Do Childminders Need Written Observations?
17th February 2023
Guest blog by: Childminding UK
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Childminding UK has been supporting childminders for over 30 years. Formed in 1991 by and for local working childminders in Northamptonshire, we now support childminders across the country.
A registered charity, we are the only national organisation that solely supports childminders and we have recently achieved the Princess Royal Training Award for ‘Ensuring high quality childcare through training and support’. All staff are experienced childcare professionals, and have been childminders themselves and our trustees are working childminders or have knowledge of childminding, so we have a good understanding of the sector.
We are often asked how many observations childminders are expected to record if any, what is the best method of sharing observations with parents and that if Ofsted don’t ask for observations at inspection, then why do childminders need to produce them at all?
The answers to these questions depend on:
- the size of the childminding setting
- how many children are cared for
- the childminder’s experience
- the amount of time parents have to receive information about their child’s learning
- the ability of the childminder to retain and relay information about learning and development for each child
- the confidence of the childminder to relay information about learning and development during inspection
What does the EYFS say?
Section 2 of the EYFS clearly states that ‘assessment plays an important part in helping parents, carers and practitioners to recognise children’s progress’, Practitioners must know ‘children’s levels of achievement’ and use ‘their own day to day observations about children’s progress and observations that parents and carers share’. It also is clear that ‘assessment should not entail prolonged breaks from interaction with children, nor require excessive paperwork’
So, what do we know?
We know that in the past, many childminders would keep loads of written information about children’s learning because they felt that Ofsted would be looking for certain things to be recorded.
We also know that in many cases, more information was written down than was actually used. This often created an admin burden that was completed in the childminders’ own family time, but childminders didn’t want to risk being ‘downgraded’ if they didn’t have paper observations ‘just right’.
The right balance
At inspection, Ofsted will not ask to see any written records of children’s learning. This change was made largely to prevent excessive paperwork and stress around recording observations but also because Ofsted can clearly see learning and development taking place as they see the interactions you have with children during inspection.
Ofsted will talk to you about why you do what you do and what you are aiming the children will learn from it and how you know, so they don’t need to see written observations to carry out your inspection.
However, this doesn’t mean that Ofsted are suggesting that childminders don’t need written observations. All childminders retain much more information about a child’s level of learning and development in their minds than was ever written down and it is up to you to decide what written records you need.
- A childminder who only cares for 1 or 2 children and feels confident to be able to explain to Ofsted the children’s current progress and what they are doing for the child’s next steps, may decide that they need minimal information written down because the bulk of information is relayed verbally to parents.
- A childminder who cares for several children throughout the week may find it impractical to mentally retain all the information needed and may choose to record more to share with parents and revisit as needed to plan for future learning.
- A childminder who has parents who do not have the time for lengthy conversations may prefer to provide more information in written records for parents to absorb at a more suitable time.
- A childminder who employs assistants may decide that written records are needed to enable the childminder to oversee the work of the assistants, keep up to date with each child’s progress and ensure that parents have access to an account of their child’s learning and development.
- A childminder who may feel nervous that they will forget to tell Ofsted something at inspection may prefer to keep written records so that they can ask Ofsted to look at them rather than recall everything on the day. (Ofsted will do this if asked).
- A childminder who shares the care of minded children with others (grandparents, group settings etc.) may decide to keep more written information to make it easier to share.
- A childminder who has concerns about a child’s progress and feels they may be having difficulties, may decide to record more evidence so that information can be easily passed to an outside agency when needed such as Speech and Language Therapy.
- A childminder decides to record information for each child to make it easier to complete the statutory 2 year progress check.
Paper or electronic files?
Whether you keep written observations on paper or use one of the electronic learning platforms is purely down to your choice and how you wish to share information with parents. Choose the most efficient method for you.
What to record
Everything you record should benefit the child. It is usual to record information about what you notice the children are doing. Are they showing you they have learned new vocabulary? Are they showing you they have mastered a new skill such as using scissors or knowing the names of primary colours.
It may help to link to the areas of learning so you can see where children are progressing and where any gaps are. This helps you to then plan activities and experiences to fill these gaps.
Some childminders also record the characteristic of effective teaching and learning as this shows you children’s preferred learning style. Children always learn more when they are interested in what they are doing. Some will include children’s schematic behaviour or their well-being and involvement levels.
Most childminders will record the children’s next steps- to aid their learning further and help parents continue this learning at home. Ofsted will ask you about children’s next steps and may also ask parents what their child’s next steps are.
What you need to do is decide for yourself what information you need to record for you to plan for children’s learning and to share this with parents. You will not be expected to record anything else.
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