As a reflective childminder, you should always be looking at how you are going to improve your provision – your self-evaluation / Ofsted SEF is never finished! When you take on an assistant you have an extra responsibility to ensure your assistant is fully trained and capable of providing appropriate learning and development experiences and high quality care for all the children.
You do this through observing them – watching them as they provide care and teaching and talking to them about what you have observed, highlighting what went well and thinking together about what might be improved and how.
Supervision is not about catching someone out or criticising their practice. It is about being constructive and working together to improve. It can be hard to constructively criticise your assistant - especially if they are your friend, child or partner and it takes a lot of practice. One way round this is to observe each other. If you are both tasked with watching, listening and commenting on the quality and effectiveness of the others’ work you will quickly learn how to phrase things so they are not judgemental or upsetting to each other.
Setting up an observation
Here is a sample procedure you might adopt…
· Agree a time when you will not be working directly with the children – make sure your ratios allow you to do this and be ready to step in if there is a problem.
· Decide what you are focussing on – a routine eg talking to children during snack or changing a nappy (if that is part of their job description), a planned activity, an interaction with parents, the way your assistant completes learning and development files, interaction during an outing etc.
· Sit close by and watch and listen – you might find it helpful to do some paperwork so that you are not watching directly – your assistant might find it awkward otherwise.
· Make notes about what you see and hear happening. Think about how well your assistant is working with the children / speaking to parents / providing care and consider what improvements might be made.
Sometimes you might observe something completely unexpected that you want to talk about with your assistant – some good practice you want to praise them on or something that concerns you. You must adopt a professional approach – write up what you have seen / heard, consider how to support your assistant to improve, speak to them about what you have recorded and talk about how they can move their practice forward.
Note - you must have a whistleblowing policy if you work with another childminder or assistant – if you observe any practice that you feel is a safeguarding concern, you must follow your procedure.
During your next evaluation meeting, talk to your assistant about the observation. Ask them how things went … what do they think they did well? How do they think it might be improved?
Some people (especially students in my experience) find it very hard to praise themselves. College seems to focus on what went wrong and how they can improve rather than what went well in their work – make sure you teach this as a priority in the early days. Everyone wants to hear praise about themselves!
Making an action plan
Consider how you will make the agreed improvements – will you offer in-house training, put your assistant on a course, provide some CPD for your assistant to work through, suggest your assistant reads a book or article before talking some more about what might be done differently..?
Agree a time scale for your action plan and talk during your next meeting about changes that have been made to provision as a result. Evaluate whether the format for observing and feeding back information works well or whether changes need to be made in the future.
Include information about the support and mentoring you offer your assistant in your self-evaluation / Ofsted SEF.
You might find it helpful if your assistant has a dedicated file in which you keep notes about observations, feedback and action plans. This will allow you to show clear evidence of your commitment to improving outcomes for all the children to Ofsted.
Reviewing your practice
Every assistant should have an annual appraisal during which time you talk about how well things are going, note areas that might be improved and discuss the future. This presents an ideal opportunity to chat about whether you both feel the way you are conducting your supervision is appropriate or whether changes need to be made in the future.
You can then work with your assistant to implement any changes. Again, remember to document the meeting in your self-evaluation / Ofsted SEF so that Ofsted can read about your continued commitment to improving your practice and ways of working.
Please see e-book 48 'Assistants' from Knutsford Childminding for more information.