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A Differentiated Approach for Good Parent Partnerships

spark is software designed by early years educators for practical solutions with the concept of ‘getting it right’ for every child at our core. With that same principle to also help ‘get it right’ for all those involved in helping the child flourish; for good parent partnerships. “[spark@HOME] is so logical in its ordering so  Continue Reading »

How spark Began

Once upon a time … With a history in nursery work, and with children with additional and special educational requirements, Catherine (founder of spark) set out to make a difference, just as all early years settings do, as she opened the first of her own.  When it came to developing software, she aimed to appreciate  Continue Reading »

FREE OR NOT SO FREE?

30 hours free childcare is meant to cover the delivery of early education and care only. We understand it generally doesn’t! Juggling costs and seeking savings without compromising quality is challenging. At spark we strive to support and enhance standards while also becoming slicker and leaner. As good business owners we can improve the efficiency;  Continue Reading »

Why Attend an Early Years Exhibition?

We prepare to celebrate our 8th birthday, we launched our EYFS nursery software at Childcare Expo, and we will be back again this September. I thought I would reminisce and encourage you if you haven’t been to an early years show to attend.  It is amazing that we have been doing this for eight years!   Continue Reading »

Is there a breather on the horizon?

SO busy preparing your EYFS transition reports and wish it could be easier and quicker? It could be next year, but that is a long way off. Once you put your feet up with your favourite tipple, patting yourself on the back or enjoying the relief as it all is done.  You won’t be thinking  Continue Reading »

FINANCIALLY “worth the investment”

Ten reasons to spark up your provision – Improve efficiency and see where you could save save save 1. Save time As senior staff will not need to check regular observations before sharing with parents On paper learning journals; ‘cut out and stick’ evidence into books Cross-referencing observations; it is all done for you  Working  Continue Reading »

The spark EYFS Observational Journey

What we do, continues to evolve. Every book we read and every conference we attend will bring a ‘tweak’ to improve what spark offers. spark has advanced over the last two-three decades to make things easier for everyone involved in meeting the learning and development needs of every child. Therefore, when our spark educators set  Continue Reading »

One method doesn’t meet all

One method doesn’t meet all the needs – Families’ needs are as diverse as the children’s.  Is that considered when we try to engage parents with their child’s learning? Recognising research that states, the quantity and quality of parent participation are a major contributor to maximising brain growth and future life choices, spark has increased  Continue Reading »

Let us help to reduce your training budgets

Knowing what it is like to own nurseries, we know how important it is to save where you can – which is why we are very excited to announce a new partnership we have formed with Flick Learning. We have teamed up with Flick and can now offer all of our spark customers a very  Continue Reading »

Observations Transposed to Useful Information

Regular observations are made, there is a breath of satisfaction. But what happens to them? Are they cross-referenced to the Areas of Learning, Development Matters Statements and Characteristics of Effective Learning? Can everyone in your team then decide what the child’s next steps are? For tomorrow? Soon? Can they weave these into the child’s interests?  Continue Reading »

NMT Finalist – Product Innovation Award

Building bridges with parents Our focus over the last 18 months has been to improve and develop a range of software functions that will support the provider in building REAL partnerships with families. By providing a flexible choice of ways, we give the provider the opportunity to engage the parent appropriately to achieve involvement and  Continue Reading »

Introducing the Early Learning Stage (EYFS) of the English National Curriculum

For International Interest The curriculum is based upon research in how children naturally develop and learn. The EYFS has age-appropriate targets (Development Matters Statements) in chronological stages, organised within seven Areas of Learning. Also, there are identified strategies that lay foundations in learning techniques, which equip children in how they can learn throughout life. The  Continue Reading »

Join the conversation… you may wish to get involved

On Monday 21 November at 4.30pm, MPs will debate e-petition 132140 on free childcare for working parents. The debate will be led by Helen Jones MP, Chair of the Petitions Committee. Get involved: The Petitions Committee invite you to inform the debate by joining the conversation on the House of Commons Facebook page from Friday  Continue Reading »

Asian Preschool Education Annual Conference – October 2016

Asian Preschool Education Annual Conference in China I was invited to talk at the Early Years conference ‘Asian Preschool Education Annual Conference’ out in China; the invite came due to the interest in working with me on a consultancy basis, to meet for discussions. I was asked if I would do a talk – ‘of  Continue Reading »

We have been shortlisted by NMT Nursery Magazine!

We are very proud to have been shortlisted for the 2016 NMT Nursery Magazine Awards, this time in the Product/Innovation Award. A fantastic honour and justifies all the hard work we have put into spark software together with the relevance and difference it brings to the industry and its changing environment. This is the 14th consecutive National NMT Nursery Awards celebrating  Continue Reading »

Practical Pre-School Awards Silver

National Practical Pre-School Awards for EYFS resources. As I write, it is ‘lunch break’ time, for delegates attending one of the two National Conferences; Early Years Premium: Innovation and Impact and Let’s Start with the Child and the other Developmentally Appropriate Practice in the Early Years.  So I am in Birmingham and know this blog  Continue Reading »

Evaluating EYFS Practice

EVALUATING EYFS PRACTICE Evaluating EYFS practice is often defined as assessing the ‘Quality of Teaching’. It is about analysing how learning is delivered. In an operating setting this starts by checking where each child is ‘AT’ with their learning and development. The level of emotional care and the quality of the environment being offered are  Continue Reading »

EYFS Learning Stories

Learning Stories may describe each Learning Journey. This might show how a child has developed since they began at a setting and will generally comprise of observations, artwork and photographs. Terminology can be confusing, therefore, here we introduce Learning Stories as an extra, within our regular Learning Journey. Our Learning Stories can be activated when  Continue Reading »
spark-essential

The Early Years people at spark launch sparkESSENTIAL to their range of EYFS software.

With the lack of government funding and a decreasing pool of suitably qualified staff, spark understands this current squeeze on the industry.  Funds are tight and the ability to commit to expensive software is often a frightening thought.  As providers ourselves, spark adds sparkESSENTIAL to their ‘bolt on’ range of software; for the curriculum and  Continue Reading »
NMT Top 20

Catherine has been nominated for the NMT 2016 Top 20

Catherine has recently been nominated for the NMT 2016 Top 20, this time for the ‘Top 10 Most Influential’. It is always great to be put forward for an award, and this year it is exciting to be part of the new format, with different categories. Here’s what the NMT website says about the requirements  Continue Reading »

Researched: Could spark@HOME make a difference?

Confident that spark@HOME makes a difference, we are pleased to publish this report. Much to my surprise three years ago I fell so in love with the nursery my first born attended, I offered myself up to become a parent representative to work alongside the outstanding team and support them in their fab work. Shortly  Continue Reading »

Customer Service

spark is about making life easier and ‘to get it right’ for every child. In our nurseries, we found out the hard way and bought expensive software to find it was too difficult and in the big picture did not meet our needs. So we make a commitment to you from our first conversation. We  Continue Reading »

What should I consider when buying your online Learning Journey?

The Learning Journey decision… We encourage you as a potential user to consider what you want to achieve now and later as you consider Learning Journey sofware. Then to try and correlate this with the various learning journey options that have sprung up from IT companies currently on the market. The purchase, in our opinion, should not  Continue Reading »

Sustained Shared Thinking Strands

Are you considering the children’s Sustained Shared Thinking capabilities? Our sparkPRO EYFS software has a unique observational journey that supports educators and practitioners in helping children’s learning and development within the EYFS. This observational journey underpins the acquisition of skills and information to fulfil a child’s potential and to achieve the non-statutory Development Matters Statements,  Continue Reading »

Case Study – How much does spark save?

Autumn Term 2014 – further information about sparkPRO requested February 2015 – purchased sparkPRO for first setting The proprietor and manager provided details: Firstly, the amount of time they used to complete the following tasks:- To make up Learning Journals To write up observations To plan activities To evaluate the curriculum delivery for groups To  Continue Reading »

EYFS Curriculum Challenges – The Chicken and Egg Scenario

Which comes first in each of the lines below: To use time for paperwork or time for children? To make observations or plan for outcomes? To record or evaluate? The Curriculum Agenda or the Staff Competencies to carry it out? Record the Development Matters Statements or record the Characteristics of Effective Learning attributes? Focus upon  Continue Reading »

EYFS PLANNING – Can it all be relevant to meet each child's needs?

Planning, many settings do a handwritten plan a week in advance, often as a chart to show what activities will be presented at different times of the day. These are generally around a theme. Activities are then presented to the children. Staff supervise and record what they see the children do and achieve. Some settings  Continue Reading »
track the childs growth with our software

10 Ways Software Can Make Your Nursery Better

Saves staff time – By minimizing the paperwork associated with providing EYFS learning, staff can save many precious hours over the course of the year. Saves money on print and paper – Software systems reduce the need for printing progress reports and learning materials Builds reputation – A professional system shouts organization and being at  Continue Reading »
Learn with your baby and eyfs

Child Development Birth to 11 Months

In these early stages of development, babies are learning to understand the world around them and their place in it. We take a look at what children of this age should be able to do, and what parents and carers can do to help promote development. Communication and Language Move in the direction of a  Continue Reading »

How EYFS Learning Software Can Make You A Happier Parent

spark EYFS Learning Software As a parent, the needs of your child, or children, come second to none.  You ensure that they are warm, well fed, and well looked after – but what about being ‘well educated’ at an early age? During the first three years, a child’s brain develops 700 neural connections per second,  Continue Reading »
Efficient Nursery Software

Ofsted Reports Decline In Early Year Childcare Providers

According to the latest statistics from Ofsted, the number of both nurseries and childminders on non-domestic property has fallen since March 2015. The number of nursery places available has also decreased with it. As well as a change to legislation in May, the fall in numbers is thought to be due to a lack of  Continue Reading »

Parental involvement in learning boosts motivation, according to a study

Recent findings have suggested that parental involvement in education has a significant impact on the success and achievements of a child’s education. It is difficult to define the optimal amount of parental involvement in learning, but the findings show that activities such as reading to a child and taking a keen interest in their work  Continue Reading »

The four themes of EYFS – Development Matters

sparkPRO is designed to support teaching staff through the four themes of  EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) and Development Matters delivery, helping you to provide the best possible experience in the children’s learning journey. What is EYFS? The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is a statutory framework set to provide standards for the learning, development  Continue Reading »

Statistics show that half of children are unprepared for school when they leave reception

Reports from 2014 suggest that nearly 50% of all children in England are not prepared to begin school by the time that they leave nursery. The report from the Institute of Healthy Equity at University College London also claims that children living in deprived areas are far more likely to fall short of the educational  Continue Reading »

SUPPORTING GREEN THINKING – GREEN ESSEX AWARDS

Here at spark we’re proud to have developed EYFS software solutions which cut down on paper reporting for nursery settings and therefore freeing up time for practitioners to spend with the children. With this in mind we were pleased to sponsor the inaugural Green Essex Awards – an awards programme designed to recognise and reward companies,  Continue Reading »

Play Iceland 2015

In October I joined the Play Iceland trip as a present to myself; my first nursery is due to be thirty the following month. I had aspired to go for the last two years – so now I had the best excuse to do it! It was so good to meet with such a broad range of enthusiastic  Continue Reading »

Exciting times for us – Our new brand launch

EASYsolution 4 NURSERY EDUCATION has a new name and new brand, welcome to ‘Spark’. Founder, Nursery Owner, Manager and Early Years Practitioner Catherine Lyon said, “We’re very excited to launch our new brand at Childcare Expo 2015 in what is an important period in the growth for our organisation. The creation of ‘spark’ was borne  Continue Reading »

I use the PRO software with @HOME version in my nursery …

The PRO software enables parents to participate with the setting on equal terms by using their own @HOME.  Marc a Practitioner with a Level 2 qualification, has been in his new nursery for about two months, told me how he uses the software and from his nurseries point of view. “I like it … Prompts come  Continue Reading »

Who's fault is it when a parent doesn’t get involved?

Who’s fault is it when a parent doesn’t get involved?  Maybe it’s – A Blinding Flash of the Obvious!  Parent Involvement ….. how to inspire! Out in China, helping develop a new setting open and use the EYFS curriculum, I am continually challenged. Especially, around how parents should be encouraged to be involved as one  Continue Reading »

Eco-friendly….. for those future generations

Being Eco- friendly is the new fashionable thing for businesses to aspire to, and it is definitely, in our opinion something for serious consideration in our world we live in today for future generations. In our business we work hard to be eco-friendly and through our software we support those that purchase to be more  Continue Reading »

Last week I received an email

Hello Catherine, Please see the note Karoline sent me regarding comment that a teacher had made about sparkPRO – I thought you too would like to see it! …….. Dear Clair, Thought I would just let you know about how well the visit went with Evie’s teacher today. She came in and asked to see Evie  Continue Reading »

From a Parent's Perspective

An introduction to Mary Evans who wrote to me wanting to help promote our software! She writes… Ever since my darling son arrived I have felt ever so slightly like I am always playing catch up with him. I constantly have the feeling that I am never quite on top of everything. I am yet  Continue Reading »

Snakes, spiders and other creepy crawlies

For those of you around London, I would like to introduce you to Faik Aktulga from Wild Fangs. We met at Childcare Expo at the show at Olympia earlier this year, where his beautiful snake Zebedee graced a large branch on the stand next to ours. Wild Fangs specialise in delivering interactive, educational and entertaining  Continue Reading »

Is your most valuable resource, your team?

To deliver the EYFS curriculum – good and great provision will keep careful records of children’s achievements, measure their progress against the Development Matter’s stages and continually strive to meet children’s needs more effectively.  A setting will pull on their resources to facilitate learning and development through the children’s interests.   Practitioners, will find and borrow  Continue Reading »

News 2015

Events coming up…. April 2015 Nursery 2 Primary Show- Bournemouth 24-25th April Catherine went to China at the end of March, have a look at her blog… makes a very interesting read. March 2015 Catherine has been busy again, visiting a selection of our customers and new ones up North and attending the Kathy Brodie  Continue Reading »

China

I was approached when I released our curriculum software by a Chinese lady, Jan, who was planning to open groups for children in China… but the software wasn’t exactly what she was looking for.  She asked me if I would be interested in setting up a nursery in China!  At the time it seemed an  Continue Reading »

A Visit North and the NWEYP Development Day

This year I planned to travel north to meet Kathy Brodie on the Monday, visit settings (both new and current customers) on the Tuesday and the Wednesday and finish up exhibiting at the conference Kathy organises each year on the Friday. On top of this, Kathy offered to feature our software on her blog and  Continue Reading »

Reducing the paperwork

Forward by Kathy Brodie as featured on her blog Whenever I visit settings to do training or ask practitioners what would make their job role more satisfying, the usual response is “less paperwork”. I have been discussing this with Catherine Lyon, an experienced nursery owner, who has developed her own solution for this problem. In this  Continue Reading »

Real Partnerships or just Lip Service?

In my view, working with parents is either REAL or a LIP SERVICE. This interesting concept was a great influencing factor for me when deciding how parents could engage with their children’s learning, as I devised spark for providers. The simplest thing was to provide a portal where parents could look and add comments.  I felt  Continue Reading »

Taking Full Advantage

Sitting at home at the end of a cold day in February – Brrrrrr – I thought Spring was on it’s way!  I hope it is warmer with you!  I have decided to put ‘pen to paper’ and share …. Recently, I found that members of my nursery teams were not using EASYpro fully.  In  Continue Reading »
Ofsted

Ofsted arrives – and where was I? In London!

One of my senior team and I were indulging in some quality time together doing a training course about ‘Talent Dynamics’ … but that subject is a story maybe for another time. Even though we had left very early to try to avoid the rush hour, we did get stuck in traffic and had arrived  Continue Reading »

All Change for the New Year

We have been busy innovating and updating here at EASY in the autumn term and our most recent addition is the new ‘shop front.’ You may have noticed our shiny new website complete with bells and whistles and I hope that you all like the feel of it – please let us know! I’ll take you  Continue Reading »

The Early Years Pupil Premium and Me

Last week I attended the 4Children Conference and it brought up for me an issue close to my heart that has long been debated: there is a consistent gap between the achievements of children from low income families and that of those from more fortunate backgrounds. Research shows that it is the quality and amount  Continue Reading »

Nursery Chain of the Year – Nursery World 2014

We attended The Brewery in London for this year’s Nursery World Awards as a proud sponsor for Nursery Chain of the Year I was pleased to present the award to a large group of ladies and one gentleman representing 400 staff from LONDON EARLY YEARS FOUNDATION (LAYF) Congratulations again to all of you! SNAPDRAGONS NURSERIES in  Continue Reading »

Plan Well – the curriculum and for improvements in your team

Plan Well – put the rocks in FIRST, all else will follow! Hi there and thank you for dropping by! Whether you are already familiar with ‘EASY’ and what we do or not, I’m hoping that our exciting new developments within the EASYpro software will enhance your experience in delivering the EYFS in your pre-school or  Continue Reading »

Our 5th Expo in Coventry

Hi there, I’m Catherine and I own and run nurseries in Essex.  Over 40 years of experience as a practitioner has thrown up many challenges – everything from runny noses to keeping a team happy to where to keep the chickens!  I’m almost certain that some of the biggest frustrations I had before developing ‘EASY’ are  Continue Reading »

2-3yr Progress Check

I wrote this blog originally in 2012 on another site which is now not accessible, so I thought I would transfer and update it. Although in principle, as the revised EYFS came in for September 2012, I thought this was an excellent idea.  But as a manager I was concerned that it was something else  Continue Reading »

And the winner is:

Current customers completed three short surveys and were entered into a free prize draw!  One Happy Winner on Friday 13th June 2014. Our gratitude is sent to all participants.  Your feedback helps us meet your needs in delivering the #EYFS and we at EASYsolution 4 NURSERY EDUCATION want to help make a difference.

What are the challenges when working with parents?

In my experience, I continue to battle to try and engage families in their child’s learning and development.   If I can help them understand that their child will learn most now, in the formative years, then I am pleased I have jumped the first hurdle.  If I have truly achieved this then they are  Continue Reading »

2014 nmt childcare power20 and FIVE Most inspirational People

•••  Barclays HQ  •••  Canary Warf  •••  City of London  •••  29th May 2014  ••• Honored to be included.  A BIG thank you to those that nominated and to the judges for short-listing me (Anne de Zoysa, Ian Murchie, Amanda Johnson and Jeanne Barczewsha).  What a surprise! Fantastic Company – Great Hosts – Scrumptious Food  Continue Reading »

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