Childminders are teachers according to Ofsted! So, first of all, I think we need to ask… ‘What is a teacher?’…
Sir Michael Wilshaw said this change to Ofsted’s inspection policy – where grades for early years providers will only be high if the best ‘teaching’ is observed by inspectors – must happen because early years providers including childminders are failing to teach our youngest children properly which means they are not ready for school.
Sir Michael then wrote a letter to HMIs to tell them that early years providers must be observed teaching young children (from the age of 2) to –
- Learn new vocabulary and begin to use it in a meaningful way
- Recognise and sing nursery rhymes and familiar songs
- Enjoy listening to stories and looking at picture books
- Build small towers while counting play bricks
- Make shapes from modelling dough and begin to make marks on paper
- Climb stairs and begin to play with a ball
- Start to get dressed and undressed.
Do we comply with the requirements?
Here at Knutsford Childminding we spend our days playing with and alongside the children and supporting their learning through sensitive interactions. Every day children experience -
New vocabulary - we talk to children and listen to their stories, providing them with new words to support their speech and language development. We use a variety of different tools to support language learning.
Nursery rhymes - we engage children in a planned music and movement session every day.
Stories - we engage children in a planned guided reading session every day.
Building towers and counting - we have lots of different resources, in the house and garden, for children to build with – and we teach them counting words and how to use their counting finger during play.
Shapes and playdough – we help the children to make fresh playdough and other messy play resources every week to different recipes and use a variety of cutters (including shapes) to develop fine motor skills.
Making marks on paper – we offer constant access to mark making (paper, crayons, pencils, rubbing boards, stencils etc) and extra mark making resources such as chalk and paint are available in the garden.
Climbing stairs – we have a step to the garden and we ask parents how their children are getting on at home climbing the stairs. We note this in their Learning Journey file at the appropriate age;
Playing with a ball – we have a variety of balls (large and small) for daily use in the garden. Our children also enjoy balloon play.
Dressing skills – we allow lots of time so that children can learn to be independent with all kinds of self-help skills including washing hands, toileting when they are ready, getting dressed and undressed, helping with the cleaning, serving friends at snack and lunch etc.
Looking into this ‘teaching’ requirement a little more
Read further down the letter from Sir Michael to HMIs and you will see the type of things he expects his inspectors to look for when they inspect early years providers – they must observe these type of interactions and activities to check that we are helping children to learn…
We need to teach children… to listen to instructions and be attentive
· We are aware that 2 year olds have single channelled attention so we engage them fully before talking to them
· We play listening games from Letters and Sounds phase 1
· We use ‘Toddler Talk’ activities with all the children
· Adult-led sessions through the day promote listening
· Children are taken on regular outings to groups where they listen to instructions
· We make sure the is minimal background noise and the play environment is clutter free before starting planned activities
· We involve children in doing their own risk assessments so they think about their personal safety and know the importance of listening when we go to new places or do new things
· Children’s engagement in activities is noted and their learning styles / characteristics are supported.
We need to teach children… to socialise
· Children play together in small groups
· They are supported to learn about similarities and differences
· We support children to show respect for the needs of others with support. We have realistic expectations of the abilities and social behaviours of 2 year olds
· We play games which promote sharing and taking turns with the children such as rolling cars, passing balls round a group, turning over the tabs in a book etc
· We take children on outings to help them learn their place in the local community and to explore the wider world
We need to teach children… to try things for themselves
· We provide plenty of time for children to do things by themselves – we are rarely in a rush
· Praise is given for trying as well as succeeding
· Parents are told when their child has tried hard or achieved something new so they can praise their child at home
We need to teach children… to manage their personal needs
· We have resources available so that children can develop their independence
· Children have their own shelf for their bag and coat and a place to put their shoes. We encourage them to be independent
· A box of tissues, hand wipes and a mirror encourage children to wipe their own noses
· There are cosy spaces in the house and garden where children and adults can sit together
· Home toilet training is supported
· Children wash their hands while singing a song which teaches them how to do it independently and effectively
We need to teach children… to think and find out more
· We are always thinking how we can challenge children through their individual planning
· We set out ‘invitations to play’ which encourage investigation
· Children use their imaginations and are guided by adults to follow up new ideas and ways of doing things
· We ensure our role play resources such as food and dressing up clothes allow children to explore what they know as well as learn new things – and an interested adult is always available to support learning
· We ask a lot of open questions which encourage children to tell us more and challenge their own learning
· We have lots of open ended resources to promote exploration
We need to teach children… to speculate and test ideas through trial and error
· We offer lots of opportunities to do the same thing so children can practice and develop their skills – for example, we make playdough every week and the children are regularly invited into the kitchen to cook
· We encourage children to think about what they are doing - sometimes we ask silly questions that make them think a little more.
· We set up practical activities to challenge learning – floating and sinking experiments are very popular or making ice and seeing where it melts the fastest.
We need to teach children… to use good language by being good role models of language
· We do not ‘correct’ language but we do model good language and repeat words back to teach the correct way of saying them
· We always use the right words to describe things or to say the names of animals
· We support children to talk to each other and model good social interaction skills
We need to teach children… to develop their ability to express their ideas and use their imagination
· We have a good range of resources to promote imaginative play such as a till and purse, items to set up a shop, dressing up clothes etc.
· We take children on outings so they can learn about new situations which they can then use in their role play
· We use daily music and movement sessions to support children to express themselves – we also offer daily opportunities to express themselves through art and crafts.
We need to teach children… to extend vocabulary and teach them to use new words
· We ask open ended questions to support language use
· We teach new words when we introduce children to different games and other activities
· We use ‘Toddler Talk’ and ‘Letters and Sounds’ phase 1 with the children - we note children’s progress using Early Years Outcomes and ‘Every Child a Talker’
We need to teach children… to teach the early stages of mathematics and reading.
· We organise a reading and singing session every day – we use a variety of props to engage and hold concentration
· Maths is part of our continuous provision – we are aware of the many different strands within the EYO outcome ‘mathematics’ and we include exploration of them through play
· We have lots of resources to teach children their shapes including shape sorter games and some of our ‘busy bags’ (5 minute adult supported games) contain number, counting and shape puzzles.
· Planned activities such as growing plants and following our timetable support children to learn about the passing of time.
Preparing to teach
Sir Michael said that children as young as two can learn and be taught. We know from our own research and experience that many 2 year olds coming new into group provision need a lot of interventions before they are ready to learn effectively.
We also know that, before we can teach children, we need to find out –
· What they already know – so we can support them to consolidate their learning before moving them on gently and respectfully
· What they can already do – so we are not asking them to do something for which they have not been prepared eg throw a ball before they know how to roll one; hold a pencil before their fine motor skills are well enough developed; sit through a story when they have never been asked to sit still and listen before
· How they use space – if children are usually found in one area of provision, extra adult interventions can support their learning eg if a child only plays with the cars, s/he can be shown how to make roads, paint with wheels, draw cars etc.
· What they enjoy doing – so that structured play opportunities (what we call our ‘invitations to play’) can be offered to each child to support their individual learning needs
· How they learn – their learning characteristics – so we can use their interests, schemas and learning styles to inform their individual planning
· What they are learning elsewhere – so we are not confusing them or asking them to learn too many news things at once.
We have also worked very hard to get our environment right and to make sure every child has the adult interaction, time, space, resources and equipment they need to learn.
Looking behind the rhetoric, the Ofsted Early Years Annual Report (03.2014) gives the following information –
“Teaching for small children is not blackboards and desks - it is counting bricks when building a tower, learning nursery rhymes and familiar songs, or gently coaching a child to put their own arms into their coat. The most successful early years providers, whoever they are, are focused on helping children to learn.”
We never sit a child behind a desk … and our chalk boards are for pictures!
To put together a display / album of photos of children’s parents and important people in their families – to promote PSED.
Sir Michael Wilshaw’s letter to HMIs
Ofsted Early Years Annual Report here
Interesting blog from June O’Sullivan.