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Getting outstanding is always a mixture of luck on the day, plus hours and hours of preparation beforehand to improve your chances that luck goes your way. Before you can get outstanding you must first make sure everything is ‘good’. So read the Inspection Handbook to make sure you are meeting the requirements for getting good. Here are some new things mentioned specifically in the 2019 Inspection Framework that you should consider if you want to get outstanding.
Ofsted wants to see you reading to the children you look after. Reading is specifically stressed in several places. Hold a story time while the inspector is there and think of other ways to show how you encourage literacy including encouraging the parents to share books with their children at home.
Teach the children some new words
Improving vocabulary is also mentioned in several places in the Education Inspection Framework (EIF) and Inspection Handbook. Try to find an activity to demonstrate to the inspector that involves teaching the children some new vocabulary words.
Share information with parents
You must be sharing information with parents about their child’s progress in relation to the EYFS. You should support parents to extend their child’s learning at home, including encouraging a love of reading. So don’t throw away your learning journey folders as ‘excessive paperwork’. They are still of great value as a way to show you are communicating with parents.
Make sure to use this term in front of the inspector! Make sure you are doing starting points observations on the children so you can establish any gaps in their learning and plan for them. This article has more on cultural capital. Do not make light of this! Make sure you are familiar with the term and are planning accordingly for the children you care for.
Songs, rhymes and musical games are specifically mentioned as ways to improve children’s speech and language. Make sure to demonstrate a song or rhyme or two!
The language of feelings
Ofsted has stressed the importance of teaching children the ‘language of feelings’. Find ways to show that you do this at your setting or pick an activity to do with the children that gets them talking about feelings. ‘Emotional literacy’ is a biggie.
Make sure you can demonstrate that you are teaching children about different cultures and religions and try and make these activities relevant to the children you look after in Britain. My Diversity Awareness Pack can help you to choose relevant activities.
Promote British values
Show that you are ACTIVELY promoting British values. Make sure you know what these are and can state examples of what you do to promote them. You won’t even get ‘good’ if you are not doing this.
Promote independence in matters of self care
Make a big deal out of asking the children to put their own shoes on and coats, help tidy up, set the table and pour their own drinks etc. Show how you encourage children to learn to be independent ready for starting school.
Know what your potty training procedure is
Potty training is specifically mentioned in the new Inspection Framework, probably in response to the increasing number of children who start school not potty trained. Even if you don’t have any children being potty trained at the time of your inspection, make sure you can describe your procedure (including how you communicate with parents about this subject).
Resilience is one of the most important aspects of the Characteristics of Effective Learning (COEL). Children do better in school if they can pick themselves up after a set back and try again. This is a skill that can be nurtured, practiced and taught to children and one that can make a huge difference to their life chances. My COEL pack gives you lots of great ways you can promote this important life skill.
Promote physical activity and risk taking
Be clear about not only how you give children opportunities to run around and get exercise, but also how this activity promotes children’s risk taking skills. How do you encourage children to take appropriate risks so they can build character by ‘failing and falling’ sometimes.
The internet, digital technology and social media
If the children have access to the internet, how do you check they are using it safely? Furthermore, how to you encourage parents to promote internet safety at home?
Be able to explain what you need to do to improve
This is not new but it is more important than ever to have an accurate self evaluation of your setting’s strengths and weaknesses and to demonstrate that you have a plan in place to address areas you would like to improve. You don’t need to write this down, but you should have a clear idea of what you do well and what you might need to improve. I think it is easier to put at least some of the points in writing so that you can refer to them during your inspection and make sure you actually do them.
What plans for Continual Professional Development (CPD) do you have for yourself and any assistants you employ?
You should have a plan for your own CPD. I think it is a good idea to keep a written record of this so that you can produce this for your inspector and show you are trying to continuously learn. Remember that CPD does not have to be formal courses put on by your local authority. My Childminding Best Practice Club pack has eight CPD activities you can try each month – it’s just about trying new things or looking at something you have been doing for years in a new way, and asking yourself what you learned from the skill, what the children learned and how you would do things differently next time.
Safeguarding, safeguarding, safeguarding
You will not get good if you are not meeting the safeguarding requirements, so make sure you read the Inspecting Safeguarding handbook, recognise the signs of abuse, could identify a child at risk and could explain to your inspector without looking it up what you would do if you thought a child you were looking after was being abused.
Lots of this is not necessarily new, but it stressed more than before in the new Inspection Handbook. Aim high! Outstanding is an achievable goal that any childminder can get with hard work and the determination to be the best at what you do.
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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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The first and most important thing to say about “Cultural Capital” – 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.
Cultural capital is defined in the 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 their 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 is 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 special name and is 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. (What has been their ‘impact’?) Has the child started to catch up? Have you broadened their cultural capital from when they started with you?
All children arrive in your setting with a different background and different skills.
Ofsted’s 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.
One way of making sure children are exposed to plenty of new ideas and concepts is by planning around themes. Childminding Best Practice Club members receive a monthly ‘toolkit’ containing loads of planning, crafts, activities and colouring sheets all around a different theme each month. To find out more the information page here:
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The Great Christmas Card Debate: how much help should you give childminded children on their Christmas cards?
Last reviews 05/12/2022
I’m NOT going to do handprints again for my childminding Christmas present, I said firmly to myself as I stared at the blank calendar template. Because everybody knows that handprints aren’t really the children’s work. Ofsted would scoff and tut. Other childminders will criticise me when I post the photo of two cute little handprints pressed in place by ME, not them. So this year I’m going to let the children do it.
So instead I asked the three year olds to draw a picture of their families to give to their parents as a “special Christmas present”. This is what one of them did:
He spent AGES doing it so his mummy would love it. I should have been delighted. Instead I looked at it and my heart sank. Why oh why did I leave out the BLACK pen? He always goes for the black. What on earth had I been thinking? In fact, why didn’t I just do red and green handprints with glitter and that lovely poem about growing up that makes all parents mist up every time they read it?
I hadn’t thought about the PURPOSE of my Christmas gift
The problem was that I’d read too many articles on social media criticizing hand prints and I hadn’t properly considered what I was trying to accomplish from my Christmas calendars. The question of how much help you should give children on their Christmas cards gets very heated debate on social media every single year. How do you feel?
Christmas card quiz: How much help should you give childminded children on their Christmas cards?
A: NONE. All art work sent home from my setting is child-initiated and open-ended including their Christmas cards. The parents want to see their child’s work, not mine.
B: SOME. At Christmas I like to send something home that’s a little more special than our normal artwork. I copy ideas from social media and magazines and help the children to reproduce it the best they can.
C: I DO IT FOR THEM: I like to send home a perfect footprint in clay or a handprint picture that his parents will bring out year after year at Christmas to remember when he was small. Parents don’t have time to do these things themselves. It’s also a special thank you gift for their business that’s from me as well as their child.
You probably have a pretty strong opinion along one of those lines of thought. But before you judge yourself and your own choices (or those of others) too strongly, remember that ALL three of those answers are perfectly valid reasons for Christmas projects. It just depends on what you are trying to accomplish.
So instead of saying things MUST be done a certain way, let’s turn the question around and ask a much more important question instead:
What are you trying to ACHIEVE from your Christmas art project?
I want to make a really special gift for the parents
If this is your goal, then it is worth spending a bit of time researching and preparing a nice idea. Hand prints and foot print projects on ceramic tiles will last forever and will be brought out by parents year after year. If you don’t have the budget for that, then there are lots of lovely handprint on paper designs that will also work well. If you laminate them, they will last in the attic and the parents will remember their child (and you) fondly each Christmas they take it out far into the future.
I want to promote my childminding business
If you want to promote your business, instead of a card, make a calendar and spend some time making it special so that the parents will put it up on their fridge for the whole year. I would recommend a picture that isn’t in Christmas colours if you are doing a calendar, because red and green glitter will look out of place in May and the parents might just take it down. Take some time to think about a really nice design that the parents will want to look at all year round, and help the children so the design is eye catching. This will remind the parents what a great childminder they chose for their child each time they look at the calendar on their fridge.
I want to impress Ofsted
The day you are being inspected is probably not the day to create your special gift for parents to treasure, or your calendar that will promote your childminding business. In general, I would recommend that you stay away from handprint art during your inspection because unless you’re really good at explaining the purpose of your handprint project (for example, you are doing a learning activity on counting to five, or are teaching children how to use scissors etc.) then, in general, hand print activities that require you to press the child’s hand into place and then to cut around the child’s hand, will not impress the Ofsted inspector. Time and again you hear of people being marked down at inspections for making the wrong sort of art project. This is not to say you should never do handprint art or display hand print art for the Ofsted inspector. Just make sure that you can explain the purpose behind your project.
I want to promote a specific area of learning and the Characteristic of Effective Learning: Active Learning
Lots of art projects you do with childminded children are ones where you set out purposely to make a specific project that you ultimately hope will at least vaguely resemble the model or idea you are copying. This snowman is an example from my EYFS Art Project CD where the point of the project is to teach the children about sizes and placement. They are asked to put the large circle at the bottom and the small circle on the top. This is quite a challenge for many EYFS children to understand the vocabulary and the concept of sizes. I also expected the children to sit still and concentrate long enough to finish the project they had started. WITH MY HELP, the two and half year old was able to produce this lovely snowman that she then felt very proud of. Without my guidance, she would probably have placed all three circles on top of each other and the buttons straight into her mouth! This would make an ideal project to send home to the parents if you want your present to highlight the focus on teaching and learning in your setting.
I want to show parents that everything we do here is child-led, promotes creativity and the Characteristic of Effective Learning: creating and thinking critically.
This is a perfectly valid reason to put out a tray of glitter and paint and glue and hope for the best. Don’t tut! Leaving children to do free play with these items could produce a masterpiece more beautiful than any idea you have copied for them off of Pinterest or Facebook and is a very important aspect of learning. Setting children loose to simply play with the art materials, exploring them for their own sake helps to build their creativity. It also helps them to explore their own ideas, to make links between ideas, to have their own ideas and to choose the best way to do something which promotes the COEL. However, it could also produce a piece of brown-smeared paper and a toddler wearing a bowl of glitter as a hat!
So looking back at my calendar family portrait again, if I’d gone into it with the right purpose in mind, it would have been perfect. It was a lovely project that focussed on Active Learning and exploring families. It just wasn’t what I felt was important at Christmas which is why I’d ended up feeling disappointed with it.
Don’t let this happen to you!
Whatever you decide for Christmas this year don’t let people on social media bully you into doing things their way. What you send home at Christmas is based on what you are trying to achieve from the project. Take a moment to consider the purpose behind your Christmas art projects so that YOU get the result you are aiming for.
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 the Kids To Go Characteristics of Effective Learning Pack for childminders.
About Kids To Go
Kids To Go was established in 2008. Products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, and best practice resources promoting diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare).
Is your childminding planning system simple and structured? Do you feel your plans are actually useful to your setting, or just another Ofsted chore? Keep the following in mind when you write your childminding plans:
If you feel you are wasting time with planning, then you probably are.
GOOD planning is not a waste of time. It shows parents that you are a childcare professional – not ‘just a babysitter’. Good planning helps you to stay organised, ensures that you are providing a balanced and varied experience for the children you look after, and that you have the resources you need to offer the experiences you have planned.
Don’t overcomplicate things or you won’t be able to use your system.
Whatever system you are using for your planning needs to be usable by you every single week. The more complicated you make it, then the less likely you will be to use your own system. If the system you are using currently feels too complicated for you to maintain, then it may be time to try a new system.
Involve the children and the parents in writing plans for your setting.
Ofsted loves it when children are involved in the planning for your setting. It’s great to ask older children to help think of activities for younger ones. It’s also nice to ask parents what activities or themes they might like you to explore with their children. Getting parents involved in celebrating festivals that are relevant to the children in your care (like planning to celebrate Diwali if you look after a Hindu child) allows you to tick off the ‘diversity’ and ‘parent communication’ boxes in one seriously-Ofsted-impressing-activity that everyone will enjoy!
Plan to do something NEW this year.
Planning new things is a great way to keep yourself fresh and to keep things interesting for the children too. You might want to celebrate a festival like Diwali or Easter or Eid that you’ve never celebrated before? My free 2019 Diversity Calendar could inspire you? Or teach the children about stranger danger, or mini beasts using ideas from the Be Safe Be Healthy Pack. Whatever theme you are planning to do will require a little preparation on your part, so if you put it into your written planning then it is more likely to happen.
Your planning system needs to work for your whole setting AND for each individual child.
If the system you use works for your setting, but does not take into account the needs of different children in your setting, then your system needs a rethink. A planning system must work for your whole setting AND take into account the needs and interests of each individual child.
Learning and development observations must link into your planning.
Writing observations and next steps into your learning journeys is pointless if you don’t have a method to put those ideas into your planning. All of the ‘next steps’ you record in your learning journeys MUST link into whatever planning system you are using.
Get the right mix of planned activities and unstructured free-play time.
Children need daily opportunities for free play indoors and outdoors so that they can engage uninterrupted in activities that interest them. They also need you to organise learning activities and outings for them that address the different learning and development areas and characteristics of effective learning. Making monthly and weekly plans will help you to get the balance right.
What are your plans for improvements to your setting, and improvements to yourself this year?
Part of creating a year plan is to think about what new equipment, training and other resources you may want to buy for your setting this year. A formal list of this kind, made once a year, is a great way to make sure you think about your setting as a whole.
It’s also a great time of year to make plans for your own Continual Professional Development (CPD).
You might think about more training you would like to receive? You might think about getting training for special needs children or becoming a Forest Childcare Provider? All of these things directly benefit all of the children who attend your setting.
Your long term planning is a little like a performance review. It is a chance for you to take a step back and ask yourself what you do well in your setting and what could be improved. What could you buy or do differently that would help you to improve what you could offer? If you want to become a Forest Childcare Provider, for example, how would you work in weekly trips to your schedule? How would you make time? What special equipment (outdoor gear, reflective jackets, off-road buggy etc.) might you need?
Do you want help with planning for your setting?
Is the planning system you are currently using is too complicated? You may want to simplify things to make it easier for yourself? My Learning Journey Plus workbook takes you step by step through creating a workable, flexible and ongoing planning system for your setting. Use it to create a complete planning system from scratch or to fill in gaps and improve any system you are already using.
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Sign up for the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter using the orange sign up box on my website and I will send you best practice ideas, childminding news, EYFS tips, outstanding ideas, stories from other childminders, arts and crafts project templates, new products, and links.
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.
One of the saddest types comments we see are childminders who feel they were the ‘victims’ of a bad Ofsted inspection. “It wasn’t fair that she didn’t…” people will say. Or “she just didn’t understand that…” Horrible, unfair Ofsted inspections (like bad job interviews) do happen and when they do are you are well within your right to make a complaint. But don’t set yourself up to be a victim. With a bit of planning you can “manage” your Ofsted inspector and take control of your inspection so it goes the way you want it to.
Tip 1: Modesty has no place on your Self-Evaluation
If you want the Ofsted inspector to think your setting is outstanding, then don’t rate any sections of your practice ‘good’ or ‘requires improvement’ and hope that she will ‘read between the lines’ or realise that you want outstanding really but are being modest. People (including Ofsted inspectors) are very impressionable. If you tell your inspector that she can expect to see an outstanding setting, then she will come looking for excellence. Tell her you ‘require improvement’ and she will arrive looking for flaws.
Tip 2: Control those vital first impressions
Those first few moments when your Ofsted inspector arrives are crucial because she is using that time to form instantaneous impressions about you, your setting and your children. So, think carefully about how you will manage those first few minutes. As she walks through your front door which way will you lead her? Will you invite her to sit at your dining table or on the couch? Will you offer her a cup of tea? If she says yes, will you really leave her alone with the children while you make her one? What if she says no to the tea? Yikes! Remember that you are actually in control of this time. Like any guest she must be polite and respectful of your home, will follow where you lead her, and respond to your social prompts. It is your house, so you have the advantage here. Use it!
Tip 3: Don’t let the problem child mess this up for you
You can’t lock them in the shed when you see her car pull up for your inspection, (tempting though this may be!) so the best thing to do about ‘Problem Child’ is to make sure the inspector is aware right from the start that Alexander has ADHD/ has dad in jail/ is completely new to your setting etc. Call it to her attention so you can show how you are planning to ‘narrow their attainment gap’ to help them catch up with the other children as soon as possible.
Tip 4: Make sure you know what your local safeguarding procedures are
You KNOW how important safeguarding is. If you don’t know what to do if you suspect that a child in your setting has been abused then you are throwing her ammunition, she will definitely use against you. She won’t care how great your setting appears or anything else you’ve been doing if you appear in any way ignorant about safeguarding.
Tip 5: Clean and Tidy Your House
Does your push chair look like a biscuit barrel and your highchair look like a science experiment in growing mould? Does your fridge look like an E-coli outbreak just waiting to happen? These sorts of things make a really bad impression and are well within your control to get cleaned prior to your inspection.
Tip 6: Don’t wait to be asked about the great things you do
Don’t spend your inspection thinking, ‘I wish she’d ask me about this,’ or ‘why is she all focused on THIS thing, when I’ve been doing lots of THAT thing really well?’ If she doesn’t ask about something you are proud of, just bring it up. Under no circumstances should you allow her to leave until you have told her everything you wanted to! Plan how you will remind yourself about important things to tell her during the inspection even if it means sticking post it notes on your arms.
Tip 7: Prepare three structured activities
During your inspection your inspector will want to see you doing some structured activities with the children. Prepare three so you have more than you will probably need – under scrutiny of the inspector, you don’t want to seem stuck for ideas. While you are doing these activities, she will be watching you like a hawk and making judgements on everything you do from how you talk to the children, to what they are learning, to how well the children behave to you and each other. To avoid becoming a victim of ‘bad luck’ plan the activities you will do carefully and well. And read the Early Years Inspection Handbook which spells out exactly what the inspector is hoping to see from you.
Tip 8: Train the children
The earlier you start training the children to behave well for your inspection, the better it will go. If you want them to sit still for your structured activities, and eat a healthy snack, and put their own shoes on with the Ofsted Inspector watching then you need to train them how to do these things well in advance of your inspection.
Tip 9: Focus your attention on the children, not the inspector
She is most interested in how you interact with them. She won’t really care if you don’t offer her a chair. She will care if you forget to shut the safety gate because you are talking to her about your ratios or forget to wash the children’s hands before snack time because you are offering her a cup of tea. (Probably best to just forget the cup of tea).
Tip 10. Appear to know EVERYTHING about the children in your care
There is no excuse for you not to know each child’s development inside and out. You know that she is going to expect you to know this stuff, so make sure you do. You need to know those learning and development areas by heart so read documents like Development Matters. Don’t know the Characteristics of Effective Learning? That’s like handing her a loaded gun. Make sure you know your children’s starting points and review any written observations, planning and learning journeys that you do so that you can talk to the inspector about where each child you look after is in terms of his or her development, what you can expect them to do next, and most importantly how you are planning to help Problem Child to catch up with the nice, easy ones you look after.
Don’t become a victim of a bad Ofsted inspection! With careful planning you can take control of your day of judgement and help to manage your inspector so that she sees what you want her to see and gives you the grade you deserve.
For more tips and pointers including a Count Down to Your Ofsted Inspection Checklist, get your Ultimate Childminding Checklist for only £12.50 from the Kids To Go website today.
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