The first reports of inspections carried out under our new education inspection framework (EIF) have now been published. What do you think of them? I hope you’ll agree that they are a little bit different - but not radically so, and more focused on what it is like to be a child in an early years setting.
That was a point I made during a recent webinar for childminders, for which I’m delighted to say that there was a full house. It was an opportunity for me and my colleagues to discuss and clear up some misunderstandings about a few things that I’d like to talk about in this blog. Namely, the learning walk and paperwork, and what these mean for childminders who work in their own homes.
What is the purpose of the learning walk? It’s best to see this as an opportunity. It allows you to explain how you organise the early years provision for the children in your care. While the term is new, the concept is not: talking about what you do with the children and why.
What would a learning walk look like at a childminder inspection? In a childminder’s home, the term ‘walk’ is meant to be indicative and not suggest that it must be an actual ‘walk’ around the setting. It shouldn’t be taken too literally!
I can give some examples from our inspections so far. This important discussion may take place in the living room. Or, it may be that the learning walk will take place in different slots during the inspection, because a parent may arrive and drop off a child. But we think it’s important that the learning walk takes place early in the inspection to give you the chance to talk about what you intend the children to learn and how you will help them to progress. This could be learning to climb higher, dressing a doll, doing a jigsaw without help or singing a new song. There are many things that all early years practitioners need to consider when helping children to learn more and do more.
Inspection is a chance for you to share and indeed celebrate what you feel is working well. It is important that you and your assistants carry on as normal when the inspector calls. Do what you would usually do; don't do anything different just because you think it is what Ofsted wants to see. I know inspection can be stressful, but I would urge you to have the confidence in your professional abilities.
That means having the confidence not to hold on to paperwork just because you think it might come in handy, a little bit like the last few items thrown into your suitcase the night before a holiday. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets out the paperwork that you do need to keep.
There remains a myth that Ofsted wants lots of paperwork. I often say at conferences that there is nothing in the EYFS that says when Ofsted visits you need to take down a folder marked ‘Ofsted’. We want you to focus your time on what matters most, which is looking after young children in a safe environment where they learn and develop well. In summary, paperwork should be limited to that which is absolutely necessary.
On a related note, you may be aware that we inspect before and after-school clubs without reference to the four EIF judgements, and instead give an overall judgement of met or not met. For the avoidance of doubt, since this has come up in our social media discussions, this applies to childminders too. It applies if you only offer care before and after school for children who have spent the day in school. It doesn’t apply if you look after children who are not yet at school as well as older ones.
If you provide care for children across the early years age range, as well as Reception age children, then we will carry out a full EIF inspection. Inspectors will want to find out how you organise your early years provision to meet the needs of all the children. This includes those who may experience their main EYFS elsewhere.
We know that some children who have been at school all day may need to have some quiet time, or do an activity, or run off some steam – it’s up to you to decide what the children in your care need and why. EYFS safeguarding and welfare requirements are designed to help providers create high quality settings that are welcoming, safe and stimulating, and where children are able to enjoy learning and grow in confidence.
If you are unclear about this, the learning walk or paperwork, or indeed anything else about the early years, then please get in touch with us on our childcare registration Facebook page. Or, perhaps join me and my colleagues when we host the next webinar for childminders.