The aim of this reflective account is to discuss my developing practice and how as a childminder I ensure my setting meets the requirements of the curriculum which I follow. This is based on the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS, DfES, 2007), whilst still keeping true to my own beliefs in the best environment for learning to meet the needs of all the children whom attend my setting.
My setting has eleven children enrolled, from one to ten years; all children are able bodied, although some have specific behavioural needs. I belong to a local quality assurance and childminding network. As an early years provider I have a responsibility to implement the four themes of the EYFS; A unique child, Positive Relationships, Enabling Environments and Learning and Development including the sixteen commitments. I believe the EYFS has brought positive changes to settings, as it ensures that no-matter what type of setting, there is now a set of standards which all must meet. This can only be seen to offer peace of mind to parents and as a benefit to children’s well-being. 1
The course has taught me the background of the EYFS, as a key part in The Ten Year Childcare Strategy, (DfES, 2004c) and the Childcare Act 2006 (DfES, 2006), ensuring the Every Child Matters agenda is implemented. The five major themes combined with the five outcomes of the Children’s Act 2004, highlights the important role required of the Early Years Services and multi-agency working. As a result of the recent changes of the Childcare Act 2006, one of the biggest impacts I have noticed is the training available. The aim of The Children’s Plan (DCSF, 2007); ‘To make England the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up in’, has many measures in place to support this and one of the changes needed is for professional development to be coherent in the children’s workforce . (KU3)
As Sylva et al points out, “Quality of provision is dependent on the quality of the staff who work in the settings” (Melhuish et al, 1999; Sylva et al., 2003). 2 Because of the funding available not only have I been able to access this course, I have also recently completed courses on ‘Observing children in the home setting’ and ‘Senior Safeguarding Children’. I ensure parents are updated of any new training to demonstrate my professional attitude to my setting. (CS1, CS2 & CS3, KU3)
I also show a professional attitude to my role by using parent evaluation forms and having a suggestions box (for children and parents). Due to some of the children coming from broken families I send the diaries via e-mail or paper copy, it is also one of the EYFS principles ‘Positive Relationships’.3 (KS4) Parents receive a parent information booklet, which includes policies and procedures to comply with the EYFS statutory requirements and to highlight my roles and responsibilities, such as; safeguarding children, positive behaviour management, medicines and first-aid, equal opportunities, health and safety, fire procedure, accident and emergency plan and my complaints procedure. A significant change from the EYFS has been the need for planning to focus on each child’s individual learning, development and care needs and to ensure that the children and their families are fully included in all aspects of care.
The importance of observations and planning to meet individual needs was stated in an article a in the Child Care magazine (November 2007), “It is important you know what level the child is at, what their next steps are, what their interests are and how you can enhance those interests”. This was before the introduction of the EYFS, in September 2008 and it demonstrates that is was good practice to use observations before it became a requirement in order to give each child a valuable learning experience.
By being a reflective practitioner and using observations to construct my planning, I understand when I need to adapt activities within my setting to meet the needs of all children. I regularly observe and plan the curriculum around individual needs and it also my responsibility to facilitate learning and ensure correct resources and materials available to ensure inclusion for all; this could be something as simple as ensuring I have left handed scissors available, to ensuring younger children are able to participate in forest excursions by having them in back carriers and having spare waterproof clothing. (CS1, CS2 & CS3) 4
Compared to many other early years’ settings, I have a strong emphasis on being outdoors and I work from a large log cabin amongst trees in my garden. This encourages the children to explore their natural environment and often leads to unintended curriculum such as; finding lots of snails on a rainy day and then making ‘home’s for them amongst the trees. In Norway, almost 10% of kindergartens are based outdoors www.teachers.tv/video/35165 and I share their attitude to children and the outdoor environment with the saying “There is no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing”. We often go on forest excursions, build out door dens using natural resources and the children have the freedom to explore. I believe my role in this helps the children develop a positive and confident ‘can do’ attitude no matter what the elements. (CS1 & CS3) 5
It wasn’t until I completed the activity in ST3 ‘Reflecting on Approaches to Curricular’ that I noticed that I use some similar practices to the Steiner approach such as; we sing songs to inform everyone it is tidy up time, and song time is a very active affair. I encourage the children to explore their natural environment and we celebrate the changes in season first hand. I believe this approach enhances the EYFS guidance as it is a play led approach, the main difference with the EYFS is what it expects children to achieve academically before they are five years than the Steiner approach expect of children of seven years. Which is also when countries, such as Sweden believe is the best age for children to begin formal education www.teachers.tv/video/12090 (CS1, CS2 & CS3). 6
Although I do feel that the children who attend my setting benefit greatly from my outdoor curriculum compared to the rather small outdoor area at the ‘Lark’s Children’s Centre’ (DVD 1), the Centre has a well equipped indoor space, where there is a professional attitude by the multi-agency professionals. It was encouraging to see the way they shared information, to ensure the best outcome for the parents and the children. In comparison I work alone although I do participate in network meetings.
I share information regularly with nursery staff and teachers and use observations to support parents in discussing concerns with other professionals. It was obvious from the different projects that the Children’s Centre has good funding; in comparison I work privately and my setting relies on my income to supply equipment and resources (CS1 & CS3). However both settings have a positive ethos in working with parents and children. 7
Meanwhile similar targets to Sure Start have been set within other countries in the United Kingdom such as the Early Years Strategy in Northern Ireland (DENI, 2007), The Early Years Framework (Scottish Government, 2009a) and the Flying Start programme and the Framework for Children’s Learning in Wales (Welsh Assembly Government, 2008), all of which have the aim of improving the life chances of the very young members of our society, by ensuring they have access to good quality child care and education.