So, while we’re banding together with nurseries and day care settings across the whole breadth of the early years sector, showing solidarity as we campaign for fairer funding, we continue to chip away at the very practitioners we should be supporting – Childminders.
Now maybe, just maybe, we really aren’t jealous about how gorgeous or well-equipped a setting is; or jealous about their grade; or jealous about how well business seems to be going for them compared to ours. It could just be that really we’re all just a bit worried about the uncertainty of the 30 hour funding and how we’re going to deliver it, or maybe we’re due our ofsted inspection or anxious about filing our tax return and maybe we’re just letting off a bit of steam and conveniently finding something else to take our anxiety out on. I don’t know. But I don’t like it.
I was brought up in a typical working class family with typical working class values. You know? We’re well known for caring more about our friends, families and communities than other segments of society. It’s true – honest! And I’m really rather proud of that. In fact, I have it on very good authority that “in aggregate, at least, [we’re] just fundamentally nicer” people. I’m thrilled to bits seeing somebody doing well especially during periods of turmoil which, let’s face it, is pretty much all the time in our sector. Learning about somebody else’s success makes me feel all fuzzy and warm inside. It shows me that the world keeps turning despite controversy. It gives hope that things can get better, that things can work. And that line from Bambi? Remember that?
Some people do seem to think that they can say whatever they please online and seem to forget that they’re talking about real homes lived in by real live people with real live feelings. Our homes are our castles. The building and everything in it reflects everything about us. Our whole personalities are woven into every chair, curtain and lampshade. Chosen because we love them. They are very personal spaces and we’re usually very particular about who we let in. So when the owners of settings graciously throw open their doors to share their practice and provision (which they’re obviously immensely proud of) with their peers and are honest and open enough to admit that they find aspects of their work challenging, then they should be congratulated for that. Some might take inspiration from them, some might have a bit of advice to share about how they overcome those same everyday issues. Either way, something positive is likely to come from this generosity.
What isn’t called for is how people would do things differently. How people wouldn’t do this and wouldn’t do that. It doesn’t translate as supportive: it translates as envy – whether that’s the sentiment or not – and goes entirely against the grain of the original purpose of sharing which is to illustrate the diversity of childminding settings. How vastly different one outstanding childminding setting can be from another. My setting looks nothing like The Little Lytehouse Ltd either but it sure does look like a place that would be pure joy to work and play in and if it works for the owner and her own family and her assistants and her parents and their children then that can only be a good thing, right?
And whether little bottoms sit on IKEA nursery furniture rather than rugs and cushions on the floor, the crux of the matter is that OFSTED gathered sufficient evidence to reach the conclusion that children make excellent progress there and that’s what’s most important. We can have the best toys, the best furniture, the best decor – but if we don’t have the best teaching and learning going on then, quite frankly, we just don’t have the best setting. End of.
The journey towards outstanding isn’t an easy one. People only see the grade, not the toil that goes into it.
And once there, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a matter of putting your feet up for the next 3 years or so, all smug and content-like because I can assure you, that just never happens. It’s a continuous and relentless cycle. No sooner have you celebrated (that it’s over) with a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake than it’s back to reflecting, planning and improving. Quite literally that same day. Because we know that however good we are right now, there’s always room for improvement. Mrs O might have highlighted one area for improvement but you might have already been making plans to improve in 3 ways, 5 ways or more.
So, my colour scheme might not be stimulating enough for you. Well, I don’t want it to be stimulating. I couldn’t think of anything worse in fact. No, I want it to be a haven of calm and tranquility because I have to work in it too. Rattan, rush, wicker and straw might not be your thing and you might even think I’m a bit of a hippy. Who cares? What matters is that my setting is also ‘outstanding’ which just goes to show how we certainly don’t have to go for more of a “nursery look” to achieve the grade. And looking more like a nursery definitely won’t have got Deborah and her team their outstanding grade but the work they do in there definitely will have. And besides, even if my setting was a nursery rather than a home-based setting, it’d still look pretty bohemian because that’s pretty much me. And parents and the children love it. And they thrive here. And that, I believe, is precisely what PACEY was striving to illustrate here.
And here’s where Deborah and I differ again: I don’t find paperwork challenging. There, I’ve said it. I don’t find it challenging because I actually do very little of it – in fact – the barest essentials. The things that are statutorily required and very rarely anything more. I think that’s how I stay sane. This is the “paperwork” I’ve done this week. In one little image it tells parents what we’ve been up to. It shows their children in action. It explains the everyday resources needed should they choose to try it out themselves at home. Yeah, I’m much more into sharing information with parents than I am about forward planning. I actually enjoy doing this stuff because the children choose the photos themselves which makes them just that little bit more excited when they tell their family all about their busy day.
What I do find challenging in my work though is keeping up to speed with everything and then translating it from gobbledygook so that I understand it, my team understands it, my mentees understand it and my readers understand it. And picking documents apart and breaking them down into what I must do and what I should do – because there’s an awfully big difference you know and this can have a massive impact on any extra work you think it will create for you. Even OFSTED are keen to dispel the good old paperwork myth. Often, change creates no extra work at all. Now, somebody out there is bound to be doing this better than I do and I’m w-i-d-e open to suggestions. Please… do inbox me. I’m all for an easier life.
So how about we all start again? We go back to the post. We say what we like about the setting and perhaps even what we can take away from it. Or, we say nothing at all because we have nothing at all nice to say. Nobody gets hurt. Just move right along to the next post.
Now read “We’re our own worst enemies”