Meet … Victoria Welsby

4th October 2018

Victoria has just joined Chichester College as our in-house Forest School trainer. Her role includes leading our First Steps Forest School sessions, working with children at each of our nurseries. We decided to find out a little more about Victoria and why she is so excited about the challenges her new role brings.

Welcome Victoria! You only joined Chichester College recently. Where have you come from?
Hello! My previous role was teaching in an Independent Prep School near Horsham. I am a qualified teacher with a great love of the outdoors and a passion for nurturing young people.

What is your role here?
I am a full time Forest School trainer and will be taking groups of learners of all ages into the outdoors to take part in a range of experiences which will build confidence, independence and communication skills. We will be using the outdoors as our playground and will use the natural environment to inspire us.

How will you be working with us at First Steps?
I am thrilled to be joining the First Steps team to deliver Forest School sessions to the children. Over the course of the year, all children in Step Three (and Butterflies at First Steps Bersted) will be given the opportunity to take part in a six week programme in which they will be invited to attend a Forest School session once a week. At Forest School, they will be given the opportunity to play in the natural environment, will be taught to use some basic tools, will have the opportunity to use natural resources in craft projects and will enjoy time around the campfire, eating some delicious food and singing campfire songs.

Why do you think Forest School is so important?
Forest School allows children to grow as individuals; at their own pace and following their unique interests and needs. In the busy and pressured world that we live in nowadays, I think it’s vitally important that children are given space to just ‘be’. Experiences at Forest school help children to become confident and resilient and prepare them for taking on the world outside the woodland.

What’s the funniest thing that has happened whilst you’ve been teaching?
It’s hard to narrow down just one funny moment. Working with small children is a laugh a minute job; from listening to them play with the nativity figures at Christmas with the Angel Gabriel declaring, “Flipping Heck, Mary’s laid a baby,” to a child loudly asking a parent volunteer, “Why do you have such a small head and such a big body?” Then there was the time I accidentally cut a blind in two during my first week of my very first teaching post, having been told that the cleaner had put some lovely rolls of material in my classroom that I may wish to use as backing paper for a display. I was most bemused when the caretaker started tearing through the corridor shouting “STOP! What are you doing?” ….Not funny at the time, but looking back I can see the funny side.

What are you most looking forward to in your First Steps forest school sessions?
Getting to know the children and having lots of fun with them in the woods. I’m also excited about cooking a range of delicious campfire snacks.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work?

I’m very sporty and like to keep fit. I do a silly exercise club where we play lots of children’s games like Bulldog, Dodgeball and Frisbee. I also love adventure sports like surfing and skiing.

Your best ever holiday … where did you go?
I spent a year travelling around Australia, New Zealand and Bali. My boyfriend is a wildlife photographer and we planned our travels around finding unusual animals such as platypus, echidna and red kangaroos. I’m a real animal lover and so it was an amazing experience for me.

What’s your favourite snack/treat?
I’m a bit of a chocaholic and a parent at my old school used to make me the most delicious chocolate brownies. My best leaving present was the recipe so that I can make them whenever I wish.

Bicycle or motorbike?
Bicycle! I like to cruise along at a gentle pace and take in the views as I go.

Peppa Pig or Paw Patrol?
Paw Patrol- I love an adventure and I’m also quite fond of puppies!

Favourite season and why?
As a child, I always loved Winter as I love the excitement of when it snows. As an adult, I’ve become disappointed by how infrequently it snows and I’ve decided that early Summer is my favourite because I love the long days, the warm weather and spending lots of time outdoors in the sunshine.

Spider or snake?
Tricky question! I don’t mind small spiders but I’m not keen on big ones! Similarly, I don’t mind a harmless snake but I’m not sure I’d want to go too near to a poisonous snake. If I had to choose though, I think it would be a snake as they usually slither away fairly quickly once they know you’re coming!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Happy! I don’t have set ideas about where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing, but I’d like to think I’ll be doing things which make me happy with people who make me happy and in a happy place!

Thank you Victoria. Everyone at First Steps is so excited to have you on board and we can’t wait to get going with Forest School. Our First Steps Families – keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates and pictures as our children begin Forest School.

A trip of a lifetime

13th September 2017

Last month two members of our team visited Nakuru in Kenya, home to the school The Big Build Kenya, in partnership with Chichester College, have been building. For Lauren, from our Bersted nursery, and Elora at our Brinsbury nursery, it was an experience of a lifetime.

Thanks to all of our fantastic children, their families, our staff and friends, we have raised a huge amount of money towards this project over the last year and whilst Elora and Lauren were in Kenya they officially opened the new school and the First Steps Classroom on behalf of us all.

We wanted to find out more about their experience …

 

Was the trip what you expected?

Lauren: “As much as you prepare yourself for the trip by attending the college meetings and researching websites, you’ll never know what to expect in Kenya until you are there and actually experiencing it.”

Elora: “The trip was more than I expected, I would do this trip a million times over! We saw some great sights and it was amazing to see the classroom that the money we all raised built. For me the trip was extra special as I was with some amazing people.  I shall hold these memories forever.”

 

 What was the highlight for you?

Lauren: “My highlights were being greeted by the happiest group of children and seeing the excitement when we arrived every day at the project! But there were so many more – finishing the school and classroom ready in time for the opening ceremony,  getting to experience teaching in class, stepping over the equator and going on safari.”

Elora: “The highlight of the trip for me was seeing the children every day at the Walk Centre and how happy they were to be there. It also made me realise what we all have at home and how much we take for granted.”

 

 What did you find hardest?

Lauren: “Going to the rubbish dump was the hardest bit for me, knowing that the majority of the children from The Walk and Prisons Primary lived there was heart breaking. Even then, they were still so happy to show us where they lived though. Although it was raining, we all wore sunglasses to hide our emotions – because to them, it’s their everyday life.”

Elora: “I think I found the toilets one of the hardest things…. boy was I glad to get home and use a toilet properly and not have to remember to take tissue with me or hold my nose!!

“I found the rubbish dump really challenging – the children were so happy to let us in to their homes and show us where they lived, yet they have nothing. Often 7 to 10 people live in a tiny shack they make out of the rubbish around them or whatever they can find. This is why the walk centre is so good for the children as 70% of them live on the dump and when they come to school they get a hot meal every day.”

 

Would you do it again?

Lauren: “Would I do it again? Most definitely, yes!! It’s a totally different way of life and I loved every minute (even though we had stew for lunch and dinner most days!) To be able to step outside the world of normality into a whole new culture and way of life was just an incredible journey! It was a once in a lifetime trip and I have learned so much from it!”

Elora: “YES I definitely would go again!!!!! I think everyone should experience it as I have got memories that I shall cherish forever. I can’t put into words what the experience meant to me and I’m sure everyone will have a difference experience but I am so pleased I had the opportunity to go.”

 

If you could sum up your experience in one line, what would it be?

Lauren: “The most overwhelming, eye-opening, emotional, amazing, funny, stew-filled journey!

Elora: “An amazing experience and one that I shall never forget, there will always be a piece of me there!”

Meet…Lauren & Elora who are off to Kenya!

30th January 2017

Two members of our intrepid nursery team are off to Kenya in July to help at the build a school project we have been supporting for the past year with African Adventures.

Lauren Parfoot from our Bersted nursery and Elora Chriss from Brinsbury, both stepped forward when the opportunity arose and are now busy preparing for this exciting adventure. We thought it would be good to get to know them both a bit better and find out why they are looking forward to this once in a lifetime opportunity…

 

Lauren, how long have you worked in childcare and, specifically, at First Steps?

First Steps was my first job in childcare after I had finished my college course. This will be my sixth year working here.

 

And Elora?

I have worked at First Steps for five years – it will be six in August.

 

What do you most enjoy about your jobs?

Lauren – being with the children. Knowing that I have an impact on helping them grow, learn and develop to reach their next milestones and having that continuous bond with them. Nothing beats the hugs, smiley faces, laughter, fabulous imaginations and proud moments I get when they learn something new.

Elora – I really enjoy watching each individual child grow in confidence and independence, watching them move from one milestone to the next is so rewarding.

 

If you could describe yourselves in three words, what would they be?

Elora – Outgoing, fun (that’s only two Elora! We’ve chosen one for you – warm)

Lauren – Ambitious, fun, caring

 

Why did you put yourself forward to go to Kenya Elora?

To gain this once in a lifetime opportunity was amazing – I am very excited to see their way of life and make a change for the better for everyone in their immediate environment.

 

And, Lauren?

I put myself forward to go to Kenya to broaden my horizon and enrich my experiences with new challenges and responsibilities and seeing a whole new way of life. I’m also keen to offer my skills and learn new ones.

 

What are you most looking forward to? 

Lauren: The whole trip! To make this project an absolute success; being part of the building and teaching, I’m excited about the chance to go on safari and I never thought I’d step over the equator! I am looking forward to the different experiences every day will bring. I really can’t wait!

Elora: I am most looking forward to the adventure although I think it is going to be quite a shock when I am there! I am also really looking forward to feeding the giraffes at the sanctuary.

 

How do you think you will be able to support the project whilst you are there?

Elora: By helping others and supporting a great cause, working together to meet new people and make a big difference to their environment.

Lauren: By bringing my knowledge, passion and teaching skills. I will be willing to give everything a go and will put every effort I have in to everything I do.

 

Are you worried about anything?

Lauren: Making sure I get all the right jabs needed, being prepared by having all the malaria preventions I can and being prepared for any emotional challenges we may come across.

Elora: I am really worried about the injections before we go!

 

What are you doing to prepare for the trip?

Lauren: I’ve done lots of research about the trip and about Kenya in general. Also, finding out about which jabs I need and what to take.

Elora: I have been reading up on the area and checking out what we will be doing. I am also keeping in contact with Lauren and have started to get a few bits together that I would like to take with me.

 

What home comforts will you struggle to go without?

Elora: I am really going to miss having a decent shower and my own bed!

Lauren: I will definitely miss my bed, Cadbury’s chocolate and not having a cup of tea!

 

What or who will you miss when you are there?

Lauren: I’ll miss my family, friends, my home comforts and a good roast dinner with all the trimmings!

Elora: I am going to miss my family and friends too. I know that my two dogs are going to miss me!

 

What will you be packing?

Lauren: The every day essentials, as much mosquito prevention products as I can and gifts for the children. Oh, and my camera so I can capture the amazing experiences!

Elora: I am going to be taking plenty of dry shampoo and baby wipes and I will also be taking sun cream.

 

Lauren, what do you think you will learn from this experience?

By stepping outside the world of normality and stepping into a whole new way of life, I think I’ll learn lots of new skills and broaden my knowledge about Kenya and the cultural differences.

 

Our General Manager Michelle Cogger, currently heading up our Bersted nursery, visited Kenya back in July 2013 as a volunteer and has been helping Lauren and Elora prepare for their visit with advice and tips from her experience.

 

Michelle, if you could offer the girls one piece of advice before they head out to Kenya, what would it be?

Throw yourselves whole-heartedly into the experience. Don’t take things too much to heart whilst you are there. You will see extremes of poverty that cannot be described so it can be easy to think how awful it is and feel very sad but it is important not to show that. Remember, this is their life! One of the things that really struck me was how happy everyone was – and that’s something to hold onto. Enjoy – it really is an opportunity of a lifetime.

 

Michelle kept a diary whilst she was in Kenya and we just love her final entry which seems like a perfect way to end this blog:

“And this was the end of my amazing, wonderful, eye-opening, sad, funny, mashed potato, peas and carrot filled Kenya trip.” Michelle

 

We can’t wait to hear all about Lauren and Elora’s experience this summer and look forward to sharing some of their pictures and words with you.

On behalf of everyone at First Steps, we are very proud of you both Lauren and Elora and wish you a fantastic trip. They will be very lucky to have you both there supporting this wonderful project.

And finally, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our families who have supported this project and helped raise (and continue to raise) the huge amount of money First Steps have been able to contribute to the build a school fund. None of this would have been possible without you so THANK YOU!

Making Phonics Fun At First Steps

6th December 2016

We are delighted that the lovely Janna, who regularly visits all three of our nurseries introducing Fun Phonics to the children, is our guest blogger this month. Here she tells you a little more about herself and what she does.

 

Fun Phonics for parents

Fun Phonics came about by accident when my son started reception at St Mary’s school in Pulborough. As a parent and qualified primary school teacher, I found myself listening to and helping parents with their concerns about their children’s education. It became apparent to me that many parents were confused about phonics. Consequently, I hired out a village hall and set up a free workshop for parents to actively learn about phonics through games and discussion. I created a Facebook page to promote the event and thus Fun Phonics was born.

 

Fun Phonics for pre-schoolers

Before long, I had interest from many local pre-schools. First Steps were among the first nurseries to ask me to work with their children. I devised a short, but active, phonics session for pre-schoolers, and the children loved it! I use a range of techniques to teach the children including sign, rhyme, alliteration, song, dance and of course PLAY.

 

So how do I help your children? 

I always begin by engaging the children with sounds. I play a variety of sounds and ask the children to identify them. During these sound sessions, the children have been to the ocean and the forest, they have listened to the sounds of birds and insects and they have drummed on saucepans and rattled their shakers. I have developed their ears to hear subtle differences in sounds and this has laid the foundations for their early letter sound recognition.

 

What’s in the bag? 

I have become famous for my song, ‘what’s in the bag?’ https://youtu.be/A9jl4JUGHrk  The children all sing along and put their hands up eagerly to discover what is inside the bag each week. The small objects inside the bag are always linked to the letter sound of the week and the children are becoming experts at hearing the first sound in many words.

 

Sound of the week

The weekly activities, nursery rhymes and stories are always linked to the sound of the week. The children have looked for snakes in the grass, they’ve had tea with tigers and zoomed cars down race tracks, among many other carefully planned activities. I enjoy watching all of the children grow and develop each week.

 

Janna

 

 

Thank you Janna. We at First Steps have no doubt that Fun Phonics plays a big part in helping our children transition smoothly from pre-school to reception and, watching the reaction Janna gets when she arrives each week, shows just how much the children enjoy her sessions!

If you’d like to contact Janna or find out more about Fun Phonics, take a look at her Facebook page https://m.facebook.com/funphonics15/ for fun and friendly help and advice.  Janna urges no one to push children to read, but knows there are loads of fun ways to approach it through play and storytelling. You can also watch Janna’s ‘what’s in the bag?’ YouTube videos with your children https://youtu.be/A9jl4JUGHrk  which are useful guides for parents.

Janna holds regular phonics workshops for parents in many different venues and you might like to subscribe to her website http://www.funphonics.education/ to receive notifications about forthcoming events.

 

If you would like to be a guest blogger for First Steps, please get in touch with lucy.oldham@chichester.ac.uk. We’d love to hear from you.

Meet … Michelle Cogger

3rd October 2016

Michelle Cogger is our wonderful Nursery Manager at First Steps, Chichester. She is shortly moving to our Bersted nursery to cover for their Manager Becky whilst she is on maternity leave. We therefore thought it would be an excellent opportunity to find out a bit more about her so have asked our own questions, along with a few more taxing ones on behalf of the children!

 

How long have you worked in Childcare Michelle?

28 years

 

And how long at First Steps?

At the time of typing this 18 years, 5 months, 5 days, 5 hours and 17minutes!

 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The smiles and cuddles!

As a Childcare Practitioner – watching the children move through the nursery, growing and developing into confident independent little people and knowing I’ve been a part of that.

As a Manager – watching the staff grow and develop within their careers into confident, professional childcare practitioners themselves and again knowing that I have been a part of that.

 

Can you outline a typical day as Nursery Manager for us?

No, there’s no such thing as a typical day!  Jack of all trades, one minute I can be in the office, head buried in occupancy and budget figures; the next, cuddling a baby, feeding a toddler, digging in the garden or having my hair re-styled in the pre-school room!

To sum up, the role involves supporting in the rooms as and when needed, meetings, organising staff rotas, holiday allocation, occupancy and budget records, student placements, staff reviews and appraisals, resources and supplies, liaising with external professionals, training, staff meetings, organising events, showing visitors and potential new families around.

I oversee the day to day running of the nursery, dealing with any problems that arise and ensuring the fantastic staff team have everything they need to provide the children with the best possible learning environment and experience.

 

What’s your proudest moment in your career to date?

When I volunteered and spent two weeks working in Kenya in 2013.

 

What do you think makes First Steps special?

It’s staff team

 

What’s the funniest thing a child has ever said to you?

On encouraging a child to eat their carrots, I told them it would help them to see in the dark, to which they replied, I don’t need to eat carrots to see in the dark, my daddy’s got a torch.

 

How do you relax when you’re not at work?

Gardening and playing badminton

 

What’s your favourite film?

Dead Poet’s Society

 

We’ve seen you riding the exercise bike at nursery as part of a fundraising initiative. Do you cycle?

Yes. I spent my very first set of wages from my Saturday job in Habitat on a racing style bike, which I still have.

 

What’s your favourite holiday destination?

Anywhere that’s hot with a pool and a beach!

 

Where were you brought up?

Canterbury in Kent

 

Do you have a favourite childhood memory?

Waking up to a snowy Christmas morning

 

And here are those more grilling questions on behalf of the children:

 

Do you have any pets?

Yes, 3 Goldfish called Squidge, She and Pete

 

What’s your favourite meal?

Roast Dinner with Yorkshire pudding, followed by chocolate fridge cake

 

What colour is your car?

 Officially moondust silver but basically dark grey!

 

Who do you prefer: Peppa Pig or Bob the Builder?

 Definitely Bob the Builder, he’s much more useful than the pig.

Welcome!

20th July 2016

Welcome to our blog.

We are very excited to be publishing this as we launch our new website which will be hosting monthly blogs, along with a busy news section, to keep you up to date with all that is happening across our three nurseries.

We look forward to welcoming guest bloggers along the way who will be sharing their insights on childcare and our community so please do get in touch if you’d like to contribute. Some of the areas we will be covering in the months to come are healthy eating, outdoor play, preparing for school and lots more.

We will also be introducing you to members of our fantastic staff in our ‘meet the team’ blogs and, to add a little extra interest, we have some of our children lined up to handle these interviews so we look forward to some tough questions for our Managers!

If you don’t already follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter, please do. Here we share regular updates and photographs with news of what all of our children have been up to at nursery.

To celebrate the launch of our new website, we will also be running a competition later this month. Watch this space!