Change is upon childminders again! The new EYFS Framework becomes statutory on the 1st of September 2021 and with inspections up and running again and now potentially only once every 6 years, there is more pressure than ever on getting it right on the day. But what about the long stretch of time that falls between inspections? With a six year gap it would now be entirely possible to look after a child from when he was a baby until when he starts school without any paperwork you create for him ever being seen by an inspector. So should childminders stop doing all paperwork?
There is a growing rumour that Ofsted have banned paperwork and some practitioners say that they are going to stop doing ANY except the statutory requirements. This represents a gross misunderstanding of the expectations on childminders. Before you throw the baby out with the bathwater let’s make sure we really understand what Ofsted is asking.
1. Stop ticking boxes on ‘trackers’ and highlighting copies of Development Matters
Trackers are the biggie which lots of people have been talking about. Ofsted have NEVER asked you to highlight copies of Development Matters or to spend hours colouring in boxes on individual trackers. Childminders should be focusing on providing a broad and balanced curriculum for children and one of the reasons Ofsted do NOT want you to use trackers in this way is because some settings were so focused on getting the children to achieve and exceed each one of the ‘statements’ that the children were getting a very narrow learning experience.
However, all that being said, don’t throw away all those trackers just yet! Many practitioners find them very useful and if that applies to you there is no need to stop using them as long as you consider their limitations. If you find yourself using them as a curriculum, a list of goals or next steps for children, or worrying if children miss steps or do not develop in the exact order written on the paperwork then STOP! This is not how trackers should be used. If you use a simple tracker which is quick and easy to use and helps you spot any gaps in learning or key points that may raise concerns, then great, this is a useful way to use this type of assessment.
2. Stop writing pages of meaningless observations
It is our job as childminders to constantly observe children to assess their development and needs. However, STOP making pointless observations that simply generate paperwork and don’t really add value for either the childminder or the child. If you know and the parents know that the child can use a spoon you don’t need a photo and accompanying write up to prove it. Think about what you really need to observe and whether writing it down will add value to what you already do. Let me be clear that you should not stop doing written observations altogether, as done properly and with clear purpose, they are extremely useful.
(If you are new to observing children and how to get the most benefit from it without it taking too much time look out for our ‘Don’t Panic! Beginners Guide to Observations,’ coming soon.)
3. Stop generating ‘data’ and ‘evidence’ in general
The new EYFS and Development Matters are intended to give you an opportunity to refresh your setting’s curriculum to ensure that it focusses on your children’s needs. You should stop spending time unnecessarily gathering evidence and you should certainly spend less time generating ‘data’. Data includes photographs that serve no proper purpose and next steps that are not followed up. Instead spend time creating a broad and balanced curriculum.
4. Stop assessing children unnecessarily
Stop doing any assessments that are not beneficial to the children you are looking after. Pages and pages of ‘next steps’ in learning journeys are not helpful. Especially if they are not acted upon. If you instead ‘know’ inside of you from your knowledge of Development Matters what comes next, you don’t need to write this out anymore. You are allowed to use your ‘professional knowledge’ of child development and the child.
5. Stop making learning journeys without asking yourself why you are making them?
Please notice that I did not say to stop making learning journeys. This is another hot topic of debate on forum discussions and many childminders are overreacting and throwing away their learning journeys. Ofsted does not want you to do this as long as you are making them for the right reasons.
So why make learning journeys? Do not make learning journeys with photographs of observations and little circled areas of learning and development FOR the Ofsted inspector. They are not interested and may not even ask to see your learning journeys. These documents should only be generated for you and for the parents and only if you find that making them is helpful. Many families enjoy receiving them and you may secretly enjoy making them. However, many parents are perfectly happy with WhatsApp messages and you are allowed to use your ‘professional knowledge’ as long as you really do know where each child is at in his or her stage or development. Personally I think a balance is a good solution. I will still send my parents lots of photos as I love taking them and they love receiving them, but I will not be printing many out and will only include the occasional observation in a much shorter ‘learning story,’ to help me remember where each child is and to provide a lovely memento for the parents when the child eventually leaves my setting.
6. Stop doing unnecessarily detailed written planning you then don’t stick to
STOP doing any paperwork at all that has no use aside from the fact that you think Ofsted might want to look at it. For example horrifically detailed weekly plans that you don’t stick to. The new Development Matters makes it clear that it is up to childminders to use their professional judgment and knowledge to observe children and to plan for their next steps. Julian Grenier led on the revision of Development Matters for the Department for Education. He is clear that you should use Development Matters to help you use your knowledge of each child to facilitate holistic learning that helps children to make progress “without generating unnecessary paperwork.”
This video is a nice overview of the new EYFS and how it links to Development Matters with its goal to “improve outcomes for all children, especially disadvantaged children, and to reduce teacher and practitioner workload.”
7. Stop hitting the target and missing the point with the Early Learning Goals
The Department for Education does not want you to feel restrained by the Early Learning Goals and actually they are primarily there for reception teachers to assess their children against at the end of their time in the Foundation Stage.
The most important point is that a childminder should not write a curriculum plan around a learning goal because the ELGs are really narrow. For example, one of the ELGs under physical development is that children should be able to ‘move energetically, such as running, jumping, dancing, hopping, skipping and climbing’. A childminder could read that and decide that since jumping is obviously important that they would buy a trampoline, but not waste their time with ball skills since those are not specifically mentioned. That is pretty much what the Department of Education does not want you to do with the ELGs. Your physical development gross motor skills curriculum should not exclude spending time doing ball and other PE skills
8. Stop doing anything ‘for Ofsted’
They always say this, but nobody really believes them. With inspections now every 6 years, of course you are going to want to get the best grade you possibly can at your inspection because you will be stuck with whatever you get for a long time! So, of course you should prepare carefully for your inspection as you always would by being mostly ready for inspection all the time, by being the best childminder you can be all the time, but by perhaps reading through a copy of our Ultimate Childminding Checklist before the big day to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything obvious.
In conclusion, childminders need to think about what is really beneficial to support our practice (and this will be different for each practitioner depending on their needs.) It is about finding a sensible balance, not stopping all paperwork. If you only have one child you may be able to retain all the information you need on their development without writing anything down but how will you share that information with the parents? You may have more children but have a fantastic memory and still not have to write down much in order to be able to confidently tell an Ofsted Inspector the ‘story’ of each child, but will you be able to spot gaps in learning quickly I think that most of us will still find keeping some sort of records beneficial so don’t burn those learning journeys and trackers just yet!
Burchall, J. (2021, May). Ofsted early education update . Retrieved from http://www.theofstedbigconversation.co.uk: https://theofstedbigconversation.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Ofsted-presentation-Ofsted-early-education-update-early-years-providers-Summer-2021.pdf
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