2021: the ongoing challenges and some new ones for ECE centres

As you and your team return from a well-earned holiday, everyone’s thoughts will be on the challenges ahead in 2021.

While they’re (hopefully!) unlikely to match those of last year, we all face ongoing issues, and Centre Managers will undoubtedly face new hurdles as the brave new world of work continues to evolve.

Strong ties with parents
Have you taken the lessons we learned around remote and flexible working? The COVID-19 lockdowns brought home the critical importance of maintaining quality contact and supporting our parents while we're all at home. No-one can rule out the possibility of another lockdown this year, and we all need to have a communication strategy for parents in place, so we can support them through a challenging situation, keep learning going and maintain relationships with children and be confident about welcoming them back to the centre when it re-opens.

Supporting staff
Our people are our most important asset, and many staff were unnerved by the growing impact of COVID-19, and uncertainty about personal safety and their employment.

Your communication strategy should be regular, clear and up front about these issues when communicating with your team, even when the messages from government lack that clarity.

Remote working
Having been through 2020, we now know the possibilities of working from home - what can be done very effectively and where the gaps are.
What will a remote working plan look like for your centre in the event of another lockdown? Developing and agreeing that plan now is critical to give staff and parents certainty, it's easier to do this pre-work face-to-face than over Zoom!

The short-term methods you put in place in crisis last year will have to be remodelled into long-term initiatives that work for any future lockdowns.

Teams will also have to deal with the practical issues of rostering and enabling workers to remain COVID-19 safe while in the Centre, if you’re required to open for essential workers’ children.

Prioritising mental health
The other trend we hope will continue is the push towards better mental health support for employees through the Ministry of Education. After the Christchurch earthquakes, Mosque attack and COVID-19 lockdowns, we've seen lots of activity around mental health first aid and a growing awareness of what that looks like, including funded access to counseling services.

It's the question of how do we create psychological safety as a concept so that people feel really safe coming to work, from COVID-19, mental health or inclusion perspectives? This is likely to be a major challenge for the our sector and the parents and children we serve as this COVID world continues.

Coping together
It’s natural to feel a bit beaten up after last year! And while there are plenty of challenges ahead, we should try and build on the lessons of 2020 and feel free to flush the dunny on what didn’t work.

Don’t be afraid to use your networks for support - whether it’s your centre team, whanau, or the ECC team, talking it over always helps. I wish you the very best for 2021 and look forward to working with you this year.