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 invited me to meet with Marion Dowling, Laura Henry and Bernie Taylor (from Trafford Early Years Service) at a dinner she organised on the Thursday evenig – how exciting! A jam packed five days I had ahead of me!

To start off the week, on Monday I joined Kathy at a very comfortable venue that she suggested. I felt very privileged to share the software with her in the same week as she published Inclusion in Early Years Practice to add to Observation, Planning and Assessment; Bringing It All Together and Sustained Shared Thinking in the Early Years – books that I always have on my exhibition stands.

North Visit Map

JOYS OF SEEING NEW PLACES – On the days that followed I visited –

  • A large outstanding nursery (“with an inspirational ethos”) housed within buildings of a business park.  The owner and manager and I first met at the NDNA Conference in 2014.   Both seeking a way ‘to save time for the girls.’
  • A setting that I met at the Nursery World Show 2015 – surprisingly graded as only good, as I was so impressed with them!  A brand new building added another 50% or so to their operation and they had a wonderful garden that had been planned to encompass every type of outdoor activity.  The senior management team were all very keen and wanted to improve the record keeping for the EYFS.  I met a knowledgeable trio interested in our plans for sustained shared thinking and how this will be included in our automatic reports.
  • An ambitious professional and her shell of a building. It had been described to me as a building site – and it was!  Wonderful plans for a superb facility to open in September complete with a roof garden, of which I was quite jealous. This was a particularly discerning potential customer who found us online in 2014, determined to be of high quality from day one.

It is always great to see new settings, no matter how long I have to gaze upon motorway scenery (although I must say the roads up north are quite superb). These encourage me to evaluate my own nurseries, environment wise, and pick up new ideas.  I also really enjoy talking things through with enquiring owners and managers to give a resolution to solve a difficulty. There’s just something very satisfying about working it out together. Thank you all for your hospitality and I hope we will work together in the future!

With the current customers it was a pleasure to meet them, for the first time and/again, but in their own surroundings.  Over the phone, one always imagines what a setting is like and I am continually surprised by my imaginings being so inaccurate – and always in a positive way! I unexpectedly visited:

  • A renovated police station
  • A set of demountable buildings
  • A large red bricked three story property

All so different but all equally working hard to ‘make a difference’ to the lives of children in their care.  It was good to chat and amongst other things we looked at how:

  • EASYpro can generate a Learning Journey Profile for parents and how they can feedback (on-line) into the software directly
  • To link EASY@home to EASYpro so families can contribute on an equal footing working from the same next steps as the nursery
  • The journey includes lots of quick observations (that do not need to be checked by management) that build a picture of progress for each Development Matters Statement
  • Graphs and charts can be used to move the quality of the provision forward
  • The various evidence can be used for Ofsted inspections
  • Easy and comprehensive the Progress Check is to carry out and also including all those involved in the process

So over those few days I covered a lot of ground and met with lots of enthusiastic like-minded people – definitely a worthwhile trip! And as for the dinner on the Thursday night (with Marion, Laura, Bernie and Kathy) it was more than ‘most enjoyable’ as we talked at length – all early years and sharing our experiences and thoughts in how to put everything to rights! It was a privilege.

I am not sure where my next trip will take me… It appears that most of our customers are up in the north.  However, London and the south are growing in number, we will see if a conference will take me there later this year.