Sunday, 20 January 2013

Learning stories for childminders

I have had a number of messages recently asking me about learning stories - what are they and how do they work?

I have written the following information for my friends on the Childminding Forum and thought it might be of interest to childminders who also read my blog.

Learning stories

Some childminders are being advised to write learning stories about the children in their care. Learning stories are very similar to the observations, assessments and planning in children’s EYFS Learning Journeys - and this can cause confusion because a learning story is not a Learning Journey file!

Learning stories can be used as part of the child’s Learning Journey file or as a stand-alone way of recording a child’s progress over time. Learning stories use ‘story telling’ or narrative descriptions of the child’s play and learning… they are like giant observations, sharing a detailed description of the child’s learning, development, skills, knowledge, interactions and engagement in activities with their parents.

Just like when writing observations, you can include a photo with your learning story if you have written permission from parents to take photos of their child. You would then put the photo on the learning story and write a chatty narrative about the child’s learning while they were involved in the activity. If you are talking about other children in the learning story, be careful not to name them as you do not want to break confidentiality - instead simply say that eg ‘Ann shared and took turns when playing with another child’.

Most learning stories are written in the first person - describing the child as ‘I’ and saying what the child is doing or saying at the time the observation was carried out. To note the progress the child is making, you would then link the story to the EYFS areas of learning and development from the Development Matters guidance document, comment on any learning characteristics you noted and think about how to promote the child’s future learning through ‘next steps’ or individual planning.

Learning stories are quite a bit longer than the normal quick note style observations because they describe a whole activity rather than a child’s specific learning - so you will not want to set yourself the task of writing too many! If you are advised to use them, I think they will work well alongside other types of observation, assessment and planning, maybe to help you focus on one area of learning or a specific learning outcome or to support a child who needs extra support…

Learning stories are written to be shared with and commented on by parents. There is little value to writing a learning story and putting it in your folder without sharing it with parents and using it to reflect on the child’s current learning and support their future learning and development first. Like all documents about a child they are just one of the many ways we can show evidence that they are making good progress towards the Early Learning Goals of the EYFS.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Risk assessments for childminders - updated info 01.2013

Risk assessments and the EYFS 2012

Information taken from - ‘Requirements for risk assessments factsheet’ - document 120334 (Ofsted 2012)

There are 3 different types of written or ‘in your head’ documents relating to risk assessments (RAs) required by the EYFS 2012 -
• A policy and procedure relating to RAs - EYFS 2012 requirement 3.63
• RAs of the environment - EYFS 2012 requirement 3.63
• RAs of outings - EYFS 2012 requirement 3.64

Policy and procedures
The EYFS 2012 states that policies and procedures do not need to be in writing - requirement 3.3. However, you must be confident that you would be able to explain them fully to an inspector during your inspection or if you receive a compliance visit because a complaint has been made against you.

If you do not write your policies and procedures you must be clear about them - and be ready to share them with parents and anyone who works with you such as assistants - verbally.

A written policy and procedures about RAs must include information about -
• Aspects of the environment - and different types of outings - that need to be checked on a regular basis - this includes your main RAs and any daily / weekly RAs you do to ensure children are safe
• How risk assessments are carried out - by checking the house and garden thoroughly and monitoring children during outings
• When risk assessments are carried out - daily, weekly, monthly, annually etc
• By whom RAs are carried out - you, other members of staff, children, parents…
• What records are kept - written RAs of the house, garden and outings etc
• How the risks and hazards will be removed or minimised.

Environment risk assessments
You must consider the following - in writing or in your head -
• Aspects of the environment that need to be checked on a regular basis
• When and by whom those aspects will be checked
• How risks will be removed and minimised
• When RAs will be reviewed - the Childcare Register 2012 requires us to review RAs annually

When writing / thinking about your environment RAs you should consider -
• The size, layout and location of your provision
• The ages and stages of children attending
• Where children play - inside the house and in the garden
• How children are involved in RAs
• Other staff in your provision and how they will manage risks

Outings risk assessments
You must consider the following for every type of outing when you (or assistants / co-childminders etc) leave the house with 1 or more children - in writing or in your head -
• Ratios of adults to children
• Which children / adults are on the outing - and how this affects safety
• Journeys - getting to and from the destination
• The type of outing / activity
• The ages of children on the outing - different ages pose different risks
• The time of day and how this affects the RA
• Risks and hazards to children and adults during the outing
• How risks and hazards are minimised or managed.

Ofsted inspectors will consider whether your policy and procedures and RAs for the environment and outings minimise, reduce or eliminate risks to the children. If you cannot demonstrate that your RAs are robust enough to keep children safe you are likely to receive an inadequate grading at inspection.

Ofsted document - you can find a copy of the Ofsted factsheet dated 19.11.12 here -

Please note - e-book 5 ‘Risk assessments for childminders’ and e-book 24 ‘Safety Checklists’ give much more information about how to write risk assessments and e-book 29 looks at ‘Policies and Procedures’ in detail if you prefer your documentation to be in writing. You can find these and all my other e-books on my Knutsford Childminding website.

Remember - if you make changes to your documentation as a result of reading this information don’t forget to reflect on how you have improved outcomes for the children in your self evaluation - or Ofsted SEF.

Normal copyright and disclaimers apply © Sarah Neville, 01.2013