As extraordinary as it seems, only a small percentage of all settings throughout England and Wales, including childminders and childcare on domestic premises, are awarded ‘outstanding’ in all areas. This is not a status that is given out frivolously. Settings must prove beyond doubt that the level and care and education that they provide not only meets the EYFS requirements and guidance, but exceeds them above and beyond.
‘Outstanding’ settings will demonstrate that the children in their care relish their time at the setting, and are being supported in embracing, achieving and superseding all expectations.
Early Years Professionals, home carers and childminders will often go the extra mile to ensure that the children in their care receive nothing less than the very best care and education. Children flourish and relish their time in the setting and are encouraged to explore and develop their interests. ‘Outstanding’ childcare professionals are devoted to their chosen vocation and are committed to providing children and their families with a first class service. For these professionals, the job is not solely about profit or financial rewards but about passion, love and the desire to enthuse children in their learning. At the hub of an ‘outstanding’ setting are the children and their families – they are what makes the heart of the setting beat. Children are actively encouraged to develop positive ways of thinking; to form strong and trusting relationships, as well foster a genuine respect for others. Children are appreciated, listened to and are treated with respect and consideration at all times.
Practitioners engage in sustained shared thinking with the children as they develop new lines of enquiry and interest. ‘Outstanding’ practitioners provide children with opportunities and resources to continue to reach their full potential (which continually changes with age and development); they are enthusiastically encouraged to take a significant role in determining their own activities, as well as developing their own positive interests as practitioners afford them with the necessary and appropriate resources to do so. Further to this, ‘outstanding’ practitioners have an exceptional understanding and unprecedented awareness of each individual child’s interests and abilities, and regularly monitor and observe them throughout the day. Practitioners will then share and discuss this information with parents and guardians in order to agree on ‘next steps’ or possible lines of development. Children are fully included in ‘next steps’ planning, and this can be achieved by asking the child to articulate their thoughts and ideas – either verbally or by drawing or painting them. All measures are taken in order to ensure that children are fully involved in the development of their own learning, whatever their age. After all, it is all about them!
Parents as partners
‘Outstanding’ practitioners recognise that parents and guardians are ‘first and foremost’ a child’s most ‘enduring educator’ (EYFS Resources: Working with Parents) and they continually work alongside them. It is essential that parents and guardians, are considered part of the team. You must ensure that you maintain excellent liaison with parents and guardians as this is vital to building a trusting relationship, as well as enhancing outcomes for the children in your care. As part of the holistic approach to learning and development, ‘outstanding’ early years practitioners encourage the two-way flow of information/observation, so that children’s interests, activities and milestones can be captured at home (by the parents), outdoors, and within the remit of the setting. This method allows an overall picture to emerge of a child’s current interest in all environments. Different and innovative strategies are used by practitioners in order to capture this very important reciprocal exchange of information, and, as a consequence, they are used to create personalised planning. As a home carer or childminder, there are many ways in which you could strengthen your partnership with parents and extend your practice to fully include parents in their child’s learning and development process. For example, you could provide opportunities for parents to involve themselves in your setting by engaging them in messy play activities, story time, cooking sessions, or by asking them to volunteer in your setting. Drawing on a parents’ own expertise – whether that be languages, football, ICT or singing – provides the children with specialised learning. This not only enhances their educational journey, but enables parents to play an active and full role in that journey. Safeguarding Rigorous and effective safeguarding policies and procedures should be in place, with home carers and childminders fully aware of their role in keeping children safe from harm. ‘Outstanding’ practitioners know exactly who to contact when a possible safeguarding case arises. They have an in depth knowledge of the steps that they need to take when contacting their Local Safeguarding Partners, and endeavour to ensure that all relevant information is passed on to the correct individuals in a timely fashion and without delay. Safeguarding children is paramount to their practice.
One of the most significant factors in becoming an ‘outstanding’ childcare provider is the ability to reflect on and evaluate your own current practice. Regularly reviewing and identifying areas of strength and development ensures that the children are receiving the highest quality of care and education. This is because a reflective practitioner continually aspires to be the best they can by keeping up-to-date with current practice, trying out new initiatives and taking a critical and innovative approach to new ideas and concepts. ‘Outstanding’ practitioners do this automatically and without prompt in order to make a positive difference to children and their families. For those of you that do not, as yet, have your own method of reflecting, here are some 'Top tips'
Ensure that children are at the heart of everything that you do.
Work in full cooperation and collaboration with parents in order to strengthen relationships.
Capture a child’s interests, not only when they are in your setting, but also when they are at home.
Involve children and parents in the child’s individual planning process.
Regularly update and review your own practice (at least every 12 weeks).
Join and regularly participate in a childminding network or early years forum in your area.
Continue to improve your own professional development by signing up for courses or undertaking Early Years Professional Status/Teacher Status (EYPS/EYT).
Above all, continue to be passionate about children and their learning!