Written by Sue Ozzard – February 2016
I would like to share my story over the last year or so, which shows the kindness of God and the attention to detail He is interested in.
As I’m sure most of you will know I was involved from the start of Little Acorns Pre School, which was set up by Anne Clowrey, Caroline Watkins and myself and opened in September 2000. We have always been a close team and gradually over the years, as the setting grew, we extended this and gathered other staff members. So as it evolved we 3 became the management team for preschool. I love working with other people and enjoyed the camaraderie. In the beginning the 3 of us worked every session together but as life went on and we opened more hours, things developed, but there was generally 2 out of the 3 of us working at the same time, enabling management decisions to be made easily. Besides the session times there was always so much administration to do – imagine running a small school and you’re not far wrong!
I can honestly say that although we might not have always agreed 100 %, we never fell out and I don’t ever remember there being an unpleasant atmosphere. It was therefore quite a shock, and meant a great deal of change for me, when things altered significantly from September 2014 onwards. Anne asked, that for the Autumn Term, she would not work with the children but just do some admin flexibly – this would enable her to spend time with her daughter who was due her first baby. At the same time Caroline had been feeling that change was afoot for her too. So she decided that on Anne’s return in the Spring Term she would like to finish working at preschool completely. Having had a break, Anne decided her time working directly with the children was over, but she was happy to continue with the administration side of preschool. This meant for me that from Spring 2015 I was the only original staff member working hands on with the pre-schoolers – which felt quite different from my perspective. Leading up to this period of change we had taken on new staff members Jo and Mel, which was great but of course involved supporting them to understand Little Acorns ethos and working practices (which is all quite complex). I often think I wish I could take out my brain and pass on all the knowledge I have, because it’s impossible to know what someone else doesn’t yet know or understand!!
On a more personal note, situations arose unexpectedly during the course of 2015 which were completely out of my control, which meant that I had greater time demands (e.g our old dog died and was replaced by a very bouncy but gorgeous puppy; and my father in law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease). However, things gradually settled down and by the Autumn Term I was feeling I had reached a state of equilibrium again. Again, due a series of events that I’m sure God engineered…. Little Acorns appointed Emma deputy, which I have personally found a real blessing. I was in fact feeling very positive and very proud of all our staff team and how things overall were developing. I knew God was involved in the whole situation especially as we have always said ‘it is God’s pre-school’! He birthed the idea in Anne and the hand of God has been evident all the way through. There have been so many occasions when He has divinely shown us human errors that if not sorted would lead to other issues!! He is always so kind and patient with us.
Then in November I hit a low patch. Our Early Years Advisor came out to visit Little Acorns. We have a good working relationship with her and we know she has our best interest at heart. However, she picked up on a few issues and also said that she felt everywhere was looking a bit tatty and worse for wear. Anne was very appreciative of her advice but I was deeply affected and for a few days felt completely weary with absolutely no oomph left within me. She had talked about not liking our snack time routine. This might seem trivial but when you are altering something that involves up to 26 very young children you can’t just change things without a lot of thought. I just didn’t know if I had it in me to try and implement and cope with more change.
(Note: You do also get to the point within education when you think they are always going to be moving the goal posts and you aren’t always sure if it truly benefits the children, so want to stay true to your original ethos).
But I didn’t need to worry. The whole staff team started to take on board what was said by our Advisor and started doing things to smarten up the environment; and together we devised a new snack routine (that didn’t compromise on our overall ethos of it being important for children to all sit down together and be mindful of others). Looking back at that time I am reminded of the story in Exodus 17 when Moses stood on the mountain and held out his arms and whilst he did this the Israelites won the battle, but after a while Moses became weary and so Aaron and Hur held up his hands. Thank you team for holding my arms up.
Since the start of January the enthusiasm of the team has continued and it is just amazing how lots of things just clicked into place days, and in some cases just hours, before we had that infamous phone call notifying Anne that we were going to be having an Ofsted inspection the following day. Lots of little things – including the pet goldfish that we had been watching for over a week in a ‘dying and then recovering’ cycle, finally did die so we replaced it and cleaned out the fish tank. (It might seem trivial but I would have been very conscious of a fish swimming sideways and it would have played on my mind all day!); Training courses that we wanted staff to go on, but that were never available, suddenly appeared online and Anne booked staff on them; We refined our snack routine even further and added visual clues on the floor with arrows to help support the children know where to carry their empty plates and cups; Emma had the previous Saturday attended a very important training course on British Values – which is the latest ‘big thing’ within education and was already cascading down information from it to staff. Lots of little things! The timing was amazing.
On the actual day of the inspection there was a really lovely atmosphere and the day’s sessions ran smoothly. As anyone working with children will know, you can never predict what will happen, especially when ours at preschool are so little, and for some it was only their second week with us! But the group dynamics/behaviour were great and everyone was settled. In fact, Debbie had a dream that she shared with me after the inspection. It was of a preschool session taking place and the whole time there was a young man in the room just walking round and bringing a calming presence. She said it was Jesus – and I do believe that is what happened. There was a real sense of peace and actually I didn’t feel nervous at all.
Oh I haven’t yet said – when Anne took that phone call she found out that our inspector was a lady called Mary Daniels. She is the person who first advised us when we decided to set up Little Acorns in 2000. She also did our very first inspection and in addition had previously known Anne from another setting and myself and Caroline as childminders. This immediately put us at our ease and Anne said “I know that she will be fair in her outcome so whatever will be, will be justified”. Mary being our inspector was for me, another example of the kindness of God!
Obviously during the inspection staff were quizzed and observed. But again it was amazing how little things cropped up. One thing she asked me about was the fact that she had noticed on our Self Evaluation Form that it said we conduct an Annual Parent Questionnaire, and that the previous one was about a year ago. I was able to say that at the end of last week I had realised that it was due and had just sent them out and we had actually had a few completed ones returned which I was able to show her. I now acknowledge God had prompted me to do that off our Job List! In addition, Jayne and myself had attended a network meeting with other local preschools and primary schools the previous day (just after that phone call) which was good evidence of us working in partnership with other settings. Yet again, the timing of God in it all!
There have been so many little things …. So I just want to give God the glory in it all, and I want to acknowledge the kindness of God over my life and over Little Acorns. He is truly an outstanding and awesome God.
And by the way, in case you haven’t heard… I work with an OUTSTANDING team – Anne, Emma, Pam, Jayne, Tina, Lucy, Debbie, Jo and Mel. Love you all!!!
Yay! Thank you God!
To see how outstanding we are you can have a look at the Ofsted report here!