We must assume that all other areas of provision are pretty much in place for the providers whose reports I read – and we know that every inspector has their own areas of provision that they focus on: for example, our inspector was into mark making and literacy – we knew that because we read her LinkedIn profile before she came to inspect us.
We note that Prospect and Tribal inspectors have all been re-trained fairly recently in the ‘Ofsted way’ of doing things and the consistency of inspections, while not perfect, is improving. We also note that Ofsted are bringing inspections in-house early next year (April 2017) so things might change again.
It is also the end of the current inspection cycle fairly soon (August 2016) which means that inspectors are getting out to a lot of providers who have not been inspected for a while or who, for whatever reason, have avoided inspection: this means we are seeing a lot more failures to comply with statutory requirements such as lapsed first aid and insurance.
Failure to comply with the statutory requirements (safeguarding and welfare) is generally an automatic downgrade to ‘inadequate’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘not met’ if you are not currently childminding because safeguarding is a limiting judgement.
Here are some of the latest actions / recommendations from inspections, with some ideas for how you can enhance your provision to ensure you are compliant with the requirements.
The provision is not yet outstanding because:
· The childminder must seek regular feedback from parents to inform self-evaluation that helps to maintain continuous improvement.
This action links directly to section 2 of the Ofsted SEF – how well you seek the views of those who use your setting and who work with you. It is not a requirement of the EYFS to do the Ofsted SEF – but you do need to self-evaluate and the Ofsted document is as good a way as any.
When we seek parents views – and the views of children and anyone else linked to the setting – we show Ofsted that we are open to constructive criticism, committed to self-improvement and wanting to progress our businesses.
Views can be sought through feedback forms, conversation, requests for input and information etc … parents might email, text or chat about their thoughts and these can all be included in the SEF or your action plan.
· The childminder must build on current arrangements for self-evaluation and identify clear priorities for future development.
This action links to section 3 of the Ofsted SEF – effectiveness of leadership and management. Again, while the Ofsted SEF is not a statutory document, some sort of self-evaluation and action planning for the future is expected – whether that’s a brief action plan showing the changes you are going to make or an evaluation of a training course stating how you have improved / changed your setting and ways of working as a result.
· The childminder must enhance planning for children's next steps in learning that promotes even greater rapid progress.
This action links to section 4 of the Ofsted SEF – the quality of teaching, learning and assessment. Inspectors will focus on the progress children are making from their starting points towards school readiness. If you have children who are funded, SEND or similar, they will look closely at tracking for these children to see how you are supporting them to catch up with their peers (if relevant).
Inspectors use Early Years Outcomes as a guide to the progress children need to make to be ready for school (remember it is a guide not a tick or checklist) and want to see tracking which shows children’s observations -> assessments of learning -> individual / next steps planning.
Other actions relating to section 4 of the Ofsted SEF (there are lots in reports – it’s definitely a focus at the moment) include ‘the childminder…’ -
· The childminder must find ways to strengthen the development of children's communication skills so that they make rapid progress in this area of development.
There are lots of tools you can use to support children’s communication and language including –
- The adult – the most important tool. Play alongside the children, take an interest in what they are doing, ask open and interested questions, give them time to formulate their replies etc. At the same time, use opportunities through the day to sing songs, read books, tell stories etc.
- Our inspector asked to see our ‘Letters and Sounds’ phase 1 file which is full of communication and language games.
- We have a few different communication cards from our LA including ‘Chatting with Children’ and ‘Toddler Talk’ and some ‘Confident Talkers Conversations for Early Years’ from Laura Henry.
- We focus on each child’s individual communication and language journey in our monthly Play Plans and were able to show our inspector how they led to children making progress.
- We have been using Every Child a Talker (ECAT) tracking alongside the Early Years Outcomes Communication & Language information for our early years children. It is not a requirement to use ECAT but we find it useful for recording ‘social communication’.
· The childminder does not yet reflect closely on the quality of teaching. Her professional development is not highly focused on raising the standard of teaching practice, in order to consistently achieve excellent outcomes for all children.
Training courses and other opportunities for professional development are one way to reflect on the quality of teaching in the provision. Other childminders might visit and evaluate as well.
We need to be prepared for the joint observations inspectors will carry out during inspection. You can find more information in this blog.
· The childminder must provide more opportunities for children to express their creativity, such as by making art and craft materials more freely available to them.
This childminder mostly looks after 2 year olds and she has her art and craft materials in a locked cupboard, getting a selection out every day for the children to explore. She keeps them locked away because, as she explained to the inspector, she works from the living room in her house and she worries that some of the children, because they are young) would take every opportunity to draw on her walls or paint her carpets.
The inspector, however, was adamant that the resources should be accessible for free use through the day. The childminder is happy with her ‘good’ grade and does not intend changing her provision. Sometimes, you review, evaluate, reflect and decide to carry on doing what you are doing because it works well for you!
· The childminder must strengthen the level of information gathered from parents about children's learning at home.
This action might refer to the initial information about what the child can do that we must ask for from parents, often known as the child’s ‘starting points’ and / or the ongoing day-to-day information gathering about what the child is doing at home such as –
- The child loves to play dolls with her cousins
- The child goes to the allotment with grandad at the weekend
- The child is really interested in dinosaurs and has a new book
The guidance ‘What to expect when? A parents guide’ here is a useful booklet to provide parents as it works alongside the EYFS and gives them lots of activity ideas and things to look out for – which they can tell you about, to enhance the child’s learning experience in the setting.
· The childminder must enhance opportunities for mathematical problem solving.
The requirement to improve maths teaching comes up over and over again in inspection reports and is clearly an area of provision on which inspectors are focussing. Maths includes lots of different areas of the day from teaching children about routines (sense of time) to measuring sunflowers in the garden (measure) to counting grapes for snack (counting) and noting that they are cut in half (fractions).
Providers must demonstrate maths teaching in all areas of provision from involving children in cooking (weight, measure, capacity) to including spoons and jugs in water play (same) and using appropriate language such as words to compare height and speed and describe shapes.
· The childminder must enhance opportunities for children to practice their early writing skills.
Children do not need to be able to write their name to be school ready – but they do need to have strong enough hands, wrists and arms to hold a pencil and be involved in repeated mark making activities with a range of different media which will, eventually and with practice, lead to letter formation.
As I said previously, our inspector was into mark making because that was the focus on her LinkedIn profile so we pointed out how we include mark making in all areas of the provision including notepads and pencils dotted around, lots of mark making invitations to play inside and in the garden and photos of large-scale mark making in our albums.
Early writing skills might be enhanced when you offer opportunities for –
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Painting using large and small movements
- Chalk on the patio
- Digging in the garden
- Games that involve pushing and pulling
- The childminder does not always use her assessments to check children's progress closely and swiftly identify any gaps in learning or teaching.
Most childminders recognise the importance of regular assessment – we do ours termly and share them with parents, making suggestions for ‘next steps’ (individual planning) while supporting children’s home learning at the same time.
The provision is not yet outstanding because:
· The childminder does not give children sufficient time to try to do things for themselves before intervening.
This action links to section 5 of the Ofsted SEF – personal development, behaviour and welfare. We do not know what was already in place at this provision but we might assume the inspector observed a nervous childminder who helped the children a little too much during inspection.
It is important to provide children with opportunities for independence throughout the day –
- A step so they can reach the sink to wash their hands
- Bowls and cups in places they can reach them when they are helping
- Aprons on hooks where they can be accessed independently for messy play
- A box of tissues, a little mirror and a lidded bin so children can wipe their own noses without adult support etc…
- Teach children how to manage own risks in age appropriate ways.
- Children do not always have the opportunity to take part in a wide range of activities and experiences to help them learn to value diversity and find out about the wider world.
While planning does not need to be in writing, it is important that you can show how you teach children across all 7 areas of learning. A photo album or displays of children’s work are good ways of demonstrating compliance.
I accessed Ofsted inspection reports from Watchsted.
I hope you find this blog useful! If you would like me to blog on specific subjects please contact me.
Sarah | Knutsford Childminding