Tina Burke, Whitecross Nursery
Whitecross Nursery School in Derby is a maintained school with children attending after their third birthday and usually for three terms leading to starting school. Children access different sessions across the week. Most are using the 30-hours funding, some attend the full five days and others only 15 hours.
Tina Burke, teacher at Whitecross Nursery, says: “We were offered access to training and the Balanced System through the TALK Derby project when this was extended to the whole city in November 2019.
The nursery is based in a relatively affluent area of the city, which means that we face slightly different issues and challenges to settings in other areas of Derby. Using the Balanced System has enabled us to gain positive feedback on what we are doing well and focus on a few areas where we want to improve.
Whitecross has completed the Understand phase of the system – an audit of communication, speech and language activities using defined categories and by grouping interventions into universal, targeted and specialist. They are now on the Plan and Do phase and are implementing a number of actions and setting targets.
Tina says; “One of the key actions was to involve staff more in the activities of the Special Educational Needs (SEN) co-ordinator and make sure outcomes from external meetings were shared and understood. The SEN Teaching Assistant now has more formal opportunities to feed back to staff, for example, when liaising with speech and language therapy for a specific child.
“We are also looking at supporting parents and looking at things we can provide to do at home. One of these is Rhyme Sacks which contain a rhyme and props which the children can take home and share with their parents or carers.”
Tina also says the ‘understand phase’ identified that communication, speech and language activities and interventions were working well for children identified with specialist needs and more generally across all children, but those in the middle needed more focus.
“We need to look more at the children in the middle – the ‘targeted’ children. These may be children that are waiting to be seen by a speech and language therapist, or have seen one and we have been asked to continue our work and monitor progress. We are now working on this as a nursery.”
Tina concludes: “The main benefit to us has been that it has made us focus on what we are doing to support communication, speech and language. We didn’t find many gaps when we did the Understand phase but we have found the joint sessions, where we can share our experiences with other settings, have been very helpful. It’s also been nice to meet the people based at other settings across the city with different challenges and issues.
“I would recommend the Balanced System process, even if you’re doing well supporting communication, speech and language in your setting. It’s a great way to evidence that and get positive feedback. It will show you any gaps and help you put plans in place to improve. All settings have areas they can improve on, we can never be complacent.”