Stacey-Jane Whitfield

Nursery Manager, LEYF New Cross Nursery

What was a typical work day like before the corona crisis?
A normal day at New Cross Nursery would be full of the normal hustle and bustle with the buzzer for the door going off more times then we could count. Organising the staff for the day, answering queries and meeting deadlines. One of the highlights of the day is always greeting the children and families with a good morning, a smile and finding out what they had been up to on the weekend or the evening and how their morning had been. Mondays were always a busy day with the Induction Training on site, but running this at our nursery gives us an opportunity to meet new colleges from across the LEYF family; they are often amazed at how big New Cross Nursery is. We would have show-rounds most mornings, meeting potential families and showing them round each room, the gardens and introducing them to the team. 

When the outbreak started, what was your initial reaction?
When the outbreak started it was sad to read about all the people whose lives were being affected by the virus, but it wasn’t real as it wasn’t here and still so far away. As it began to move closer to home it became more unsettling and the “What if?” questions went through my head which were unsettling and scary, but I wanted to carry on as normal.

What impact did this have on your day job and how did you adapt?
LEYF kept us updated and acted very quickly to changing advice from government and health officials. So although change happened quickly, we were able to manage these very effectively and easily. We kept things as normal as possible for the children and families. We upped the cleaning across the nursery – removed soft toys, furnishings and anything that wasn’t easy to clean. Malleable, food and sand play stopped. The biggest change was the way in which we greeted children, taking them from their parents at the main door and through  to the bathroom to wash their hands – singing our hand-washing song for 20 seconds before they went to have breakfast/joined their rooms. Handing over at the end of the day was the same. At first this new routine was hectic as at times, taking the children to the different rooms. Sometimes parents were waiting at the door for longer than we would have liked but they understood and appreciated the changes we were making in order to keep the children, families and staff team safe.

What are the big challenges you have faced / are facing as the pandemic continues?
One of the biggest challenges I had to face was not being able to be at nursery while these changes were being put in place as I had to self-isolate for 14 days. My husband had a cough and sore throat and was advised to self-isolate and following the government guidelines I had to also do this. Luckily it was a normal cough and sore throat and my husband returned to work after isolation. (He is also a key worker working for city plumbing supplies, supplying plumbing and heating materials – keeping us all running with heating and hot water). I was working from home and supporting my colleague Emma-May who had stepped in to manage the nursery , but not being able to physically be in the nursery was hard for me. I was so happy to be back after my 14 days.

Personally, the biggest challenge I have so far had to face is missing my nephew’s birthday and his party as this fell during our isolation period. I have never missed any other their birthdays and although Facetime was great, it wasn’t the same. As a family, we have also had to put on hold celebrations for my Dad’s birthday and my cousins 30th and Aunt’s 60th and although we have been able to send cards and presents the parties to celebrate will be delayed.

How have you kept going through the tough times?
Being able to be in one of LEYF’s hub nurseries alongside two of my team from New Cross and the team from Playhouse has brought a little bit of “normal” to this crazy time. This does include lots of laughs and fun both with the team and the children. I know this is important for me to have this  and it is keeping me going.

Personally, what has kept me going is using the Houseparty app and spending time on the app with my family – my sister, friend and cousins every Friday night. I would say we have been talking a lot more each week then we did before the crisis which is a bonus! Spending time with my husband and our crazy cat Marley keeps me sane (in way) at home and I have rediscovered my enjoyment for cross stitching which may see me finish a Marilyn Monroe piece I have been doing for my sister for almost two years!!

What acts of kindness have you seen or shown that have made you smile recently?  
The gratitude from the families we have attending the nursery has really made me smile. They are so thankful we are here and are making sure the children are still having fun and learning. One thing that really sticks in my mind was a comment from one of my parents, both parents are doctors, saying to me that on my first day back I made her cry when she left, they were happy tears, as I hugged her son when I greeted him that morning. For me if one of the children wants a hug, I give them a hug!

What has this crisis taught you – both professionally and on a personal level? 
Professionally the crisis has taught me that as an organisation we automatically pull together and work through anything. We adapt as a team to what is being classed as ‘the new normal’ and form new sub-teams to deliver the same high-quality service as we also do. We are all trying things outside our comfort zone and ensuring that we stay connected to our families during this time.

Personally, it has taught me to take time out for myself and get back into the things I love doing, especially the cross stitching. I would also say that it has really highlighted how much I enjoy family time and being able to spontaneously spend time with family, especially my sister and her children.

How are you trying to stay happy and healthy?
Through taking to friends, family and having as much fun, while still working, at nursery with our new team (we cannot decide if we should call ourselves New House and Play Cross). I have even given Zumba ago, I have a member of the team who is a Zumba instructor and has been trying to get me to join her for as long as I have been here! Now she has had that come true – did it kill me? Oh yes but is was so much fun and to be able to share this with our wider colleagues was amazing. It will now be a weekly thing!


Stacey-Jane is Manager of LEYF New Cross Nursery.