A child care worker who gave up her job to make a real difference to the education of children has just received her fourth “good” Ofsted report for four of her childcare centres this academic year.
Naomi Harling formed her first out of school club in 2001 at English Martyrs School in Fenham, Newcastle after previously working for a childcare company. As a mum of five children, she also gained a degree in early years’ education and play work as well as a PGSE teaching qualification and having her sixth child. It was at this stage however that she decided to improve her work life balance and also use her new-found skills to enhance the educational experiences of pre-school, early years’ students, and school aged children.
Now, Naomi, from North Tyneside, has six Chill Out Time Child Care centres in the region; English Martyrs, Chillingham Road, Sacred Heart, Grange First, Stocksfield Avenue and Seaton Valley, and again, four have recently achieved “Good” ratings form Ofsted. (Chillingham Road, Sacred Heart, Seaton Valley and Stocksfield Avenue) this academic year. She also runs a mobile crèche which is operated in conjunction with Community Family Hubs, Surestart, and children’s charities including Barnardo’s, and Action for Children as an example. All are the result of her hard work, an acute business acumen and a desire to enrich the education of infants, children and young people.
Each centre uses the philosophy of giving parents the opportunity to do something when their child is in care with the centre. At the same time, it is also an opportunity for the child to develop their confidence, self-esteem and their independent thinking, through child-centred play. Chill Out Time Childcare start off the child’s first learning experiences relevant to them and fill their day with creative and positive experiences. They want to create inquisitive young minds that follow through their ideas and interests, so as to encourage strong young people in the future who will want to succeed and fulfil their dreams.
Her successful approach to play and education stemmed from a working visit to Denmark where she was impressed by the Forest School System where children are encouraged to learn through play by using nature and natural objects rather than building blocks or plastic toys. Naomi and the staff team also look at the individual child’s needs and are currently planning on making a more natural play environment. More predominantly, people in Denmark view their children as strong and resilient, with a focus on how important it is for children to enjoy childhood, while learning to actively participate in society and develop the social and cognitive skills and competencies necessary to do well in society.
“Children are strong, resilient and can be trusted to manage their own risks. Obviously, we carry out stringent risk assessments but it’s not uncommon to see our children enjoying and learning through digging with spades, or climbing in a controlled environment,” said Naomi.
“It’s about developing a natural play attitude and philosophy where children can put forward their own ideas and be who or what they want to be in life.
We need to trust the voices of the children, and what they are wanting to achieve, with the right balance of adult intervention to enhance their learning and development. It is about following their interests and ideas rather than making them follow an adult focused curriculum. The outcomes for both the adults and children are enriched, and learning is much deeper”
Her transition from one after school club to her present six centres was assisted by Action Coach, Gareth Shackleton who helped Naomi to realise her full potential and focus on building her brand.
“Naomi was very focused and has a wealth of experience in the care of young people,” said Gareth. “Her business perspective has changed and the business has expanded beyond her expectations.”
Indeed, Naomi is already looking at plans for future expansion of the child care business especially in view of Government changes which come into play in September this year.
“At present, every parent is entitled to an allowance of 15 free hours’ child care per week once the child turns three,” she said. “The new government agenda means that some parents will be entitled to 30 hours’ childcare through a range of schemes including preschool and after school clubs, and through using different sites, for example school nursery, preschool and after school clubs combined.
“More free child care allocation will ultimately allow parents more time to work and if they choose the right child care provider, more access to a natural, playful learning environment led by the child” she said.