Start Life Well
As Early Years professionals we each have the privilege and opportunity to make a lasting impact on young children’s wellbeing and future development. We are all role models for the children in our care and, if we are to model wellbeing and healthy choices, we need a healthy learning ecosystem that enables us all to bring our best selves to work so that we can provide the best possible start for the children in our care. Whilst we are all aware of the importance of health and wellbeing in the Early Years, now more than ever it’s becoming obvious that the current situation requires us to re-evaluate our wellbeing priorities.
Achieving this whole setting approach requires an understanding of what wellbeing means, why it’s important for staff and children and, crucially, how we can achieve it.
Talking to and working with Early Years leaders across the sector proves without doubt, that many providers have the best intentions in the world and are brimming with wellbeing initiatives. But unless they are underpinned by a clear well-being strategy that involves the whole team and clearly establishes what you’re trying to improve, many initiatives don’t benefit the setting in the way they were intended. This can make the difference between a successful strategy and a waste of time, energy and money.
As leaders we need to base our efforts on evidence of what works. We also need to work smarter rather than harder to look at ways to weave wellbeing into the cultural fabric of the organisation. If we really want to put Health and wellbeing at the heart of everything we do, it should be a foundational principle rather than an afterthought tacked on.
Therein lies a key challenge for any organisation whether a large corporate chain trying to navigate the operational complexities of sustaining an effective wellbeing strategy across a group of nurseries to an individual nursery struggling with where to start or to decide what wellbeing initiative to implement that doesn’t increase workload and add more pressure on the staff team.
We know that high levels of wellbeing are linked to positive outcomes for children but in order to maintain and manage wellbeing across the setting to support everyone, you need a strategy and a structure that’s embedded and that everyone understands and is involved in. You’re not expected to be an expert but as a leader or manager knowing what support is available and having an understanding of how to promote a health promoting approach is a vital part of your role.
This has been our driver to developing Start Life Well an innovative platform that enables organisations to measure, improve and consistently maintain high standards of wellbeing with ease. Over the last 10 years we have built on the foundations and success of our PANCo ( Physical Activity and Nutrition Coordinator) programme which has given us a deep understanding about what settings need to develop and manage an effective wellbeing strategy.
Start Life Well has already proved to be an invaluable tool for many settings that we have been working with. As a rapidly growing group, it was essential for Kindred to develop a common thread across all nurseries and to build a culture of health and wellbeing among staff, children and parents. This included a major focus on driving physical activity, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to achieve this. All 20 of their nurseries completed the Start Life Well Assessment to gain a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of existing nutrition and physical activity policy and practice within each individual setting. The survey provided the Kindred’s senior management team with a clear insight and benchmark across the group enabling them to prioritise their wellbeing needs and target resources directly to where they were needed.
“The Start Life Well Assessment was a great tool to see where my setting could improve and where it was already doing well. I feel more confident in being able to talk about physical development and nutrition and why it is so important from 0-5 years. I like the fact that all settings no matter how good all have room for improvement. Personally I have really enjoyed looking more into wellbeing, not just for children but for myself too. There is so much to learn and get excited about to introduce into your setting and I now feel I have the knowledge about where to look for reliable and up to date resources and research.”
Samantha, Kindred Odstock
“From completing Start Life Well, I have made positive changes in terms of sharing government guidance and knowledge with practitioners who may lack confidence in these areas. By completing the Award it has allowed me to help and support others.”
Courtney, Kindred Harlow
The Old School House Nursery have always been a shining example in actively promoting health and wellbeing. They used Start Life Well as a way of ensuring that the whole staff team had the essential knowledge and understanding of what the national nutrition and physical activity guidelines are and more importantly, the practical skills and confidence to put them into daily practice across the whole nursery.
“Start Life Well gave us the tools and support we needed and achieving the award has been not only a confidence booster for my team but also reassured our parents that we are committed to actively working towards improving the wellbeing of everyone in our setting.”
Lisa Weston, Nursery Manager
Whether you’re a nursery, school, after school club or childminder our goal is to it make easier than ever for every setting to create a healthier environment for children, staff and parents.
Find out more about our Start Life Well Wellbeing in Action Toolkit and Award Scheme here.