My advice is to prepare for the worst case scenario and actually expect this to happen. What can happen will happen afterall, but we’re Childminders right? We can handle anything can’t we? My own learning journal system crashed days before my last inspection (2014) and I’ve never been an aficionado ever since. What always amuses me though is how people assume that going paperless means going online anyway when, in fact, we can go entirely paperless with just a digital camera and a dry wipe pen. Most people, however, do use a computer or a mobile device of some kind which means that even those with the most basic IT skills can still create and share evidence of what they do and how they do it without subscribing to online systems. And if you do your SEF online then quite frankly you’re laughing. You’re practically an IT expert.
My first piece of advice to you is to get into the habit of photographing everything. And I mean everything. That observation you wrote on a post it note? Take a photo. That note to self reminding you to tell the nursery school teacher that Juicy Lucy is being picked up early by Daddy to go to a dentist appointment? Take a photo. Sid Squid’s first attempt at writing his name? Take a photo. And get into the habit of uploading the images to your preferred storage space because you’re gonna use them later. (Do I have to remind you to be registered with ICO?)
Next, I’m reaching out to those of you who fill out your SEF online. Nobody likes reading chunks and chunks of text – not even me and I love reading. We like it broken up with photos, infographics, things that make us laugh out loud. Well, we might skip out the cartoon strips but you know what I mean. So here’s your chance to showcase your evidence and now you want examples. Well, how about you insert a photo of Manky Franky finger feeding himself in the highchair with a photo of your post it note observation and next steps? Try to write next steps after an observation. It doesn’t have to be every single time or even immediately after because you know how it is, sometimes we just can’t for the life of us think that quickly on our feet but do come back to it if you can. Then insert another photo – one where perhaps he’s sitting at the table, say a month later, with the other children using a fork, with a photo of your observation and next steps and so on. They don’t always have to be of him eating though. His development can be seen in other areas too but what you are showing is evidence of tracking his learning and development. You don’t need to do it for every child – you’re just giving a snapshot of your practice. It doesn’t matter if your online system is down on inspection day, Mrs O has already seen what you do, that you know what you’re doing, and she knows what to expect to see on the day. The tone is set, she’s already impressed, and she can’t wait to meet you and your little treasures.
Want to showcase your planning too? Well, firstly, I’ve written several blogs on how to do planning other than on paper, such as using the environment and our continuous provision but however you do it, take photos and upload them to your online SEF. And remember, every time you write next steps this too is planning and what’s even better is it’s planning for each individual child. If you want to go all out you could even upload photos of certificates and awards, risk benefit assessments, allergy charts – anything in fact. Just don’t be tempted to put too much in. Remember: snapshot. Here’s a screenshot of part of our 2014 SEF for Part A: Setting details and views of those who use the setting, Section 1: Your setting:
Or even your CPD log from PACEY’s membership area:
And how about sharing reviews from past and existing families whether they were posted online or as a handwritten note:
and from other professionals you’ve worked with:
Then there’s our own evaluation of our provision (we don’t do things quite the same now as we did back then mind but that’s what critical thinking and reflection is all about isn’t it? – and I’m not ashamed to share where we were 2 years ago compared to where we are today):
Use whatever you think best showcases your practice and provision. It could be ages before you’re inspected though so be sure to review this from time to time so that what you are presenting is current.
Finally, we finished up with the areas for improvement that we identified ourselves and again:
Granted the attachments are a bit dated now and even a bit embarrassing sometimes but they are from an old SEF remember and I wanted to share one that had already ‘passed’ the inspection rather than our current ongoing one (which has yet to be ‘tested’). Remember though, the SEF is not compulsory and if you download the word version rather than the PDF you can still do all of the above and send it off. Maybe even print a copy for yourself if you like having some tangible to refer to? And remember, if you work with a team, share the SEF so that they get to add their own bits too.
So, still think you’d panic if you end up off-grid on inspection day?