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Have a Break!

If I am at home early evening I often see a pre-school child and his mum walking past my home. This child has caught my attention as sometimes I notice that he is crying.

On a few occasions, I have had a brief conversation with his mum who looks very tired and unsure what to do. My thoughts are that he is tired and the crying is a reaction to seeing his mum and this is his way of communicating his feelings. (Note to self – add a section in my Supporting Transitions course, around preparing children for the handover to their parents at the end of the day.) In addition, I believe that he is picking up that his mum is tired.

I saw them again as I was walking to my car during the Christmas week and I noticed that he wasn’t crying. When I wished them both Happy Christmas, mum replied ‘I’ll not be working for one week and his nursery is shut. So we’ll have a well-deserved break!’ Oh, you should have seen the smile on this child’s face.

With this in mind, my thoughts then went to what I have always said about the importance of all early years’ settings closing between Christmas and New Year. As well as children having a break, staff need a break too.

There is also a strong business case for early years’ settings to be shut:

  • Managing between five – three days of staff leave dates in one go
  • No fuel or food expenses being incurred
  • No organising staff rotas
  • No decisions to be made on who will be working and the staff who are working feeling resentful because they have to work
  • Staff and children come back refreshed as everyone has had a break!

I know there are some nurseries that state parents appreciate 52 week opening – which I am sure they do. However, we need to be supporting family time and communicating to parents that staff work very hard and with everyone having a break at the same time we all come back refreshed, with a spring in our step.

There are some nurseries who use the first day after the January bank holiday as a whole staff training day. I have always been an advocate for all staff training (inset days) days as it helps with staff bonding and the staff team hearing the same message. Having delivered many whole staff training days, especially on the first working day of January, I have observed how staff look refreshed, are ready to learn and do appreciate all having a break at the same time. Most importantly, they come back energised with the green light on go in full illumination.

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  • Barbara Easton

    Hi Laura,
    As a teacher a number of years ago, the centers I worked at always had time off during the Holiday break as well as 3 to 5 days before the new school year began with staff training and getting the rooms set up for the families to visit at open house. It made a tremendous difference compared to many of the programs I observe today, where there is only 1 day off for the holiday and no staff training at all, due to the financial crisis in our area. We have to be more creative to support staff and families and LOOK at the children to come up with new ways to support everyone. Great blog and observations Laura, thanks!

  • Monica Makayi

    Our centre used to open throughout the year but last year my staff and I decided to take December off so that we and the children would take a break. Its amazing to see how refreshed everyone is in January!!! the children are so eager to learn, the staff are so excited to teach. Everybody really does need a break.

  • Caroline Wright

    Taking a break does indeed allow practitoners and children to come back to nursery feeling refreshed and ready to start again. However, the reality is that for many parents these days, with the current ecconomic difficulties, they have to work when they can and having flexible childcare arrangements is essential if they are not to be disadvantaged in the workplace.
    As service users we expect our needs to be met and would be the first to complain if hospitals, police stations and fire stations were closed over Christmas. So what about the children of these workers? Who will look after them whilst our nurseries close down for a week? Shops and offices too are forced to open all year round to enable their businesses to survive and to take advantage of international markets. Sadly, because families need to be more mobile these days to simply get a job let alone the need to be able to take advantage of opportunities for promotion and increased salaries, the extended family networks are no longer close at hand.
    We could also ask, why close down for a week at Christmas? Why shouldn’t nurseries, children’s centres etc close for a week at Diwali, or Eid or Hannuka or any other ‘special’ time of the year for that matter? Should we close for all of them? What about the families and staff who don’t follow these cultural festivals?
    Also, if everyone takes a break at the same time they they all get tired at the same time. At least if holidays are staggered throughout the year, children get access to staff who’ve had breaks throughout the year and there will be someone who is ‘eager and refreshed’ all the time!
    In terms of the business case, if nurseries don’t open when parents want them, parents will go elsewhere. That’s a fact. That’s why playgroups that only open mornings don’t have parents who work full time as their prime customers. Whilst some of the children who attend will have full time working parents, they are probably looked after by a childminder and simply taking up their 15 hours of free early education at the pre-school.
    I could go on…..
    In reality a week of ‘shut down’ is not right for everyone, for a number of reasons….Vive La Difference!

    • laurachildcare

      Thanks, Caroline, for arguing a case against Christmas closure. I still stand by my views on this. Many of the providers I have worked with over the years give parents notice if they are introducing any form of breaks or closures. Therefore, the parents have adequate time to make suitable arrangements, irrespective of their profession.

      Parents, like myself, who have used childcare over the years, have welcomed the break.

      Prospective parents are therefore able to make an informed choice as to whether or not the setting is for them, by being aware of the dates that the nursery is closed. One provider I know, who has four nurseries, shuts for a week at Christmas and for three inset days spread out throughout the year but still has an 18 month waiting list on all four settings. However parents make their mind up about a setting based on a number of factors.

      As an advocate of equality and inclusion, I take your point regarding why should we close down at Christmas. Indeed, settings could decide to have the week of closure when they choose. I know some settings that do this either over Easter or the summer holidays. Or indeed, why not for other religious festivals, celebrations, etc?

      In addition, the staff only use a few days of their holidays and are free to choose when they take the reminder of the holiday, in some cases up to another four weeks leave.

      As one provider, who owns several nurseries, commented to me recently, ‘In addition, it is also about promoting family time.’

      As with most issues, it is one of choice for both the provider and the parent.

  • Alicia

    I love this blog and agree whole heartadly with the points raised so many children these days look actually exhausted nursery and schools are so busy at this time of year and family time is precious people should welcome these few days together to re group relax and bond ❤️

  • Kierna

    Great post, Laura & I totally agree children, staff & parents need a break from each other.
    Even the best day care setting is no match for time spent 1 on 1 with a parent.

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