Michelle, from our WoodLand Day Nursery and Preschool in Gaydon, talks about her career so far with Bright Horizons.
I recall when I met Emily, the WoodLand Nursery Manager for the first time. I was 16 and had just received my G.C.S.E results in 2004. I remember how she praised me after I told her I was able to go to college and study my BTEC National Diploma in Early Years. But soon after I started, the cracks started to show in the course I was doing.
In the November, I walked into the office and spoke to Emily about how I was feeling, stating that I was planning to leave the course after Christmas meaning I would no longer be attending WoodLand nursery for my experience. Emily looked at me and said: ‘It’s just a shame that people under 17 cannot work in a nursery, but luckily you only have to wait until next month. Would you like to apply for an apprenticeship?’ I jumped at this opportunity and pretty much bit Emily’s hands off.
Over the following months I was interviewed and accepted. When I began, there were a few unexpected challenges. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job (and still do!), but it was a real awakening of what working in a nursery really means. The days were long, the pay wasn’t fantastic being an apprentice, and being very young and with zero experience, I wasn’t given many responsibilities. When I look back now, I actually realise that I probably should have cherished those moments. My responsibilities began when I took on health and safety, which may not be the most exciting subject, but I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to step up!
I used to be like a child tugging on their mum’s leg saying: ‘mum, can I have’. Except my saying was: ‘When can I have my key children?’, ‘When can I be a key person?!’ Soon, after I qualified we went through a change in staffing and I had stepped up which also meant that I was no longer the “baby” of the nursery. When Louise, the new Nursery Officer (who was only 8 months younger) turned up, it took some time to adjust to not being the new person anymore.
I also experienced another challenging relationship with a different colleague. Both of us being young, and extremely naïve, everyone could sense the strain! In the end Emily assisted in us working out our differences and on reflection, I probably acted like a stroppy teenager about the whole situation. I had to learn how to deal with different types of people and the importance of communicating effectively. This has by far been the most valuable lesson I have learned to date!
In 2007, I won the Adam Hay award for working with dogs for children with disabilities. That year we also faced a new challenge. For those of you may still remember it was the EYFS requirement of listing an observation per day per child but we made it through and the EYFS was fully launched in 2008.
I soon became a Senior Nursery Nurse before finding out that Aston Martin were taking over the land and Jaguar Land Rover were going to build us a brand new building! At the Bright Horizons’ Awards of Excellence in 2008, I was nominated for the ‘Janice Hill’ Award, and although I didn’t win, I still remember how much it meant to me. I also took the ‘Diversity Champion’ Award for working with children and using Makaton and BSL along with ‘Dogs for the Disabled’.
2009 was an emotional year, as we were leaving our 8 year old building of 51places and moving to a brand new nursery of 82 places! The first half of the year was a blur of visits to a building site, doing risk assessments and planning what equipment we wanted for the new building. This place was HUGE! And the baby room had enough space for 36 babies! I was told that the room on the end was going to be for the children who were in their last year of nursery, and this would be where I was based. In the mix of the move from one place to the other, I also enrolled at University to begin my Foundation Degree. I couldn’t wait to get started as I had seen Emily do hers; as she prepared to enter her final year, I began my first.
On the 21st August 2009, we closed the original WoodLand Nursery down. The building may be just a shell of memories but I will treasure them for the rest of my life.
The new nursery officially opened 3 days later. We welcomed many new children and families, and grew the team from 12 to 27! I enrolled at University with excitement, and at Bright Horizons Awards of Excellence ceremony I received the ‘Early Years Play & Learning Award’ for my work with children in preparing them for school.
At the beginning of 2010, we had some heavy snow and had to close the nursery. I remember joking that Ofsted were going to turn up, and sure enough, they did. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there for the first day but was able to support the team on the second day. We were over the moon to find out that we have received an ‘Outstanding’ rating in all areas, which was a huge achievement, having only been open for such a short time. Further into 2010, I had my first challenging experience with supporting a child and one particular family who were going through very challenging time. I supported them as much as I could and often went to Emily for advice who reassured me to keep going. At times I felt as though it wasn’t worth it, and my efforts were in vein. To my absolute shock and amazement at the next Bright Horizons Awards Ceremony, I was presented with the ‘Family Partnership Award’ for supporting this particular family who had written some lovely things about the work that I had done with them. Receiving this award made it all worth while.
When I started my Bright Horizons journey I was a 16 year old, unqualified, inexperienced teenager. I am now a Senior Nursery Officer, with 4 Awards of Excellence, achieving an Outstanding in Ofsted. I’ve enjoyed working at the WoodLand nursery, and wouldn’t change a single day. Not only have I grown professionally whilst here, but also personally. Many thanks to Emily the Nursery Manager, Jane the Deputy, my mum Zena, Louise, and the rest of the team who make WoodLand such a happy and thriving place for our children and their families.