I invited myself this time – to the home of a childminder called Jenny, who lives in Warrington and who has just been awarded outstanding in her Ofsted inspection. When I say ‘home’, Jenny’s ‘setting’ really is a home from home environment for the children. For example, she has a plethora of little ‘Home Pride’ men in cabinets and display boards that are easy to take down at the weekend
I wanted to know:
What makes a childminder outstanding under the new framework?
There isn’t a magic outstanding button, but Jenny was happy to share her thoughts and reflections from her recent inspection with me.
Jenny is an ex-teacher and has been a childminder for 15 years. She was graded ‘good’ at her previous inspection in 2015 and really wanted outstanding this time, so she was happy to go that little bit further and do that little bit more when aiming for outstanding.
As Jenny said to me, ‘I am a single parent with a mortgage to pay. I love what I do – but it’s also my job. If Ofsted give me an inadequate grade, I will have to leave childminding and do something else – so my grade does matter to me! It’s personal as well as professional’.
Jenny was ready for inspection – she knew it was coming. During the phone call, the inspector told her what she would be looking for and Jenny told the inspector where to park and that she has a bird, checking for allergies. Interestingly, after a professional discussion about paperwork during the initial phone call (Jenny sharing her views that she is pleased Ofsted have re-focused inspection on practice) the inspector said, ‘Show me what paperwork you think would be helpful – paperwork you deem important’ and she said she would look at whatever Jenny wanted her to see.
Jenny felt that the initial Ofsted phone call helped her to ‘set the scene’ for her inspection.
Jenny has a little chart to show who was in each day and her normal daily routines. She said this really helped her to focus during the phone call, giving her something to work from when the, ‘Oh heck, it’s Ofsted on the phone’ nerves kicked in.
The first thing the inspector did was ask to look around – Jenny did not change anything for inspection.
She saw the main living room, a separate smaller dining room with resources and a table, the downstairs toilet and the kitchen. The house is warm and cosy – not huge or set out like a nursery – it is clearly a family home. The inspector looked at space available, the well organised toys and games on the shelves and in baskets (some labelled and some not) and how the house is set up for childminding – for example, the inspector looked at provision for older children and commented that there was space for the older children to play – and resources for them to use – and looked through the window, commenting on the good learning environment for all the children outside.
Jenny did, as agreed, set out her paperwork on the table and says the inspector looked at it for a few minutes – not the hour or longer other inspectors have spent looking closely at everything in the past. The inspector checked, for example, that the register was well organised and asked ‘what happens if a child doesn’t attend?’ slotting safeguarding questions** into the day as she went along.
Jenny advises all providers to refresh their safeguarding knowledge regularly.
**Note: there is a paragraph at the end of inspection reports linking to safeguarding. In Jenny’s report, the inspector noted that she ‘demonstrates an excellent knowledge and understanding of safeguarding legislation and local child protection procedures’ and shares information about how she uses photos with parents.
Jenny has a few folders she wanted the inspector to see, including a Personal Information File with Ofsted information, insurance certificates (car and childminding), gas boiler record etc; a Safeguarding Folder with policy, procedures and Local Authority reporting information; a Policies and Procedures folder for information she wants to share with parents - and each folder has a simple update list so she can show continued professional development. The inspector also looked at Jenny’s Ofsted certificate, Ofsted poster and first aid certificate, checking they were displayed.
Jenny tells me she made a mistake – she forgot a signature on a medication form – but the parent had signed the child’s daily diary** to confirm she knew it had happened… the inspector accepted this signature instead. This shows that while paperwork is not the focus of inspection any more, if there is a problem with paperwork, the inspector will delve deeper and Jenny was all too aware this could have affected her grade.
**Note: there is no requirement to do a ‘daily diary’ – it is Jenny’s choice because parents find it useful. However, she is thinking about stopping this because it is labour intensive, especially on her busy days.
Jenny recommends doing lots of training and courses (she is a regular on the Childcare.co.uk free webinars) and she completes short, regular audits of practice to help her stay focused. She has parent and children’s questionnaires and a quick annual reflection with notes about aims for the future – the inspector looked at this and asked to see evidence that some of the aims had been achieved. The inspector asked her about her intended future professional development and what courses she would like to do next…
Jenny says she will continue doing this because it helps her to focus on how she is getting on and what she needs to do next.
The inspection report says: ‘The childminder continuously evaluates and strengthens her practice.’
Jenny tracks children’s progress termly – everything she does is termly. For each child, she has all about me and starting points (from files on the Independent Childminders Facebook group), short written observations with photos (and intends keeping them because they are valued by parents), evidence of working with other settings like the local pre-school, ideas for ‘next steps’ activities and termly trackers. She sends the folders home for parents to sign to say they have read them – but recognises that they could get lost and says she might change this in the future.
Jenny says the children’s files are her ‘security blanket’ in case she goes blank during inspection.
The inspection report says: ‘The childminder has established long-term links in the local community.’
However, most of the inspection was about practice – regular day-to-day practice – not a show for the day but things like the children putting on shoes and coats and going straight away to hold onto the buggy to go to pre-school, like they normally do.
Jenny’s inspector observed children’s interactions and behaviour throughout the inspection. There is a comment in the inspection report about how the children share and take turns, forming respectful relationships and cooperating well with each other, with older children supporting the little ones.
The inspection report says: ‘The childminder promotes children's positive behaviour throughout the curriculum’.
Jenny says the inspector asked for a planned activity. During the planned activity, Jenny read her ‘book of the week’ – ‘The Rainbow Fish’ by Martin Pfister – because it was the children’s favourite. The children talked about difference and the activity developed organically with children making differently shaped fish, using scissors to cut a square into triangles and talking about shapes and sizes.
The inspection report says: ‘The highly qualified childminder's exceptional knowledge of the areas of learning helps her to sequence children's learning.’
The report goes on to mention the high quality of early literacy, initial letters of words using phonics, extending children’s vocabulary and maths teaching. These are clearly focus areas during inspection.
The inspection report also links to the story and says: ‘The childminder skilfully uses stories to help children to understand that people who appear different also have things in common.’
The inspector was with Jenny for about 6 hours, with a short break in the middle while Jenny went to pre-school to collect some children as part of her normal daily routine. The inspector then had to ring head office for authorisation before giving an outstanding grade.
To answer my question:
What makes a childminder outstanding under the new framework?
… ORGANISATION and PASSION … are, I think, the key words.
We all work very differently and we all go into different states of mild, moderate and extreme panic when the phone rings and Ofsted announce their intention to visit. Organisation and passion are what will carry us through.
Thank you for letting me visit you Jenny!