How a nursery that puts play first tracks their child development
Coconut Day Nursery
Who are they?

Right in the heart of one of London’s most diverse boroughs, you’ll find a nursery that is truly outstanding in every sense.

From belly-dancing workshops on the nursery’s ‘Turkish Day’, to trips down to the local deli to celebrate the area’s Italian background, the team at the Ofsted-Rated ‘Outstanding’ Coconut Day Nursery in Hackney find ways to weave the local culture into everything they do.

“We do tons of stuff here, that’s one thing we pride ourselves on,” manager Katie Thompson explains, “every day we have a teacher from outside the setting visit too.” That means a Spanish band on Monday, Parkour Tuesdays, Wednesday Football, Drama Thursdays, and even French on a Friday. Phew.

“We want all the children to feel safe, secure, confident and happy. That’s how they’re going to learn,” says Katie, and that’s why all of the learning at the setting takes place through play. “Children can’t be summed up using Development Matters statements,” Katie says. “They are more complicated than that.”

What was going on?

The biggest problem for the team at Coconut was that their existing child development software just didn’t match this ethos.

“We don’t like to spend too much time staring at iPads,” Katie explains, “and the software we were using, I guess it wanted us to do a bunch of stuff that we didn’t find useful.” What should have been a time-saving solution had started to become a bit of a burden.

“You’d log into the app and in front of you is a whole sheet of observations,” Katie explains, “it could be 20 or more observations that you have to scroll through just to find the last one that you made.”

It was time to find something else.

“Everything is just simpler now. The communication with parents is priceless with the way it is so easy. The newsfeed and the messaging system make life really simple too.”

Katie Thompson, Manager, Coconut Day Nursery

“Everything is just simpler now. The communication with parents is priceless with the way it is so easy. The newsfeed and the messaging system make life really simple too.”

Katie Thompson, Manager, Coconut Day Nursery

What did they do?

“Put simply, Famly just works better,” says Katie. With the team already using Famly to manage admin and communication, it was a natural step for them to embrace the child development features and finally bring everything into one system.

“Each member of staff now has their own profile, so it’s only their own observations on there”, Katie explains. In practice, this means no more endless scrolling just to find an old observation. “It is a lot less fuss than what we had before.”

The team at Coconut were already using Famly to get in touch with parents, send invoices and share pictures with them. Now, they’re sending observations within an app that parents are already used to checking every time they open up their phone.

“For good reason, parents don’t like having all these different logins. They much prefer having it all in one place,” Katie explains. What’s more, parents naturally pick up the system pretty quickly. “Famly is just so intuitive and so easy to use, and that really helps with getting parents onboard.”

What happened next?

Increasing parent engagement wasn’t the only way that Famly was making an impact. “It really does save us time,” Katie says, “we’re all logged into Famly on the iPads anyway because our practitioners are using it throughout the day for all the other brilliant reasons Famly exists.”

This means that when practitioners see a potential observation, they’re ready to catch the moment in action. No chance of missing out because their heads are buried in their iPads, and no huge paperwork backlog keeping them out of the classroom

“It’s just easier for us to write observations because you don’t have to log into a different system and search through all these other bits and bobs that we don’t need,” Katie explains, “you can just do the observation right there and then.”

Saving time for the things that matter is what Famly’s all about. But could Katie put a figure on it? “How much time has Famly saved me? What, across days of my life?” she laughs, “Honestly, I couldn’t begin to tell you. It’s made a huge difference.”

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