Dear Parents and Carers,

I can’t believe we are already in the last term of this school year – with so many of our children in nursery getting ready to start school in September.

It’s the term when we see the children completely blossom here, where they consolidate lots of their learning and really make the best use of our wonderful learning environment.

This year has been full of great successes and continued challenges, which I would like to share with you here.  But please let me start with a main challenge, as I’m sure it will not have gone unnoticed by you as you arrive at nursery some days:


I think it’s fair to say that in my 30 years of leadership, I have NEVER known things so tricky with staffing, and there are a few things that are happening all at once here to make it all so complicated. These include:

  • 3 key staff members are off on very long-term sick leave
  • An increase in sickness and mental health concerns with existing staff, some of whom are also carers for their family and/or may be facing or have faced bereavement
  • Lots of staff are having babies at the same time!
  • Staff wanting more flexible hours
  • An inability to recruit to permanent positions
  • Supply staff, who also don’t want regular long-term work as they like the flexibility, so may change their minds from one day to the next
  • National recruitment crisis in EYs and poor pay

Having shared this, it is important that I also share that we absolutely prioritise and ensure the safety, safeguarding, emotional wellbeing, attachments and learning experiences for our children in nursery every single day. Please rest assured that:

  • We are ALWAYS in ratio
  • We notify you if, or when, we are too short staffed, and we would then reduce provision in response to this if necessary
  • Senior leaders reflect on the balance of staffing in each room each day to ensure there is a balance of experienced staff who know our practice and know our children – and will move staff between rooms to ensure this
  • Senior leaders support in the room themselves and engage with children
  • All supply staff and new staff have induction

We work hard at recruiting staff, and St Pauls remains an attractive place to work as we have a loving and supportive staff team, a strong empowering leadership team who support staff supervision and well-being, and we are National EYs Hub, so offer fab induction, training and professional opportunities….so we will keep on trying! Please help us by sharing the word that we have job opportunities here.

Funding and Sustainability

This continues to be a challenge to the future of Nursery School, and again, the local context makes this more tricky, as there is a very large collective deficit across our Bristol Nursery Schools, which we are expected to begin to pay back.

The national expansion of daycare places and increase in funding for hourly rates has put St Pauls in a more sustainable position – but as those of you who access daycare will know, the funding still does NOT cover actual hourly costs and our charges have had to increase enormously in this climate.

Please help us by lobbying your local councillors and MPs about the value and role of Nursery Schools in your local community and the gap in funding,


Wow, where do I start?

Of course, it is always the children’s achievements, curiosity, character and wellbeing that is our greatest success! This is the stuff that gets us out of bed in the morning.

But I do really want to acknowledge some other specific celebrations if I may please…  I’m sure I won’t manage to include everything but here is a taster of the wonders of St Pauls so far this year!

  • Developing our new Nurture space and SEND provision across the Nursery
  • Reviewing, sharing and embedding our St Pauls Curriculum and St Pauls Promise (our Curriculum priorities), I hope you have checked it out on our website?
  • Supporting early reading in Nursery School through a programme called ‘Sound Play’
  • Sharing more information with parents on our website – e.g. our Friday Message and our recording etc on YOUTUBE
  • Our ‘out and about’ experience for children – which have included walk about, trips to the forest parks, farm, museums, Bristol Old Vic, and to do some planting with our newest partners at UWE
  • Staff stepping up to new leadership challenges and being both INSPIRING and BRILLANT: Robin as Associate Head, Dilly as SEN Co, Sarah as SEND Lead Practitioner, Maya as EYs 2 Leader, Grace and Nicky as EYs 2 Lead Practitioners, Holly as Baby Room Leader
  • Our new teacher, Imogen, being qualified, completing her 2 years of ECT
  • The continued commitment and expertise of our Governors
  • The work we have led as an EYs Stronger Practice Hub supporting the EYs sector in Bristol and the SW region
  • Our staff babies!

As well as celebrating, I would also like to share a HUGE appreciation to our whole staff team. When things are tough and staffing gets tricky, it is those left on the ground every day who don’t lose sight of doing our very best for our young children and families and maintaining our high St Pauls standards.

Thanks and appreciation go out to ALL our teams – our Admin Team, Site Team, teams in the Baby Rooms, Eys 2 Room, Nursery School, Nurture Space, to our SEN Support workers, our wonderful SMSAs who support at lunchtime and help out SO often doing extra time, and to our Chartwells Kitchen team. It is due to the commitment of all these people that St Pauls is such a wonderful place to be. This, and the tenacity, resilience, creativity, optimism and ambition of the senior leadership team.

Please join me in thanking them all for everything they do!


Lucy Driver
Executive Headteacher

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