions with skid pan training. Norland students also undertake Drive a Child online training as part of their course at Norland. Of course, keeping children safe on the road is not just about being in a car.  Students are also taught about safety as a pedestrian with children and how to teach children about staying safe whilst walking, cycling and scooting on the pavement.

For our older children, we should be teaching them how to be safe on the road. Road Safety GB and the Department for Transport have produced some useful ideas and resources to help teach children about road safety. Now that it is likely to be dark heading to and from school parents and carers should use this opportunity to speak to children about being visible to drivers as a pedestrian. You might get the conversation started about road safety with a fun activity, for example, buy some self-adhesive reflective tape and talk to the children about where they might be able to attach some to their clothing, bags, helmets, scooters and bikes to help the traffic see them better.

If driving really is the only option, then we must make essential checks to ensure the safety of the children we are driving. For example, are you certain you have fitted your child’s car seat properly? This is one of the questions you should be asking yourself every time you take a child out in a car. According to Brake if a child is properly fitted with an appropriate child restraint, suitable for the child’s size and weight, then the risk of injury in a crash is reduced by 70%, however, 56% of us get this wrong. Even though we train our nannies in fitting car seats, there are so many different makes and models, our students are taught to read the instructions on how to fit the specific car seat properly. If instructions are no longer available then they should find the correct instructions online or call the manufacturers to ask for a new copy. It is also their responsibility to be up-to date with the current laws on appropriate car restraints for children. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents have some excellent guidance on how to ensure a child is safe in a car restraint.

 Fitting the car seat correctly is not the only consideration when driving with children.  In this wintery weather it is easy, for convenience, to strap your child in the car seat with their thick winter coat on, but this could be a dangerous mistake.  A small child could very easily overheat in their coat and hat and not be able to tell you. It is also harder to ensure that the harness of a car seat is fitted properly if a child is in a thick winter coat – the car seat straps might not be secure enough to protect the child should you have  an accident, as highlighted by Good Egg Car Safety[AS1] .  It is much safer to avoid putting children in their car seat in a winter  coat and use an additional blanket if need be. Remember though, if you plan on having the heaters on in the car, this may not be necessary.

So, this week take the initiative from Road Safety Week advice to “Drive less and live more” and get talking to your children or charges about safety whilst out and about.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

A personal reflection on the important role of a key person

Elspeth Pitman  
Early Years Consultant 

Should we give children the opportunity to choose their own key person? 

Recently I had the pleasure of going to Tanzania for a week to help run a children’s programme at a Conference for Missionaries. We, 5 volunteers, had the privilege of entertaining 27 children ranging between the ages of 12 months to 14 years. Due to my Early Years background and Norland training I took on the responsibility for making sure our five youngest children, all under the age of 3 years, were well cared for.

This experience gave me the opportunity to reflect on some of the best practice we at Norland College promote throughout our training. The two areas of best practice which I found most useful during my time in Tanzania were, careful observation of each individual child’s needs and regular reflection on the care and environment provided. Both of these areas of best practice proved to be invaluable throughout my week in Tanzania to help provide the best possible care we could under the circumstances. 

Transitions, especially short terms ones, are particularly hard for young children as they are often not fully aware of what is going on and why they are being left in a different situation with adults they have not met before. The situation reminded me of a quote by Elinor Goldschmied (2001, p. 37) “We can never remind ourselves too often that a child, particularly a very young child and almost totally dependent one, is the only person in the nursery who cannot understand why he is there.” 

With this reflection in mind, and bearing in mind the children had never met us before, whilst I at first said I would act as key person for the youngest of children, we decided that we would initially keep all the children in one room together to see how they settled. Our initial instinct proved to be invaluable; the youngest of our children would often only settle if sitting right next to, or even on the same chair as, their sibling. Being in the same room all together also meant that the youngest children could settle or be comforted by the adult they felt most comfortable with – in effect choosing their own key person. The beneficial effect of this was clearly seen in a little boy of 18 months who, from day 1, would only settle with our only male volunteer. We facilitated this choice of key person for this little boy as much as possible and by the 4th and final day of the programme we all celebrated the confidence this little boy had developed. Helping this little boy build a secure attachment to one adult helped him to feel more secure in his whole surrounding and to explore and play independently with all of the adults in the room.

It is important as an Early Years Practitioner and Nanny we make sure that through the best practice of careful observation we are supporting young children through times of transition as sensitively as possible. Recent research (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2014) has shown that high levels of the hormone Cortisol, produced through stressful situations, can initially reduce young children’s ability to play, learn and develop. Whilst we cannot remove all stresses on young children, as this is part of life, we should endeavour to reduce it as much as possible to allow play, learning and development to flourish in each individual child in our care.  This was something which I certainly observed to be true with the little boy in our care during just 1 week.

The key person practice is not uncommon in nursery settings, but it did make me reflect upon whether there is always the facilitation for a young child to choose their own key person if it would benefit the child? This does not mean that any one practitioner is better than another, but as individuals we do gravitate more towards some people than others. Parents who are choosing their nanny and in effect key person for their children might also consider the Norland recommendation of having the nanny spend a day (or more) with the children and family as part of the interviewing process. This will provide the opportunity for the parents and nanny not only to see whether they will be happy working together, but also the opportunity for the parents to see whether the children warm to the particular nanny’s personality and style to fully allow the ‘key person’ relationship, and therefore the children, to thrive.