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Key Messages for Childminders from the Ofsted Big Conversation

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02/10/2021

On Saturday the 2nd of October Ofsted held one of their ‘Big Conversation’ events for childminders and other early years providers. This was the first of such events in the North-West since the introduction of the new EYFS in September and Ofsted had some key messages for childminders:

Assessment is still vital

Ofsted emphasised that assessment is still vital as it can highlight if a child needs extra help and support and so reduces the likelihood of them falling behind. How you assess is up to you and Ofsted do not want to see reams of assessment that take you away from the children for long periods or become a task to do for its own sake. However they DO still want childminders to assess their children, the new EYFS has NOT removed this requirement.  You MUST still assess what children can do and what they cannot do in order to effectively plan your curriculum.

Importance of working in partnership with parents

Although Ofsted did not go into this in as much depth as other issues it was mentioned several times, showing that it is still one of Ofsted’s main areas of concern.  It was emphasised that it is important that you have a good working relationship with your parents so that they become an integral part of how you assess their child. As the people that know their child best, they must be made to feel comfortable in approaching you for support if they have concerns.

Stronger focus on curriculum: intent, implementation, and impact

The curriculum was one of the main discussion points of the meeting. Ofsted do not expect you to have your curriculum written down so if you are spending excess time writing up complicated curriculum maps then STOP! Instead Ofsted want you to be clear on:

  • INTENT: What is your curriculum? What do you want your children to learn? What knowledge/skills do you want them to gain? Is your curriculum ambitious for ALL children? (You can plan this by using your assessment of what they know and can do and what they need to know and be able to do.)
  • IMPLEMENTATION: How do you use your curriculum? How do you teach it? What methods do you use? What activities and opportunities do you provide children?
  • IMPACT: How is your curriculum making an impact for your children? Has it been planned and delivered in such a way that ALL children make progress, regardless of their starting points? You need to be able to show how you know children have progressed and learned. Over time Ofsted want to see that your children are LEARNING, REMEMBERING and DOING more.

The importance of proper sequencing in your curriculum

An issue that is starting to come up in recent Ofsted inspections is a lack of proper sequencing in activities or tasks provided to children. The Inspector in charge of the meeting gave the example of expecting a child to ride a bike before they can balance or pedal. You MUST think carefully about what it is a child NEEDS to know or do before they can successfully start on their next step so that you do not miss out essential building blocks of learning.  

Some childminders are focussing too much on the impact they want to make with their curriculum and are forgetting the implementation part of the process, providing activities that are too advanced for children.This means that children are missing out on vital pieces of knowledge. It is essential that you can explain what knowledge or skills the child needs to have before working on the activity or skill and where they might go next when they have mastered it.

Stronger focus on early communication

There has been a lot of information about this, and Ofsted seem happy that the message is getting through.  They reported that they have noticed that settings that are graded Outstanding are exceptional at helping children learn communication and language so if you are aiming at being outstanding make sure that you evaluate how you support children to learn these skills. It was also emphasised that it is vital to consider children’s vocabulary when planning and teaching your curriculum. What vocabulary do you plan to teach the children, and how?

Stronger focus on children’s health

With the attention given to the new inclusion of Oral Health in the EYFS the increased focus on children’s health has been overlooked. It is important to consider whether you are doing enough to promote and protect children’s health as Ofsted will be looking for this. For example, do you make sure that children under five years old get the recommended three hours of physical activity a day? Do you promote and teach healthy eating, and do you follow safer sleep guidelines? You must also make sure that you are working in partnership with parents by providing or signposting them to information and guidance about how to look after their child’s health.

An excellent product to help you ensure that you are you fulfilling the requirement to focus on children’s health is our ‘Be Safe, Be Healthy’ pack.

Other notes

Ofsted are no longer referring to ‘Inspection Cycles’. Instead they will inspect a childminder once in a six year ‘window’. If a childminder is graded ‘Requires Improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’ they will be inspected more often.

The percentages of providers rated good or outstanding since 2019 has stayed stable at around 94.9% (These are North-West figures although it was reported that these are reflected nationally.) and Ofsted report no signs that this is changing.Outstanding childminders work closely with other settings. For example working with the local school to learn about the phonics program they teach and ways in which the childminder can prepare their children for this program.

In conclusion

The biggest issue of the night certainly seemed to be how childminders plan, implement and assess their curriculum and how they can show they have a solid understanding of all the steps involved in a child learning a new skill or piece of knowledge. There were also other issues that have not been touched on much yet but I feel will become prominent as childminders settle into working with the new EYFS, such as the new renewed focus on promoting children’s health. However the most interesting subject of the night for me was Ofsted’s reminder that assessment is still vital to the work that childminders do so if you have thrown away all your assessment tools it is maybe time to reconsider.

Source of all information: The Ofsted Big Conversation North West meeting held on 02/10/2021

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2 Comments

  1. Kitty Nayler says:

    Why all this talk of assessment and curriculum, we are talking babies and toddlers here, they need to feel safe, loved and free to explore and play. That’s what my setting provides!

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Kitty, thank you for your comment.

      I am sure that many experienced childminders are providing a wide range of activities across all the areas of learning and so are providing a good curriculum with really having to think about it. After all curriculum is just a fancy way of saying what activities and opportunities you provide for your children! Even so I think it is good to occasionally take a step back and think about whether or not there is anything you can do differently or better, especially when you get new children who may have different needs. Childminders with less experience may also find it beneficial to think about and plan out – at least in their heads – what they are providing children to make sure they are providing the right sorts of activities at the right time. After all you can even have a curriculum for babies to make sure you are providing opportunities for normal development, for example, in your words, “they need to feel safe and loved,” so your ‘curriculum’ might be to provide lots of cuddles, singing nursery rhymes and talking to them. Then if a child seems withdrawn or upset for the majority of the time you would assess why this was.

      Jennifer 🙂

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