Friday, 29 August 2014

A childminder in a quandary ... what to do?

A childminder colleague was told during inspection this week that she has not summarised children’s learning often enough – she normally write summaries every 3 months but because 1 child was new she had waited 4 months before writing a summary assessment.

This has worried me because I currently write summary assessments every 6 months!

In between the 6 monthly assessments. which are written during the month of the child’s birthday and 6 months later with input from staff, parents and the child (if possible), we –

• Regularly observe each child individually – when I say ‘regularly’ I mean we observe each EYFS aged child at least once a week in writing and more often when we are playing with the child and during our ‘planted practitioner’ activities – see this blog.

• Watch and listen when the child is playing as part of a group, to note how they are getting on making friends, communicating with others, using our resources, being imaginative, initiating and joining in games etc so we can offer targeted support if needed.

• Regularly assess each child’s learning against Early Years Outcomes to check that the child is not falling behind in any of the areas of learning – when I say ‘regularly’ I mean I link observations to the Early Years Outcomes guidance for each child at least once a month and more often if we have any concerns about their learning.

• Plan individual learning opportunities to support each child across the 7 areas of learning – I note these briefly on the child’s play plan. For example, a child is constantly asking ‘what’s that?’ when he hears a noise so we have planned lots of listening games for him to enjoy.

• Plan group learning opportunities to support all the children across the 7 areas of learning. For example, this month we have focussed on teaching the children about shapes, colours and size, using our resources and teaching skills to support them individually and as part of a group. I note these group activities on my group planning sheet and record briefly how the child has participated / what they have learned in observations and on their play plan.

• Work closely with parents to ensure their child is making good progress here and at home, asking questions about what the child is doing and saying at home, where they have been, what they enjoy doing etc so we can plan activities that link into their interests. For example, a child is growing sunflowers at home and we are growing tomatoes and herbs with them here– we talk about how their sunflowers are growing and ask questions to find out how tall they are etc.

• Note each child’s learning styles and characteristics so we can plan more effectively to support their learning, asking parents for information about how their child is learning at home.

• Share ideas for activities and things children might like doing with parents to promote their learning at home. For example, we went on a shape walk and talked to parents about some of the things we saw on the walk before suggesting parents do the same over the weekend.

• Work as closely as possible with the child’s other setting to complement their learning, using planned activities from nursery or pre-school to link into their learning here. For example, a child’s pre-school is making a Harvest display and we have planned to visit the local church to see their display – we will talk about similarities and differences with the child.

However, having received feedback from the childminder who has been given an action this week to summarise learning more regularly, I am concerned that I am not doing enough.

Part of the problem is that I do not want to increase my written workload. We feel that we know all our EYFS children really well here at Knutsford Childminding – we know their starting points, the things they are working on at the moment, their interests, learning styles etc and we do not want paperwork to take us away from the pleasure of having lots of time to sit down, play and have fun with them!

But... and I know it's bad English to start a sentence with 'but'... we do not want to put my outstanding grade at risk either … and this is where the problem starts. We don’t know how much paperwork we need to do to keep the grade! We feel like we are working towards an exam without anyone giving us the syllabus.

We have read the latest Ofsted inspectors evaluation schedule and we feel that we have all the evidence we need for outstanding but we also know that individual inspectors have different expectations and if our colleague’s inspector had been here instead of with her earlier this week … I would have lost my outstanding for not writing summary assessments often enough!

It is a very bad state of affairs when a regulator who comes once every 3 / 4 or more years can have this sort of effect on an outstanding childminder with 20 years childminding experience… instead of feeling confident that I am doing enough, I am now concerned that I need to do more. I am looking at my record keeping and wondering if there are gaps and I am worrying that I will have to change the way I do summary assessments ‘just in case’ I get an inspector who expects more in writing from me.

Perhaps if I do 3 monthly assessments instead of 6 monthly … will that be enough? How do I know? I have always reassured other childminders in my role as support childminder on the Childminding Forum and Independent Childminders Facebook group that 6 monthly assessments are enough as long as you know the child really well … has my advice been wrong all this time? Should I apologise to my colleagues and tell them I was wrong and they need to do extra written record keeping and summary assessments more regularly? I wonder how many will feel even more overwhelmed with the paperwork burden if I go on the groups and say this to them.

What do you think guys? Answers on a postcard to… confused of Knutsford Childminding please!