Jack and Jill Preschool was founded in 1982 and has grown and developed into a thriving preschool, serving a suburb community in North Bristol.  The Pre-school is a family run business,  Claire and her husband, Andy,  took over the reins from Andy’s mother and her business partner, building on the successes that had already been achieved ‘we have lots of families whose siblings have come to us, so we know them really well.  We have lots of local families.’

The Pre-school provides care and education for children from 10 months to 5 years old.  The setting is split into 3 age band rooms, The Nest for under twos, The Little Ark for two and three year olds and The Ark for three and four year olds.  The Nest is the most recent addition, only opening a couple of years ago. Claire explains that since then there has been a shift in the way the setting is used with more families opting for all day care rather than sessional care.  Claire recognises the benefits of this in regards to planning for and continuity of care for the children ‘we’ve had to change the model, but that’s been good as there is much more consistency.  We’ve had to rethink our day; we are now planning from 8am until 6pm rather than 8.30am until 12.30 pm and then repeating the session.  It also means that we know the children and families really, really well and that we are a bigger part of their lives.’

As a setting, Jack and Jill have been on the Bristol Standard journey for over ten years, with Claire being involved for the past four years.  Claire recognised the benefits that the Bristol Standard brings so was dedicated to continuing the setting’s Bristol Standard journey ‘I came from a secondary school background and we were used to the SEF and the importance of self-evaluation.  So for us, when I looked at the Bristol Standard I thought it did the job of the SEF but in a much more sensible way.  It’s really useful; you can guide it and mould it to fit you as a setting.  You’re using it to help and inform your own setting.  I felt this does exactly what self-evaluation should do but in a really useful way.’  Jack and Jill were graded ‘outstanding’ at their last inspection but Claire describes how ‘it would have been easy to think ah, we’ve done it, but we were determined that wouldn’t be the case, it makes us think and keeps us on our toes.’  The new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework has recently been introduced with a focus on intent, implementation and impact Claire recognises that ‘the Bristol Standard really helps with that, it’s more in tune.  It’s about the care that you provide and the children you look after.’

Jack and Jill have a large staff team of twenty seven but Claire recognises the importance of the Bristol Standard being a real collaborative effort ‘One of the things we always do is make sure everybody is involved in some way or another in completing the Bristol Standard.’ This shared approach ensures that all members of staff have ownership over the submission ‘Any member of staff can look through and think “ooh I contributed that bit or I took that photo or I captured that quote”’.   To emphasise the importance and dedication to staff involvement and wanting all staff members to feel valued, one of the priority targets was for every member of staff to be involved in leading or cascading training.  To facilitate this, strategies were put in place ‘we did a training audit, a traffic light system, looking at all the training we’ve done over the past three years and asked people to reflect on how confident they were with each subject.’  Having identified areas where individual staff members feel less confident they can be paired up with a staff member who feels confident in that area and share their knowledge and understanding.  This initiative included all members of staff, early year’s practitioners as well as admin and support staff. 

The Bristol Standard seems to be at the forefront of all the setting does.  The team revisit targets throughout the year reflecting on progress regarding these at their key carer meetings, enabling the good practice to be shared ‘ If we talk about it in September and then don’t talk about it again until June people forget it, whereas, this is a really informal way of reinforcing it’.  Claire and her team have developed strategies to involve the whole team in developing and achieving the targets that have been set.  A potential problem of such a large team was the logistics of having a meeting where all staff could be present, as this was proving hard to achieve. Forms were developed which had the priority targets written and opportunity for staff to write ‘I will’ statements for each target ‘We asked them to write ‘I will’ statements, what they will do, so it was keeping them focused.  This included everyone from the childcare director, to the admin assistant to the staff who provide bank cover.  It was a real team effort.’

There is such an emphasis on teamwork running throughout the ethos of the setting and Claire explains that one of the best outcomes of doing the Bristol Standard has continued to reinforce this ethos ‘I don’t think there is anything that unites all twenty seven staff on a professional level like the Bristol Standard does. There are three teams of people, three rooms and then there’s the dining room staff and the office staff, so it can be a bit disjointed with everyone staying in their teams, but I genuinely believe that every member of staff has something in this document, whether it be a quote or a picture, or an idea. I really don’t think anything else unites us in the same way professionally.’  

One target was the development of growth mind-set, ‘the children have benefitted in hundreds of ways.  In terms of school readiness, becoming more resilient, being able to cope better with failure however that might be, and just seeing upsets or failures as being okay.  The other benefit from it is that the parents have been really engaged, asking for the PowerPoint and the handout sheet with language which supports a growth mind-set, lots of them asked for that’.

Another target was to do woodwork activities with the children, this has been a great success ‘This engaged the dads as well, children were asking for drills for Christmas!’  The activities were run by Claire’s husband, Andy.  Claire describes how some of the children benefitted ‘ it got them talking, which some children hadn’t been willing to do in a group, the positive male role model helped, they were much more engaged in the woodwork than in any other part of the preschool and on a developmental level, their fine motor and communication and language improved.’  The children would rise to the responsibility of using real tools and links with home were reinforced with children taking their creations home to continue enhancing them and then bringing them back to preschool to show off the finished product.  It is obvious that this target has been incredibly beneficial.

Having recognised the importance of the Bristol Standard being a team effort, the setting want to expand on this and recognise the skills and contributions parents might have to offer.  A particular target was to consider the policies so with this in mind a Parent Policy Review Group was set up, enabling parents to review policies and contribute towards the writing of them, tapping in to the skill set of parents ‘each time we wanted to review a policy I would email the parents and ask them to read through and add any comments from a parents perspective.  It was quite a learning curve, they will get involved, you just need to find ways.’

Claire’s advice to anyone starting out on their Bristol Standard journey is to delegate, Jack and Jill’s Bristol Standard journey has obviously been one taken as a team  ‘there is no hierarchy when it comes to the Bristol Standard, it’s everybody who contributes and everybody’s thoughts and ideas are important.’  Claire and her team have benefitted from mentor support initially and feel reassured to know that there is help and support available should they need it in the future.   Claire found keeping on top of the workload beneficial, the setting has a Bristol Standard envelope for gathering evidence and ideas in throughout the year and find that this works well, enabling all staff members to contribute to it as and when. 

It is obvious that the Bristol Standard has been a really positive experience for the whole team and the children of Jack and Jill Preschool and a journey that they are looking forward to continuing ‘we see it as a chance to celebrate what we do well.’