In this blog, we focus on the fact that currently outstanding graded childminders can retain their outstanding grade with the new inspection framework - and if an inspector says otherwise, direct them to inspection reports on the Ofsted website and blogs such as this one about colleagues who have retained outstanding!
**All grades must be available to you under the new inspection framework. Inspectors might tell you that outstanding is harder to get under the new framework, and in some ways this is true. However, they cannot tell you that outstanding is no longer available to you if they assess your ‘quality of education’ and ‘leadership and management’ to be outstanding.
You will find the descriptors for Ofsted inspectors in the new Early Years Inspection handbook – also called the Education Inspection Framework. The new handbook puts a focus on quality of education as well as other areas of inspection and I note that a lot of inspection reports downgrade providers who have not taken steps to improve their teaching knowledge and skills.
In a recent Ofsted inspection where a childminder gained outstanding for the third time, the childminder informed me that she ‘didn’t do anything special or extra for the inspection’. The childminder says that she ‘lives in a small house, which is a home and not a mini-nursery’.
Some of the outstanding things this childminder does, which were observed during a 4 hour inspection, include –
- The inspector noted how the childminder builds close bonds with the children and interacts with them well throughout the inspection. The inspector recorded an example in the report - how the older children make friends and work closely with each other.
**For your professional development, you might find it useful to evaluate about how your interactions with children support their understanding of friendships and partnership working.
- Close working with parents to inform them what their child should be doing at different ages and stages of their learning – to help support home learning. The childminder told her inspector a ‘story’ about advising parents on their child’s footwear which the inspector particularly liked and mentioned in the report.
**Note: the inspector looked at a copy of the childminder’s recent Progress Check at 2 as part of making this judgement about close working partnerships with parents. Ensure your progress checks are in place for every 2 year old because this is something inspectors are checking.
- Responding to children’s interests – this is something I have seen come up in inspection reports a few times and links to the ways in which skilled practitioners observe ‘on the spot’ and help children make the best possible progress from their starting points by linking to their current fascinations as well as teaching them new things.
- Good self-reflection and evaluation and a strong commitment to professional development – the inspector looked at the childminder’s certificates and the childminder was able to share a ‘story’ with her inspector about changes she had made to her practice as a result of recent training.
**For your professional development, consider how well you evaluate training you attend / do and the impact of the training on outcomes for the children or your practice.
- Close monitoring of children’s progress using ‘highly focused observations’ and ‘precise assessments’. Any gaps in knowledge are closed quickly and activities are challenging to allow children to make the best possible progress.
- The children’s independence in self-care routines was highlighted in the inspection report – skills such as cutting fruit with a knife and removing stalks from grapes while explaining the importance of cutting them so they don’t choke were praised.
**For your professional development, think about the children’s independence skills and how you can develop them. What do the children do for themselves – and what do you do for them because it’s quicker or easier to do it yourself? Could you give them a little more time to complete tasks – or better tools such as child safe knives so they can cut their own food up for snack?
- Maths was also praised in the report – the inspector observed children solving mathematical problems during their play and exploring the concepts of patterns and quantity. I note that maths competency is coming up in a lot of inspection reports and encourage providers to be confident in their ability to teach maths – and to showcase what children know and are able to do during inspection.
**Recommendations on reports - outstanding providers do not receive any recommendations any more … they must have ‘outstanding’ practice in all areas. This has opened the floodgates for some inspectors to pick up on single words providers use as a reason for downgrading - for example, a recent inspection a childminder said ‘birdie’ instead of ‘bird’ and felt this was why she lost her outstanding grade.
In the new-style Ofsted inspection reports, there is a section for safeguarding at the end. This discusses whether safeguarding is effective (or not) and notes whether the provider stays up to date with training, is aware of safeguarding responsibilities (inspector knowledge gained through questioning) and, for example, risk assesses and has updated first aid. Most inspectors will ask to see your paediatric first aid certificate to check it is in date.
**Childminder's feedback: this childminder tells me that the inspection was a positive experience and didn’t feel like an inspection – it was more like ‘a chat with a fellow professional who was as interested in the children … as she is’. The inspector played with the children – asked lots of questions – observed everything – and was interested in how the childminder runs her business.
My recommendation from reading this report: you will find it useful to have lots of little ‘stories’ in your head that you want to share with your inspector and get as many of them into conversation as possible.
If you have any questions, please ask. Sarah