Friday, 30 November 2012

Childminding paperwork - less or more?

Nursery World online, 27 November 2012

I wrote the following letter in response to a recent article in Nursery World Magazine about how much documentation childminders need to be doing to record children’s learning and development.

The article to which I was responding suggested that we could keep information about children’s learning and development in our heads and share it with Ofsted and parents verbally… this is a very dangerous (in my opinion) suggestion because it pre-supposes that childminders are confident and able to verbalise clearly everything they do with children, children’s starting points and observations, assessments and individual planning, evidence of children making progress and much more… and have lots of time to spend chatting to the inspector - at the expense, one imagines, of showing them how wonderfully we interact with the children!

My inspector didn't want to talk to me until near the end of her visit - she wanted to watch and listen. If I hadn't been able to give her comprehensive written information about all aspects of my provision I shudder to think how I might have been graded.

I asked childminder colleagues for comments so I could present a balanced view.

I hope you find it interesting :)

Policy and Politics

We need more - not less!

Sarah Neville, 27 November 2012, 3:34pm

Nancy Stewart's To the Point article - ' A hostage to paperwork?' (12 - 25 November) made interesting reading. I have been an Ofsted registered childminder for 19 years and I have been graded outstanding twice. While this does not make me an expert in all things EYFS I do feel that I speak for a lot of childminders who are a little alarmed that such a well respected early years writer is advocating we discard our written evidence of a child's learning and development progression and keep it all in our heads.

I wonder if Ms Stewart has read either the Ofsted ‘Evaluation Schedule’ for inspections (Ofsted document 120086) or any of the recently written Ofsted inspection reports which appear to be requiring childminders to provide more, rather than less evidence, of children’s progress towards the Early Learning Goals?

We only need to think about the poor childminder who was recently told in her inspection report to ask parents if they want a short or long summary of their child’s learning (quoted from a recent inspection report) to recognise that Ofsted inspectors are not fully embracing the ‘less is more’ ethos of new EYFS 2012. Ms Stewart suggests that paperwork should only be produced ‘which is absolutely necessary to promote children’s successful learning and development’. Yet here is just one example of an inspector asking childminders for more - rather than less - documentation!

What is ‘absolutely necessary’ we ask ourselves? I have spoken to a number of childminders and their views vary. Here is a sample of those views:

‘I actually think Nancy Stewart’s article is a little patronising. I think she is be-littling those who choose to do planning, in-depth Learning Journeys etc. I actually take great pride in my planning, observations, Learning Journeys etc, and know the parents of my little ones appreciate it.’

‘There is no need to produce elaborate documentation - however, to meet the requirements of the EYFS 2012 we do need to ensure we are producing enough paperwork to show children are progressing well towards the Early Learning Goals because this is what Ofsted are grading us against.’

‘I found at my last inspection that the inspector asked me questions which I couldn't answer in full because we were in the garden and a child wanted to go down the slide, so I thought I had better stand nearby and I didn't get a chance to explain my answer properly. Maybe if I had had more evidence in my planning folder of equal opportunities and diversity and celebrations I wouldn't have needed to worry.’

‘I go to pieces at inspection - if it’s not written down then I don’t stand a hope of selling myself effectively. We are not nurseries where other staff can get on with looking after the children while we talk to an inspector - we have to do it all’.

‘A lot of people have been dong a lot of completely unnecessary paperwork for the last four years’.

There are many other considerations as well with the revised EYFS and new style inspections. For example, there is a big focus on sharing information with parents and supporting children to learn at home in the EYFS 2012. I would like to ask Ms Stewart how childminders might show evidence of achieving this if they do not have written evidence of parents comments being used to guide future planning and feed into the children’s time in the provision. Ofsted inspectors will rarely arrive at 7.30 or 8am to chat to parents - who will be rushing off to work and unable to give comprehensive replies anyway - so one wonders where they will gather this evidence if it is not documented.

Plus, of course, the EYFS 2012 asks childminders to provide even more documentation than the 2008 version. We have to write a two- year progress check… we are told we must plan ‘educational programmes’ for the children and show how these impact on children’s outcomes… we must use the characteristics of effective learning to make judgements about how children learn… all this before we start thinking about providing evidence of self evaluation, continuous professional development and the essential paperwork needed to ensure we are meeting the Safeguarding and Welfare requirements of the EYFS.

There are then those childminders who fall apart during inspection like my colleague above and many others. These childminders are unable to verbalise how they observe, assess and plan for the children’s needs because they are too busy trying to focus on the children themselves - who are busy playing up because they know their childminder is nervous and there is a visitor in the house. For these childminders written documentation is essential as it provides evidence of how they work.

I agree with my colleagues - elaborate documentation is not necessary. However, in order to meet all the requirements of the EYFS 2012 I do feel that throwing the baby out with the bathwater is a dangerous suggestion. Perhaps Ms Stewart should instead direct her comments at Ofsted inspectors rather than beleaguered childminders with a focus on the final statement in her article ‘every Ofsted inspector needs to let go of the insistence on a paper trail’.

Sarah Neville is a childminder in Knutsford, Cheshire

Friday, 23 November 2012

A quick overview of EYFS planning for childminders

I have received more messages asking for help with planning than anything else recently, so I thought I would take this opportunity to share some information here on my blog where lots of people will see it…

Annual planning - make a calendar and add birthdays, special events eg Christmas in Dec, Easter in April etc and themes if you want to organise them for the older children - get them involved and saying what they want to do.
E-book 22 ‘Celebrations Calendar’ is updated annually and it contains hundreds of ideas for long term / annual planning through the year. It is only £2.99 from my Knutsford Childminding website - updates are free, you just need to ask me for them!

Medium term - my medium term planning is in a big file, sorted in month order - pulled out of magazines and taken from the internet and written by me over 19 years of childminding. I don't link medium term to the areas of learning and development of the EYFS - I just make sure in my head that I have lots of activity ideas across all areas of learning.

Medium term planning is not about spending hours putting together complex plans which you will not use because the children’s interests have changed. It is about knowing in your head what you are going to do and planning for the activities by eg shopping for resources, making some notes, thinking ahead etc.

My medium terms planning for December for example -
• A December themed e-book I wrote a few years ago (e-book 8 on my website - £3.99) to dip into - it is full of activity ideas
• Some ideas from a magazine I write for - Child Care - it’s very good!
• A box of crafts left over from last year including wrapping paper, stickers, glittery things etc.
• Colouring pictures ready to download from websites like Activity Village, DLTK and similar sites - we have some children who are very visual learners and love colouring - others are sensory learners and will probably turn the pictures into collages
• A December crafts and song book written last year for gold members which I will print and use
• Our winter / Christmas themed books which I put away each January so they are fresh and exciting for the children
• I've gone through the Crafty Crocodiles website with the children and they have written their order - plus I have a few creative bits they haven't seen yet to keep it fresh and exciting for them
• The online magazine Essential Childminder has lots of crafty ideas
• 'Make your own' cards for the children to create and a few gift ideas for parents
• I took a photo of last years’ December / winter themed display and treasure basket before we deconstructed it so we can make one again with help from the older children
• I have been collecting photos through the year so the children can make a calendar for their parents
• Cinnamon is on the shopping list to make some playdough - lots of maths opportunities if the children make their own
• A pile of Christmas magazines (the free ones from the supermarkets) which we will cut up to make a festive food display
• Some recipes - the children will cook one Christmas themed food item each week
• I was inspired the other day by a lovely set of activity sheets Mini Minders had made (it's on FB if you do a search) and made my own active children booklet which can also be coloured by the older children or printed and used to play matching games.

When we start Dec activities next month I will hopefully be ready... I will dip into my medium term planning as and when it is needed... I will tailor it to meet the needs of the different children. I have 9 children through the week including quite a few older ones so I've done rather a lot - you might get away with doing a lot less depending on how many children you have in your group.

Short term - this is taken from medium term planning and linked / differentiated to suit the interests of each child plus a few group activities which everyone will enjoy -
• John likes playdough so we plan to make playdough baubles and other decorations with him. We will add glitter and make it with Christmas smells for a sensory experience.
• Jane is into wrapping up her dollies so we plan to give her the opportunity to wrap some presents.
• Janet is a baby and loves treasure baskets so we will make sure the choking tube is used to check contents are safe for her
• All the children are going to be involved in cooking, crafts etc

Short term planning is written for the children shortly before, during and after the week or so you are following it. You have your medium term ideas and you are tailoring them to the children's interests... I link the short term planning in which each child has participated to the EYFS areas of learning and development and make sure they have experienced a range of activities through the weeks.

If any areas of learning are missing from their planning I will look again at how I can enhance their experiences. However, I do not get hung up on it because I know that their daily routines cover most of the areas of learning before I even start writing any extra planning.

I hope you find this overview useful. Please ask me if you have any questions.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Ofsted Self Evaluation Form - SEF

The Ofsted Self Evaluation Form (SEF) has been updated.

From NOW - October 2012 - all childminders will need to log into their Government Gateway site and check that all their previously input information has been moved to the right places by Ofsted, delete Ofsted's 'we have been here' message and take this opportunity to review and update their SEF.

To help you with updating your SEF, I have completely re-written my SEF guide e-book!

As with all of my updates for the revised EYFS (2012), my new SEF e-book is available FREE to previous purchasers - please send me your purchase details in an email - - and we will send you your free update as quickly as possible.

If you are new to self evaluation, you can buy e-book 18 'SEF Guide' from my Knutsford Childminding website - £4.99.

The contents are as follows...

Chapter 1 - Completing the SEF
This chapter gives a detailed break down of each section of the new Ofsted Self Evaluation Form (SEF) with suggestions for what you might write in answer to each question.

Chapter 2 - Evidencing Improvement
It is essential that you use your SEF as part of your action plan to improve your business and ways of working. I have included some good practice advice for various areas of your provision.

Chapter 3 - Ofsted Inspections and Reports
I have focussed on how Ofsted are conducting inspections, how they will grade childminders, what judgements they are using, what new style inspection reports are saying etc to support you through your inspection.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Sarah x

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Mobile phone and camera policy - childminders

EYFS requirement 3.4 Child Protection states (among other things) -
‘The safeguarding policy and procedures must cover the use of mobile phones and cameras in the setting.’

The EYFS does not say that cameras and mobile phones must not be used in childminding provisions, regardless of advice from some Local Safeguarding Children Boards. In fact, Ofsted state that ‘The intention in the EYFS is not to make communication difficult but ensure that mobile phones are only used when essential and you are not distracted by them when caring for children. ‘

Writing your policy - things you might need to include

Advice from Ofsted states that this requirement is in place because of the misuse of photographs and mobile phones in some childcare settings which led to children being abused. You should keep this in mind when writing your policy.

In your policy should consider talking about…

• How you use your mobile phone to make and take essential phone calls during the working day. Explain to parents that it is essential you have a mobile phone as it is the way they can best contact you in an emergency.

o If your mobile phone is used to record children’s progress - some childminders use software on their IPhones for example - then this must also be discussed.

o If you use your mobile phone to store parents / emergency contact numbers so they are available when you go on outings, inform parents about this and explain how you do everything possible to keep your mobile phone safe and the information stored on it secure so their details are not misused.

• How you use your camera (digital camera or phone camera) to take photos of children which are shared with parents to show evidence of their learning and development and for display to help them feel part of the provision.

• How you protect photos is you send them over the internet - for example by email - to parents or absent parents.

• How you ensure children are safeguarded eg how photos are -

o Used - Learning Journey booklets, daily diary, displays in the house, training courses, on the internet to advertise your business - only say what is relevant to you here!

o Appropriate - children are properly dressed; photos do not show intimate views of children etc.

o Stored - on memory sticks, cloud / online storage, CDs to give parents at Christmas (eg), password protected folder on your computer etc.

o Deleted - when no longer needed.

o Printed - on a dedicated printer or using other digital photo printers in a shop or online.

• Who might see photos of childminded children eg Ofsted, local authority development workers, the child’s parent / carer, Local Safeguarding Children Board if there is a safeguarding concern.

• How you manage children’s use of mobile phones, cameras and photos eg if an older child brings a mobile phone to the provision which also has a camera.

• How you relate concerns about photos to parents eg if a child’s parent takes a photo of a group of children or brings their mobile phone on your premises.

• How you relate concerns about photos to other childminders, visitors to your premises etc and manage any incidents where they might take or use photos of childminded children.

• How you monitor your own children’s use of mobile phones and cameras during working hours - and, for example, the phone and camera use of any friends they invite to your house after school.

• Your procedure for requesting written permission from parents / carers to take and use photos of their children.

• How you aim to keep your mobile phone and camera safe - in the house, garden and on outings to ensure any photos of children and data about families is kept secure.

• Registration with the Information Commissioners Office as a data handler because you take, store and retain digital photos of children.

• How your whistleblowing policy includes the use and misuse of cameras and mobile phones - if you work with assistants or a co-childminder.

• You might also need to discuss other devices which link to the internet and might be used to take photos eg IPods, laptops with cameras attached etc as these might potentially pose a risk.

Some childminders are using this policy as a way of reminding parents that their child’s stories about their day are more important than the mobile phone call which they are taking as they walk up the drive!

An article in Essential Childminder Magazine
EYFS (DfE, 2012)
The Childminding Forum - various posts
Knutsford Childminding blog

Friday, 31 August 2012

2 year progress check - some thoughts

How do you intend to approach parents about their child's 2 year progress check?

Quite a few childminders have contacted me already to tell me that they are having problems - parents do not want them to write the check (don't test my child at age 2) and Health Visitors haven't a clue!

Here are my thoughts...

First - we have to write a 2 year progress check regardless of parents wishes - it will be a statutory requirement.

Second - the guidance document for the check, from the EYFS page of the website, says that the check should be written before the child's 2 year HV check, with input from parents AND given to parents to hand over.

Let's look at it logically for a moment here... we are constantly writing observations, assessments and individual / next steps planning for all the children in our care...

The majority of us are also writing regular summary assessments to share with parents and asking parents about what their children are doing and saying at home.

That is really all the 2 year progress check is... a summary assessment of a child's learning and development including input from parents

It might be on posher paper or you might have a form to complete from your LA - but it's still only a summary assessment.

So... we write it... we ask parents for input... we put one copy in the child's file (for Ofsted to see) and hand the other over to parents with the request that they share it with the HV.

Our job is done. We don't have to worry any more. If parents choose not to hand it over there is nothing we can do - the guidance is clear that we cannot approach the HV without parents permission.

If there is a problem with the child's learning and development we are going to be flagging it up anyway regardless of whether we are writing a 2 year check or not...

I hope this helps put it into perspective. Chat soon, Sarah :)

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Revised EYFS - are you ready...?

Have you...?

- Updated your safeguarding policy and procedures to include information about mobile phones and cameras?

- Gone through requirement 3.72 and made sure you can say 'yes, I share all that with parents'?

- Changed the parent information guide on so it reflects your way of working?

- Updated your observation, assessment and planning documents to show the 7 areas of learning?

- Designed a new '2 year progress check format' that you are happy with?

- Made a new 'physical intervention' record in case you need to document an incident?

- Decided whether you are going to continue writing your RAs or explain them verbally during your inspection?

- Worked through all the EYFS 2012 to make sure you have all the required documents in place?

- Included the Characteristics of Effective Learning in the children's assessments?

- Decided whether you are going to make changes to the ways you present your policies and procedures?

- Explained the changes to the EYFS to parents?

- Made sure parents are aware that you will be sharing their child's learning with them so they can follow up activities at home from now on?

- Considered how you will note sharing with other settings / agencies so you can show evidence of this to your inspector?

- Changed the format of each child's Learning Journey file to include the new Development Matters guidance document and decided how you will show progression without using it as a tick list?

- Downloaded a copy of 'Working together to safeguard children'... and noted that it is being replaced soon? I do NOT recommend printing it - it's huge!

- Made sure your SEF is safely stored on your computer because Ofsted are going to be mucking about with their online SEF system?

- Taken time to read through all the information in free downloads at the top of the Childminding Forum... about changes to the EYFS, variations from Sept etc to make sure you are confident you will be ready to tackle the new requirements?

Now is the time to sort things out!! Sarah

Don't forget - I am offering free updates on all e-books you have bought previously - you just need to contact me and ask for them

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Speaking to parents before changing conditions of registration - variations from Sept '12

A number of childminders have asked for further clarification of this requirement. Here you go!

EYFS 2012 requirement 3.40 - ‘If a childminder can demonstrate to parents and/or carers and inspectors, that the individual needs of all the children are being met, then exceptions to the usual ratios can be made when childminders are caring for sibling babies, or when caring for their own baby.’

How do you comply with this if you don’t talk to parents? How do you prove the conversation took place if you don’t record it?

Do you think Ofsted will only relate this to changes for babies and not older children if a complaint is made against you?

My document on variations (in free downloads on the Childminding Forum) was checked by Ofsted and consulting with parents was something that was confirmed as required. You can find it here.

Penny has also spoken to Ofsted as well – the thread is here

Ofsted said -
‘We think each person considering whether to take on additional children needs to think about:
- The length of time they are providing care
- Whether their furniture and equipment is sufficient
- How they will deliver the learning and development requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage to all the children they care for and help them make the best possible progress
- Informing all parents so that they understand what this might mean for their own child’s care
- How they organise their day so that all children get enough of their time.’

Current requirements -
It is a tick box on the current variation request document to state that parents have been consulted -

G. Discussion with parents
You should discuss your request with parents of minded children. You should make sure they understand how this will impact on their children if granted and seek their views and opinions.
I confirm I have discussed my request with parents of minded children

It is clarified in the new guidance document – page 6 – example 1 – ‘She consults the parent of the two-year-old before agreeing to take the twins.’

I have nearly finished a guidance document about variations including ideas for informing parents and writing your risk assessment - watch this space!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Olympic and Paralympic Games - planning to follow the EYFS

Dates -

Olympic Games - 27th July - 12th August

Paralympic Games - 29th August - 9th September

The Games only come round once every 4 years…and we very rarely have such an amazing sporting event in England… it would be such a pity not to plan some exciting activities for the children to enjoy around the subject of the Games.

As well as teaching children about the Olympics and what the Games mean we will also be supporting their physical development and helping to protect their health. It is important, according to latest government advice, that children are encouraged to participate in 3 hours of active play a day - what better way to inspire them than to plan some Olympic Games for your provision!

Before starting to plan, you should keep the themes of the EYFS in mind…
Unique child - find out what the children already know about the Olympic Games and build on their current knowledge


Positive relationships - find out as much as you can about the Olympic Games including places to visit for more information (websites, books etc) so you can answer the children’s questions. If you do not know the answer, find out together!


Enabling environments - look at the resources you have available for the children to use and make sure they meet their changing needs. Do you need to buy anything new to follow their Olympic interests?


Learning and development opportunities -
I have used the revised EYFS areas of learning and development to plan - you will notice that communication, language and literacy is split into 2 sections and there are some new learning opportunities in mathematical development - time and money.

PSED - next time the children are gathered in a group, talk to them about winning and losing. Some children get very upset if they lose… how would they feel if they had been practicing for years and years to enter an Olympic event and then lost?
As you discuss winning and losing, support the children by discussing and introducing ideas for coping strategies, such as… everyone gets a medal for participating; model how to be pleased for the winner; share stories of winning and losing; focus on the importance of trying really hard.

Look at the Paralympic Games - older children might like to think about the people who take part in the Games - find out about the barriers to their participation (their disabilities, access to venues and training facilities etc) and how they overcome the difficulties.

Physical development - set up different Olympic Games in the garden for the children to try. They might enjoy throwing games or even football which is happening (in the north) at the Old Trafford stadium in Manchester. Help the children to make up simple outside jumping, hopping and skipping games which they can play independently during free play.

Talk to older children about the effect exercise has on their bodies and discuss the different muscles that are used when playing a variety of sports. Always spend time with the children warming up before strenuous activities with some simple stretching exercises and cool down afterwards - this will help them to learn that their bodies must be respected.

Find out which sports are played during the Olympic Games from the Kids Activities site here

Communication and language - encourage all the children to contribute to planning ideas. Brain storm with them… put ‘Olympic Games’ in the centre of a big piece of paper and add the children’s ideas for activities. Discuss how you can all work together to make it happen.

Encourage children’s listening skills by watching some Olympic Games coverage on the television together (just snippets). Talk to them about what the commentators are saying as well as what is happening on the screen - how many of the children actually listen to what is going on?

Use your observations when you are next planning listening activities for them. A good listening game might be to make noises from various Olympic sports - the whoosh of the javelin, the bang of the starting gun etc and see if the children can recognise them.

Explain to the children what a ‘mascot’ is - and decide on your own Olympic Games mascot. Design your mascot together and share information about it with the children’s parents. If you circle it with hand prints every child can participate!

Literacy - read books about sporting events and / or heroes past and present. Encourage the children to choose a favourite sport and find out more about it online.

Include mark making during your activities - the children might enjoy writing numbers on Olympic medals, writing advertising posters, contributing to a group Olympic display, make invitations for parents to attend your Olympic activities etc.

Focus on the letter ‘O’ with activity ideas from here

Mathematics - there are lots of opportunities for the children to count and explore numbers. Think about how you can support other areas of their mathematical development - measuring time by using stop watches; setting up a booth to sell drinks to hot athletes and counting money; writing numbers on winner’s medals etc.

Focus on circles - the Olympic rings. Decorate circle biscuits (healthy eating of course) with different colours to represent the rings - or use different coloured playdough on a laminated mat which features the Olympic rings.

Understanding the world - share planning with the children’s parents, encouraging the children to talk to their parents about the activities they are helping to plan. Ask parents to contribute their memories of past Olympics.
Older children might like to find out about the history of the Olympics and look at the different countries - children who like flags will be in their element! Other children might like to focus on world languages, food, houses, dance, sports men and women etc.

Most of the Olympic Games are being held in London - find out more about our capital city with the children through books, the internet, postcards of famous buildings etc.

Help the children to find out more about the Paralympic games and disability

Explore the London 2012 website and find pictures of the Olympic rings.

Arts and design - there are lots of Olympic crafts the children might enjoy eg…
• Making flags to represent the different countries
• Making an Olympic torch - the flame represents peace, unity and friendship - discuss these concepts while making the torch flames together
• You will find lots of craft ideas and colouring pages on the IChild website here
• There are some nice downloads here -
• Colouring pages and bookmarks to make on the Activity Village website here

Encourage children to use their imaginations and create their own opening ceremony. Look at ceremonies from past years on You Tube for inspiration.

I hope these ideas provide you with some inspiration!


Sunday, 1 July 2012

The revised EYFS (2012) - Frequently asked questions… answered

Also uploaded onto Google docs

Something to remember - the EYFS 2012 is not a new document. It is a document which has evolved out of the original version - the EYFS 2008. Before producing the revised document there was a lengthy consultation period during which comments were invited from childminders and all those involved in using the EYFS.

Questions and answers about the EYFS

Where can I find a copy of the EYFS (2012)?

You can download a copy from and print it yourself. If you change your printer settings to ‘draft’ and print double sided it will not be expensive to print a copy of the EYFS requirements document. The Development Matters guidance document has a lot of colour because of the photos - you might want to keep a copy on your computer or…

You can buy printed copies of the Development Matters guidance from Early Education - price £5.75 including P & P (correct July 2012) or copies of the EYFS (2012) and Development Matters guidance document from NDNA - price £9.50 (correct July 2012).
There are various sellers producing the documents on EBay but I cannot comment on the quality.

When do I have to start using the revised EYFS?
The revised EYFS is law on 1st September 2012. You must use it from that date. There are some suggestions that inspectors will give a little leeway in when the EYFS is introduced to give providers the opportunity to embed the new requirements - however I have not seen this in writing from Ofsted and suggest you are ready to go with the EYFS (2012) from 1st September.

How can I share the EYFS with parents?
There is an information guide for parents on the website or, if you prefer, you can design your own. It must contain details about how parents can find out more information about the EYFS if they are interested.

Do I still need to be registered with environmental health as a food business?
Yes, you do still need to be registered - this is a local requirement, not part of the EYFS. Whether or not you need training as a food handler depends on your local authority requirements. If you work in a group setting the rules are slightly different and one of you will need training.

Do I still need to be registered with the Information Commissioners Office?
Yes, the EYFS (2012) still requires you to handle data and comply with the requirements of the Data Protection Act. If you record data electronically (on a computer) or use a digital data eg a digital camera to take photos of children you will need to register -

Do I have to learn different languages to meet children’s needs?
You are referring to EYFS 2012 requirement 1.8 which states that you must, ‘Take reasonable steps to provide opportunities for children to develop and use their home language in play and learning, supporting their language development at home’
No, you do not have to learn different languages - but you do need to consider how you meet the needs of children who speak languages other than English (or your home language) and whether you can support them effectively in both English and their home language.

Questions and answers about observations, assessments and planning

Have observations, assessments and planning changed?
There are some changes… mostly to the areas of learning and development. There are now 7 areas instead of 6. The 7 areas are split into 3 prime areas which are the most important areas for children’s learning and development, including -
• Personal, social and emotional development
• Physical development
• Communication and language

There are then 4 specific areas of learning which support children’s learning in the prime areas and enhance their learning experiences. The 4 specific areas cover -
• Literacy
• Mathematics
• Understanding the world
• Expressive art and design.
You can find out more by reading the Development Matters guidance document which can be downloaded from

Do I still need to record starting points for a new child?
Yes, you need to do everything the same as now -
• Ask parents for information about the child
• Observe the child to note the starting points on their learning journey
• Assess observations to check how the child has progressed so far
• Reflect on how you can enhance relationships and the environment to support ongoing learning and development (see the Development Matters guidance for more information)
• Plan exciting, stimulating playful experiences for the child
• Make sure activities and routines planned for the child are shared with parents / carers
• Note how the child’s next steps / individual planning has been followed up
• Note how the child is progressing - via the 2 year progress check which is a requirement and any other summary assessments you feel are appropriate

Do I still need to write planning?
The EYFS says that you should show evidence of a range of planning for children including -
• Adult led planning - where the adult decides the activity, the learning intentions and goals etc and supports the children through the activity
• Adult guided - where the adult supports the child but allows the child to develop their own learning
• Child initiated - where the adult sets up the learning environment to ensure children can be independent in their play.
How you show you are providing this range of planning is up to you. I would suggest you keep your planning as it is now, linked closely to children’s observations and assessments and showing how it follows their interests and learning styles.

How will I know if I have enough paperwork for a child?
The EYFS says that paperwork must not take you away from the children or be excessive. This means you can look at how much you currently write and decide whether it is appropriate for the child, the time the child is with you etc. As long as it shows the child now and how the child is progressing you will have done ‘enough’.

What is the 2 year progress check?
The 2 year progress check must be written when the child is between the ages of 2 and 3, to link in with the child’s Health Visitor check. It must be handed to parents - who have been asked for their comments to include in the check.
The progress check will highlight areas where children are progressing well and help identify areas where children might need further support.
There is more information including a detailed explanation of the 2 year progress check on the website in a ‘Know How Guide’ produced by the National Children's Bureau (NCB). I have written a mini e-book about the 2 year progress check which you might find useful - it is mini e-book 78 on my website.

Do I need to do anything new?
Yes there is a new requirement in the observation, assessment and planning cycle. At the moment you are required to inform parents about how their child is getting on and share their Learning Journey document regularly with home, asking parents to comment where appropriate.
From September, you will need to work even more closely with parents to make sure the child’s learning and development is progressing at home as well as in the provision. You will do this by providing ideas for sharing learning with home.

Is it a good thing that there are less Early Learning Goals in the revised EYFS?
The Early Learning Goals (ELGs) are not normally relevant to childminders. They are covered by teachers during the last term of the child’s reception year at school. As childminders do not need to deliver the full EYFS to school age children who attend before and after the school day and in the holidays, you will not need to deliver the ELGs.

Is anything else new?
Yes, there is a new requirement to note the characteristics of effective learning in relation to each child. There are 3 characteristics of effective learning -
• Playing and exploring
• Active learning
• Creating and thinking critically
The characteristics link to how children learn and can be used when planning experiences for children, to ensure their learning needs are met.
I have written detailed information about the characteristics of effective learning - you will find an e-book on my website.

A child attends part time - 2 days a week / 1 day a week / more than 2 hours at a time - do I still need to deliver the EYFS?
Yes, you do… the child is entitled to the same quality learning and development experiences with you as a full time child. You must also work with the child’s parents and any other settings the child attends to ensure you complement his learning experiences elsewhere.
However, you will not be with the child long enough to reflect in the same ways about their learning and development as you are with, say, a child who attends your provision 4 or 5 days a week. You will need to work in close partnership with parents and others to ensure the child’s needs are fully met.

Should I still tick off how a child is progressing on the Development Matters document?
No, the Development Matters guidance must not be used as a tick list. It can be used as a guide to sensitively note how a child is progressing, but it must not be ticked when a child has achieved something.
You will notice that the Development Matters guidance document is much shorter than previously and a lot of the areas of learning have changed / been linked together. This will make it harder for you to find statements that directly link to what a child is doing or saying. You should remember that the Development Matters guidance was never meant to show everything a child does or says… it is a guide to child development which must be supplemented by further reading on the subject.

Questions and answers about paperwork

When do I need to change my paperwork?

There are some changes you must make by 1st September, including updating your safeguarding policy and procedure to include information about mobile phones and camera use in the provision.

The new EYFS says policies and procedures do not need to be in writing - so why do I have to update my safeguarding policy?
Certain policies and procedures are required because of your registration on the Childcare Register (2010) including safeguarding / child protection. You can find the Childcare Register requirements on the Ofsted website.
It will still be good practice to have a set of written policies and procedures to share with parents and Ofsted. You will struggle to explain them all verbally, especially to parents who might forget what you have said or be visual learners (so any information given verbally does not ‘stick’) or to Ofsted inspectors during an inspection or who are visiting you because a complaint has been made.

Are policies and procedures the same for the EYFS and Childcare Register?
No, there are some differences - for example the EYFS and CR requirements for handling complaints are different. You will need to refer to both documents when you write your policies and procedures.

Do I still need to write risk assessments?
The revised EYFS (2012) states that you need to consider whether or not risk assessments need to be in writing - and how you will share them with parents, Ofsted etc if you do not have them in writing.
While a written risk assessment does not keep a child safe, it is important for showing evidence of how you have worked to control the child’s environment to ensure risks are minimised.

What about risk assessments for outings - do I still need to write one for every outing like my Ofsted inspector requested?
Again, you need to reflect on how you keep children safe and think about the steps you will take to ensure their safety in different types of venues.
You might find that a written risk assessment helps you to put your thoughts in order… and makes it easier to share risk assessment information with parents and Ofsted.

How can I get children ready for school?
The term ‘school readiness’ has crept into the EYFS and worries a lot of child-centred childminders who want to ensure children’s early experiences are playful and fun.
You should be reassured that school readiness is not about formal, sit down learning - it is about ensuring children have the skills and knowledge to cope in a school environment. They need to be able to put on their own shoes and coats, know how to make friends, blow their own noses, listen for a few minutes when an adult or other child is sharing information with them etc.
Sarah Teather, Minister of State for Children and Families says – ‘Yes we want to prepare children for starting school – being prepared for school is not simply about knowing letters and numbers. It is about making sure that children are ready to make friends, to play, to ask for what they need and say what they think.’
Childminders can support children to be ready for school by following advice in the Development Matters guidance document and focussing on the prime areas of learning and development during their planning and interactions with children.

Questions and answers about ratios
Are ratios still the same for childminders?
Yes ratios are still…
• 6 children under the age of 8
• Of whom 3 children can be under 3
• Of whom 1 child can be under 1
Some childminders have different (lower) ratios set by their inspector - these will still apply.

I have 2 under the age of 1 on my certificate - will that still apply?
No it will not be there because your ratios are flexible and can be changed in exceptional circumstances. From September, you will be in charge of deciding whether or not you can manage the needs of 2 babies under the age of 1, not Ofsted.
Are wrap around and holiday children still classed the same as other children?
No, the rules have changed - when caring for wrap around (before and after the school day) and holiday children childminders no longer have to meet the full requirements of the EYFS. However, they must show evidence of having spoken to the child’s other setting and parents to ensure their learning in the provision complements their experiences elsewhere.

Will my own child be taken out of my numbers?
No, my understanding is that the registration certificates which are being sent out to all childminders will be slightly different from September. They will give you a total amount of children under the age of 8 for whom you can care.
You will be responsible for ensuring you include your own child(ren) in the ratios before taking on childminded children. For example, if you have…
• 1 child under the age of 3 - you would only normally be able to care for 2 more children under 3 unless there were exceptional circumstances.
• 2 children of your own under 8 years - you would only be able to care for a further 4 children before you are capacity.

Are variations still going to be handled the same way?
No - there are some changes to the ways variations will be organised from September. Ofsted will not award variations - instead childminders will have to follow the rules in the EYFS (2012) to determine whether ratios can be changed in exceptional circumstances.
There is further guidance planned from Ofsted to clarify how variations will work.

Is more information about variations available?
I have written a document about variations and had it checked by Ofsted so I know the information in the document was correct on the day it was written. My disclaimer is clear that information can change and there might be other local authority requirements with which you have to comply before granting yourself a variation.
My variations document is uploaded into free downloads on the Childminding Forum.
Ofsted have also stated that there will be more information to follow.

Questions and answers about other requirements

Will I need a new CRB check for the revised EYFS?

No, your CRB check is still valid. If you do not have a CRB check because you were registered before CRB checks came in and you have a police check that is still valid.

Is it a requirement to do a first aid course?
Yes, it is still a requirement to have a first aid qualification and the course must be local authority approved. If an assistant is left alone with children they must also have an up-to-date paediatric first aid qualification.

Is it a requirement to do a safeguarding course?
The lead safeguarding practitioner (the childminder) must attend a child protection training course taking account of any advice from the LSCB or local authority on appropriate training courses. This means that the local authority must approve the training course.

Will I still need to attend training?
The EYFS says that you should regularly consider the training and development needs of all staff (including yourself) to ensure you are always offering a quality learning experience for children.

Questions and answers about inspections from September

What is the focus of Ofsted inspections from September?

The focus will be on the child - how well the child is progressing in the provision and how the prime areas of learning and development are being supported. The prime areas of learning are noted above. Inspectors will look at how children’s wellbeing is supported in the provision. They state that there will be more focus on the children and less on the childminder’s paperwork. If there is a need for early intervention, Ofsted will want to see how the provision is sharing information with parents and the child, to ensure support is in place.

Will I still need to complete a self evaluation form (SEF)?
The SEF will still be available for completion online - Ofsted say they are revising it and making it shorter. It will remain an optional document rather than statutory - however, inspectors will want to know how you are self evaluating with the aim of constantly improving and enhancing your provision so if you choose not to use the SEF you should consider how else you can document your improvement.
When the SEF is updated by Ofsted I will revise my guidance document.

What will the inspection judgements look like?
There will be 4 judgements made during the inspection -
• Overall effectiveness
• Meeting the needs of the range of children
• Contributing to the well-being of children
• Leadership and management.

Will the grades I am awarded after inspection change?
There was a consultation about changing the wording of the inspection grades and it was decided that they will remain the same -
• Outstanding
• Good
• Satisfactory
• Unsatisfactory

Will complaints still be handled in the same way?
No, there are some changes - if you have a minor complaint made against you Ofsted might ask you to investigate it internally and report back with the results of the investigation. However, if you have a safeguarding complaint you will undergo a full inspection. This will help the inspector to get a feel for your business and the ways you work, rather than simply focussing on the wording of the complaint.

When will the Ofsted inspection handbook be published?
Ofsted state that the new Early Years Framework is due to be published at the end of June… as it is 1st July today I am sure we will not be waiting for much longer!

More help and advice
If you have any further questions about the revised EYFS, please do not hesitate to ask! I can be contacted via the Childminding Forum -
Or you can ask me a question on my Facebook page -

References etc
• EYFS (2012) and related documents
• Childcare Register 2010
• E-book 16 ‘EYFS Meeting the Standards’ and various other e-books and mini e-books from Knutsford Childminding and the references therein
Disclaimer - however carefully researched my material might be it is not possible to guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any of the information. I therefore accept no liability for any inaccuracies or any loss or damage arising from the use of or reliance on the information.
About websites - in places this document links to other websites. I cannot be held responsible for the content or availability of these sites.
About information taken from EYFS statutory documents - information has been taken from the following source – Information sourced from the Department for Education has been reproduced as per the Open Government Licence for Public Sector Information, which can be viewed on the following website – The source of the information is acknowledged as EYFS © Crown Copyright 2012.
Copyright protection - each page of my work is clearly copyrighted, either to Sarah Neville or to Knutsford Childminding and is covered by UK copyright law. Please ask me before sharing this document if you are unsure about the whether you are violating my copyright.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Characteristics of effective learning - EYFS

There are 3 characteristics of effective learning which help us to focus on and understand how children learn.

We will need to become familiar with them and reflect on how they can help us to support children’s learning and development by providing activities we know the children will enjoy.

The characteristics of effective learning are…

Playing and exploring - observing how children engage with their learning
• Finding out and exploring
• Using what they know in their play
• Being willing to have a go

Active learning - observing how children are motivated to learn
• Being involved and concentrating
• Keeping trying
• Enjoying and achieving what they set out to do

Creating and thinking critically - observing how children are thinking
• Having their own ideas
• Using what they already know to learn new things
• Choosing ways to do things and finding new ways

[B]How will you use the characteristics in your provision?[/B]

First of all, dig out the Principles into Practice cards (the orange ones) from the current EYFS (2008) and read through them again. They will give you lots of ideas for ensuring you are ready to embrace the characteristics.

Then you need to decide how you will use the characteristics - they are quite long and cumbersome and might not be suited to being evidenced as part of your normal observations, assessments and planning process.

You might think that they will be most useful in the summary assessments you write about each child’s learning and development. Summary assessments might be useful every 3 - 6 months to note whether or not a child is progressing and to share achievements with parents - but they are not required by the EYFS (2012) and should only be written if you find them helpful.

You also need to think about how you intend to explain the characteristics of effective learning to parents and find out how their child learns at home… this will help to build parents understanding of the new EYFS, especially with the requirement that we support children’s learning at home through sharing information and ideas for activities etc.

To help you prepare your paperwork to embrace the Characteristics of Effective Learning, I have written the following e-books and mini e-books…

Characteristics of effective learning (e-book 59) - the characteristics of effective learning are relatively new in the EYFS. They look at how children learn rather than what children are learning… this new e-book will help you to unpick the requirement and show you how to use the characteristics in your day-to-day work with children.

Children’s learning styles (mini 74)- children learn using a variety of learning styles which are unique to them - by noting each child’s learning styles we will be better able to plan for their individual needs… by thinking about HOW as well as what they are learning.

E-book 32 ‘Schemas’discusses how children’s repeated actions (learning styles) can be supported in various ways, mostly using the normal continuous provision resources all childminders already have in their provision.

I will introduce more requirements from the EYFS and discuss how they can be used over the next few weeks as we think about how we can embrace the revised EYFS and make it work in our provisions.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

De-cluttering your provision

Childminders work from their homes – and homes, as we all know, vary greatly in size and available space. As we take on more children, we often find that our playrooms are so cluttered with toys and games, the children can hardly fit in!

If you notice the toddlers tripping over the babies, the pre-schoolers fighting for space with the babies and the after schoolers pulling too much from the shelves because they are overwhelmed with the choices available and the books getting trampled under-foot… then maybe it is time to make a few changes.

I have been reading up on de-cluttering as part of something I am currently writing for the childminder advertising website about the revised EYFS and the Prime Area of learning ‘Communication and Language’ and I have found it to be a very interesting subject.

During my research I have found that some childminders have found themselves marked down by Local Authorities which use FCCERS and ECCERS to grade their service because they are not offering sufficient choice or duplicates of resources etc.

However Ofsted are fine with a de cluttered environment according to letter written by Liz Elsom on the Elizabeth Jarman site about Communication Friendly Spaces (TM) -

I have found from reading Ofsted reports that inspectors like to see toys children can easily access in labelled boxes - they don't have a problem with resources being rotated if the children have free choice (photo albums or choice books) of what they want out.

However there are some parts of provision such as reading, mark making, music, dance, art etc that should always be freely available to ensure you are linking the activities you have available with all the EYFS areas of learning and development.

If you want to make changes to your provision with the aim of de-cluttering the environment, you could do it as part of an ongoing improvement project –
• Audit the resources currently available in your provision against the areas of learning of the EYFS to make sure you are keeping appropriate resources
• Read up on de-cluttering and how it helps you to work more efficiently
• Talk to other childminders on and ask for their ideas and views - do a forum search as the subject has already been discussed a few times previously
• Show how you have involved parents and all the children in the review process
• Carry out observations of inside and outside play involving different groups and children and at different times of the day to see what is currently being used
• Make decisions about any changes you intend to do based on their comments and the spaces available etc.
You could then ask the children to help you document the changes you make adding comments from children, before and after photos etc and put it in a file for Ofsted / parents etc to show your commitment to continuous professional development.

I hope you enjoy your newly de-cluttered spaces :)

Friday, 24 February 2012

Knutsford Childminding and

I have recently started writing some Information Guides for gold members of, the childminder advertising website.

My Information Guides can be found in the ‘Childminder Plus’ section of the website after you have logged in.

I have written about lots of different subjects including planning, meal time issues, paperwork requirements for the EYFS, making displays, the importance of active play, writing risk assessments, resourcing multiculturalism, advertising your business, communicating with parents, developing fine motor skills, food provision, managing individual needs, outside play and many more.

A recent Information Guide with advice about completing the childminder Self Evaluation Form (SEF) has been particularly well received and I was delighted to be given the following feedback on the comments page of my website –

‘Hello Sarah, I have just downloaded your SEF piece on and have found it to be a well written and informative document! Thank you for this as it has helped me so much with my own! Martin (Bournemouth)’

I am also preparing a series of ‘reflection on provision’ guides to help childminders with self reflection to encourage everyone to regularly their provisions – will release one a month through the year.

I have lots more ideas for Information Guides… however, if any of my lovely blog readers are also gold members and would like to suggest titles for future guides please contact me!

Chat soon, Sarah x