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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

What is new for childminders in the Sept 2019 Inspection Framework?

Lots of childminders have been asking for a guide to the September 2019 Inspection Framework. I have done my best in this article to wade through the new Ofsted jargon and pull out what I think are the most important points for childminders.

 

The Common Inspection Framework has been replaced with the Education Inspection Framework (EIF)

From Sept 2019, the Common Inspection Framework will be replaced by a new document called the Education Inspection Framework (EIF). This document needs to be read in conjunction with the updated version of the Early Years Inspection Handbook.

 

Be familiar with the new judgement areas

 

One key change to the structure of the Inspection Handbook document is the judgement areas. What was previously two separate areas ‘Teaching, learning and assessment’ and ‘outcomes’ is now combined into one new category: ‘quality of education’. What was previously ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ is now split into ‘behaviour and attitudes’ and ‘personal development’. Leadership and management remains the same.

 

Know what ‘curriculum’ you offer

The word ‘curriculum’ is central to the new Framework, so you need to be familiar with the term. In the Early Years your ‘curriculum’ in an ‘education’ sense is defined by the EYFS Statutory Framework – it is the seven areas of learning and development.

 

Have an idea of HOW you offer the EYFS curriculum in your setting and why you do what you do

You should be able to explain to an inspector broadly HOW you teach the children the seven Areas of Learning in your setting. Most childminders use a combination of adult-led learning (structured activities) and free play. You will also need to show that whatever type of curriculum you offer promotes the Characteristics of Effective Learning (COEL) which are important for turning children into good lifelong learners in school. You should be able to explain to an Ofsted inspector your choices in terms of what types of activities you do in your setting and why.

“Learn, Know and Do” is Ofsted’s new phrase. You must be able to explain to the Ofsted inspector what you hope that the children should be able to learn, know and do as a result of the EYFS curriculum you offer.

 

Be familiar with the idea of: “Intent – Implementation – Impact” and how this relates to the ‘quality of education’ you offer

Across all seven areas of learning and development, when you plan anything for the children, you should have a purpose, your ‘intent’ for what the children should learn from what you are planning. You then ‘implement’ the activity by doing it. After you have finished the activity you should be able to evaluate the ‘impact’ that the activity had on the children’s learning and development.

An easy example might be getting out a jigsaw puzzle. Your ‘intent’ in planning a jigsaw activity is to promote early maths skills. Doing the jigsaw is how you are ‘implementing’ the idea of ‘promoting maths skills’. After you have finished doing the jigsaw you should ask yourself what ‘impact’ the activity had on the children. In other words, you should be able to identify what the children learned from the jigsaw activity and how you would build on the jigsaw with further maths activities.

A more complex example might be a child you have established as being poor at sharing toys. Your ‘intent’ is to find ways to help the child to become better at sharing. To ‘implement’ this, you decide to plan a series of craft activities over the next six months that will specifically require the child to share craft items in a safe, supervised setting where you can intervene when the child forgets to share. After six months it would be important to ask yourself what ‘impact’ these craft activities have had on the child’s learning in this area and see if what you have been doing has worked, or if you need to come up with a new plan.

This is really nothing different to what you have been doing already with the observation – assessment – planning cycle. But you need to be familiar with the new terms: ‘Intent – Implementation – Impact’ because the Ofsted inspector will use them at your inspection.

Let me also stress that you do not need to write any of this down if you don’t want to. As long as you are able to explain this to an Ofsted inspector and demonstrate how you are involving parents in your plans and making it clear what they should be doing at home to help their child, you don’t need to write it down if you don’t want to.

In summary, for every activity you plan:

  • Decide what the children you look after need to learn and develop (intent)
  • Deliver this so that the children make progress in the seven areas of learning (implementation)
  • Ask yourself how you will know if what you planned to deliver was successful? What can the children do now or know that they couldn’t before as a result of what you planned? (impact)

 

Think how you will tell your Ofsted inspector about how you teach children without showing them piles of ‘data’

Do not be surprised if your inspector no longer wants to look at your learning journeys or planning documents. They have been clear that they do not want to see a paperwork mountain. But if you are doing a ‘dinosaurs’ theme with the children when your inspector visits, for example, you should be able to explain out loud your ‘Intent’ of doing dinosaurs as a theme. In other words, what Areas of Learning and which COEL are you hoping to promote through studying this theme? She may also ask you how you are ‘Implementing’ your theme? You might be using dinosaur books, colouring pages, planning a day trip to the science centre, making a craft activity, and playing a dino-bones counting game. You should also be able to explain how you will measure what ‘impact’ the activities had on the children once you are finished.

I think that many childminders will find a quick written sketch of what you are planning and why will help you to stay focussed and be honest with yourself about what worked and what didn’t. Notes in the form of a written plan can help you to keep track of what you did so you can see what worked and what you’d want to change next time. But the key point Ofsted has stressed is that you should only do written planning if it is helpful to YOU. Your inspector will probably not look at it.

 

Plan your “Learning Walk” – your opportunity to show off what you do

When your inspector arrives in your setting, this is your opportunity to ‘wow’ them by taking them on a ‘learning walk’ (new Ofsted word) around your playroom and show them what you do. A learning walk relates specifically to education, so they don’t want a tour of your house, they want a tour of what you teach.

Suppose you have been studying dinosaurs (as in the example above) and you want your inspector to know this. One way would be to put up a display on your wall of your dinosaur theme activities – showing the children engaged in different activities that promote the different areas of learning. Another way would be to set up a “dig for dinosaur bones” invitation to play in your play tray and this would be a perfect activity for the children to be doing when your inspector arrives. She will see your display, your themed activity and later on you will sit down and read a Harry and the Dinosaurs book. Remember that you should be able to explain the learning goals of the activities you have planned within the theme, but you do not have to write this down if you prefer not to.  

 

Be familiar with the term ‘cultural capital’

All children come to your setting with different skills to each other. You need to be aware of a child’s strengths and weaknesses and plan activities to help address the weaknesses. How you plan your curriculum to enhance the opportunities you give to children especially the most disadvantaged is very important. I have written more about what cultural capital means to childminders in this article.

 

Be prepared for your inspector to want to question you while you do an activity at your inspection

This is not new but often takes people by surprise who have prepared folders of paperwork for their inspection that isn’t then needed. Your inspector may want to observe your children with you and discuss their learning, progress and behaviour as part of the activities the children are engaged in. She will then ASK you what the child learned and furthermore how you intend to build on the activity so that the child makes progress. She is more likely to do this than to ask to see your learning journeys. If you have assistants, you should be prepared for her to question them at the same level to prove you are training your staff properly.

Making learning journeys remains an important way to practice formally observing children and planning next steps for them. In my opinion it is also a nice way to share that information with parents. So please don’t throw your learning journeys into the bin!

 

If you want to show that you are offering good ‘quality of education’ you need to check that the curriculum you plan:

  • Is ambitious and sufficiently challenging
  • Includes everybody you childmind for including children with SEND
  • Increases the Cultural Capital of the children
  • Prepares children for being lifelong learners in school
  • Covers all seven areas of learning and development
  • Includes assessment of where the children are relative to the development milestones in Development Matters
  • Has a big focus on reading

 

‘Behaviour and attitudes’ and ‘personal development’ are things that help children’s life chances

The key points about these two judgement sections is that not much has really changed in terms of what Ofsted hopes to see you doing from what you did previously. They’ve split the sections up but haven’t really changed the content much.

You still need to be able to explain to the inspector how you help the children you look after to succeed in life and become good citizens of the future. Whereas the ‘quality of education’ focusses mainly on the learning and development areas of the EYFS, these two judgements focus more on the COEL plus welfare requirements of the EYFS like promoting healthy eating, physical exercise and self-care with a new emphasis on potty training. Make sure you are planning activities that actively promote the COEL and that you can recognise what these are when children display them.

The COEL really are more important than ever.

 

Be prepared for the inspector to actually want to speak to your parents at your inspection

Lastly I want to call your attention to a new section under how the inspector intends to ‘gather evidence’ at your inspection from talking to parents themselves. So do not be surprised if your inspector actually plans her visit around speaking to your parents!

Those are the key new points of new Education Inspection Framework and Early Years Inspection Handbook. You need to read these documents and make sure that you are following the new guidelines, especially if you are being inspected any time soon. From September onwards anything in this article is fair game!

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

Should you give childminded children homework to support learning at home?

It is an EYFS requirement that childminders “must seek to engage and support parents in guiding their child’s development at home.” Ofsted inspectors take this requirement very seriously. In fact, many childminders miss out on outstanding by overlooking this and comments like “Although the childminder works well in partnership with parents, she has not developed highly effective systems to share information with parents about how they can continue to support their child’s learning at home” often appear on inspection reports.

Parents have mixed reactions to the idea of ‘structured activities’ and ‘homework’. Some love it and want more of it. Others don’t feel it is appropriate. In deciding what to do with your children and families, you need to look carefully at your families and at what you are trying to achieve in your setting.

 

Your attitude to what you are sending home is crucial to engaging both the parents and children

The amount and type of activities you offer as suggestions to parents is going to be important and depend very much on what YOUR parents will do. An activity could be as simple as loaning a book to parents once a week to match a theme you are exploring in your setting, or could involve you ‘assigning’ activity sheets (like the colouring pages or maths sheets from my Childminding Best Practice Monthly Packs) for example.

When I used to take the children to music club once a week, as we left we were handed a colouring page. This colouring page was different from ‘ordinary colouring pages’ because the ‘Teddies Guitar Lady’ had given it to us to do. We took that colouring page very much more seriously than others we might do during the week that followed. So if you establish these assigned colouring pages, toys or reading books as important and as things to be taken seriously, then parents and children are more likely to treat them as such.

 

Why send things home?

I think it is important to be clear in your own mind WHY you are sending things home with parents. You don’t want to feel that you are wasting your time or the parents’ time or being unreasonable. So have a clear ‘purpose’ about what you are trying to achieve whether it is helping parents out, linking learning in their home with what you are learning in your setting, or getting children (and parents) ready for school. Remember that if you want parents to take it seriously and if you want them to do your ‘assignments’ with their children then you need to take yourself (and the activities) seriously as well.

 

Share ‘tip sheets’ and other tools to help parents support specific aspects of their child’s learning and development at home

One of the best types of activities to send home are activities that a parent can use to help a child on a particular learning goal he is working towards at that time. Suppose a child is working on tying his shoes. It would be fantastic to send him home with one of those wooden shoes with practice shoelaces on them. Suppose a child is just learning how to use scissors? Then a simple art project that requires him to cut something out would be perfect.

A big thing for any parent is potty training? Could you create a ‘tip sheet’ for parents – helping them to reinforce some of the ways you do things here? ‘I noticed that your child is ready for potty training. Here are some tips…’ You could send the sheet home along with a friendly children’s book about potty training that week for the parents to read at home.

Remember that all of these types of activities, suggestions and information you share with parents make you appear to be more and more of a childcare professional in their eyes.

 

‘Narrowing the gap’

According to the Ofsted publication Teaching and Play in the Early Years – a balancing act? “Children from poor backgrounds are much less likely to experience a rich and rewarding home learning environment than children from better off backgrounds.” Research suggests that good partnership working gives parents confidence to help with teaching their children. Sending things home to children from disadvantaged backgrounds is also important because you are helping to prepare the parents as much as the children for ‘doing homework’ ready for school.

Ofsted states that The best settings were acting to break any possibility of an inter-generational cycle of low achievement… the most effective providers go out of their way to engage with parents who may themselves have had a bad experience of education.”

 

Offering challenges to children who are ahead

At the other end of the spectrum you can send home activities to show how you are ‘challenging children who are ahead’. Their parents may love the idea that you are helping them to get ready for school and will treat your assignments with all the seriousness we used to treat our Teddies Music Club colouring pages!

 

Give careful consideration to the frequency of home learning suggestions

How often should you lend books to children and expect them to do activity sheets and sit down with their child to do a jigsaw type activity? This is a difficult question because it depends very much on the type of parent and on your relationship with the parent. Some may be very receptive to the idea while others simply can’t be bothered to take the time. Others may feel strongly that they actually don’t want their small child given anything resembling a school worksheet. You have to respect parents’ wishes here whatever you may feel.

 

Don’t overdo the paperwork you expect parents to fill in – if you overdo it, parents won’t do any of it

I know that it is tempting to want the parents to document every little activity you do so that you have ‘proof for the Ofsted inspector’, but this can seriously backfire and I don’t recommend it. If you want parents to fill in a long form every time you lend them a book or a game, then they will quickly (very quickly) get bored of doing ALL parts of the task. They will see the form and decide that they can’t face the jigsaw because they can’t be bothered to fill the form and will return both unused. Ask yourself if you really need to make them fill in a form or if there is some other way you can document what you are doing for Ofsted? If you must use a form, remember to keep it simple for parents to fill in, or they will vote with their feet and abandon all of your homework ideas as too much work.

 

What sort of thing should you send home?

Some childminders lend children everyday toys. Others keep a few things special, just to be used for home sharing. Some examples of the sorts of things other childminders send home to support learning at home are:

  • A reading book – chosen by the child, or to support a theme you are exploring
  • Story sacks
  • Nursery rhyme sacks
  • Story stones
  • A group toy to be looked after for the weekend
  • Colouring pages
  • ‘Worksheets’ or activity sheets
  • Maths games and jigsaw puzzles
  • Pre-prepared art kit with child sized scissors, glue stick and crayons etc

There are lots of ways that you can support children’s learning at home and it is up to you and parents how far you want to push the idea of ‘homework from my childminder’. So much depends on the types of parents, ages and stages of the children you are looking after, but the more seriously and regularly you take your home learning plan, the more seriously the parents will take it and the more benefit to everyone there will be. If you don’t have a home learning plan for your setting, why not write one today?

Remember to take yourself seriously and aim high!

Good luck with whatever you decide to do. 

 

Communication with Parents Pack

My NEW Communication with Parents Pack includes tools to help you to create a home learning plan for your setting, plus details suggestions on specific ways you can support learning at home. The pack includes information for new childminders setting up and for experienced childminders hoping to achieve outstanding.

Pack includes:

  • Supporting learning at home
  • Attracting new parents to your setting – improving your marketing skills to get new parents to contact you, your unique selling points, WOW factors, managing the ‘first visit’
  • Audit your setting to improve what you do
  • Sharing challenging information about their child’s learning and development with parents in a tactful way
  • Parent and child questionnaires
  • Letter templates for challenging situations – late payment, late collection, unhealthy lunches, terminating your contract with a family
  • Transition programme

Use the tools in my new pack to examine what is working well and what needs to be improved in terms of how you communicate with parents.

 

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

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.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

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, 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.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

10 things childminders should always do when communicating with parents

Young children flourish best when parents and childminders work well together and form a ‘partnership’ but as all childminders know, some parents are easier to work with than others. Keep these 10 simple things in mind when you reflect on how you communicate with your parents.

 

1. However you may be feeling, SMILE when people come through the door every time.

Good body language makes such a difference to face to face communication. Make sure all parents get a warm and genuine greeting. Make time to listen to each parent and use ACTIVE listening skills. When you are handing over their child, you shouldn’t be packing up boxes, or tidying at the same time. When you are talking with a parent, give them eye contact and your full attention, just for a few minutes.

 

2. Show ALL parents that your setting welcomes diversity

diversity awareness logoMake sure that your resources and displays represent the ethnic, cultural and social diversity in your community and ensure that parents can see their own family background and culture represented in your wall displays. Most importantly, learn to pronounce parents’ names correctly.

 

3. Make everybody feel welcome including fathers

Stereotypical views of childcare as women’s work can make childcare feel like a no-go area for some fathers. Go out of your way to make fathers feel welcome. If you invite parents to do activities at your setting, make sure these activities are for ‘parents’ not ‘mums’.

 

4. Use whatever forms of communication work best for the parents, not for you

Communication takes many different forms and as a childminder in a modern age you need to be flexible. What works well for one parent, may not work well for another. And don’t forget fathers. They may prefer different communication methods than mothers. Ask parents about what form of communication they would prefer and try to do whatever works best for them.

 

5. Always get a written contract in place

Always get a written contract with parents because this sets the right tone for your “business” relationship right from the very start. Even if you are childminding your best friend’s little girl (in fact, especially if you are minding for a friend) make sure you get a contract because this is a business arrangement that is outside of your friendship. A contract in writing protects everyone from later misunderstandings.

 

6. Establish yourself as a ‘friendly professional’ NOT a friend

It is entirely up to you what ‘tone’ you establish with the parents of the children you look after but if you become their “friend”, it can be hard to have serious discussions about late payment or their child’s problematic behaviours later on. Instead, if you set yourself up to be a friendly professional, then you have established the necessary boundaries you may find helpful later on.

 

7. Make sure that the parent always has the impression that you are happy to talk longer with them if they need to

Sometimes an issue is too big to discuss in your doorway, especially if there are other parents around or the child is listening in. In this case, don’t try to rush it, ask the parent “when can we talk more formally” and tell them you will be in touch to arrange a time by email or text message later on.

 

8. Have two bulletin boards

Many childminders have overflowing bulletin boards full of all sorts of curling paperwork that no one except the Ofsted inspector ever needs to see. The clutter of paper makes it impossible for anybody to read the important messages hidden between the rubbish.

One way to handle this is to have TWO bulletin boards: an Ofsted inspector bulletin board with all the paperwork you have to display for legal reasons like your registration certificate and the parent poster AND a totally separate Parent Information Board on which you put things you actually want parents to see like your weekly plan of activities, menus and your holiday chart.

 

9. Invite parents into your setting for an event

Parents can make a valuable contribution to all the children’s learning by sharing their time, experiences and talents. If their home culture is different to yours inviting a parent to do an activity with you could even be a fabulous diversity activity for everyone. Hold a special event and invite parents to join you for the afternoon. 

 

10. Give parents clear ideas of how they can support learning at home

The best way to help a child in the long run is to help his parents because parents are the most important influences in a child’s life. Give lots of specific help and encouragement to parents whenever you can, give them tools to support their child’s learning at home, and take extra time to help more vulnerable parents.

 

Communication with Parents Pack

My NEW Communication with Parents Pack includes a communications audit that you can use to examine what is working well and what you need to improve. Pack challenges you to think about how parents want to FEEL when they choose a childminder and includes information for new childminders setting up and for experienced childminders hoping to achieve outstanding

Pack includes:

  • Supporting learning at home
  • Attracting new parents to your setting – improving your marketing skills to get new parents to contact you, your unique selling points, WOW factors, managing the ‘first visit’
  • Audit your setting to improve what you do
  • Sharing challenging information about their child’s learning and development with parents in a tactful way
  • Parent and child questionnaires
  • Letter templates for challenging situations – late payment, late collection, unhealthy lunches, terminating your contract with a family
  • Transition programme

Use the tools in my new pack to examine what is working well and what needs to be improved in terms of how you communicate with parents.

 

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

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.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

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, 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.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

10 Mistakes Childminders make on Parent Questionnaires

Sending out parent questionnaires is something that many childminders do. They are a great way to prove in writing that you are ‘communicating with parents’ and seeking their views about ways to improve your service.

But have you asked yourself WHY you are sending them? What is their purpose? What are you trying to achieve from the paperwork you are sending home and parents are spending their evenings diligently filling in?

Many childminders are making these mistakes on their parent questionnaires. Are you?

 

1. Asking “yes” or “no” questions

Questions on parent questionnaires need to be open-ended, otherwise you are unlikely to gather any useful information from the parent. If you send home a list of statements asking the parent to circle yes/no or true/false then a yes or no answer is all the information you will find out. How are yes/no answers meaningful?

For example, suppose you ask a parent:

  • Are you happy with the quality of food I provide? Yes/No
  • Do you feel that I am helping your child to be ready for school? Yes/No

Then you force them to circle either a yes or a no. What have you learned from those answers? Nothing helpful at all.

Here are open-ended versions of the same questions:

  • How satisfied are you with the quality of the food and snacks I provide? Is there any way I could improve this?
  • Is there anything more you wish I would do here to help to prepare your child for school

You will learn a lot more from asking open ended questions than you would ever learn from closed ones.

 

childminding paperwork2. Doing parent questionnaires for the Ofsted inspector

Only use parent questionnaires if you really plan to use them to improve your business. While they are a great way to prove in writing that you are communicating with parents, please keep in mind that they take up not only a lot of parents’ time, but your time too. If you are just doing them to stick them in a file to show Ofsted then you are completely wasting everybody’s time. The Ofsted inspector doesn’t care that you have stacks of paperwork – they care about how you are gathering the views of others and acting on suggestions for improvement.

 

3. Not reading what the parents have written

I heard of a childminder who was marked down at an inspection because she couldn’t read the questionnaire a parent had completed in front of the inspector. The childminder couldn’t make out the parent’s handwriting and thought it was unfair. But seriously?  What is the point of asking the parent to fill it out if you can’t read what they say and don’t care enough about their answer to bother asking them to clarify? 

 

4. Asking questions you don’t care about the answers to

For every question you write on your parent questionnaire, ask yourself: what am I going to DO with the answer I receive? If the answer is ‘NOTHING’ then don’t ask the question. Only ask questions that you care about the answers to. Only ask questions that matter and those with potential solutions.

 

5. Making questionnaires too long

Parents are busy. Really busy. Just like you. They do not have time to fill in pages and pages of pointless forms for their childminder. Parents will feel that they are doing you a favour by filling in your questionnaire. They are doing something to help you. So you should treat their time and effort with respect by not taking up too much of it, by taking a genuine interest in their answers, by responding positively to any criticism you receive and by not expecting them to write too much or too often.

 

6. Sending questionnaires home too frequently

For exactly the same reasons as above, as well as making them too long, don’t send them home too frequently. If you want parents to fill in your forms properly, then about once a year is really the maximum frequency you can expect meaningful responses from busy parents.

 

7. Taking suggestions for improvements poorly

In business one of the BEST things that people can do is to complain to you about something. If one person complains directly to you, it is an opportunity for you to fix a problem that is probably affecting other people too. Sometimes it can be hard getting negative feedback. Try to remember that honest, negative feedback given directly to you is better than parents spreading rumours and complaining behind your back.

 

8. Filing them away without acting on anything

If parents take the time to fill in your questionnaire, it is important not just to read them but to have in place a procedure to act on the changes they suggest. Perhaps you have a self-evaluation document you can use? How will you hold yourself accountable for making the change?

 

9. Not feeding back to parents about changes you have made as a result of their suggestions

Make sure you have a method in place to show that you are acting on any problems, changes or things that need improvement that your questionnaires raise – one idea is to have a ‘You asked, We did’ board for example. If parents take the time to comment and suggest improvements they will be flattered that you listened and changed something as a result of something they suggested. This will make the parents feel happy and is a very professional way to treat people!

 

10. Not asking for the children’s opinions as well

The last thing that many childminders do with parent questionnaires is to have a small section on them to gather the children’s opinions as well. I think the best way to do this is to ask the parents to speak to their children and to write what they say. Think very carefully about the types of questions you want answers to from the children. Like the parents there is no point in asking the question if you have no intention of using the answers they have provided to make useful changes.

 

Used properly, parent questionnaires can be a great way to show that you are communicating with parents and acting on suggestions for improvements given by others. Remember to treat everyone’s time and effort with respect by not taking up too much of it, by taking a genuine interest in parents’ answers, by responding positively to any criticism you receive and by not overusing questionnaires.

 

Communication with Parents Pack

My NEW Communication with Parents Pack includes tools to help you to improve how you communicate with parents including sample open ended parent and child questionnaires you can use for your setting. Pack also includes how to extend learning at home, working in partnership in difficult situations, your transition programme, marketing your services and sample late payment and contract termination letters. 

 

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

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.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

 

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, 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.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

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