020 8770 3222 enquiries@fennies.com

Enquire today!
Call us on 020 8770 3222

Early Years Practice

A Day in the Life of a Fennies Academy Lead

Here’s an insight into the world of training with our award-winning Academy Lead, Jamie. Joining Fennies back in 2020, Jamie has used his experience in both the Early Years sector and from his Primary School background to help build Fennies Academy. 

Trainer presenting to room of people

If you’d told me five years ago that Id be regularly standing up and leading sessions for groups of adults, I would have laughed and told you, ‘No chance!’ When I first entered the working world, I knew I was naturally drawn to developing and supporting children through my experience of hosting birthday parties, afterschool and holiday clubs, and supporting in creches and nurseries. I will always remember Leo, the threemonthold baby I watched thrive during his first year. This led to a Primary Teaching degree, and fast forward to ten years later, where I have so many rich experiences, memories and connections that I made in this role. But there was one aspect of the role that I leant away from. A part that I always over-thought and that made me incredibly self-conscious standing up and presenting to parents. 

So, stepping out of the public sector into a training role was one that felt like a significant step. One that put me out of my comfort zone. The decision to leave my position was driven by the impact that being a Primary School teacher was having on my well-being; panic attacks and anxiety had made me realise that I needed to reconsider my path.  

I hope this blog is there to give other people an opportunity to realise the other options that are out there and actually how you can search and find something that energises you. 

It’s difficult to describe a typical day when every day is so different! I arrive at work already awake and alive, as my three children (Freddie, Olivia and Dougie) have woken up well before 6 am as usual! I love to learn, so I will listen to a podcast on the way to Fennies, something that I can borrow snippets of and share with those around me. My favourites, which support my role, include Purposeful Provision, Early Excellence Podcast, The Brain Architects, and First Time Facilitator to name a few. Listening to great presenters motivates me to do the same. 

wooden tinker tray of small wooden resources

Once I have got to our training room, based at our Fennies Epsom nursery, I am straight into tasks for the day. Typically, if I am delivering a session, our training room will have been prepared the night before. From the tinker trays and resources set up to the lunchtime, menus organised. When I arrive, I will touch base with our kitchen team to make sure they know what to expect for the day and, of course, chat with the fantastic Epsom Team, as they are already well under the way with welcoming children to the nursery.

Where are most people’s eyes first drawn when they arrive? Snacks! Before any training session, I like to make sure the refreshments are ready — which biscuit to choose always becomes a group debate, make sure technology is working, and that some gentle background music is playing to create a welcoming space. ‘Happy Café Vibes’ is the latest Spotify playlist after receiving feedback from the previous group that they want more upbeat music Noted! 

The early delegates begin to arrive with tales of their journeys and that kick of nervous energy. Whether they’ve worked at Fennies for years or it’s their first day of induction, that anticipation, lack of routine and the unknown of whats to come means that my job is to be on absolute welcoming top form. My role in that first hour is to set the scene, to make people feel as if they are going to see a familiar friend and to let them know the essentials when they arrive from where the bathrooms are to where they can make a coffee! 

9:30 am- Setting The Scene

Once everyone has arrived, we jump into small group introductions early on to give everyone the chance to socialise, to ease any early morning tension and to allow anyone who may be running late to enter the room and join in without feeling like they are the centre of attention.  

A typical session will be scattered with practical information that people can use within their roles, lots of opportunities to be reflective, handson chances to share experiences and topics to debate. I live and breathe Maya Angelou’s mantra, At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”  

two trainers presenting in front of a screen

I set this as a personal challenge for myself and my team, and I always reflect on ‘what do people feel when they are with you?’ I really believe that we can bring that sense of community to join those in the room together and to help people feel like they are part of something bigger so that they make connections that they keep beyond the day.

Now having said that, we of course have content and information that’s important to share, but the way it is facilitated needs to be done using a ‘pull approach’. We want individuals to pull the threads that catch their interest, not us ‘pushing’ content onto them. I don’t believe this is effective! 

11:00 am- Breaks & Networking

After a morning of training, everyone needs that tea break. A chance to stretch their legs, to mix around the room and ask those initial questions they may not have spoken about earlier 

These opportunities are also there to help redirect people to content that may be useful. We use an excellent platform called Workplace, created by Facebook, which has all the sharing and onetoone messaging to connect with the teams. This means that articles, blogs, video clips, and live events can all be directed to whoever may need them through the platform. Booking forms are shared for people to register for any training sessions they’d like to join, such as our Room Leader Programme or First Aid training course. 

three people sitting at a table reading a book

As the training room is based in the same building as our head office, these breaks can also create moments where interactions happen with the wider team. For example, our Academy Lead, Pru, will be around and can discuss future qualifications, our Social Media Executive Maisie will come down to chat about connections through our social media platforms, and the Education Team will dip in and offer moments of support too. This is a great opportunity for new starters to meet and chat with our head office team in a relaxed environment.

Ten minutes is plenty of time to have a break before we get back to the session, and today we’re discussing topics from care routines to the benefits of serve and return in creating meaningful interactions. Topics that have been carefully planned, and researched and have been discussed and debated with our educators across Fennies.

12:30 pm- Lunch & Laughs

group of people sat at a desk writing notes

It’s time to keep the energy flowing into the afternoon, and everyone needs an opportunity to refuel. We are incredibly lucky to have a wonderful kitchen team who provide us with the Fennies Café, lunches that are carefully crafted and beautifully presented every day, some of the options for our teams include salads, paninis, wraps and pasta. Lunch is a great chance to have some laughs and build bonds. You find out little things about the people in the room, and these bonds are so important as it brings each individual into the Fennies team.

As we come back together to start the afternoon, I know that people have already had lots of information shared and discussed. So, its essential to pause for reflection, to recap whats staying with them, and to share action points noted so far. This is a great opportunity for me to get some feedback about the session to hear about which points are landing well, which need further explanation, and where we need to make improvements to facilitate the needs of our learners. 

Trainer presenting to room of people

The post-lunch break is often a moment when people need re-energising. Compliments are flowing for our chefs in the kitchen. A fun energiser picks us up – just like young children, movement helps focus us on what we are going to do next.

I always try to be aware of the energy levels throughout the session and to pick up on what’s not being said. This day is not about ‘my performance’ – it’s about finding out what is meaningful to the group. If the energy is dropping, people are shuffling or fidgeting, that’s a clue we need to move. Sometimes it’s just finding a new partner to talk to, someone who can offer different experiences, giving time for them to talk, share or hear different voices. 

As we reach the end of the session, the discussions circle around to whats next. Touchpoints are incredibly important so that our staff can contact me or someone in the room directly. Individuals share their actions they want to implement, ideas of how they will demonstrate their learning back at their nurseries with their rooms and teams.  

It’s important for each individual to understand that they are accountable for their own journey at Fennies. Our role within the Academy is to heavily celebrate those people who are showing progress. It’s important that this is recognised; these individuals often become mentors for those around them. The energy of those people who are really engaged in the sessions is infectious, not only on the day but in their setting. It makes a nursery the type of place children, parents and educators want to be. 

5:00 pm- Reflection

As we reflect on the day – quiet is often needed! Through the day, Ive been constantly flexing to the needs of our staff members, from meeting their emotional needs, the additional support they may need to access helpful material and being able to help them source the answers they need and want. As an Academy Lead, I’m one of the first touchpoints to staff outside of the nurseries, and I will regularly have contact with people across Fennies. It’s important the people in the Academy are seen as a safe touchpoint for those who need someone to open up to 

trainer and nursery practitioner talking in front of a computer

With that, obviously comes safeguarding responsibilities to support well-being needs as well as good communication with nursery management teams. We have to keep lines of communication open and be trustworthy in the feedback we give that it's fair, honest and positive. We want people to come back and have that positive experience of training.

Tomorrow may be a nontraining day, which means I’ll have a whole variety of projects and different styles of training to delve into, whether it’s leading live videos that our teams can tune into, creating and writing content or one-to-one coaching. The variety of this role, with the trust and freedom to deliver in the way we best see fit, is what I love about my position at Fennies. 

The person I used to be, who was nervous in front of groups of parents is unrecognisable now. It turns out, I didn’t just have a passion for developing children, I had a passion for developing people. 

Want to find out more about our training academy? 



Academy Lead

Share this post

Sign up