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.

First Steps Villages To Launch this May!

25th April 2018

Our team at First Steps Childcare are thrilled to be launching First Steps Village this May – an exciting new play destination for children under 6 in Chichester and the surrounding area.

Following a successful trial of the concept last summer at Chichester College, we are launching our first permanent, self-contained, First Steps Village within our Ofsted Outstanding Nursery on the Chichester College campus on Saturday 12th May. We will then be launching our second First Steps Village on our Brinsbury campus at the annual Brinsbury Show on Sunday 20th May.

Parent feedback following our trial was overwhelmingly positive and so we are delighted to now be able to deliver not just one but two First Steps Villages!

We just wanted to say that we felt the First Steps Village was wonderful! Our boys had a brilliant time exploring. There was so much to interact with which kept a 4 year old and 1 year old very happy for the whole session. I feel that the Chichester area really needs something like this and I know that families, like us, would use it on a regular basis if this was available permanently in the future.”

First Steps Village is a purpose built ‘village’ where young children can have lots of fun exploring, interacting and playing in a safe and stimulating environment. First Steps Village Chichester will feature a vet’s, café, village shop, mechanics workshop, picnic area and outside farm, whilst Brinsbury will also have ‘First Snips’, its very own hair salon. There will be costumes for the children to really get into character, a baby’s corner, changing facilities and self-service kitchen. First Steps Village Chichester is within walking distance of the town centre and there is parking available on both sites.

Launching First Steps Village has been a natural development for our childcare team as imaginative play has long been a key part of our children’s learning experience at nursery. In each of our nurseries, we have a role play area that changes regularly to reflect the children’s interest and support key learning themes. Role-play provides children with the opportunity to explore their imaginations, enabling them to learn about themselves, others and the world around them. Within First Steps Village, children will be able to take on a familiar role to them – such as shopping or visiting the café – or they can try out a new role such as a vet or mechanic.

Positioned as we are on both the Chichester and Brinsbury College campuses, we have always been able to offer our nursery children fantastic learning experiences, from visiting newborn lambs at Brinsbury, to experiencing fun games and obstacle courses in our state of the art sports centre at Chichester. First Steps Village Brinsbury will be adjacent to the Animal Centre where the children already enjoy visiting the fantastic range of animals cared for from rabbits and tortoises to ferrets and ducks! We look forward to collaborating further with college staff and students at First Steps Village, delivering new experiences and further enhancing the children’s learning.

All of our nursery children will enjoy access to First Steps Village with days set aside each week for our team to incorporate role-play into the children’s activities. These days will vary each month to ensure all children, no matter what day they attend nursery, will get to visit at least once a term.

Both First Steps Village Chichester and Brinsbury will be open to the public on a pay as you go basis and we will be running sessions throughout the week, both during the day and after school, on Saturdays and during the school holidays. Each session will last for an hour and a half and refreshments will be included. Entry price will be £6 per child with an accompanying adult receiving free entry. Additional adults will be charged £3. First Steps Village is also available for private hire and we have a party package for anyone looking for a birthday party with a difference!

For further information, to be added to our mailing list, to discuss private hire, find out more about our launch plans or make a booking, please contact us on email: firststepsvillage@chichester.ac.uk or call: 01243 530247 . Please also keep an eye on our Facebook page where both launches will feature as events with further information on timings and how you can book in.

We hope you are as excited as we are and look forward to welcoming you to First Steps Villages in May!

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.