We are discussing the EYFS – 2 years on at the moment on the childminding forum - www.childmindingforum.co.uk. A group of new and established childminders are thinking about life before and after EYFS and considering its effect on our working practices and our lives in general.
The consensus seems to be that we are happy to have a clearly defined document to follow, which gives us a clear way of working and a set of standards we can embrace. Most childminders say that they enjoy using the EYFS and feel that is has raised outcomes for all children.
Some childminders comment that the EYFS has allowed them to work in much better partnership with other settings (the parent partnership requirements were already securely in place in most instances). However, working with other settings is made harder when the other settings are disinterested in hearing what the childminder has to say or when they treat the childminder as a babysitter.
Indeed, many childminders comment that many other early years professionals still see them as ‘babysitters’ rather than professionals on the same level. This makes childminders very frustrated as many have re-trained, taken courses and updated their knowledge with internet research (and buying my e-books!) so they can fulfil the EYFS requirements.
However, many childminders clearly have some grave concerns about the EYFS. These are mostly related around the amount of time it takes many childminders to fulfil the statutory and guidance requirements of the EYFS. Paperwork is usually only do-able in the evenings and at weekends due to caring for various ages of children during the day who need our constant attention. This means that family lives are suffering as a result.
Many childminders comment that they wish Ofsted were consistent about their expectations during the inspection process. There are outstanding childminders who do very little paperwork... while other childminders graded good have been told to improve their practice by doing more paperwork! Similarly the requirements of the EYFS say that the Self Evaluation Form (SEF) is not a statutory requirement, yet childminders are being told to improve by completing their SEF ready for their next inspection!
Many childminders have stories to tell about inconsistencies from Ofsted and I feel, having read all the comments, that this is the biggest worry for most... are they doing enough? Are they doing too much? What is enough and will 2 Ofsted inspectors ever agree on the subject?
It will be interesting to see what the Tickhill review of the EYFS throws up and whether the Government tells Ofsted to be more consistent about their expectations so that childminders can be trusted to carry on doing what we do best – play with children :-)