No Next Steps

As a team we have decided not to do next steps. I’ve honestly never liked them. I’ve always said if I could ditch them I would, but Ofsted always ask about them so they’ve  stuck…for years!!

 I recently read Sue Allingham blog (https://famly.co/blog/management/sue-allingham-next-steps/) on what next steps really are and are they useful. At a staff meeting my staff were saying pretty much the same thing. We make some that are finished before we’ve completed writing the sentence, others we are so ambitious children don’t reach them in the allotted time limit. Staff spend time procrastinating over wording, making the SMART choosing a learning area, and in our opinion, wasting time.

As Sue Allingham states, children progress in front of our eyes. We offer challenges, engage in co-learning conversations and tune into our children’s way of learning. If we concentrate on one or two specific targets we miss so much more of children’s development. This is perfectly demonstrated by this research video that Laura Henry recently showed me  https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IGQmdoK_ZfY, watch to the end and you’ll get the analogy. I also remember one term going through next steps and 75% were on writing, maths coming second. There are seven areas of learning, the setting were homing in mainly on two. I mentioned it but I wasn’t worried, as I knew the variety of the activities on offer was broad and balanced.

With change comes a health warning. The trick is to know your key children well. Know their starting points, know what they’re learning journey has been, and know where you’re heading with them. Basically if you know your children and have good knowledge of child development you know the journey you want to take them on. Ofsted want these stories when they come to us, be ready to tell them.

We are still tracking children on our online platform. We believe this informs and helps us plan. For us we print out the keyperson tracking which stays in the key persons pocket and is a working document to scribble (quick) notes on if and when needed.

Planning, whatever your settings form take should be child centred and reflect all staff and children. Again it shouldn’t be long winded and arduous. Spend more time with the children, that’s where the progress takes place.

Whatever you do, do it for the children. Do paperwork that helps you not that which adds stress to the work process. Be reflective always and make the learning exciting!

The New Educational Inspection Framework My take on it.

The New Inspection Framework is out and we are all caught up in the whirlwind of what has changed. Many are in a panic over the new terminology, new categories of assessment, and wondering if we really can use less paperwork and analysis.

I’m looking at it differently. How can this play to our strengths? Does this play to our strengths? I believe it can. Safeguarding is still a priority, so nothing new there. Leadership and management is still expected to be key to success. There’s no suggestion of dropping any standards, high standards and high quality are as important as ever.

So, why do I think this could play to our strengths. The framework is all about what we hold dear. The children first and foremost! How do we get there?
• Through our ethos, values and pedagogy.
• The theories we follow, the way we believe children flourish personally and develop rapidly through those awe and wonder activities we provide.
• Through knowing our children really well. Where they were when they started with us, where they are now and where we intend to take them on their learning journey
• What makes our children tick. What is it that makes them the unique individual they are?
• How we support the vulnerable children, those with special needs and/or disabilities, and those disadvantaged children whose families may need more support and their children need more meaningful learning experiences.
• We strive to improve experiences for our children all the time!

Why are we getting worried? remember the EYFS is the same.
A few newish concepts are there to get our heads round. We have to think Learning intention, implementation, and impact. We also have to look into the term Cultural Capital. These seem the two main sticking points. I would argue, we do these already if we follow all those bullet points.

Gill Jones ( Ofsted’s Deputy Director of Early Education) also talked passionately about rhymes and books increasing vocabulary and its impact on children’s future success. When I talked to my teams about this they said if they hadn’t read a book for a while the children usually put a book in our lap (or tap us on the head with a book!) wanting a story.

As a setting we have already cut down paperwork. Laura Henry’s Keep it Simple Planning©️ set us in the right direction (thanks Laura). I’ve never insisted on lots of observations. I’ll be taking my foot of the pedal a little bit with tracking, especially group and cohort tracking. However we still need to know that our children are progressing. Our time could be better spent in the process of helping them progress rather than obsessing about tracking charts.

So far, hopefully, so good. Can we chat about all these things, you bet we can. So when Ofsted come round we will be talking, we will be discussing, we will be showing off all that we do. We may not be looking at tracking (phew!) but we will be talking about progress and how we achieve fantastic learning outcomes. Managers will be showing them how we safeguard children, how we help staff develop and encourage them to flourish at work.

If your doing things well, keep going. Look at the new framework and look at how it can play to your strengths. Always improve and never stand still! We’ve got this!

Link to Keep it Simple Planning©️ http://www.laurahenryconsultancy.com/keep-it-simple-planning/

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/early-years-inspection-handbook-eif

School Careers Day – with a special moment.

Today I did my annual visit to the local school for their careers day. Rather than sending students out to various work places, the school chooses to bring working people to the students. This year 37 people from different businesses pitched up.

We are all asked to give the students a mock interview for a couple of lessons and the give 30 minute presentations about our work. For the presentationI always take toys and make it mostly a practical session. Three reasons for this:

  1. To help students understand your never to old to play! ( They’re doing their GCSE’s so play is a great de-stressor! )
  2. To get the students to work in groups and get them to compare the way they play together to what it might look like when your 3. Believe me some of the behaviours are similar!
  3. To get students to think how and what our children learn
    The students have great fun and it’s a great way to get across what we do.

This year a very special thing happened. A little voice piped up “I went to Sparkles.” Yes it made me feel old but what a joy to see her. She remembered she didn’t speak any English, and I remember I had to make my handbag child safe so that we could sit and empty the contents and “talk” about them. I asked her what her plans were for the future. She didn’t know, but her friends said how smart she was, to which I replied “ Of course she is, she went to Sparkles!”

One more thought. One of the activities I bought in I put a homemade number line with numbers written in Polish, which one Polish student loved. I’m not sure what schools do but maybe we need to think of other ways of making other languages visible and usable in setting at school. Two of the girls I did mock interviews with had not been in this country long, one didn’t speak English what she arrived. Apart from Hello and Welcome signs on display I wondered what was in place to support home language as well as what’s available to help them translate all their lessons! Probably many things but food for thought.

A thoroughly enjoyable day with lovely students. See you next Year.

Our Latest Training Day Starring Action Amanda Featuring Juliette Davies (strongly)

The title reads like film credits because these two lovely people created the best training day we’ve had in a while. We planned it for our first day back after Christmas which turned out to be perfect! It brought all the staff from my two teams together for some learning, fun and action. 

To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what we would be getting, but I know Amanda, and I know she has a passion for getting children moving and active so they may become confident healthy adults, so I knew we were in for a treat. Her latest venture is to help us as Early Years Practitioners develop fun music and movement programmes using her app (very reasonably priced!) and giving informative information of the impact this has on children’s all-round  development. With 10 bags of props we were all like littl’uns in a toy shop!

After a short presentation it was time for us to get lively. Using shakers, pom poms, masks, streamers and many more props we sang danced and laughed. We worked to different styles of songs, learnt how to compile a session to keep children active and interested. Amanda armed us with a few tricks of how to mix it up to make it work for us. A few staff activities involving a bit of choreography kept us all thinking, and it wasn’t the most likely staff that took the lead. Everyone had a chance to shine.

Amanda’s personal touch talking through how we could construct the sessions showed her true passion and how she genuinely had our teams needs in mind. You couldn’t help but be touched by her enthusiasm. If she could give me some of her energy, I would be most grateful!!

I’m not forgetting the wonderful Juliette Davies and her amazing organisation EY Matters that she formed to support the Early Years Sector last year as an aside to her Virtual Support business, Virtual Support UK Ltd. She helps trainers and practitioners with all those behind the scenes bits that are so important. For our training day I know she was helping Amanda launch her new venture and will continue to help it take off. For me as part time consultant and PVI owner she has helped me brand my consultancy, helped me with logos, power point presentations and all sorts! A bit like a magician! 

I thank you both for a fabulous day of learning and laughter for my lovely team. I hope to see you again soon.

A ((Short!) New Year Blog.

At the end of last term I was really tired, I mean really tired! Several reasons. I had one of those colds and coughs that just lasted weeks and weeks. There had been a few glitches in the year which always knocks me sideways. However, my faith in my own ability and my expertise from all of my experience in EY has been restored, and here’s the trick. Surround yourself with good people. People who know not only that you are a good EY practitioner/settings manager/ teacher/carer and employer, but you are helpful kind and supportive of others.

So I start 2019 with confidence and renewed energy. I hope to help more settings with my consultancy work. It went a little quiet, but is picking up again through word of mouth. I’m very content to mainly support and manage my two settings, both very special to me. Coaching and supervision helps to create the nurturing environment I value for the children and staff. I might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I can’t please everyone or be popular all of the time, something that doesn’t always sit right but I must accept. I know those who support me and make me stronger, in turn I hope not only to return the favour, but spread the love and support to others, both professionally and personally.

Happy New Year!

#Myfamilyweek…so far!

Life is always exciting when you work collaboratively with Laura Henry!  A call saying “I just want to run something by you”, or “I’ve got an idea” you know your going to be involved in something big! But this is amazing. Celebrating families in all shapes and forms. This is huge. Bereaved families, same-sex parents, extended families, blended families…ALL FAMILIES, count me in Laura!

So we have used some of the free resources. We have collected family photos which the children love explaining who’s who, what the occasion is and family personalities.

children have drawn pictures of their families. We have had some really emotional conversations with bereaved families. There’s a guardian angel in this picture who watches over tha family.

With everything we ask “ What’s the impact”, what are the children getting out of this. Well we’ve not finished yet. So far we have had lots of chatting about a subject children are really knowledgable about…themselves! Where they fit in their family and the role of others they live with. Talking emotions, a building a sense of self. Everyone’s included, everyone’s contributing, so we’re building relationships with our families, so good timing Laura at the beginning of the first term of the year! Getting to know our families well.

Weve started early, but it has so much depth and is such a brilliant concept. Can’t wait for the actual week. BBC are visiting us!

Please click the link below for more information. Join in, its great! …and FREE!

http://www.laurahenryconsultancy.com/my-family-week/

 

Switching off and Back on Again

For the first time since managing my settings I went on holiday in term time! It’s a long story how that happened, but the opportunity to visit New York with my daughter (who works in one of my Pre-Schools) came up, and I couldn’t resist. I have good managers in place, good teams that are dedicated….no Ofsted visits due. So switch off, ok?

A few emails with contact details, phone me if you need to, I’ll pay you back for the call, email me if there’s a problem, any worries here are some contacts that may help you. Yes I really trust you, but just in case. Sorry managers, couldn’t help myself!

So off we went. Despite a shaky start with a yellow cab reversing into another car and dropping us at the wrong hotel (we can laugh now!) we had a fabulous time. Did I completely forget about work? No.

One of our first visits was the Museum of Modern Art, where Van Gogh’s Starry Night lives. So many inspiring pictures using all sorts of shapes, patterns, materials. Hmmm, could we do a version of that? I must put some pics of famous artists as provocations for art. Great ideas for our little ones.

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We visited Brooklyn bridge. We both named children who would love this structure! They would be so excited. It snowed as we walked across, an amazing atmospheric visit. Then there’s the Statton Island ferry, seeing the Statue of Liberty. Lots of policeman around, the lovely American fire engines. We agreed that American trucks looked more “truckie” in their 50’s style cabs. There was so much to see and do. Central Park, Empire State Building, Top of the Rock. New York really does buzz with excitement.

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As we looked for souvenirs for family, we still talked about what the children would like. I asked my daughter was it ok not to totally forget about work? She said it was ok. In Early Years we get to know our children well. It’s not that we don’t switch off, it doesn’t get in the way of enjoying a holiday, but it’s in our blood to think of our jobs and Early Years in general. We had many moments that weren’t thinking of children, but wherever we are, we can be reminded of our jobs and the children we care for, but in a good and positive way.

Thanks to my teams who, no surprises, coped very (almost too) well without me. You’re amazing!

 

After the staff training.

Well…following on from my previous post…it was brilliant! (Please read my previous post on Team Training.) The whole team (almost) went on the first National Early Years Safeguarding conference organised by Laura Henry. I’m not going to go into masses of detail, Penny Webb did an excellent blog about the whole day which you can read by following this link https://pennysplacechildminding.com/2016/11/11/safeguarding-and-protecting-every-child-conference-feedback/

Having said that, some of the team arrived early to help Laura prepare. We got frustratingly delayed by signal problems on the train, but once we got there we were excited to be involved in the setting up. Here we are organising the certificates.

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It looks a mess, but we knew exactly what we were doing! We were privaliged to welcome delegates and guide them into the conference room, giving them their goody bags on the way.

So we were already excited. Laura had organised some amazing speakers, including our home grown ( and well used) Safeguarding trainer Susan Taylor from Tailormade Training Solutions (http://www.tailormade-training.co.uk). We all had our favourites, but every speaker had important messages, with the common theme that Early Years is the most important time to get things right. We all have our part to play in this to ensure children have the best start to continue to be successful in future life. We are all advocates for our children too, and need to speak up for them. We are their champions, we mustn’t let them down.

I want to return to my team theme here. As we caught the train home, we had very active discussions. It was interesting that some of us had different interpretations of what was said, which led to scrutiny of some of our own practices. Jane Evans key note speech led to different interpretations to what she meant. We all agreed we could have listened to the speakers for longer, and would reflect on certain aspects of practice.

My 1-1 supervisions are in full flow at the moment, giving me the chance to see the impact the conference has had. For the workshops I spread my team out. There were workshops that some of them didn’t think pertained to them, such as safer recruitment, that must surely be for managers! But they were greatful for the insight and realise it goes beyond recruitment. What ever level your at in your career, we are all responsible for monitoring staff, speaking out about maltreatment or safeguarding issues. It was useful that they knew why I’m so nosey getting them to make declarations about the people they live with etc! I tell them, but now they really get it! It doesn’t end at recruitment, but is ongoing monitoring that those we have recruited are safe.

Another theme running through the feedback is the use of real examples by the speakers brought safeguarding to life. The outcome is they know more what they are looking for, observing for with our children and families. More alert to get Early Intervention if a family need it. More confident to make the call should it be necessary to protect children.

As manager of two settings I am very confident that all members of staff have extended their safeguarding knowledge, and feel empowered to truly safeguard our children.

A great team experience! If you missed it, no worries, next year another  National Safeguarding Confernce already being organised with fabulous speakers! Follow the link http://www.laurahenryconsultancy.com/safeguarding-and-protecting-every-child/

 

 

Staff training…all of us…EXCTED!!

Once a year I organise training for the whole team. Extravagant I hear you say! Well, I would say it’s a must! The reason I’m so excited this year is it’s a conference. Safeguarding and Protecting Every Child http://www.laurahenryconsultancy.com/safeguarding-and-protecting-every-child/ where we will be listening to fantastic speakers, some renown for their work all over the world! I almost feel like we’re famous ourselves. My team are buzzing, that are so happy to be part of what is going to be an inspirational day. I’m looking forward to seeing our home grown safeguarding trainer Susan Taylor who is amazing!

CPPD takes many forms, and in our settings we do use all types from online ( recently Kathy Brodie’s Early Years Summit) to sending individuals on courses, picking things up from EY twitter and FB groups, books and magazines. BUT the one thing that has the most impact is team training. Last year we had Laura Henry’s Keep it Simple Planning (KiSP). Amazing impact. It has not only made the whole system so much easier, but it means so much more. Less is definitely more! Less work and happier staff.

Here are some of the other reasons I believe team training is the best!

Team spirit

The team rarely get together all on one shift. On a staff inset day all staff are with you. It’s a chance to bring them all together and treat them to top class training. You are on the same page when you start, you are on the same page when you finish. “Together” is the word here. Together because we are dedicated practitioners, together because we will embrace changes from the training as a unit together.

Results

If you sift through my posts you will see that some of the great changes we have made in our settings have been as a direct result of team training. Laura Henry and Debbie Sawh have been our main contributors to changes and improvement. This is far more effective than sending one member of staff, who with the best will in the world has to disseminate the information, convince us it’s great, (and they do) and then try and action the plan. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but with the whole team the change is quick and seamless, together we have more power to make the changes.

Improvements

Some may see these as chores or hard work? Training should impact to make your life easier. The team uses new skills and with Laura armed with instantly usable templates, ready to go! We changed to KiSP in a week. Impact powerful and improvements could be seen on children’s outcomes.

Ofsted

We all know we shouldn’t do things for Ofsted, and I agree. Do this for your setting. It’s cost effective for the reasons above. Ofsted will love the impact of your team training, and you can show off the impact this has on your children. They will nod so loudly you hear the whoosh of air as their head goes up and down, well maybe not that much! Throughout the last inspection, many of our outstanding features were team training based. It also shows outstanding leadership, even if I say so myself!

So for you, for your team, for you children and families, please endulge in staff training days. Enjoy the day, and enjoy the results. Let me know how it goes!

Links

 http://www.earlyyearssummit.com/?ref=Laura

http://www.laurahenryconsultancy.com
http://www.tailormade-training.co.uk

http://www.futureworks.org.uk

The Cap and Gown thing.

I very rarely (honest!) get a bee in my bonnet about other peoples practice,  but this Cap and Gown graduation, I really don’t get it. I see endless posts on FB on how bored children get while they are asked to go up and get their scroll. Sometimes a line of 40+ children. Questions about how to speed things up ping back anf forth. Fine if you’re first! If you’re last and aged 3, it must be torture. Somebody has just posted that children’s behaviour deteriorates during this ceremony…..no suprise there then!

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Who are the graduations for? I can’t see that they are for the children. They don’t understand the concept of graduation. Neither have they passed a test or done research (thank goodness)  to achieve cap and gown status. My daughter has just finished High school with an age appropriate Prom to mark the end of an era. So why do we give our youngest transition such an adult ceremony? Give them something age appropriate as we would always do and advocate in practice.

Our last day is fun, we have family craft, sports, play activities, and a family picnic. No waiting, no dressing up in gowns that the children don’t understand, the day is for all the family to have fun all the time, and celebrate their time with us. A thoroughly enjoyable day for all of us!