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The first and most important thing to say about “Cultural Capital” – the new Ofsted buzz word that has appeared in the September 2019 Inspection Handbook – is DON’T PANIC.
- You do not need to attend a training course on cultural capital.
- Ofsted does not want to see a poster up in your setting labelled cultural capital.
- You do not have to start taking childminded children to the opera.
Most of you will find that the only change you need to make to what you are already doing is to learn the new buzz word so that if you hear it during your inspection you keep calm and carry on!
Cultural capital is defined in the new framework as ‘the essential knowledge that children need to be educated citizens’ and what is necessary to ‘prepare them for future success’.
Some children arrive at your setting with different experiences than others. The experiences they arrive with are their ‘cultural capital’. All children have SOME cultural capital when they arrive with you at your setting. But for some, this cultural capital is not enough to narrow the gap and get them ready for school. The curriculum you plan for that unique child can make all the difference to his or her future.
Your job as a childminder is to find ways to establish what a child’s ‘weaknesses’ are, and then plan your curriculum to help the child in the area that he is missing or behind.
A key example is talking. Some children arrive at your setting speaking really well with great vocabularies because they are exposed to lots of words and their parents read loads of books to them at home. Research has shown time and again that this gives them a massive advantage in school and in life. Other children come from much less fortunate backgrounds where they are not read to so much at home and know far fewer words. If you identify talking and vocabulary for example, as a child’s weakness, then your job as his childminder is to find ways to enhance it. In other words, you should make sure to plan a curriculum where you read a lot more and talk a lot more to children whose parents do not read to them at home.
The same rule applies right across the areas of learning and development and would also apply to the characteristics of effective learning.
Another example Ofsted gave during its webinar was a child who knows everything about dinosaurs, but nothing about plants. In this case, you could enhance his learning by teaching him about plants.
A characteristic of effective learning example might be a child who is never given any choices at home and who appears to passively take everything he is given. You can enhance his learning and prepare him for school by encouraging him to make choices while he is with you.
None of this is anything you are probably not already doing!
It just has a new name and is now in the Inspection Handbook to draw your attention to the sheer importance of doing the utterly obvious!
Here is what you need to do to ‘do’ cultural capital:
- Do starting points observations on all new children across all the learning and development areas and the COEL. This will show you the child’s strengths and areas of weaknesses.
- Ask yourself what you would do to improve the child’s area of weakness.
- Make a plan for each individual child. What can you develop? What can you encourage?
- Follow through on your plans.
- After you’ve been doing your plans for a while, check that your plans are having an effect. Has the child started to catch up? Have you broadened his cultural capital from when he started with you?
All children arrive in your setting with a different background and different skills.
Ofsted’s new buzz word is just another way of asking childminders to help to reduce disadvantage when you see it.
Remember that what you do for that child can potentially make all the difference.
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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, 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.
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Understanding the COEL is vital for every childminder. Not only will you be expected to know this information during your Ofsted inspection, it is also a huge benefit to the children you look after if you can help them to acquire the skills in the Early Years that they will need to help them to succeed in school and become learners for life. Here are ten ways childminders can put the COEL into Practice.
- Help children to learn from mistakes, bounce back and try again
Many children (and adults) are afraid of failure. Many parents are so afraid of failure that they never give their child a chance to fail at a task. At the first sign of difficulty they jump in to rescue their child, to finish the art project for them, to lift them up onto the climbing frame. They are afraid to let their child ‘fail’ or ‘fall’ and in doing so, continually give their child the message that they can’t really be expected to do things by themselves and that if they fail or fall, that would be a terrible thing instead of a normal and positive part of growing up. Childminders can help children learn to embrace failure as something normal when learning new things. To learn from failure instead of being afraid of it and to find new ways to approach a task until they succeed.
2. Encourage children to try new things with a ‘can do’ attitude
Childminders can encourage children to have a can do attitude about trying new things by praising the ‘process’ rather than the end result. It is more important to encourage the child who is attempting to use scissors for the first time and praise the child who is trying to go across the monkey bars, than to display perfect artwork or cheer the child only once she makes it across the monkey bars.
3. Make children believe that the harder they work, the better they’ll get at the things they do
Hard work should always be rewarded with praise and attention. There are few things that will help children to do well in school as much as a belief in themselves that if they work at something they will ultimately achieve it. I like to put up displays that show the children improving at tasks over time to remind them that success takes time.
4. Reward children who never give up
Give children time to persist at a task that they find challenging so that they can feel the satisfaction of meeting the goals they set for themselves. Make the point of telling parents at collection time what the child was trying, not just what the child succeeded at especially if the task was a challenge for the child.
5. Teach children to love learning
Make it clear to children that ultimately you don’t know all that much. That it’s a big, complicated world and no one person is expected to know the answers to everything. Show them how you look up answers to things you don’t know in books and online. As a childminder, a great way to promote learning is to explore themes with the children, especially themes you may not know much about yourself.
6. Help children to concentrate
Encouraging children to sit still and concentrate on tasks (sometimes ones that are not of their own choosing) is wonderful preparation for school. When a child arrives at school he can either count up to ten blocks, or he can’t. He can either write his name, or he can’t. Those tasks can be taught to him by his teachers. However, he will find any task he has to learn easier if he can make himself concentrate. Encourage and praise children who are concentrating on tasks they have chosen for themselves. And expect all children to join in with structured activities you have set up for them so they can practice and improve their concentration skills.
7. Encourage children to keep on trying when challenges occur
Successful people don’t give up when challenges occur. They try a different approach to solve the problem. They motivate themselves to get through little setbacks and keep going. You can help children to develop this trait by praising them for keeping on trying at activities, whether or not they succeed at what they were attempting.
8. Teach children to think their way through problems
One of the best ways to teach children to think is to model how you think through things you don’t know and show them how you find the answers. Don’t be afraid to show children that you don’t always get things right first time and sometimes need to take a different approach to learn the answer.
9. Support children to ask questions and think about our world
Children asks lots and lots of questions. Always respect these questions and never give the idea that a child’s question is silly. If they feel they can take a risk by asking questions and that their questions aren’t judged in any way, they will grow to believe that asking questions is the key to unlocking their education.
10. Help children to make links and notice patterns in their experience
All children need to be able to think and solve problems if they are going to do well in school and life. Thinking up ideas, making links between things, finding out how things are ordered and grouped together, and finding ways to solve problems is what an awful lot of education is about. In the Early Years you can help to teach children HOW to think. A great way to do this is by playing with construction toys, doing cooking projects and by taking regular trips to the same outdoor places.
Do you want to improve your understanding of the Characteristics of Effective Learning?
For 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 our Characteristics of Effective Learning Pack for childminders.
All childminders need to self-evaluate your settings before your inspection. Here are 10 things you should make sure your self-evaluation 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 a self-evaluation of your setting?
This guide takes you step by step through a guided self-evaluation of your setting. It includes ‘model answers’ for each question so that you can see the sorts of things you should be considering when you reflect on your setting. This guide will help you to prepare for your inspection and will make sure you don’t miss anything.
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.
Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.