Open 51 weeks a year?! How do nurseries manage?

Nursery life is never dull or sedentary. It is transitional, vibrant, and needs the flexibility to cope with change.

There are peak times throughout the year where extra nursery staff are needed; during half terms and summer holidays; over Christmas when more staff tend to be on leave; to cover staff training, or to cover an absent/sick member of staff.

Nurseries that are open all year round often also have term-time only staff. They might have fewer numbers of children during this period, who are on term-time contracts or funded children who are term time only. This, however, is not always the case.

All year round nurseries cater primarily to working parents, hence their long operating hours, plus generally only close for 1 week a year between Christmas and New Year, and on bank holidays.

Oftentimes bank staff or temporary, agency staff need to be brought in. This ensures the smooth and efficient running of the nursery, whilst maintaining a healthy adult: child ratio.

During the summer months, nurseries often venture further afield outdoors, ensuring children get plenty of fresh air. Higher adult: child ratios are often needed for excursions where an extra hand is literally needed for younger children, or for children with special educational needs or a disability.

When bringing in temporary staff it’s important to have a sound agency providing the staff, who has done the necessary security and reference checks, and who has interviewed the agency member.

Many agencies who staff nurseries insist their staff have a current first aid certificate, which is excellent practice.

Nurseries need to go through an induction process with temporary staff, so they know the health and safety, and safeguarding policies and procedures they need to follow whilst working at the nursery.

Sometimes agency staff might be permanently employed by the nursery if there is a vacancy and they fulfil nursery requirements. More often than not though the nursery cannot afford to hire more permanent staff, and they try to ensure that the agency sends the same temporary agency member to the nursery, for continuity of care.

The agency staff member not only knows the nursery procedures and team members, but they also, so importantly, know the children’s names, their likes and dislikes, their possible food allergies, and care needs.

Nurseries have had a lot of extra running costs incurred over the years and this will only continue to rise in coming years, with pension rates, the living wage, business rates and premises rentals increasing year on year, the ongoing increase in food, equipment, maintenance and consumable costs, as well as local authority training costs.

Agencies charge a fee for making a temporary agency staff member permanent, which a nursery might battle to find, due to cash flow. An agreement can oftentimes be reached.

It’s important to have a reliable and trustworthy source of a temporary agency or bank staff. Relationships in business are important and need to be built on, especially in the nursery sector, where staffing is so important every day.