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The pre-school industry needs verified and trained staff more than any other industry: Preethi Vickram, Podar Jumbo Kids

The preschools today do not merely serve as the curtain-raiser for school life, but have transformed into platforms providing the child an early start to a lifelong learning process with a cutting-edge environment. And this cannot be done unless the parents are 100% sure about the place where they are dropping off their kids. Whether it’s in terms of learning techniques or a safe and sound environment, pre-schools have to tick all the boxes to survive the fierce competition. In a recent chat with us, Preethi Vickram, who heads the Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana chapter of Podar Jumbo Kids, emphasised why it’s so important in her industry.

Image : Preethi Vickram and Rashida from Podar Jumbo Kids

Kids come before anything else

Preethi says the USP of Podar Jumbo Kids lies within its policy framework, which is worked around keeping children first. Right from teachers to toys, everything is chosen keeping the children in mind, and not just from a business point of view. Rather than going by a standard textbook method, they are in the process of implementing UK-based EYFS statutory framework which addresses the learning process of a child way better than the traditional methods. For instance, to make learning of Math more concrete, they adopt practical ways of using manipulatives rather than the standard ones.

Overall safety and security of children is ensured

Even though kids pick up basic learning at pre-school, if you ask their parents about their prime concern, the answer will always be safety before learning. So pre-schools have a huge responsibility to keep such young kids safe with them. Preethi tells us how they work it out at Podar Jumbo Kids. She says they have a zero-tolerance policy against any adult (signed by all the staff members) resorting to any kind of inappropriate behaviour with the kids, which includes raising their voice, showing eyes or threatening a child. They also have fire safety drills which teaches them to be safe in case a fire breaks out. “Safety is of utmost importance to us. We incorporate several screening steps in our recruitment process itself to be sure about the staff we are hiring. And thanks to our association with BetterPlace for the past two years for making it better. The school staff needs to be verified and we have mandated 100% verified staff to all our franchisees as well, with the help of BetterPlace,” she adds.

Staff trained specifically to handle kids

One of the things about pre-school industry is that the teachers don’t necessarily have to have an educational or professional degree. So it’s important that they know how to handle small children. Preethi tells us how the staff is trained to manage children. They receive training to administer first-aid to kids in case of an injury or something. “We teach kids about good touch-bad touch. We also talk to parents about it. It’s very important from a safety point of view, and we have been doing this for 10 years now.” Apart from this, kids are also taught about hand safety – not putting in their fingers in dangerous places, like doors. She says safety is physical, social and mental, and they have to address it on all levels.

Why pre-school industry needs verified staff more than any other

Talking about the importance of verified staff at pre-schools, Preethi told us about a recent discussion where the issue of high attrition among the staff was raised. It was about how pre-schools handle staff turnover and how to ensure if they are hiring the right person for the job each time. Apart from the physical or sexual abuse, they have to ensure that the kids aren’t traumatised in any way possible. She says, “One way to do this is through background verification, and apart from that, the database that BetterPlace is creating, that is going to play a huge role in ensuring safety. If I have to hire someone, it’s important for me to know where they came from. Also, I’d know that the wrong person cannot be hired by anyone else either.”

Training the non-teaching staff for pre-schools

Preethi tells us that they take the jobs of non-teaching staff as seriously as their teaching counterparts. They have a detailed training material for them as well. From what stuff to use if a child throws up to how to take them to the bathroom – they cover it all. It’s very different from a regular housekeeping staff. They have to be particularly skilled for this industry.

Kids shouldn’t have to face academic pressure so early

When we asked her about how she sees the industry evolving, she tells us that the pre-school industry in under a lot of pressure to introduce academics earlier and earlier. It’s because parents and schools want the child to be much more prepared for their transition. But making a child learn so much so early could do more harm than good. “We get a lot of questions from parents and franchisees about why we are not doing it. And we constantly keep pushing it as much as we can. Children need to learn life skills in the first six years that becomes the foundation for all future learning. Academics narrows the child’s genius to just reading, writing and number work.”

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