Sunday, 1 June 2014

Childminders - focus on quality provision

Questions to help childminders focus on quality provision

Gill Jones, deputy director of early years at Ofsted, spoke to early years providers recently at the Childcare Expo in London. Further information about what she said can be found in the May/June 2014 edition of Morton Michel’s Home Childcarer – a free online magazine.

Ms Jones set a series of questions for childminders to help us examine our practices –
• Am I providing enough high quality experiences to enrich children’s communication skills?
• Is there enough high quality interaction with adults who are good role models?
• Do I challenge the children enough?
• How well am I working with parents to support the children’s learning?

Our guiding principle here at Knutsford Childminding when reflecting on areas of provision and making changes to accommodate new requirements / expectations from Ofsted, our Local Authority and elsewhere is – ‘we know that we already do this really well but it would be even better if we…’
We set very high standards for ourselves and our provision and we want to continue to demonstrate these to Ofsted, regardless of any new documentation / expectations they throw at us. We have reflected on the questions asked by Gill Jones – here are our thoughts…

Am I providing enough high quality experiences to enrich children’s communication skills?

What we already do well… we focus on children’s communication skills as part of our commitment to ensure the 3 prime areas of learning are well established as early as possible in children’s lives.

Children’s communication is supported through high quality interactions with staff and during our daily planned learning activities such as –
• Daily group singing and reading sessions;
• Daily routines eg at the table during snack, lunch and tea and nappy changing;
• One-to-one planned interactions with children;
• One-to-one unplanned interactions during adult guided and free play sessions through the day.
We regularly review each child’s communication through observations of their interactions during different types of play. We use these observations to evaluate what changes we need to make to their individual planning in the future.

We use the following nationally recognised communication and language schemes –
• ‘Letters and Sounds phase 1’ – games are incorporated into children’s learning experiences;
• ‘Toddler Talk’ (from the Communication Trust) – a new Toddler Talk card is used with the children every day;
• ‘Every Child a Talker’ - which helps us to monitor children’s social communication and use of speech sounds.

To further reflect on this area of provision we will…
Consider whether communication is effectively supported in the garden and on outings - as well as it is in house.

Is there enough high quality interaction with adults who are good role models?

What we already do well… we recognise that quality teaching is a big part of the revised inspection framework. We know that we need to consider how well we are teaching and interacting with the children so that they are given the best chances to make good progress while they are with us.

We aim to offer every child a range of varied and imaginative experiences every day they attend and we adapt planning and available resources to follow their interests and learning needs. We have a very clear understanding of how children learn (from training and over 20 years’ experience) and we attend / engage with further training and CPD when it is available to enhance our knowledge.

We work very closely together and talk about children’s needs as part of our regular meetings to discuss the children and the progress they are making. We are confident that our expectations for every child are consistently high.
To further reflect on this area of provision we will…
• Look carefully at the way routines are used and complete a routine continuous provision plan. Use it to consider if we are making best use of our daily routines to support children’s learning including –
o Adult led sessions;
o Adult guided sessions;
o Child initiated play.


Do I challenge the children enough?

What we already do well… we recognise that the Ofsted inspection process is focussed on raising outcomes for children – if they are not challenged they will not learn new things and make good progress.

To challenge children we…
• Use observations to assess current abilities, strengths and weaknesses.
• Assess observations using Early Years Outcomes (EYO) as a guide to the progress each child is making – our assessments are closely linked to EYO and focussed on what the child can do as well as what they need to learn next.
• Note how we can help children to make progress.
• Share information with parents about how they can support their child at home.
• Work with other settings to promote shared learning experiences.
• Plan individually for every child as part of our educational programme which also includes group planned activities to support children to learn new things and to challenge and extend their knowledge.
• Evaluate activities we have planned to ensure our activities, resources, use of space, routines etc are being used effectively.
• Discuss if we need to make focussed interventions for any of the children.
• Observe children’s play to monitor their ongoing engagement, wellbeing and learning.

We regularly make changes to our layout, garden access and resources to ensure our environment effectively stimulates each child – and make changes as necessary. We discuss staff effectiveness and our use of the house, garden and outings in our monthly meetings and access further CPD when useful.

To further reflect on this area of provision we will…
Consider whether our observation, assessment, planning and evaluation schedule is robust. To do this we will look at Learning Journey files from other providers to ensure we are including everything that might be needed to ensure we can effectively monitor children’s progress.


How well am I working with parents to support the children’s learning?

What we already do well… we work very closely with all parents, involving them in their children’s learning experiences and asking for their input. We aim to share children’s learning with families and we regularly suggest ways children’s learning might be enhanced at home in newsletters, children’s Learning Journey files, daily diary books, emails we send to parents through the month and daily chats.

We use the following methods to share information with parents to support children’s learning –
• Daily diaries - which focus on one area of learning each day and talk about children’s engagement and enjoyment of the activity
• Daily doorstep chats with parents to share information about their child’s learning during the day
• Parent ‘what we are doing today’ display in the entrance hall
• Learning Journey files which parents are encouraged to interact with regularly
• Ongoing ‘what I can do now’ documents and observations from home
• Monthly newsletters - which inform parents in brief about what their child has done, is doing next and provide a learning at home idea
We are trialling a new way of communicating via email (to cut down on printing costs) and will evaluate the effectiveness of this with parents shortly.

To further reflect on this area of provision we will…
Speak to parents about how well they think we are working with them to support their children’s learning. We will use what they tell us to enhance our already robust ways of working.


We will use this article by Linda Thornton and Pat Brunton to help us reflect on our provision and what changes we might need to make to ensure compliance with the latest Ofsted expectations.

The article is linked to the latest Ofsted evaluation schedule (doc 120086 – Nov 2013).

More thoughts…

We intend using these questions from Gill Jones at Ofsted as a starting point for a professional discussion. We will talk about what we already do and how we might improve our provision in the future. We will involve local and national childminders in this professional discussion so that we can carefully evaluate how well we are doing and how we might improve our already outstanding provision.

We will consider what changes we might need to make to areas of provision such as –
• Record keeping / documentation
• The way we use the key person system
• Resources and equipment
• Daily routines
• Continuous provision plans
• Children’s wellbeing and engagement
• The effectiveness of our use of the 7 areas of learning
• Children’s behaviour
• Inclusive practice including how well we promote equality and diversity
• Safety and how well we support learning using risk benefit assessments
• Parent partnerships / conversations
• Use of the characteristics of learning
• Working with other settings
• How well we share ideas for developing children’s learning at home
• Use of space / layout of the house and garden
• Partnerships with other agencies / professionals / settings
• Children’s interactions with each other
• Community involvement including outings

To further enhance provision we will consider whether we need to update our self-evaluation form as a result of working through this self-reflection process – we use the Ofsted SEF.

As a result of further reflection it may be necessary to update e-book 18 ‘SEF guide’ from Knutsford Childminding.

It will also be important to consider what information is shared with our childminder colleagues via the Independent Childminders Facebook group and the Childminding Forum to ensure all childminders who want to stay independent of agencies and individually inspected are able to share good practice and benefit from each other’s experience and knowledge.

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

Chat soon, Sarah