Development Day the Bristol Standard Way

by Michelle Smith, Development and Support Worker, BAND and Bristol Standard mentor and validator for Play

One of the best days of the Bristol Standard year is definitely the newly named ‘Development Day’ and this year was certainly no exception. The sun was shining, the frocks were on and off to Engineers House we all went.  Mentors and validators from Bristol, South Glos, Wiltshire and even London came together for a day of collaborating, creative thinking, fun and learning, helping to ensure the Bristol Standard never stays still but moves forward and progresses on its own journey and always improves on its previous best. The day is also really important in ensuring the team remain expertly trained and updated on all things Bristol Standard and in turn are able to provide the best support they can to the settings they work with.

We had a wonderful room at Engineers House and the selection of snacks to keep us going was second to none.  It was the first ‘in person’ team event since the beginning of lockdown and so the day started with lots of excited chatter over coffee, cakes and the most delicious breakfast rolls.  Some people have only met on Zoom so it was great to put bodies to faces on screens and to have a proper catch up at last and make real connections with real people.  No more shouting out “You’re on mute!” and disappearing off the screen.

The agenda for the day had been put together thoughtfully and lovingly by Nicky and Beth, who were the perfect hosts. There was a mixture of speakers, activities and updates and of course a lovely lunch which we ate in the sunshine.  Note the reference to food again – they say an army marches on its stomach, well, the Bristol Standard Army does the same.

The first speaker was Cassie Holland, Manager of Archfield House Day Nursery, Co-Founder of Bristol Beach School and a Local Specialist Lead for birth to threes.  Cassie gave a really thought-provoking presentation on exploring supporting practitioners’ wellbeing in the face of the many adversities that the sector is currently facing, which very much links to dimension 7 – Staffing, Leadership and Management.  During lockdown, Cassie attended a mental health first aid course and this has helped her put wellbeing at the heart of the staff team and this really shone through in her speech.  She talked about all the things they have in place to really nurture and support staff and the implications for reflective practice. Everyone was busy jotting down ideas and this will certainly come in useful for mentors when supporting settings with dimension 7.

The second speaker was Kalpna Woolf, Project Director of a community focussed social enterprise in Bristol, called ’91 Ways to Build a Global City’.  The name comes from the 91 different languages spoken in Bristol and at the core of the organisation is a belief in the connecting power of food and community.   Kalpna’s presentation was a wonderful trip down a memory lane of food and she talked about how food can really bring people together to help build bridges and make connections.  The community and making connections is at the heart of not just dimension 9 – Partnership with Parents and the Local Community – but also lots of other dimensions, for example, Relationships and Interactions and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.  Kalpna’s funny, heart-warming and inspiring speech definitely gave us food for thought and again more ideas for supporting settings with their reflections.

In between the speeches were two great activities.  The first was doing the Bristol Standard on the Bristol Standard – something we haven’t done before and so were all eager to do.  In small groups, we jotted down what we think the strengths of the Bristol Standard are, what evidence there is for this, targets for making the process even better and what the benefits for these targets will be.  As advocates for the Bristol Standard, we all had numerous strengths we could think of, particularly as we so passionately believe in it as a process for life.  Some exciting targets were also thought of and as everybody in the team has a voice, all targets will be considered and written into the Bristol Standard Development plan where appropriate and possible.  The Bristol Standard never stands still for long and like a setting’s submission, it is always evolving.

The second activity threw us into the world of game shows – move over ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and make way for the Bristol Standard ‘Wheel of Dimensions’.   A huge thank you for this goes to our very own Pat Kendall and her husband Clay, who spent hours (and possibly blood, sweat and tears) making the wonderful wheel.  One lazy Susan and lots of purple paper later, what started off as a mad idea, came to reality.  Much fun was had spinning the wheel and in teams answering questions based on the dimension the wheel stopped at.  It was all to play for, with a box of chocolates up for grabs and let’s just say, it got very competitive .

Nicky also gave us updates on the Bristol Standard for early years, for play and for childminders, as well as the digitalisation, but one of the most exciting updates was on the possibility of settings being able to do a verbal submission.  This is an idea born from feedback that some settings have given on finding the writing up of the process difficult and time consuming.  Some mentors have also noticed a difference in depth and detail between the rich discussions that they have with settings and how they record this on paper.  We watched a recording of a setting trialling out a verbal submission for one dimension and it was agreed that it could be a really useful option.  More exploration into it is needed and the next step is to trial a completed full verbal submission.

It really was a wonderful day and at the end we were inspired, enthused and eager to carry on our work with settings.  We also left feeling proud to be a part of something so supportive, reflective and forward thinking.


Nicky Bale – Foundation Years Bristol Standard Consultant

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