Busting the paperwork myths

Sue is an early years consultant and PACEY associate. She gives you some top tips on working with parents, child observation and how much paperwork you actually need as a home-based childcarer.

There are many myths around about the paperwork that you have to do as a childminder in England, so it is great to see Ofsted becoming much clearer about what is actually required.

As a home-based childcarer you may be registered on the Early Years or Childcare registers – or indeed both. You therefore need to meet the requirements of Early Years Statutory Framework 2017 and/or the Childcare Register but how you do this is your choice. It does not mean creating files and mountains of paperwork “just in case the Ofsted inspector asks for this”.

Here are some of the essentials to consider for your childminding business:

Positive partnerships with parents from the start

Consider how you develop and maintain a positive relationship with all parents/carers of the children in your care. This will include how you assess a child’s level of development when they first join you; how you do it is up to you – Ofsted won’t be looking for huge development files, but will want you to demonstrate that you are clear on the children’s starting points so you can show the progress the children are making. Perhaps you can start this on your settling visits by using an ‘All About Me’ form? Remember setting next steps with parents will help you to discuss ideas to support children’s development in your setting and at home.

Observation assessment and planning

On inspection day Ofsted inspectors will want to you to discuss and evidence how you care for every child in your setting and the activities and learning opportunities on offer. Be prepared to talk to your inspector about what you are providing and how it is promoting the learning and development of each child present on the day. 

Any observations, assessments, next steps and planning you keep should help to document children’s welfare, learning and development/progress. The Early Years Statutory Framework does not state how assessments and planning are kept or how much of it you need to create. 

Remember - the outcomes of your inspection does not hinge on how much paperwork you have!  Inspectors are not looking for a preferred teaching style or method of recording your assessments; but do remember to include how children learn (i.e. the Characteristics of Effective Learning) as well as what they are learning. You will also need to demonstrate how you work with parents/carers to support every child’s progress; equally spotting if there is a learning delay and working with parents and other professionals to get the right help at the right time is crucial.

Getting the paperwork right for you

One of the main pitfalls to watch out for is being influenced by how other childminders keep their records and documents. What works for others might not necessarily work for you. Ofsted does not have a preference for paper based or online records, so it is your choice how to keep your records and documents. The important thing is that your records and paperwork is up to date, accurate and relevant. 

The Early Years Inspection Handbook (pg. 9 and 10) has a list of documents/information that may be asked for on your inspection. Remember that you have free access to the sample policies with your PACEY membership. If you use the sample policies as a starting point you should aim to personalise them; you need to be able to explain to an inspector what your policy or procedure would be on a certain aspect if asked. For example it is likely that an inspector will ask you about safeguarding and child protection. Typical questions you may be asked include, do you know the four main areas of abuse, how to report child protection concerns including FGM and your awareness of the Prevent duty 

Self-evaluation can be a useful process that enables you to reflect on your practice and evidence what went well and what can be improved upon. Some find it helpful to complete Ofsted’s SEF (written self evaluation form) or any other method of recording your reflections, but it is not compulsory - Ofsted doesn’t expect to see this, so if it doesn’t help you – then don’t use it.

Remember it is a mandatory requirement within the Early Years Statutory Framework (pg13) to provide parents/carers with a short written summary of development between the age of 2 and 3 years old. Again, this doesn’t need to be a lengthy document - a brief summary for each of the prime areas of learning will be fine.

There is a handy list of records to be kept on page 45 of the Early Years and Childcare Registration Handbook.

Storing information

All information and records should be recorded in English, be accurate, up to date and stored securely.  You need to be aware of the requirement to register with the Information Commissioner's Office if you are taking digital photos of children and/or keeping sensitive information about children and families on your computer/online or an app. There is information about the Data Protection Act and also the planned updates called the General Data Protection Regulations on the Information Commissioner's Office website.

Remember that PACEY members have free access to our Customer Services Team, the Legal Team and PACEY advisers if you have any questions.

And above all, before sitting down to do your admin – always ask yourself “what is essential – what do I need to do?” No-one thrives by feeling they are drowning in paperwork; working efficiently will help keep you motivated and hopefully free some time up to spend on the things that you enjoy most!