Some of you are not gonna like this and it could get a bit ugly but you know what? Forward planning is out. Now I don’t suggest that Anna Ephgrave’s pedagogical practice is 100% suitable for me – or any other Childminder for that matter – afterall, she is a practitioner writing a rather pricey month-by-month guide to success in the reception classroom. Not a childcare setting or a nursery – a classroom. But her pedagogical philosophy makes perfect sense to me and with a little tweak here and a little tweak there her methods are totally do-able for the everyday Childminder like me. I tell you what though: nursery schools and day care settings are loving her “planning in the moment” and are slowly [ve-ry slow-ly] changing how they plan for children’s learning. But better late than never huh? So are you still trying to find the time to do one of these for every day, week, month?
Bless. Seriously guys, where have you been? Let me break it to you: unless you’ve been differentiating your plans (remember personalised learning?) for each and every child so that they meet the individual needs of each and every child then they tell Mr or Mrs O [let’s be honest, how many times have you been inspected by a man? I’ve been inspected 4 times and it’s never been a man yet so I’m sticking with Mrs] absolutely nothing other than that you know what kind of activities to do for different areas of learning and development. It doesn’t tell her what you expect each child to gain from the activity. It doesn’t tell her how you are promoting the characteristics of effective learning. It doesn’t tell her the teaching techniques you are going to use. It doesn’t tell her anything useful at all in fact. Presenting reams and reams of this planning will not provide the answers to the questions she needs to ask:
Why are you doing this activity with Scott Snot? What is the aim of this activity for Freddy McTeddy? What will you do to encourage deeper engagement for Manky Franky? How will you extend this activity for Moody Trudy? What are Juicy Lucy’s current interests?
And it is no indicator whatsoever that you will get that outstanding grade you’ve always felt you deserved. In our quest for getting that much-lauded [and much over-emphasised] outstanding grade, we’ve lost sight of the fact that “what children learn is important but how children learn is even more important if they are to become learners for life” (Stewart, 2011).
Psst. Want to know the secret to what does make outstanding Childminders outstanding?
They reflect upon, review and reinforce their professional practice, their provision and their own learning & development and they do it continuously. There. It’s out the bag. And if continuously reflecting, reviewing and reinforcing just isn’t your thing then your chances of getting graded outstanding are just about as high as getting a first class ticket for a front row seat on the first flight to Mars. Even if you have the most detailed planning sheets and the biggest, fattest learning journals. Sorry guys.
Now then, during your inspection visit, Mrs O will be wanting to find out about the quality of teaching and learning you provide and this is how she will do it:
- observe the children at play
- talk to you and the children
- observe how you and the children interact
- check the children’s levels of understanding and if they take part in learning
- talk to you about the children’s knowledge, skills and abilities
- observe care routines and how they’re used to support children’s personal development
- evaluate your knowledge of the early years curriculum.
But hang on a minute. I must have missed out the section where she pores over planning sheets and learning journals. Erm no. I haven’t. It’s not in the inspection procedure because there’s no requirement to do such things.
“Oh, but I can’t do it from the top of my head” I hear you cry.
Well, nobody’s suggesting for a moment that you have to. If you need something written down, write it down. You know what you do and why you do it on a day by day basis but you don’t need to write it down every. single. day. And I know this because hundreds and hundreds of Childminders tell me this month after month after month after month. So when you’re doing your online SEF (if you do one) and you’re in that reflective zone anyway, draft yourself a little precis of your setting as it is today and why it’s like that. You can upload it to your SEF so that the inspector gets a clear picture of you, your setting and the children & families you are currently working with. (Hey, if you’re a bit of a sadist you might even want to do one on a regular basis?) Anyway, it might look something a bit like this:
This is mine from my 2006 inspection. Yeah I’ve adapted it ever so slightly so you guys don’t think I’m still using the old framework but apart from the change in areas of learning from 6 to 7, everything else has been kept exactly the same. So now ask yourself:
- does it demonstrate that I observe the children at play? yup
- does it demonstrate that I use that information to plan for children? yup
- does it demonstrate that I know children’s knowledge, skills and abilities? yup again
- does it demonstrate that I follow children’s current interests? yup
- does it demonstrate my understanding of child development? yup
- does it demonstrate that I am meeting each child’s individual needs? yup again
- does it demonstrate my understanding of the early years curriculum? yup
- does it demonstrate that I share information with parents, carers and the extended family? yup
- does it demonstrate how I observe care routines and how they’re used to support children’s personal development? yup again
- does it demonstrate that I check the children’s levels of understanding and if they take part in learning? yup yawn…
And this is ten years old guys. Ten. years. old. So when I hear people saying “oh but we can’t just do things the way we did them before the Common Inspection Framework” then I say: yes, yes you can. Children haven’t changed since the CIF. The way they learn hasn’t changed since the CIF. The way we help them to learn hasn’t changed since the CIF. What we need to keep in the forefront of our minds is that inspection is primarily about evaluating how well individual children benefit from the education we provide. Mrs O does this when she inspects us on the day – through observing the children at play; through talking to us and the children; through observing how we and the children interact. This is important stuff and is not something she can pick up from any forward planning sheets or learning journals – or even the SEF.
Despite what you might think, the CIF wasn’t designed to make our lives a misery, to make our work more difficult or bureaucratic – it really wasn’t. It was designed to bring together the inspection of different education, skills and early years settings to provide greater coherence across different providers that cater for similar age ranges – so that we are all inspected more fairly. And this was something we all wanted guys, remember that. It was designed, in fact, to support greater consistency across the inspection of different remits so for example, since I blogged about Fundamental British Values, I’ve been invited to deliver training not just in the early years sector but in the Further Education and Skills sector too. The training is almost identical: the only difference is that I have to refer to different handbooks and that’s the beauty of the CIF.
The top and bottom of it is this: If you know where children were [developmentally] yesterday; where they are today, what they are doing today and why; and where you plan to take them tomorrow then you are doing absolutely everything expected of you. This is you observing, assessing and planning. This is you meeting the requirements of the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage. This is you being great at what you do.
Nutbrown, C. (2006) (3rd Edn.) Threads of Thinking. London: Sage.
Paige-Smith, A. and Craft, A. (Eds) (2011) (2nd Edn.) Developing Reflective Practice in the Early Years.
Reed, M. and Canning, N. (Eds) (2010) Reflective Practice in the Early Years. London: Sage.
Schön, D. A. (1987) Educating the Reflective Practitioner. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.