My working life ... Playgroup manager
Published: 03 Jul 2015
Beverley Dearnley is the manager of Newsome Pre-School Playgroup in Huddersfield. She is responsible for the day-to-day running of the setting - which has to be set up and then later dismantled every day - while an elected committee of parents and officers has overall decision-making powers.
She says, 'A playgroup is the same as a nursery in many ways, except it's a registered charity rather than a private business. I run the setting, but if I wanted to increase wages or fees I'd have to get consent from the committee.
'The playgroup is held in a church hall, every weekday from 8:30am to 3pm. We offer up to 28 places for children aged from two to five. We have eight members of staff, with me and my deputy qualified to Level 6, and the others all at Level 3.
'I arrive at the hall at 7am with my deputy. Because the hall is used by other groups in the evening, we have to set up our equipment from scratch every day. We put up the display board, put down floor mats, and all the play equipment goes on top. We have drawers containing the children's learning journeys. All the furniture has wheels so we can move it around easily.
'The childcare all takes place in one room, with all age groups together. We also have outdoor space with a playground and a shed where we store more equipment. Children can do a half or full day. If they come the whole day, they bring a packed lunch because we don't make meals. However, we do have a small kitchen to prepare morning and afternoon snacks - just simple things like fruit, yoghurt or toast.
'We have to deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage and we are Ofsted registered. We currently have a good Ofsted rating. We like to run adult-led and child-initiated activities.
'For example, if a child just wants to play with cars and isn't accessing other activities, such as the paints, we'll put the cars in the paints. We have an open-door policy for parents, but usually they leave the children here rather than staying to play.
'After 3pm we pack everything away again. Then I usually have paperwork to do - for example, appraisals, supervisions, organising staff training or applying for funding for children with special educational needs. I have to be organised about the paperwork because we don't have an office at the hall. I usually leave about 5:30pm. It's a long day.
'I've always worked at this playgroup; my only other early years experience was the placement I did as part of my Early Years Professional Status qualification. I became involved when my first son was born and volunteered as a parent. I left school with barely any qualifications, and had worked in the local mill for 20 years. I decided to change my career and go to university. I had to start at the beginning again and do GCSE maths and English first. Many of our committee members are also parents or former parents.
'The committee of six meets about once a month, but we're in touch much more regularly. I often go around to their houses to get their signatures, for example. Often it's easier to co-ordinate by phone because each member has a different schedule. There are no extra challenges to working with a committee, but you have to be organised.
'The playgroup is financed by a mixture of free early educational Government funding for the three-, fourand eligible two-year-olds, fee-paying parents, and fundraising throughout the year. For example, at the end of last year we asked parents to donate to a chocolate tombola to raise money for a children's Christmas party.
Early Years Professional Status (Early Years Teacher), University of Huddersfield, 2012
BA in Early Years, University of Huddersfield, 2011
Foundation degree in early years, University of Huddersfield, 2007-2010
Leadership and management Level 5, 2009
Level 2, 3 and 4 childcare and education, Kirklees College, 2004-2007
1980-2003 Fine worsted mender, Taylor & Lodge mill, Huddersfield
2003 Parent volunteer, Newsome Pre-School Playgroup, while studying at Kirklees College
2004-2005 Nursery practitioner, Newsome Pre-School Playgroup
2005-present Manager, Newsome Pre-School Playgroup and part-time student (until 2012)
The training required to run a playgroup is the same as for an early years setting. Managers will normally need a minimum Level 3 recognised childcare qualification and two years experience of working with children. Playgroups with charitable status have to register with the Charity Commission, to which they have to submit annual accounts. Ms Dearnley also recommends accessing training offered by local authorities and joining membership bodies such as the National Day Nurseries Association, which can provide networks for smaller settings and free legal advice.