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8 Things Ofsted wants childminders to STOP doing – by guest blogger Jennifer Fishpool

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

childminding paperworkIt 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!

References

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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About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Childminding Best Practice Club and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety 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.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

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What is new for childminders in the Sept 2021 EYFS Framework?

Lots of childminders have been asking for a guide to the new September 2021 EYFS Statutory Framework. I have done my best in this article to pull out what I think are the most important points for childminders.

The information in the Educational Programmes Section of the EYFS has been expanded

The biggest change to the new EYFS is the expanded descriptions of what is included in the educational programmes descriptions (ie the Learning and Development areas). I don’t really think this information is in any way ‘new’ or a surprise. But the expanded areas are written explicitly into the EYFS so you should use it as your guide when planning your curriculum. As a childminder it is up to you how you design the curriculum for your setting but you MUST make sure that you are addressing each key point of each learning area. Development Matters and Birth to 5 Matters are designed to help you to do this so make sure you read them when you design your curriculum.

Communication, Language and especially vocabulary have been identified as the most important learning areas

Communication and language are vital and the EYFS states that ‘the development of children’s spoken language underpins all seven areas of learning and development’. The other thing that is really stressed is ‘extending vocabulary’ across each of the seven areas of learning.

 

The Early Learning Goals have been rewritten – but MOST of their content remains the same

The level of development that children are expected to have reached by the end of their reception year in school is defined by the early learning goals. As most childminders are not responsible for assessing the learning and development of reception aged children, the goals have always remained mainly in the realm of school reception teachers. Despite the EYFS making it clear that ‘the ELGs should not be used as a curriculum’, it is still useful for childminders to have in mind what the ultimate aim of some of the activities we do with children is heading towards.

Some of the key changes are:

  • Communication and Language: provides more focus on extending vocabulary
  • PSED: self-regulation is included
  • Literacy: comprehension is included
  • Mathematics: a new focus on understanding patterns

 

The role of self-regulation is recognised by making it an early learning goal

Children at the end of reception year should be able to ‘show an understanding of their own feelings and those of others, and begin to regulate their behaviour accordingly.’ They should also be able to ‘control their immediate impulses when appropriate’ and ‘give focussed attention to what a teacher is saying’. These are all important parts of the characteristics of effective learning that you should have been teaching the children all along, but the fact that they have now been recognised in the ELGs shows the increased importance that is now being placed on the notion of self-regulation. It is truly vital that as childminders you are encouraging children to sit still and concentrate on tasks sometimes, especially on tasks that are not always of the child’s own choosing, so that they can practise a skill that is vital to their success in school.

Balance is the key. Your curriculum and how you teach it is up to you but as children grow older the focus should change from the prime to specific areas of learning and development

It is up to each childminder to plan their curriculum which is in a broad sense what you want the children to learn while they are with you from when they are babies until they start school. The new EYFS says ‘Practitioners need to decide what they want children to learn and the most effective way to teach it’. There are several key points here. Firstly, it is up to you to decide the right balance between adult led activities and free play time given to children. Secondly, as children grow older you should spend more time ‘teaching’ them and less time just letting them have free play. Lastly, the focus of your teaching should gradually move away from the ‘prime’ areas (language, PSE, physical development) and include more focus on the ‘specific’ areas (mathematics, literacy etc.)

 

Assessment remains important but physical evidence of this assessment is not

Before you throw away your learning journeys and the pages of next steps: STOP. The EYFS is still very clear that ‘ongoing assessment (also known as formative assessment) is an integral part of children’s learning and development. What has changed in the new EYFS is the emphasis on the ‘professional knowledge’ of the childminder. When doing the ‘assessment’ part of the planning – implementation – assessment process, ‘Practitioners should draw on their own knowledge of the child and their own expert professional judgment and should not be required to prove this through a collection of physical evidence’.

Ofsted is making it clear that they do not want to see data. They are not going to look at your learning journeys with random snapshot photos and hundreds of ‘next steps’ written out because that sort of data is often meaningless. You still need to assess children and be very aware of exactly where each child is in their learning and development. But you no longer need to feel you have to ‘prove’ the observation.

When you do assessments you should:

  • Focus on what is useful
  • Establish starting points
  • Use the checkpoints in Development Matters as checkpoints, not checklists
  • Involve the parents
  • Take the attitude of inclusion: every child can thrive

 

You must promote oral health

The new EYFS makes it clear that you ‘must promote the good health including oral health of the children you look after. This is an addition to what was previously there and is in response to the growing problem of tooth decay in young children, particularly children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The basic message you are hoping to teach to children is that too many sugary foods are bad for you, and that you should brush your teeth.

Planning activities to promote oral health into your curriculum does not have to be complicated. Suppose you look after a child from a home where you know the parents very rarely brush his teeth?  You can make an enormous difference to that child’s oral health if YOU brush his teeth after he eats lunch with you. You are teaching him a skill he needs that will hopefully become a good habit. Furthermore, you are ensuring that his teeth are, at the very least, being brushed once a day while you look after him. And if you really want to do your bit towards helping him even more you can gently encourage the parents to help him at home, perhaps with a take home reward chart he can use each time he brushes his teeth at home?

Specific activities and resources for promoting oral health are available in my Be Safe Be Healthy pack.

Non-prescription medication does not need a doctor’s note

GPs have been finding that providers were requiring parents to get prescriptions for non-prescription medications. The new EYFS makes it clear that providers only need to have a prescription for prescription medication. So a child does not have to have a prescription for the Calpol for you to give it to him. Nothing else has really changed. You still need to get permission in writing for every medication (including Calpol) and you can only give prescription medicines that have been prescribed by a doctor, dentist, nurse or pharmacist.

In practice all childminders should have both a long term medication permission form (for Calpol etc) and a short term medication form (for antibiotics), a written record each time a medicine is administered to a child, and a way to ensure that the parent is informed ‘on the same day or as soon as reasonably practicable’. While the EYFS does not specifically state that a parent must sign your ‘medicines administered book’, I think this is a good, tidy, more traceable method than relying on a Whatsapp message.

Are you putting infants down to sleep properly and safely according to the EYFS guidelines? 

The new EYFS includes a link to the NHS guidance on reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. What this means for childminders is that how you put a baby down to sleep while they are in your care is no longer at the discretion of parents – so please make sure you are familiar with the details in this link – there’s more than just putting babies on their backs.

Cyber Security for Early Years – are you doing everything you should be?

This page is full of practical information that childminders can use to check that you are doing everything you can to keep you, your setting and your data safe from cyber attacks. The site reminds you that “For Early Years practitioners, cyber security also plays a role in safeguarding the children in your care.” The link to this page was included as a footnote in the new EYFS.

Are you supervising children while they are eating?

To me, this has always been absolutely obvious: of course you must supervise children while they are eating – what if they start choking?  However, maybe not everyone was getting this, so this requirement has now been spelled out in the new EYFS. You MUST supervise children while they are eating so that rapid action can be taken if needed to save them! So does this mean that you have to literally keep them in your gaze at all times – what if you have to pop back into the kitchen to grab some ketchup. Please rest assured that ‘supervised’ is clearly defined by the EYFS. “Children must usually be within sight and hearing of staff but always within sight or hearing”.

Recommended menus and food preparation advice for early years

This series of example menus and associated guidance has been developed to support early years settings (such as nurseries and childminders) to offer food and drink in line with current government dietary recommendations for infants and children aged 6 months to 4 years. It also includes food safety, managing food allergies and reading food labels. This guide was included as a footnote in the new EYFS.

You should not vape or use e-cigarettes around children (or smoke)

The new EYFS makes it clear that as well as providers not allowing smoking in or on the premises when children are present that staff should not ‘vape or use e-cigarettes when children are around’ either. This addition is in line with Public Health England’s advice on use of e-cigarettes in the workplace.

Those are the key new points of new release of the Sept 2021 EYFS. You need to read the cited documents and make sure that you are following the new guidelines before they become statutory in September. 

Good luck!

Do you want to improve your understanding of the Characteristics of Effective Learning?

Promoting the Characteristics of Effective Learning PosterFor help putting the Characteristics of Effective Learning into practice including tools, activity ideas, certificates you can give to children, poster and display ideas, CPD worksheets for your setting, examples for your SEF and a setting checklist for the COEL, check out my new Characteristics of Effective Learning Pack for childminders.

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay 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.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

www.kidstogo.co.uk

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