- Janet Murphy
1. Maintaining effective communication and avoiding any barriers
It is essential to have effective and positive communication within a pre-school setting for the staff, the children and their families or carers in order to develop solid and caring relationships.
It is important for pre-school managers to develop a strong working relationship with staff with effective communication. This will create a much happier and productive working environment for all staff, which in turn will encourage an effective and positive relationship with the children within the setting and their families or carers.
In order to keep all up to date with current issues within the setting, e.g any child protection issues, medical diagnosis needs of a child, any new children starting within the setting, any new policies introduced by the setting, it is necessary at all times to keep communication between all staff and management up to the minute and current. This can be carried out either verbally or non-verbally, for example via e-mail, memos etc.
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Nurturing and maintaining good communication levels between staff and management also helps staff to know what is required of them and for the manager to be aware of any feelings, anxieties or uncertainties the staff may have within the setting, which then can be discussed and addressed. It is important to ensure that the staff see this communication as positive and not just the manager ‘checking up on them’.
If a manager does not have this positive and effective level of communication with their staff, this could cause problems within the setting that go un-noticed and could have a negative effect for the children and families or carers.
‘The relationships that my staff and I have with the children and their families are what make or break the business. Relationships are difficult and not always positive. The important thing is to talk. If you want staff to be nurturing then you need to nurture them - show you appreciate them, make sure they’re not overloaded and ensure that they know they can talk freely’. (Sue Chesson, Skips Nursery).
As the manager of the setting it is important to try to identify and eliminate any barriers that staff may feel towards effective and useful communication.
Barriers to communication can include verbal barriers, for example a noisy environment, cultural or personality barriers and the environment of the setting being segmented making it difficult to have effective two way communication. Other areas of verbal barriers may include when a member of staff is stressed which in turn could cause a fractious atmosphere within the setting or a member of staff could possibly not understand the communication that is trying to be conveyed.
Non-verbal barriers mostly consist of ‘body language’ barriers, for example a lack of eye contact between the members of staff, unhelpful or misread facial expressions and different perceptions of body language and gestures.
One of the most common communication problems within a preschool setting is simply a failure for people to listen to comments or instructions being made.
2. The appraisal process
The main aim of the appraisal process is to have a two way discussion between manager and employee to identify any issues relating to the role expected of the employee and to identify any strategies necessary to improve performance within the setting. Discussions should also be made as to the wellbeing of the employee, within the setting and personally. Appraisals should also be designed to include discussions on when employee has done well in their role so that they feel that their hard work and effort has been recognised, which will then encourage good morale and motivation.
The appraisal process within the pre-school setting is very important and is a very effective way to review and employee’s performance over the last year and to identify any strengths and weaknesses and any concerns and barriers there may be with the employee’s performance.
It gives the manager and member of staff the opportunity to discuss any further training and development which would be beneficial to both the employee’s long term potential and the pre-school setting and identify appropriate targets for the future.
Appraisal meeting with staff and manager should be positive and productive and encourage effective working practice and strengthen the working relationships.
Formal appraisals are normally carried out once a year between the manager and employee and should cover items such as working relationships, professional knowledge, communication and organisational skills.
It is an opportunity for an employee to raise any issues they may have and any ideas they may have in their role and in the setting. The employee should be provided with guidance notes and an Appraisal Form prior to the meeting to assist them identify the areas they wish to discuss with the manager. There should also be an Appraisal Policy within the setting which should be available to the employee to read and discuss upon commencement of employment.
Although the annual appraisal meeting is a very effective and productive way to communicate with staff, it must be remembered that some staff may find it daunting and be apprehensive about the process. It is important that the manager tries to dispel any concerns the member of staff may have and convey the meeting as positive and productive for all parties involved.
Apart from the annual appraisal meeting, important issues that may raise time to time within the setting would be best addressed at the time rather than be allowed to continue, for example if a member of staff is using inappropriate language within the setting.
Discussions between the manager and the employee should also take place informally throughout the year in order to monitor any targets, training and development which has been set within the appraisal meeting and/or any new issues which may have arisen since the meeting.
3. Disciplinary and Grievance procedures
The disciplinary procedure within the pre-school setting is there to ensure a fair and effective method for dealing with any matters arising relating to the performance, capability and conduct of any employee.
The grievance procedure is designed to enable an employee to raise any complaint they may have relating to their employment within the setting to the manager.
The disciplinary process must be adhered to and the setting is expected to comply with the principles as set out by the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.
Upon the onset of any disciplinary procedure being taken with an employee is it important that the manager follow the process as follows:-
1. The manager should carry out a full and fair investigation into the allegation to establish the facts.
2. The employee should be informed immediately of the case against them and provided with all evidence of this.
3. If the manager establishes that it is necessary to pursue a disciplinary meeting the manager must prepare a written statement of the employee’s alleged misconduct relating to the setting.
4. The employee should also be issued with a letter giving clear and concise advice on the allegation made against them. The letter should be given to the employee at least 72 hours in advance of the meeting and include full details of date, time and location of the meeting and who will be in attendance.
5. The employee should be advised of their right to be accompanied at the meeting by a recognised trade union representative or a work colleague.
6. During the meeting the manager should inform the employee of the allegation against them and provided with any evidence and or witness statements obtained regarding the matter. The employee should be given full opportunity at the meeting to respond to the manager over the allegations.
7. During the meeting the manager must decide whether or not a disciplinary penalty is to be issued. The outcome of the meeting must be confirmed in writing to the employee giving them full details of the appeal process available to them.
8. Following a disciplinary meeting there are usually three outcomes:
No action taken or deemed necessary
A Warning issued to the employee
Dismissal of the employee
9. If the employee feels that they have been disciplined unfairly the manager should ask the employee to appeal in writing to the pre-school, detailing the grounds for their appeal. The employee must follow this procedure within seven days of the disciplinary meeting.
10. Following this an appeal meeting should then be arranged with the employee where possible with a different panel to that of the original disciplinary meeting.
11. Managers are also able to follow an informal grievance procedure where an employee and manager can discuss any issues on a day to day basis in a more comfortable environment and therefore hopefully resolve any problems that may have arisen within the setting with the employee.
It is the responsibility of the manager to ensure that disciplinary and grievance procedures are carried out in an open and transparent manner with good and clear communication between all parties involved. The process should also be no-discriminatory and all matters should be dealt with quickly and within any specified times.
Where at all possible the manager should attempt to deal with the disciplinary action informally to avoid the need for formal disciplinary action and possible employment tribunal.
4. Recruitment and selection process
The first process within the pre school setting for recruitment and selection of staff is to evaluate the role of the job being advertised including the job’s purpose within the setting, the tasks that will be required of the job holder.
It is very important to consider what skills will be required to carry out the role. Decision on salary offered, hours of work, holiday entitlement and other terms and conditions must be made in order to be able to effectively create a job description for advertising. This will then give candidates a clear indication of what role they would be expected to play within the setting and what their key responsibilities will be.
Advertisement of the vacancy should be made in various locations enabling applicants from all different groups the opportunity to apply.
It is important to inform applications that you are an equal opportunities employer and that you welcome and encourage applicants from all sections of the community.
The format of advertising and applying should be clear as to the role being offered and give details of the renumeration package. The advertisement should include the following job description and person specification :
- The name of the pre-school
- Description of the position vacant
- Skills required for the position by the applicant
- Details of essential requirements of the applicant
- Location of the position
- Renumeration package
- Hours of work
- Whether position is temporary of permanent
- Full details on how to apply for the position
- Contact details of the pre-school
- Closing date for applications
Creating an application information pack for applicants to fill out helps the process of recruitment as all information received from candidates will be received in the same consistent format. This also gives the applicant full details of the job description and person specification required. It should also include guidelines on how to complete the application and the pre-schools terms and conditions relating to the role.
Once all applications have been received by the pre-school it is then the process of short listing the applicants which are believed to be suited to the role. This process must not be discriminatory in any way, e.g. exclude applicants because of race, age, religion, sexual belief, etc.
Following the process interviews can then be offered to applicants. All applicants which have not been successful in the short listing process should be informed in writing.
All interviews should be conducted in a fairway for all applicants. Interviews can be very daunting and nerve-wracking for people so you should try to make them feel at ease during the interview.
Upon recruitment of a suitable applicant, the applicant should be given a copy of the Pre-school policies and encouraged to read them in order to become familiar with them.
They should also be given the Employee Handbook which provides them with all the information regarding the pre-school policies, procedures and guidelines.
It is a good idea to recruit an existing member of staff where possible to mentor the new member of staff which will give them an opportunity to get familiar with the day to day running of the pre-school and the other staff and children within the setting.
All new staff should be made aware of the pre-school health and safety policy, fire safety policy, children’s medication policy and information on any children with allergies.
Particular emphasis should be placed on staff development to ensure skills are kept up to date and a high quality of care can be provided to the children and their parents/carers.
The possibility of promotion within the pre-school should be made available to all staff and run in conjunction with the Appraisal process.
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