Let’s start with what we DO need

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) 2014 sets the standards that all early years providers must meet to ensure that children learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe. This, and the early years inspection handbook, is your go-to document and is far, far more reliable than many answers you will get to questions posted on some social media sites. This is the stuff you absolutely MUST do. Read it, know it, no excuses. What I’m not going to do is reiterate that stuff: what I am going to do though is tell you what you DON’T need, despite what the scaremongers tell you. If you still have any outstanding questions at all though, ask PACEY – they’re the experts on all things childminding related and they’re the ones we can absolutely trust to tell us the truth.

Aside from the paperwork you positively, certainly, definitely, legally have to have, this is the relevant documentation and information your Inspector is likely to need access to on the day:

 current staff list and staff qualifications, including up to date paediatric first aid

 a register/list showing the date of birth of all children on roll and routine staffing arrangements

 list of children present at the setting during the inspection (if not shown on the register)

 any information about pre-planned interruptions to normal routines during the inspection, such as children being picked up early for dentist appointments, vaccinations etc

 the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) records and any other documents summarising the checks on, and the vetting and employment arrangements of, all staff working at the setting and all family members aged 16 and over

 all logs that record accidents, exclusions, children taken off roll and incidents of poor behaviour

 all logs of incidents of discrimination including racist incidents

 complaint log and/or evidence of any complaints and resolutions

 safeguarding and child protection policies

 risk assessment, fire safety, and other policies relating to health and safety Early years inspection handbook August 2015, No. 150068 11

 a list of any referrals made for safeguarding, with brief details of the resolutions

 a list of all children who are an open case to social care/children’s services and for whom there is a multi-agency plan

 information about the supervision of assistants, apprentices or students

 information about training and/or career professional development

 any reports of external evaluation of the setting eg FCCER-S (don’t panic if you’ve never heard of this, in fact, if you’ve never heard of this then forget I even mentioned it)

 the Ofsted self-evaluation document (although not at all compulsory).

And as obvious as this may seem, all of the records we do keep must be recorded in English. That’s that out of the way.

Firstly, I’m almost certain that every Childminder in England will already know full well that we are not required to provide Inspectors with written policies but we must be able to explain our procedures to our parents, the Inspector and others when requested (think Health Visitors & LA Funding Officers etc.) Personally though, I do recommend that you do have them written because they’re so much easier to track: we can date them, edit them when the need arises and put a note in our diary when they need their annual review. For reliable, no-nonsense templates, I recommend PACEY – not a single, senseless, silly policy can be found there [think laminate floor policy and the ilk] and so if it’s not there, you don’t need it, stop looking and stop asking if it’s “okay to have a peek at somebody else’s sippy cup policy” because it’s, well, just stop – you just don’t need one. I can’t over-emphasise the importance of personalising the templates to suit your own setting though. Nobody, but nobody, will be impressed with a policy that states: I [insert name] of [insert setting]…get my drift?

What I’m super keen to get across though is the paperwork we absolutely DON’T need.

Let me tell you, no Childminder ever got outstanding because of his or her paperwork. I know this for an absolute fact. And I hear this a lot: “well s/he must have a lot more paperwork than me“. As if this is what won the Inspector over. It isn’t. And contrary to what some blogs, forums and social media groups would have us believe, we CANNOT be “marked down” for not having written planning or assessments or trackers despite what the scaremongers say, whether they’re hanging out online, in the local play group or at the park. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that they’re being deliberately malicious in any way, they’re just telling you what somebody told somebody else who told them so it must be true. But there is one assessment that we already know that we have to do and that’s the 2 year old progress check but come on, even that’s hardly taxing and does only have to be done once per child. We could probably write all day long in fact about all the amazing things we have observed Frankie doing but hey, only a brief summary for each of the prime areas of learning is needed at age 2.  If you want to do more though then by all means, go for it, but then you can’t whine about how much paperwork Childminders are expected to do because it’s simply. not. true. One assessment per child is perfectly acceptable. (Aherm, now might be a good time to go and cancel your order for those tracker books).

Furthermore, Inspectors must not advocate any particular method of planning, teaching or assessment at all and they must not look for a preferred methodology either. So, if your planning is a scruffy little note in your diary but it’s about how you’re going to teach little Billy how to flip his coat so he doesn’t have to wait for you to help him go out and play while you’re putting on baby Tilly’s snow suit then that’s about as fancy pants as your planning has to be. It’s dated (assuming you’ve put the note in on the correct page of your diary – coz that’d help): it meets Billy’s individual needs at that moment in time (you know this because you’ve observed this): it’s Billy’s next step on his own personal learning journey. The only thing I would probably add is a PSED or PD abbreviation as a nod to Development Matters and Early Years Outcomes just to demonstrate that you are well versed with all 7 areas of learning and development. You might even go so far as putting it in the age range it corresponds with eg 22-36 months, afterall, it only takes another second or two. You can go more in-depth if you’re a bit of a sadist but in that case there’s probably no point whatsoever in reading this post. So long as you know where Billy was last week developmentally, where he is this week and where you’re taking him next week then you can be confident that you’re doing absolutely everything you need to be doing and you’re doing it well. Yes, you can stop doing those tiresome planning sheets with dozens of activities all related to Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, Spring, whatever, and all linked to the different areas of learning. You know the ones. Nobody will ever appreciate just how much work you put into them; the planning probably won’t go to plan anyway because the children’s interests have all gone off in totally different directions since last Friday; and you’ll never, ever get back those hours you spent on them – I know – I used to do them myself. If someone else loves doing them and sharing them then that’s super, but don’t feel inadequate in any way because you don’t do them. It’s fine, relax, it will have no impact whatsoever on the outcome of your inspection.

In addition, you CANNOT be “marked down” for not having learning journals either. They’re gorgeous & everything and wonderful to look back on but there is categorically no requirement for you to bust a gut to produce one. Inspectors must not expect Practitioners to prepare any kind documentation for the inspection, never mind time-consuming learning journals. Instead, they will discuss children’s development with you as part of the inspection and use the evidence gathered from their own observations on the day to help judge the overall quality of the curriculum that you provide for children, but don’t get hung up on that word ‘curriculum’ either. It’s just teacher talk for setting a goal for a child’s development and learning.  So let’s go back to Billy learning to be independent and getting himself ready to go outside to play. Now, what experiences are we going to provide for Billy so that he can achieve this goal? Well, in this scenario we were going to demonstrate the coat flip to Billy remember and then give him the time and space to practice it. We’ll also stay close by so he can get help if he needs it. He might ask for help verbally or, because we know Billy really well, we might pick up cues from his body language, behaviour, eye contact or facial expressions. We’re going to give him feedback on how he’s doing, give encouragement and praise for effort and, when he’s cracked it, we’re going to celebrate this achievement with him, his friends, his parents and his nursery Teacher when we drop him off after lunch. (We’ll make a note in our diary that we shared this milestone with nursery too – information sharing with other settings – check). Aherm, this is getting embarrassing but you might want to think about that subscription to the online learning journal software you use – unless you’re really, genuinely loving it that is. I have used them in the past but I don’t use them now. I have met many Childminders who have created the most awesome learning journals you’ve ever seen, (digital and paper) who have not achieved outstanding and I have met many Childminders who use neither who have achieved outstanding. Take from this what you will.

Much of the information the Inspector needs about our curriculum will come through incidental conversations on the day, prompted by observing the children at play and the interactions between them and ourselves. So long as we can explain how baby Tilly was only lifting her head up from the floor last week but hey presto she’s rolling over onto her tummy today and so from this week on we’re going to be doing tummy time every afternoon to strengthen her muscles to get her ready for becoming more mobile.

Another thing we don’t need to labour over is a written self-evaluation. They’re useful, don’t get me wrong, but is the Ofsted format the best one for the job? I didn’t use the Ofsted SEF for my first 3 inspections – I used a reflective tool that was available when PACEY was NCMA and it was perfect, very user friendly. I only used the Ofsted SEF for my 4th inspection because I was delivering training on self evaluation around that time and I felt I should be a good role model and give it a go. I hasten to add that I have always used a personal journal on an almost daily basis (hey, I’m no saint) and I did think it was going to be a bit of a headache but it was actually quite cathartic. We’re told that uploading a SEF via Gateway will speed up the inspection process but my last inspection was over no more quickly than the 3 previous. Granted, the Inspector already had a very good idea about what she was likely to see that day but the Inspector will still be looking for the actual evidence. At the end of the day, it’s entirely up to us if we want to do one but without it we do need to be prepared to discuss with the Inspector the quality of the environment and activities we provide, and how well we meet the learning needs of the children. Just be prepared for that.

Some might call this scraping by but it really isn’t. So long as you’ve met all of the legal requirements there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever why you wouldn’t get a comfortable “good” grade. Going for outstanding is harder – I won’t pretend it isn’t – and if you don’t mind going that bit further then it’s just as achievable but that’s another post altogether.

So go out into the world with joy in your heart and a bit more cash in your pocket. Tell your friends that your troubles are over: that your weekends and evenings are yours, yours, all yours. You have your life back, your sanity back, a bit more money in your purse or wallet and you have my permission to crack open a bottle of prosecco – or beer – even if it is a school night.

Ofsted recommendations for Childminders updated 04.07.16