Are you one of those people who pay for cloud space to store your stuff? Stuff like EYFS documents, journals, e-magazines, research papers and other things we collect that we hope to get around to reading one day. I’m talking about iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive or One Drive. I, for one, have used all of these in the past (hey, by the way, you get more storage space for free with Google Drive and One Drive). Or have you lots of memory sticks with policies, procedures, templates and other paperwork on? And lots of ring binders and folders taking up space – perhaps even whole rooms? Well, we don’t anymore. Because we use Facebook.
Whoa, hang on a minute. How secure is that? I hear you cry
Well, just about as secure and confidential as you’re ever gonna get actually. Savvy professionals have been using it for marketing, collaborating, personal development etc for a good couple of years now so time you got on the bandwagon guys. Not convinced? Read this while I move swiftly on.
So anyway, we use Facebook’s secret groups facility to its full potential. To store a lot of our files such as starting points, two year old progress checks, speech and language assessments and our SEF. We showcase our certificates and awards, training logs, peer to peer observations, feedback from parents, children & other professionals we work with and for our appraisals, fire evacuation plan and risk benefit assessment too. In fact, we have got into the habit of photographing everything we can including PLI and ELI certificates, allergy charts, menus etc and uploading them to this secret group. It’s basically a confidential version of a facebook page which saves us an awful lot of time looking around for stuff here, there and everywhere. It’s not only at our fingertips but it’s there for our Ofsted inspector’s too.
We also use this space to share action research we have undertaken and what actions we took based upon our findings. We share audits we’ve done such as to assess family-friendliness, dad-friendliness and our EYFS provision in general. We save crucial documents here that we need to have access to throughout the working day such as the EYFS Statutory Framework, Early Years Outcomes etc (although we do still have Development Matters and the Birth to Three Framework here too even though they’re archived – you just never know when they might be resurrected).
We share appeals we’ve made to parents to participate in events, initiatives and projects which is an aspect of our work often overlooked and can be difficult to prove to an inspector. For instance, at the time of our last inspection (2014) there was a big push to get Dads involved in early years. I seem to recall there was also something going on at that time to get Dads reading with their children. To show our commitment to such a fantastic initiative we used our parents group to invite Dads to come and spend time with us making some new outdoor resources. We uploaded a lovely poster and photographs of the materials we had at their disposal including screws, nails, hooks, timber, guttering, plumbing tubes and fittings etc so they could start imagining what they could make. We had everything they might need but they were welcome to bring along anything at all that they thought might be useful and were welcome to create whatever they wanted. Naturally most Dads were at work but one or two were available. Today, we still use what they made that day and it’s become something that we do at the beginning of every Spring. Now, let’s say nothing came of that appeal for Dads which, let’s be honest, was very, very possible. How would we be able to show an inspector that we had even tried to engage Dads?
And at this point it’s also worth mentioning what to do when you share information with school or nursery staff because, trust me, it will come up during your inspection as soon as they know that a child attends another setting. Always, always, always make a note of who it was you talked with, where, when and what it was you shared. It could be a developmental milestone or just whether Toni’s feeling a bit tired today but keep a note of it. Try getting into the habit like we have of capturing notes as an image (or screenshotting) to upload to the child’s own photo album and this way it becomes embedded within their own timeline. Share it with parents if necessary. Taking the time to cover all bases so far as information sharing is concerned may well earn you a brownie point. It the sharing of info isn’t a two way thing with your local nurseries and schools, despite your best efforts, firstly – shame on them – but at least you can show you did your best.
Next, all we had to do to harness this unlimited, confidential , free storage potential of the secret Facebook group was create a new group (you must have at least one other member to create a group so be careful who you add. One of my undergrads actually created a second Facebook profile for herself and added it as an entirely independent member), set the privacy status to secret, upload your stuff. Voila. Remember, you can actually even create your documents right there in that group. How amazing is that?
Anyway, we call our secret group “planning, observation & assessment“.
From hereon in we had no excuse whatsoever not to update things as they need updating because we’re using Facebook throughout the day to share photos and videos with our parents via our secret “parents past & present” group. (We tend not to remove parents from the group when their children have left because often the children remain friends for long after they leave us as they go on to the same nurseries and schools). We also use this group to introduce new families to our existing families and so that new parents can get a clearer picture of how things are run around here. They also get to privately message existing parents to get the low-down on what they really think of us and our provision. (Must be good, we’ve never had one back out yet).
We also use our planning, observation & assessment group to display photographic evidence of tracking the progress of a child’s learning and development. We simply create an album for each child so that our evidence is there at the inspector’s fingertips without the need for pulling out, or even creating, separate learning journals. What’s more, not only do we not need hard copy learning journals but we don’t need online versions either. We also use it to showcase our understanding of child development. (Look at the feature image at the top). To create these means there is a requirement to do some research, to observe and assess learning and then link them to best practice or a theoretical perspective. Just because not everyone in the team has a qualification beyond level 3 does not mean they are not competent, knowledgeable practitioners. Indeed, they are graded as outstanding in their own right.
Now, going back to the members of my secret group. They are my co-workers and the benefit of having this group is so that they can dip in and out of it and update their own CPPD logs, upload their own training certificates, review feedback on their appraisals and add their own comments etc. They can also review any amended policies or other files I’ve uploaded and add any notes or highlight points they’d like to discuss when we’re next together. And all from the comfort of their own home if they wish.
We also have a free CPPD group and the team is encouraged to do an average of 1 hour CPPD per week and it’s up to them how they do it. This can be either external CPPD or in-house (delivered by little old me). What is important is that they assess their own learning and its impact upon their own practice and upon outcomes for children, their key children in particular since sometimes the CPPD they choose is for one individual child (although it’s highly likely that their new knowledge will come in useful again some time in the future). There is also an expectation that their learning will be shared with the remainder of the team. This support and collaboration is crucial in not only maintaining high standards of practice but in ensuring the high morale & self-esteem of our team. Happy practitioners equal happy children and we all know that happy children learn better. It’s a win-win.
So that’s that. No, hang on a minute. Make sure your parents are aware that during inspections the inspector will want to know how we know where a child was developmentally last week, where he is this week and where we’re taking him next week and how we share this with parents. This is where normally a Childminder would whip out learning journals or log into their online system. All we have to do is go into our secret group and leave the inspector to explore while we get on with our day. Permitting the inspector access to your secret parent group too is also a super way for them to see how you do actually interact with parents on a day to day basis. Let parents know that you have these secret groups (and their purpose) and check that they have no objections with them being shared with the inspector on the day.
Phew, that was longer than I was expecting it to be.