When you click
Karen Faux finds out how a new online management system is greatly enhancing operational efficiencies at a nursery in south east London
Nursery owners who are hands-on in the day-to-day running of their business have a big advantage when it comes to being innovative about how to take that business forward.
This certainly holds true for Tariq Ayyub who opened Rainbow Smiles Nursery, in Dulwich, in 2008. Since then the 50-place nursery, which operates out of a three story Victorian house, has gone from strength to strength.
Mr Ayyub also heads up his own software company, Astec Solutions, and in association with Rainbow Smiles has developed a business software solution called Prism which he is now preparing to launch.
He calls the system an Enterprise Resource Planning solution (ERP), which will provide a nursery with an integrated real-time view of its core business processes.
According to Mr Ayyub, Prism is more than a back-office, management solution. It integrates all areas of a setting’s operation, through a user-friendly online system which supports nursery management, practitioners, parents and children in a dynamic way.
It is something which he developed specifically for the early years environment and which Rainbow Smiles staff and parents say they are currently benefitting from.
BOOSTING GOOD PRACTICE
Prism has been under development for the past three years, and has been live in Rainbow Smiles for the past year. It has just been shortlisted for a Nursery World Business Development award, and will be launched to the market this autumn.
Mr Ayyub says, ‘The point of it is to bring together the nursery management, staff and parents to work as a team around the child, and create a whole philosophy that improves childcare as well as a boost to business,’ he says. ‘In the current climate nursery owners need to maximise control over all aspects of their business and deploy resources where they are needed, and this can be achieved when management and staff have a complete, and up-to-date overview of everything that is going on in the nursery.’
At Rainbow Smiles practitioners are able to link into Prism by using touch screen PCs. If they need to check on information about a child during meal-times, or sleep-time, they can just click on the child’s name and photograph and all the information immediately comes up.
Acting pre-school room leader Christina Upjohn says it frees up more time for her to spend with the children.
‘In the morning I can look on the system to see how many children are in, or are coming in late, and immediately start planning the day. If there is something that needs to be recorded about a child it can be entered on the touch screen immediately, which means everything is always up-to-date, and time isn’t wasted on paperwork.’
Deputy manager Carlos Ortiz says the system is a great communication tool. ‘It is easy to use and because information can be accessed on the touch screens, everyone knows what everyone else is doing.’
He reports it is really useful when bank staff come in because they can immediately access key information about each child, which is reassuring for parents.
‘If for example a child suddenly develops an allergy, everyone has access to that information,’ he says. ‘The children are also interested in it and love to see themselves on the screen.’
As far as Mr Ortiz is concerned one of Prism’s biggest benefits is how it enhances working with parents. ‘We can communicate with parents on an immediate basis and they have access to information about everything their child is doing here. It establishes a great relationship with them because they always have something to talk to us about.’
Parents themselves testify to the fact that Prism is complementing what they already like about the nursery.
For Luisa Kos, whose four-year-old son Arthur has been attending Rainbow Smiles since he was eight months, this comes down to staff who genuinely care about her child.
‘Rainbow Smiles has been fantastic from my son’s very first day there,’ she says. ‘It has a great atmosphere, with happy caring staff and an environment that feels like a home.
‘Tariq has been developing Prism for a while and it has steadily become more sophisticated. In the early days parents had to log on to see photographs and access information but now we automatically receive a daily email.’
She adds, ‘It’s really great because Arthur is not always forthcoming about what he has done during the day, although sometimes out of the blue he may launch into a long story about something he’s done! With access to the emails I always know what he is talking about.’
HOW PRISM WORKS
Mr Ayyub believes the touch screen Solution provides an efficient way for practitioners to access all relevant information for a child as well as complete their administrative duties within the rooms, allowing them to focus more fully on their primary objective - which is the children.
Prism communicates key information instantly between all relevant parties, promoting teamwork in an early years setting.
In-depth reports on the child are made immediately available to the parents through the Portal website and also through the integrated e-mailing facility, giving more information than can be achieved through any paper based solution.
This transparency has enabled Rainbow Smiles to strengthen its most important resource – its relationship with parents. The setting accesses important information from parents, and works with them to provide a consistent approach to their child’s care.
The nursery management team has achieved significant benefits, including effective reporting on individual staff performance. The real time reporting facility has been designed to immediately highlight any areas of concern, alerting the setting to any impending issues. This greater control has enabled Rainbow Smiles to operate more efficiently, directing valuable resources to the areas of greatest need. It has also enabled the nursery to support its staff in their personal development, as the solution highlights areas of weakness and strength.
Mr Ayyub empahises that it is the child who ultimately benefits the most, but adds. ‘The setting itself has also significantly benefitted. Reduced operational costs are achieved through greater efficiencies, along with an improvement in quality of care achieved through effective time management, and greater teamwork.’