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Planning for Head Start Pre-Service: Setting the Stage for a Successful Program Year

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As the director of a Head Start program, one of your most critical responsibilities is planning for annual pre-service. Pre-service training is a time for staff to prepare, collaborate, and align their practices with the Head Start Performance Standards and your program goals. This training sets the foundation for a successful program year ahead, ensuring that staff are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to provide high-quality services to children and families. 


Annual pre-service is more than just a requirement; it is an opportunity to strengthen your program and enhance the quality of services provided. This training allows staff to: 

  • Reflect on Past Practices: Pre-service is a time to reflect on past practices and identify areas for improvement. By evaluating what has worked well and what can be enhanced, staff can refine their approaches to better meet the needs of children and families. 

  • Align with Performance Standards & Share updates on changes: Pre-service training ensures that staff are familiar with and understand the Head Start Performance Standards. This alignment is crucial for maintaining program compliance and providing high-quality services. Sharing updates to procedure or policy changes is also important and pre-service gives you the opportunity to share and answer questions prior to the year starting. 

  • Build Team Cohesion: Pre-service is a time for staff to come together as a team, building cohesion and collaboration. This unity is essential for creating a positive work environment and promoting a shared vision for the program. 


When planning for annual pre-service, consider the following topics to ensure that staff are well-prepared for the new program year: 

  • Child Development and Learning: Review the latest research and best practices in child development to enhance staff's understanding of how children learn and grow. Also explore effective teaching strategies and curriculum approaches that align with Head Start's educational goals. 

  • Family Engagement: Discuss strategies for building strong partnerships with families and involving them in their children's education. Focus on building new community partnerships by inviting them to a pre-service session as well. 

  • Health and Safety: Review health and safety protocols, including emergency procedures and sanitation practices, to ensure a safe environment for children and staff. Remind staff about the importance of HSAC as well during this time. 

  • Data Collection and Process Changes: Train on new process changes, especially within your data management system. For those using ChildPlus, updates to the attendance module this summer will look different. Take time to review changes and provide answers to questions staff may have.  

  • Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness: Discuss the importance of cultural and linguistic responsiveness in working with diverse children and families. 


In addition to these topics, ensure that staff complete mandatory trainings required by Head Start, such as: 

  • First Aid and CPR: Ensure that designated staff are trained in first aid and CPR to respond to emergencies effectively. 

  • Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting: Educate staff on the signs of child abuse and neglect and the proper reporting procedures. 

  • Confidentiality: Review the importance of maintaining confidentiality when handling sensitive information about children and families. 

  • ERSEA Eligibility: Ensure all staff responsible for determining eligibility are trained every year. Don’t forget to include the policy council and board members. 


Your annual pre-service is a critical time for preparing staff to provide high-quality services to children and families. By focusing on key topics and ensuring that mandatory trainings are completed, you can set the stage for a successful program year ahead. Plan your pre-service training thoughtfully and consider any support Sawyer Consulting Solutions may be able to provide you. 


Interested in learning more about this topic or other ways you can improve your program? The team at Sawyer Consulting Solutions is here to help you showcase all the amazing ways your program supports the community. Schedule a free, no-obligation, no-cost discovery call with us today. 

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