In this mornings post (12th Sept) I received a letter from Ofsted raising concern about the care of the children in my setting as follows;
We have received the following information about your provision;
- That you spend a lot of your day updating various websites that you manage or contribute to, causing concern about whether this may be impacting on the care provided to the children.
The information suggests that you may need to take action to remain compliant with the requirements of registration. We are passing on this information to you so that you can take appropriate action.
You need to keep a record of the action you take but you do not need to write to us to tell us what you have done. We suggest you keep a record in your complaint log. We will review your record when we carry out the next inspection of, or next visit to, your provision.
I was shocked to say the least – not that I think people should not raise concerns – because I think they should. In fact parents using my setting, visitors and family members are all told that they should – no must- raise any concerns. I expect nothing less.
So it was not the fact that someone had raise a concern – it was the nature of the concern – how can anyone know what is going on in my setting and therefore even suggest that there maybe be an impact on the care of the children.
However on reflection, I thought, well maybe someone did have a genuine concern, as I freely admit that I do update websites and comment on childminding / childcare issues on a variety of social media.
Then on second thoughts, why didn’t the person with the concern raise it directly with me – it would have been a far more effective way to ensure that I responded. As the person concerned seems to be aware of my websites, I am sure the person must be aware that I am a reflective practitioner and also that the children in my care experience a wide range of high quality learning through play experiences – and they must also surely be aware of my personal ethos?
So a private message, a comment on my blog, a phone call, a email could all have been methods used by anyone with a concern about my setting – and they would have received a direct response from me.
As I say I do use social media – but only for professional comments about childminding and childcare – so again as the person concerned is aware of this why did the not make contact with me through those sites?
Personally, I can not see the benefit of informing Ofsted – they clearly were not very concerned – the wording says MAY be impacting, MAY need to take appropriate action- and important to note – no need to inform Ofsted of action taken and no time scale.
I have to ask if the person informing Ofsted did actually have a genuine concern – or if it was more to do with the bullying that has been going on over the last year? I am not pointing a finger at anyone – it is personal reflection as I struggle to understand why this issue was raised with Ofsted – maybe it is the next stage of the bullying, maybe it is an associate of the bully who thinks that I ‘need to pay’ in some way for daring to write the bullying blogs.
BUT maybe it is not connected to the bullying at all – maybe it was a genuine concern by someone who did not want me to know who they are. With this in mind I am going to explain why it is not sensible to make assumptions about things from afar.
As I have already said – I admit I do post comments on social media – and will continue to do so
I do update my blog and other websites BUT I DO NOT SPEND A LOT OF MY DAY DOING SO.
First I need to point out that the parents who use my setting KNOW that I blog, that I campaign, that I support and advise others, that the computer is on most of the day – it is in fact on when they arrive and when the parents come to collect the children. I do not hide the fact – I am open and transparent about what I do.
The parents also know that my computer is in a position where I can see and hear the children at ALL times in the rooms used for play – and the garden. The children are nearly always within sight and hearing (apart from when they or I use the bathroom – in which case it is within hearing only, just for a few minutes).
Parents also know that there is no chair for my computer – I stand to type, read etc – this means that I can stop instantly to respond to the children – to support them, to keep them safe, to provide physical help if needed or comfort. Children can come to me or I can go to them – at any point in the day – if I am using the computer or if I am not.
At NO TIME are the children ‘left to get on with it’ while I do other things – the children ALWAYS come first.
Parents also know that I write most of blogs late at night or early in the morning – I might post them at lunch time as sometimes I just want to check when I am more awake that I am happy with the content. Therefore I do not spend hours of time during my working hours writing blogs etc.
So that is my first point – It is impossible to make a judgement on what the situation is from afar – and why direct contact with myself would have been far more appropriate action. And should the person not want to talk directly to me – they could have asked a mutual friend to raise the issue with me.
My next point is about my ethos and practice about learning through play – unless someone has visited my setting themselves and seen the environments – inside and outside that I provide – and how the children engage in self selected high quality play experiences - and see for themselves the learning that goes on within that play, people will not realise what my role is (although as already mentioned – anyone who has read my blogs should have a good idea).
The fact of the matter is the children in my care do not need me to intrude in their play, they ask me questions, they ask for support, they let me know verbally and non verbally , if they are upset or hurt or that things are not as they want to be – of course I need to be available, I need to be able to hear them and see them (apart from the short periods of time already mentioned), and I need to be able to stop everything IMEADIATLEY if needed.
Also it is impossible to tell from a far if one of my three assistants are on duty – and as it happens EVERY day one of them is here for at least 2 hours of my working day – so extra eyes and hands to help watch and listen
It is impossible to see which children are here, which are sleeping, or indeed if I don’t have any children at all at that moment in time.
None of this can be seen from afar and therefore judgements can not be made
Finally I would , as part of my personal reflection brought about by the letter from Ofsted, think about some of the things that I could be doing legitimately – that others would not necessarily be aware of but that I know childminders up and down the country do day in and day out – and without anyone writing to Ofsted with concerns.
- Printing photo’s
- Updating records
- Doing formal observations
- Preparing snacks
- Cooking meals
- Vacuuming or sweeping up
- Talking to friends or colleagues in the playground and at toddler groups
- Phoning people both in connection to the childminding setting, but also in connection to personal matters
- Driving around for an hour or more doing pick ups and drop offs at schools / pre schools
- Doing assignments for courses undertaking
- Using the computer for research
- Using the computer to find suitable resources
- Having family visitors
- Having colleagues visit
- Visiting family or colleagues
- Writing setting newsletter
- Preparing displays
- Writing for magazines or other publications
- Using emails or private messages to support others
- Meeting care routines of another child especially babies and those with additional needs
- Phoning Ofsted
- Having support visits from LA staff (if grade warrants it)
And so on … the list is not comprehensive
I have of course shown the parents the letter from Ofsted – they are shocked and don’t understand a) why someone would do this – or b) what will be gained by Ofsted sending the letter
So in conclusion from my reflection about the concern letter from Ofsted – I have decided to write this blog as part of the action that I am taking – and giving those who have visited my setting, who know me well – and the parents of the children I look after, to comment, positively or negatively, as they are the people who know what it is really like here at Penny’s Place
To finish, in the future, I would like those who do have any concerns to speak to me directly – my ethos means I will reply and I will reflect on what is said. Of course if concerns continue and / or it is felt that I have not addressed those concern – then of course speak to my local authority or contact Ofsted - I would expect you to – provided concerns are based on fact and not on personal assumptions about things.