Delivering real benefits to early years settings

By Gill Kelsall, EYN Partnership Registered Nutritionist

I’ve been working with the EYN Partnership since it was formed in May 2016. As a Public Health nutritionist, I’ve spent a number of years focusing on children’s nutrition, and did a lot of work in nurseries as well as with schools, social workers and families. My interest in the early years has developed over time, there is an abundance of evidence that getting nutrition right before the age of five stands children in good stead for the future, so the EYN Partnership was absolutely right for me.

I live in Warwickshire and my work for the EYN Partnership takes me around the county and even slightly beyond sometimes, working with nurseries and pre-schools in the area.

My colleagues and I are largely working with nurseries and pre-schools that provide a full menu to the children in their care, so that is usually three meals and two snacks. Our job is to help them look at their menus and see if they need to make any changes, and then help them think about their whole setting approach to nutrition practice, how they teach about food, and the food and eating environment they create for the children. It’s really fascinating work and many of the settings that I work with are well on their way towards achieving accreditation with the EYN Partnership. Additionally, I’m supporting individual practitioners who are working towards the Level 3 CACHE qualification in nutrition and hydration in the early years, and it’s wonderful to see these talented practitioners upskilling themselves and gaining confidence in nutrition.

One of the things I am always really keen to tell nursery managers when I go and see them is how signing up to the EYN Partnership can really work for them and help drive their business.

Committed certificate

As soon as a nursery signs up we give them a ‘Committed’ certificate that they can display to parents. Many settings are taking photos with the certificate and sharing them on social media too! Parents and prospective parents then immediately get to see that the nursery is prioritising nutrition, and we know that for many parents that is often an important consideration when they are choosing a nursery.

Once we get going on the work and I’m providing real hands-on help to the nursery team to improve their practice, really significant changes are possible.

Local authority recognition

I was delighted to hear from Fox Hollies Nursery in Birmingham that when they had a local environmental health inspection recently they specifically mentioned the quality of the menus that we had worked on together! It is great for Fox Hollies to have that level of recognition from the local authority, and again, it’s something they can tell parents about.

Ofsted recognition

I was absolutely thrilled when one of the nurseries I work with, Tender Years Day Nursery in Solihull, recently received an Outstanding rating from Ofsted, their first ever Outstanding! The Ofsted report specifically mentioned their commitment to nutrition as an example of how personal development, behaviour and welfare are viewed as outstanding at the nursery. That Ofsted rating will no doubt make a huge difference to Tender Years, ensuring that their excellent work is recognised in their local community, and by local parents. 

I’ve been working closely with Donna Graham, the Deputy Manager at Tender Years. She is not just leading the work we have done but she is also studying for the Level 3 course in nutrition and hydration in the early years that is provided as part of the EYN Partnership package. She said “The whole experience has given me and the team loads more knowledge, and we’ve made some real changes to the menus that are so positive for the children. The Ofsted inspector was really interested in the work we are doing, and it was great to get that recognition.”

Working together for success

These real, tangible benefits are hugely significant to each of the nurseries involved, and are often the result of small changes we have made relatively quickly at the beginning of our journey together. It’s fantastically satisfying to think that the work that I do with them is helping these nurseries enhance their reputations – they deserve it for their commitment to delivering the best nutrition practice!

We are not long into our work with the EYN Partnership, and already we can point to real successes like this. It makes me really excited for the future, I think working together, our nutrition community, alongside the early years practitioner community, can make a real, lasting difference to how nutrition is managed in early years settings.

Following her Nursing degree and 7 years working as a nurse in the UK & Australia, Gill decided to focus on nutritional health. In 2000, she qualified with a distinction in a Masters in Human Nutrition from Sheffield University, and quickly moved into the community public health sector, working closely with nurseries, schools, health visitors, social workers, nursery nurses and families in Coventry to improve nutrition knowledge and skills. Gill then developed a community healthy eating cook-book and worked for two healthy living organisations in Coventry as a community nutritionist.