Staff at Kids Allowed decided to make 2018 a year of reflection and change, after being inspired by the lead that Cheryl Hadland of the Hadland Care Group has taken with the approach to our oceans and environment. They wanted to begin by “Challenging the nonsense!” in order to cut down on single-use plastics. Here, Jennie Johnson tells QA Nursery about her quest to reduce waste in nurseries...

After the much published topic of glitter use in nurseries, it got me thinking about other practices used in our centres which - in hindsight - are harmful to the environment.

There is so much to take into consideration when it comes to single-use plastics. Glitter is already a well-documented example that is bad for our environment. However I am sure, like me, it has made you think about what we’re all doing that’s either considered wasteful or environmentally unfriendly.

In our sector, nappy changing and the practices around it is another environmental disaster. I looked into our use of nappies, gloves and aprons for 2017 and in our Kids Allowed centres alone, we disposed of 73,000 aprons, 209,000 nappies and a staggering 461,000 gloves.  

I dread to think what the statistics will be across the sector and it’s clear that it’s time for a change.

We at Kids Allowed have been speaking with numerous other providers to gain a better understanding of what they’re doing. Most of them currently (like we were before this review) have been wearing plastic aprons and plastic gloves on both hands, with a fresh set for every nappy change. Others, though, were offering the same personal protective equipment (PPE) for messy nappies and spillages, at the discretion of the childcare practitioner, while others don’t use them at all.kids allowed baby in hat

We asked Ofsted about eliminating PPE for each nappy change - and they agreed with our stance

After understandably being nervous about changing an infection control measure, I decided to email a very senior Ofsted figure to ensure that eliminating the use of mandatory PPE for each nappy would be compliant with the Early Years Foundation Stage (the last thing any of us need is a Requires Improvement grade because of an inspector taking issue with our new approach!). 

I was reassured that this was an internal decision for our own policies. In fact, the very person I emailed agreed with me that the plastic waste our sector is generating is a huge problem and was glad to hear I was reviewing our practices. We both agreed that there is enough evidence and research to support a policy that has robust hand washing protocols at the centre of our infection control practices. 

There is, however, a spanner in the works (and I share this because I want all day nursery owners to know all the facts before making their decision). Public Health England (PHE) have stated in their poster, ‘Guidance on infection control in schools and other childcare settings,’ that: “Disposable gloves and disposable plastic aprons must be worn where there is a risk of splashing or contamination with blood/body fluids. (For example, nappy or pad changing.)” Although this advice is strongly worded, it is not statutory.

In addition to this, the PHE document to which the poster refers to was withdrawn in November 2017. The current government publication, which the public are now redirected to from PHE, isn’t as strongly worded and does not list nappy changing as an example. Instead, it states: “Wear disposable gloves and plastic aprons if there is a risk of splashing or contamination with blood or bodily fluids during an activity.” 

I sincerely hope that the revised version of the PHE publication will not insist upon PPE as a ’must’ when it comes to changing nappies and that this is soon reflected in the PHE poster, currently displayed in many educational settings including nurseries.

So, after lots of research and risk assessing our approach, Kids Allowed has changed its own practice. We have made PPE optional and allow our skilled team to risk assess in the moment if they feel PPE is needed or not, ensuring it is always readily available should they want it. For example, if they have an open wound on their hand, then they should wear a glove. Or if they are dealing with one of those explosive nappies, then they might want to wear the full set - two gloves along with an apron. If a team member’s uniform becomes soiled, our centres have spare uniforms on hand which they can change into, along with washing and drying facilities to clean their own uniform.

If you are a provider still using PPE for every nappy change, I’m hoping you might become comfortable by adopting a more selective approach.

Kids Allowed is a nursery provider which focuses in what the children need at every stage of development and create a wonderful child friendly environment to help the children learn. The company runs seven purpose-built settings across the South Manchester and Cheshire area. For more information, see kidsallowed.com.

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