Wednesday, 19 March 2014

School runs and childminders

A childminder was recently told by an Ofsted inspector that her school runs were taking up too much time and she should do them in the car… because children were not learning during the outings.

We all know that this is not true!

Children learn every time they go outside and we make sure we offer learning experiences on walks and outings to and from school. However, we need to be confident in how we provide evidence to Ofsted about children’s learning on school outings.

Other considerations are that school outings on foot provide an excellent opportunity to teach children about the world around them, road safety etc and…

‘Regular exercise such as walking to school contributes to a healthier life style and is seen as an effective way of tackling child hood obesity.’

Some childminders use continuous provision (CP) plans to demonstrate they are aware of how much teaching and learning is involved during daily routines. CP plans are not a requirement of the EYFS and you do not have to do them – they take time to set up as well so you need to consider whether they will enhance your provision first.

However, they can be useful to show, for example…

Working to a schedule - CP plan
Mornings can be busy so it is important we keep to our routine. If parents ask us to give their child breakfast we ask that they arrive before 8am or it might not be possible to fit in their request. Children learn the routine and we use clocks and a visual timetable (when needed) to support them from a very young age. Children are supported to free play, visit the toilet (depending on age), get ready for school etc in plenty of time so we are not rushed.
• Time awareness / routines – Maths (time)
• Breakfast time – all areas of learning
• Working with parents
• Toileting – PD (health and self-care)
• Being aware of the needs of others – PSED (friendships)

Putting on coats and shoes – CP plan
Children are supported and encouraged from the earliest time to be independent. They are shown how to put their coats on by using the hood so their coats hang ready for hands to go straight into sleeves. If coats do not have a hood they can be held so the child can put their arms in. Children are encouraged to put on their own shoes and to fasten them up by themselves.
We support the children if they need help – it is more important to get out on time without upset or frustration and we believe that both coat and shoe putting on lessons can wait for a more appropriate and less rushed time if children are struggling.
Smaller children are placed in the buggy and we talk about the weather, fastening straps to keep them safe, putting a blanket over them in the cold, wearing sun cream and a hat in the hot weather etc.
• Coats – PD (moving)
• Buttons and zips – PD (handling)
• Shoes – getting them on the right feet – Maths (spatial awareness) / PD (hand eye coordination)
• Talking about the weather and choosing appropriate clothes / putting up hoods – UW (the world)
• High visibility clothing discussions – PD (health and self-care)

Leaving the house - CP plan
Our routine is to make sure all children have their coats, bags, shoes etc and then to stand and wait sensibly and quietly for everyone to be ready before setting off. Children need to learn to stand still and not bump each other or throw bags around because that might hurt their friend. The children work together to talk about how to keep each other safe.
• Counting bags – Maths (numbers)
• Space awareness – PD (health and self-care)
• Getting the right things in the right hands ready to leave – Maths (sorting)
• Promoting awareness of the needs of others – PSED (friendship)
• Using reins, clips on buggies etc – C & L (talking) about keeping safe and PD (health and self-care)

Walking to school safely – CP plan
Children help with the daily risk assessment. We constantly talk about safety on the school run – crossing roads, holding hands, staying together, not running off etc. We often include role play scenarios in our outside play so that children are better prepared for going with us on our regular outings.
• Road / rail track safety – PD (being safe)
• Stranger danger – UW (people and communities)
• Talking about time – Maths (time)
• Risk assessing while on the walk to school and back – PD (self-care)

Behaviour management – CP plan
We make our behaviour expectations very clear from the start – we understand that a child might be angry, upset, not wanting to go to school, tired etc but we have to go and we have to get there at a certain time. We do not have a choice about this and we cannot let any of the children’s actions make us late or endanger others. We will give the child a quick hug / a place in the buggy etc if possible and they will always get attention at a more appropriate time but the school run is not the time to throw a wobbler!
• Behaviour expectations – PSED (behaviour and self-control)
• Recognising the needs of others – PSED (self-awareness)
• Being safe – PD (health and self-care)

Stop – look – point – CP plan
Every school run we have a different ‘something’ to look for or ‘something’ to talk about. The children help us to decide what we are going to look for and are always very excited when it is their turn to choose. We have a series of photos we have taken during previous outings in a basket and the children choose one… sometimes, we select photos or things to look for depending on the time of year, weather conditions, things we know are happening in the local area eg building work. Other times, we choose something based on a child’s interests or learning at the time, for example…
• It is a sunny day so we look for shadows
• John loves cars and trucks and Jane is learning her colours at home - so we involve the children in a game of spotting red cars
• The children want to look for cats after seeing one this morning

We use stop – look – point to keep everyone safe. The children know to stop if there is something they want to chat about or something they have seen… they look (rather than touch) to keep themselves safe… they point (again rather than touching) and then we use their developing listening skills to share ideas and extend their learning.
• Stop – PD (being safe)
• Look – PD (being safe) / PSED (alerting friends)
• Point – PD (being safe)
• Talk – C & L (all)
• Weather – UW (the world)
• Flowers / animals – UW (the world) etc…

School runs and children’s learning

You can cover all areas of learning and development during the school run… you just need to be confident to share how you know you are supporting children’s learning with your Ofsted inspector.

We always try and set off early enough to include a game on our school runs, even though we (luckily for us when it’s raining as it often does at 3pm) don’t have to go very far.

Here are some ideas for activities your children might enjoy…

• Spot letters and numbers they recognise on car number plates or road signs
• Watch ongoing building work on a house
• Count red or blue cars or trucks
• Talk about keeping safe by the road
• Talk about the weather and how to dress to stay warm / cool
• Spot, name and count birds
• Walk back via the duck pond – don’t forget to take some food for them
• Talk to friends – remind children they have to walk safety and sensibly and hold hands / hold the buggy etc, even when they are with their friends
• On the way back from school, ask each child to tell you one good / positive / affirming / exciting thing that happened during their day
• Road crossing drills – stop, look and listen / take it in turns to press the button on the crossing
• Take some home-made binoculars and spot aeroplanes in the sky
• Notice changing seasons – leaves falling, flowers dying, buds on trees etc. Remember what you see on the way to school and collect it on the way home for artwork or to make pictures in the garden
• Make up funny voices or sing songs with the children
• Come back via the park and find some conkers or fir cones
• Wear wellies and splash in puddles
• Spot road signs and talk about what they mean
• On the way to school, talk about what the children are looking forward to doing during the day

I am sure you can think of many more games you play with the children on the school run. Think about how you document them so Ofsted and parents appreciate the learning opportunities you provide for the children.

I have a few school-age themed mini e-books including -

Mini 9 'School aged children'
Mini 77 'Preparing children for school'
Mini 88 'Over 8s'

All my mini e-books cost £1.99 and are available from my Knutsford Childminding website.

Chat soon, Sarah x