Writing your SEF is a horrible job and most childminders look forward to doing it like they look forward to visiting the dentist. But it has to be done. Especially if you are soon to be inspected, because your inspector uses your SEF to learn about you and your setting before they arrive. Whether you use the online Ofsted self-evaluation form, or your own method of self-evaluation, here are 10 things you should make sure your SEF includes:
- How you work with parents
It is really important to demonstrate how you work with parents. A nice way to approach this is with an example. In my SEF, for example, I describe the time I looked after a baby who wasn’t taking his bottle from me. I found out by talking to his mother that at home she normally gives it to him cold. So once I stopped heating it up, he took it from me. This would never have occurred to me if I hadn’t spoken to her! So it is a great example of how communication with the parents worked for the benefit of the child. Try to find an example of a situation that you have resolved by talking to the parents, and mention it in your SEF.
- How you use outdoor spaces
Make sure you mention your ‘access to outdoor space’ in your SEF. It is a legal requirement that children have time outdoors on a daily basis. So if you don’t have access to a good outdoor space at the moment, make sure that you list it as one of your priorities to improve.
- How you obtain and use children’ views
Telling Ofsted how you get parents’ views is normally quite easy. You talk to them, send home parent questionnaires and learning journeys etc. But what about the children’s views? How do you get the children’s views at your setting? And how do you then incorporate their views into your planning? Remember to mention how you do this at your setting in your SEF.
- How you encourage self-care
Use your SEF to give some specific examples of how you encourage the children to take some responsibility in matters of self-care and in managing their own health and safety. For example, in my SEF I give the example of walking to school. At the crossing I ask the children to tell me when and where to cross. “Is it safe yet?” I keep asking the children until the little green man appears. When you write your SEF include some examples from your setting of ways that you encourage children to look after themselves and to think about risks for themselves.
- How you promote British values in your setting
Don’t just write “I actively promote British values to help to prevent children being drawn into radicalisation and terrorism,” in your SEF model answers. I know that Ofsted and the government and everybody else wants to hear that you are “doing your bit” at your childminding setting but that statement on its own is fairly meaningless. Instead try and find some specific examples of how you promote inclusion and diversity at your setting and talk about those instead.
- How you work with other providers
An easy way to illustrate how you work with other providers (while also mentioning that you do your Progress Check at Age 2) is to illustrate how you work with health visitors in your area to do the new Integrated Review. How do you, parents and health visitors, work together (or plan to work together if you haven’t done one yet)? What system do you have in place for information sharing? This is an easy example for your SEF.
- Your Continual Professional Development plan for yourself
Ofsted really wants to know that you take self-evaluation and self-improvement seriously. How do you plan for your improvement? What courses have you taken and what are you planning to take? Think about formal courses but also about books you may want to read or just general improvements you would like to make to yourself that will improve the quality of the childcare you offer and write about this in some detail on your SEF.
- How you establish a new child’s starting points
When a new child starts in your setting you should normally carry out a starting points assessment to see where the child is at developmentally. This would help you to plan for him during his time in your care. Make sure you mention in your SEF how you do starting points assessments in your setting.
- How you ‘monitor progress’ and show that you are ‘closing gaps’ in achievement
After you have established a child’s starting point, Ofsted then wants to know that you are monitoring that child’s progress. How do you do that at your setting? How do you plan from what you observe? Most importantly Ofsted really wants to know that you are making an effort to help children who are behind to catch up. Use some examples of ways you have done this with specific children from your setting in your SEF.
- How do you demonstrate that you have ‘high expectations’ of the children
Make sure you describe some of the structured activities you do with the children. Free play is important, but increasingly it is important to demonstrate to Ofsted some examples of activities you have planned for the children that help them to practice ‘concentrating’ on things, become confident positive learners, and are developing some of the other characteristics of effective learning that will help them in school and later in life. Give some specific examples on your SEF.
There is lots of include on your SEF, but the things I’ve mentioned here are especially important because they relate to things that Ofsted inspectors are hoping to see during your inspection.
Need some help writing your SEF?
My SEF model answers are a great way to help give you some direction for when you are sitting down to a blank screen to write your own SEF. You can use the model answers to get you started on your own. The first time you write your SEF is the hardest. If you write it in a Word document and then copy and paste the answers online, then it is easy to edit when you update it in the future.
About Kay Woods and Kids To Go
Kay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.
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