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.