Archive for February 2015

Working in partnership with parents and other settings – A case of ‘All together now?’   2 comments

As we all know Ofsted expect early years settings to work in partnership with parents – to ensure everyone knows what they are doing and in the best interests of the child.

And I totally agree with this – as a registered childminder I do my best to ensure I keep parents informed via daily chats, newsletter and child’s diary.

Of course it is not just about keeping parents informed, you need their views as well, and to respect their wishes, culture and so on.

I think I do this reasonable well most of the time, and excel at other times

On the whole I think most childminders are good at working in partnership with parents – partly because of those daily chats at handover time, and the genuine desire to do the best they can for each child and family.

On the whole it does work in that information is shared. So things like potty training, day time naps, healthy eating all get discussed and agreed on – certainly in principle, if not in every little detail.

Of course I need to be careful not to say all childminders are good at this aspect of practice – because I can not say that – due to the fact that I do not personally know about the practice of all childminders.

Working with other settings has – for me personally proved to be a lot more difficult and often a one way process – in that I provide information but I don’t get any back.

Sometimes I get second hand information back via the parent. Actually I don’t mind this because it is the parent who is the connection – their child attends both settings so passing on verbal information, or forwarding email newsletters, and sharing planning and assessment via the parent seems OK to me – but of course it is not OK for Ofsted – they want direct communication between settings that a child attends.

However there are things where it is vital that parents and ALL settings work together to ensure consistent messages are giving to the child, by parents and all settings that child attends – for example behaviour management.

Other things need forward planning and discussion about how things will be introduced and managed – so that the same experience for the child if with parents, with setting A or setting B.

Things like potty training.

Therefore I was shocked to hear about a colleagues recent experiences which show that partnership does not come into it – it is more a case of parents and setting B being TOLD what and how things should be done with no respect or professional understanding of parents or setting B needs.

So no names, no personal details – but this is a true story

To make it easy to read I am going to call the childminder Steve, the parent Jane, the child Beth and the Nursery ‘Sunshine Nursery’ – all just names out of my head and not connected to real scenario in any way.

Beth (the child) had been showing signs that becoming aware of her own toileting needs, Steve (the childminder) had spoken to Jane on a couple of occasions and put information in the Beth’s daily diary.

Steve and Jane had agreed to discuss again in a few weeks, and Steve had signposted Jane to his policies and procedures, which state very clearly that parents should start potty training at home, and if child successful over a couple of days, Steve would follow parents lead on words used for private parts and body actions, and type of praise. Steve’s policies also clearly state that if a potty training child had more than 2 accidents in a day, that due to hygiene reasons and protecting other children from bodily fluids, the potty training child would have to go back into nappies – and parents would be advised to try again again in a few weeks.

Jane had signed to say she was happy to comply with Steve’s policies and procedures.

As it happens Beth also attends Sunshine Nursery, where they had also noticed that Beth was nearly ready to start potty training.

However, Sunshine nursery had a problem, due to numbers of children in the ‘Bulebell room’ and new children wanting to start, they needed to move some of the older children up to ‘Primrose room’. Beth was one of these older children, Jane was happy for Beth to move rooms – however there was an issue – children in Primrose had to be toilet trained as they don’t have nappy changing facilities. Jane was told that Sunshine nursery could train Beth before she moved to Primrose room.

Jane expressed concern because they were having some work done at home and going on holiday so the timing was not great, she also said that would need to discuss with Steve.

Staff in the Bluebell room at first agreed, but before any discussion had taken place – they announced that potty training would start on Wednesday. Jane was not happy, but felt Sunshine nursery knew what they were doing and so would agree for Beth to start her potty training. Jane told Steve and said he would need to continue on Thursday when he had Beth in his care.

Steve was not happy because he planned to take the children to soft play on Thursday, and did not want Beth to have an accident due to hygiene reasons and the pressure it would put on him and Beth while at soft play.

Steve phoned the nursery

Steve suggested that Beth attended nursery on Thursday so that potty training could be established – but they did not have room for Beth in the Bluebell room on Thursday (and of course as not potty trained, she could not go into the Primrose room)

Steve suggested that they delayed until the next week, as he could rearrange which day to go to soft play, and could meet with parents and nursery to discuss the potty training.

Sunshine nursery said NO – they had to start now because they needed to move Beth up to Primrose room – and in any case EYFS says that at her age Beth should be potty trained.

Steve did his best to explain that EYFS was just a guideline and although Beth was nearly ready, another week or two would make all the difference to Beth being ready, to parents at home as the work on house and holiday would be over, and would give them all chance to meet and discuss, but nursery insisted it needed to happen now.

So reluctantly Steve agree to support the nursery – and parents thought if nursery say Beth is ready – she must be.

On Thursday nursery report excellent success at nursery, parents report limited success at home – and brought Beth to Steve’s wearing a nappy (which was already wet)

When Steve suggested it would be better if Beth arrived in her pants – Jane looked shocked – how would she keep the car seat dry? And in any case nursery said they wanted Beth to arrive in nappies because they could not deal with potty training during the busy morning period.

This is all a true story – I am not suggesting for one minute that all nurseries are like this – or even that Sunshine nursery are wrong and Steve is right – because I do not know Beth and so can not say what approach would be right for her.

However what I am saying is this is a clear case of one setting (in this case the nursery) deciding what to do and how to do it – and in their time scale, with no prior consultation with parents or the other setting (in this case the childminder)

With no discussion about words to use, praise to give, actions if accidents; no thought given to either parent or childminder other commitments, which at the very least will lead to confusion and to the child being given less than ideal situation for a smooth potty training experience.

To my mind in this situation the nursery ‘bullied’ the parent by making it clear that Beth HAD to be trained at this time,; they showed no professional respect for Steve as Beth’s other childcare provider; and they put their own needs (to move Beth up to Primrose room) over and over Beth’s needs and best interests.

The shocking thing is I hear this sort of thing on a fairly regular basis – and Ofsted are not picking up on it – and indeed it is often the childminder who gets marked down for lack of working in partnership with other settings – as they don’t have any proof – but the nurseries either have written proof because the childminders have provided it – or because Ofsted only ask about partnership with the local school not the local childminders.

I wonder what would happen if Beth does not potty train in time? or has a hidden medical reason for not being able to potty train?

I wonder what Sunshine nursery would have said if Steve started potty training without consulting with nursery and insisted it had to happen to fit in with his agenda?

As with all situations like this we have to remember we must not tar everyone with the same brush, as not all nurseries are like this, and not all childminders are like Steve, and if the shoe was on the other foot and Steve had dictated what should happen and how, the story would be as bad ……

,,,,,,, because as far as I am concerned there should not be any stories like this one – everyone should – no MUST work together to ensure the needs of children (and their parents) are met.

Posted February 6, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Why a waste paper bin and a butterfly print changing mat are so important ……   2 comments

….. Not to everyone of course, but to the children in my care and my colleague Carol’s care they are of vital importance.

And my guess is that many childminders could name similar seemingly unimportant items that for the children in their care are really important.

So first for the photos of these everyday items, to set the scene

IMG_5071

IMG_5072

And now for the reasons why they are so important

First the changing mat – as you can see from the photo, it is a normal folding plastic mat – the sort you can get in Poundland – so nothing special – except this one is!

One day a few months ago I had a call from my colleague Carol – to say she had an emergency situation and could I have one of her minded children for the day.

I could, as I had spaces available – and so arrangements were put in place for the mum of the minded child to bring her daughter to my setting instead of Carol’s.

This was all part of the reason why Carol and I work so closely together – having play dates and going on outings together, and so on. Parents are aware that we will provide holiday and back up cover for each other, and that we each know the others minded children very well.

So on this occasion the mum brought her daughter, and was surprised that I had already set up the environment to meet her daughters needs and interests – and in particular I had put out the dolls as I knew this little girl was ‘into’ dolls. I also knew the name for her own doll – which she had brought with her. The little girl came straight into my setting and started playing, and mum went off to work.

The day went really well, at nappy time I used my ‘spare’ mat – the one in the photo – and thought nothing more of it.

The following day Carol’s emergency was sorted and so she had the little girl and her other minded children.

Roll on to the following week

Carol came on a play date with her minded children, including the little girl. When it was nappy change time, Carol got out al the essential equipment to carry out the task – but the little girl was having none of it!

‘NO’ she shouted ‘Butterfly mat’ ‘Butterfly mat at Penny’s’

And so I got out my butterfly mat and Carol changed the nappy.

To support this child – Carol went out at the weekend and brought the same butterfly changing mat – so the little girl now uses a butterfly mat if she is with Carol or if she is with me.

A very small thing but I think a essential thing, supporting the child and consistency.

A few weeks later (and several play dates later) Carol is at my setting with her minded children, one of them had a runny nose – not an issue as both Carol and myself have boxes of tissues available in our settings for the children to access to encourage self care.

However there is a big difference – Carol has a small bin near the box of tissues and I have a bin in the kitchen

On this day, one of Carol’s under 2’s was confused and did not know what to do with his used tissues, so at the weekend I went out and brought a bin that is very similar to the bin Carol has, and put it by the box of tissues.

As it happens the next time this boy came to my setting was on a pre arranged cover visit, as Carol was taking a few days off, for a family bereavement. The little boy was delighted to find I had a bin, and put his used tissues in there.

Another very small thing – but again helps with continuity of care between my setting and Carol’s setting.

Everything we do is in the best interests of the children – including the provision of waste paper bins and changing mats. The ‘little things’ really do make a difference.

Posted February 6, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Childminders Conference at Pen Green   9 comments

It is not often that I write a blog about forth coming events – as of course usually I write about events that I have attended.

However this conference t Pen Green has been brought to my attention, and I wonder how many people know about it.

So I promise I am not on a sales commission, or being paid to write this blog – it is just information sharing

I hope to go myself and I have sent an email to book my place

So here are the details

Date: Saturday 21st March2015
Venue: Pen Green Research Base, Corby
Cost £75

For full details please click on the link

Pen Green Childminders Conference

If you have not heard of Pen Green – take a look at their website (access from the link above)

But for starters here is the information copied from their ‘About us’ page

Our Research Base was established to facilitate professional development and higher education courses for everyone involved in the Early Years Sector. Our students and delegates benefit from a unique education and research facility; we are based within one of the country’s largest children’s centres and have over 30 years experience running an integrated early years provision.

The Research Base has been at the forefront of early years research and training since we first opened in 1997. Since then we have developed our expert knowledge through the management and co-ordination of national and regional training programmes. We have built strong links with governments and national agencies; we have worked closely with the Australian, New Zealand, German and Malaysian governments and state departments in an advisory capacity, and we frequently welcome guest speakers and visitors from all around the world. Our portfolio ranges from the conceptualisation of high profile projects for the Department of Education, to the development and facilitation of our own unique training programmes. Our research team continue to produce relevant and engaging programmes and materials for early years practitioners, some of which are available for purchase on the website.

Maybe I will see you there?

Posted February 6, 2015 by psw260259 in Random Things!

Baseline Testing – the continuing hype by Government. Despite the hype is my understanding is right?   3 comments

PLEASE READ TO THE END – AND IF YOU CAN – ANSWER MY QUESTIONS

As we have come to expect our Government are continuing to push ahead with the idea of Baseline Assessment (which of course are not really assessments but tests).

This is despite early years practitioners, reception teachers, specialists in the early years field, academics and just about everyone with an interest in the development and well being being of children saying THIS IS A BAD IDEA, please stop the implementation of baseline assessment and reconsider the options and indeed if baseline assessment is even needed.

There is a petition from Early Education and the ‘blurb’ to introduce the petition tells us their concerns which I and many others agree with. If not seen yet take a look and consider signing it.

Early Education petition against baseline assessment

There are my two previous blogs about baseline assessment
This one;
Link to my blog from Jan 21st

and this one;
Link to my blog from Feb 2014

And a quick internet search will bring up lots of other articles and blogs about baseline testing – some will be in favour but the majority will be against.

However, as I say DESPITE the concern expressed by those who are concerned the Government are continuing with their plans to implement this (in my opinion) ill thought out idea.

Sue Cowley has written an excellent blog about baseline testing (she agrees it is a test not an assessment) and so if not read it yet, please do as Sue says a lot of things that I think need saying.

Blog from Sue Cowley on Baseline Testing

For this blog I once to concentrate on the things that the Government are just slipping in – a word here and there in documents and on websites – but without fanfare – so going unnoticed by some.

Let’s start with the reasons behind this whole thing – so the hype

Could it be about making money for Government sponsored / promoted companies – so those producing these materials?

Could it be that there is not one single good reason for spending all this money on this (remember the Government are spending millions on provided reimbursement for these approved systems to be put in place)?

Could it be that the Government want to undermine the professionalism of early years settings by saying that the EYFS system of observation based assessments is not good enough – as another drive to getting children into school earlier and earlier?

Could it be that (as Sue suggests in her blog) that schools will downgrade children’s level of development on starting school, so good progress in school can be proved – and by default poor progress in early years settings?

Could it be that these tests will only be focussing on certain skills – and so support the Government plans for little robots unable to think for themselves, or to have individual dreams and skills that do not fit into the Government set narrow vision of what ‘success’ looks like?

Could it be that the Government are introducing the whole baseline assessment to ensure everyone thinks they the Government are doing well because they will be able to ensure year on year that children are ‘doing better’ – even if the number able to read, write, keep themselves safe, care for themselves, fit into society, continue to at current levels – or get worse.

Could it be that less and less young people will be able to earn a living from doing things they enjoy and are good at – but are not academic, because these things become even less valued than there are now – due to the narrow focus of these baseline tests – and therefore focus of the curriculum throughout school (as an example children made to learn times tables by rote, when there is no evidence that this is a skill they will need in their future – and Nicky Morgan’s reluctance to answer times table questions must reflect her confidence to do so correctly – not that I am judging her on that – she seems to have managed her professional life without that confidence)

So what are the REAL reasons for these baseline assessments?

I wish someone would tell me, because in my opinion it has got NOTHING to do with the children – or their future well being and development.

Moving on…. to other concerns – just little things but they are bothering me from my reading of this Government guide

Government guide to baseline testing

Baseline will be voluntary from Sept 15 for 12 months – and the EYFS profiles will remain compulsory. However from Sept 16 baseline will still be voluntary BUT EYFS profiles will no longer recognised!

Confussed? It appears that those who do not want to do the new baseline assessments will not have any ‘official’ data on their pupils?

Even more confusion if a baseline assessment system provider does not attract enough schools to sign up – it will be dropped. Therefore schools will have to choose another one BUT the systems are not the same, so if a school chooses a particular system, and it is not popular, they are unlikely to want to use one of the others.

The cynic in me says could we end up with just one or two ‘popular’ systems- that might be the ones the Government prefer?

Well the Government wants everyone to use the baseline testing so there are making sure it happens.

Government guidance says
Every Government funded school that wish to use the reception baseline assessment from September 2015 should sign up by the end of April.

And From September 2016 you’ll only be able to use your reception baseline to key stage 2 results to measure progress.

Ah – so no choice really – no wait and see if works, no sitting on the fence – schools need to sign up by April 15 (and that is soon, very soon),and if you don’t sign up quickly your preferred option may no longer be available, – and furthermore if not using by September 16 – you will have no ‘official’ measure of your pupils progress.

So does this mean that schools will be mark down, downgraded in Ofsted inspections and so on if they do not have a measure of pupils progress? (Of course they all will but if the Government only recognise baseline ones – then Ofsted not even going to look at any other method of recording – such as observations or photographs or case studies or anything)

I wonder how many heads will be brave enough to say to their reception staff – carry on as you have been, don’t worry about baseline assessment? I wonder how many reception teachers will have to do these tests because their head says so/ is worried about the knock on impact to the school if they don’t?

Arm twisting comes to mind.

However the next bit has really confused me, I know I have problems with words – but there are no ;big words’ in this – so why can’t I make sense of it?

The Government guidance document say;

In 2022 we’ll then use whichever measure shows the most progress: your reception baseline to key stage 2 results or your key stage 1 results to key stage 2 results.

And

If you choose not to use the reception baseline, from 2023 we’ll only hold you to account by your pupils’ attainment at the end of key stage 2.

HANG ON – HANG ON

I think my understanding of this is very poor – I am even more confused than I thought I was

I am reading that if a school has bad progress via the baseline tests (from 2022) the Government will use the progress from Key Stage One to Key Stage Two, as their measure

The Government are saying if the measure from reception to key stage one is bad they won’t use them, they will use the measure from Key Stage One, to Key Stage Two instead!!!

And if schools choose not to use baseline assessment from 2023 they will only use pupils attainment at end of Key Stage Two.

SO FORGIVE MY POOR UNDERSTANDING

Maybe someone could explain to me

Why are the Government pushing this test, spending millions of pounds on it, going to subject thousands of very young children to inappropriate testing – only to give themselves a get out clause of not even using the data, and just measuring pupils attainment at Key Stage Two?

I don’t understand- it does not make any sense to me. Surely I have completely misread this?

We have a system of 6 baseline assessments that you can not make comparisons between (which if a child moves school you may need to do)

We have a huge amount of objections to baseline testing from professionals, many of whom don’t want to implement them but feel they should otherwise their school may be marked down.

And yet the Government are saying ‘we will only use the best progress results, we will only measure at Key Stage Two’ (if it suits us, or if schools not doing baseline assessments)

SO WHY, OH WHY is there all this hype about baseline tests being needed?

Surely it would be better to just drop the idea, save all the money and use the professional judgement of teachers and early years settings to ensure that children are progressing and building the foundations of all future learning through play based learning and their interests.

I await explanations – as I really do not understand why baseline assessments are being introduced, surely I have misunderstood because if the Government are sure they are a good idea, they would a) have one system for all so comparisons between schools could be made, b) they would be planning on using that data not choosing if they will, c) ensuring all schools use it

To my mind it is all just hype with no rhyme or reason

Maybe someone from Government would comment?

Posted February 6, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues