What Did We Find?

So, what I want to talk to you about today is my findings from what I’ve been doing when I go out and do my quality improvement audits. So, these are my findings this week, and I just thought I’d give you some insight. Because we have to travel all over the country for these QIA’s, we have a field team, with 3 of us spread out to make things easier.

Sometimes I go to my home county, which is amazing if I get that; it is perfect for me. But sometimes, I will go as far as Preston, Manchester, Derbyshire or even Nottinghamshire; we go all over the place. We really do travel around. So, I want to talk to you about my findings for this week of what I have been seeing. One of the main things I want to talk about is taking ownership of your curriculum.

The Curriculum

I know that there is so much going on about the curriculum at the moment, but it is important that you make yours bespoke and own it as best as you can.

So, a few things worth considering are whether you have designed your own curriculum or whether you’re using development matters or birth to five. Now I know that I’ve been seeing settings use things like Tapestry to help keep the parents informed, and I know some settings use other apps for this, but I want to ask if this helps you to create a curriculum? That’s what I want to know, how many of these online platforms can help you design your own? Or do they have their own curriculum that you follow, which they call development matters or birth to five, which stops you from delivering your own?

Because that’s what I’ve been seeing this week, so it’s just a question to you guys who have developed your own curriculum, how do you ensure that parents are informed of their children, where they are in their development, their ages and the stages and what their next steps are? The next intentions? What is it that you are doing? How are you sharing that with your parents?

So, if anybody’s reading this, who’s designed one of those, you know, it works for one of those big companies. Still, you’ll begin to miss the trick with designing an excellent curriculum because settings must have that opportunity to design their own curriculum. And when I mean design their own curriculum, there’s no specific way to do this; you’ve just got to prove that you know your children. What do you know of those children and what do you want them to learn before they go to the next stage of learning, the next room, or even to school? What is it that you are doing? It has to be an ambitious curriculum, but it also has to be realistic. In a setting I visited this week, their curriculum was so ambitious that it wasn’t accurate, and those children couldn’t achieve those goals because they were too high.

It’s something that we have to remember; it’s not our job to do the Early Learning Goals before they start school and that’s something that I want to bring across to you is thinking about how and why you are delivering that curriculum. Do you put them under different pillars so you separate them out? Are you sure you are covering all of the seven areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage? Does the curriculum meet the needs of the children?

What’s stopping you from creating your own curriculum and returning to paper-based? What’s stopping you from doing that? Because it still is less paperwork. The best part is that by creating your own curriculum, you actually get to know the children better and that’s one of the things I’ve picked up on this week.

Joint Observations

The other thing that I’ve been picking up on is the joint observations. So, when you get the opportunity to do joint observations, how do you ensure that the observation is the one that both you and the inspector want to see? There is nothing worse than choosing an observation for somebody to do and it goes absolutely pear-shaped believe me, there is nothing worse than this. But if you are a practitioner and you are being observed, there is nothing wrong if it’s going pear-shaped and you decide to change the activity. Because you are being reflective at that time, you’re being proactive and evaluating what isn’t working and how it can be improved. You’re being mindful that the children aren’t getting anything from it.

So that’s the other thing that I am picking up from those visits, those audits, those QIA’s that I’m doing, is that if you’re doing the joint observation and you get Hannah that goes out and does a joint observation with you then she’ll pick your joint observation, but if you get me then I tend to go well, you tell me. So, this week, I told a setting, “You tell me what you want me to say. And they wanted me to see this activity, which sounded amazing; it really did. But it just didn’t work. The children didn’t know what to do when it’s supposed to be something that they do every day. But it just wasn’t right, it wasn’t and it should have been stopped. The practitioner or the manager should have said, “I need to stop here and evaluate where we are and talk to the practitioner”. That is what an inspector wants to see. Not that you carry on digging a hole and get deeper and deeper into that hole; just take a step back and think about what you are doing and if it is right for the observation.

The Learning Walk

Joint observations and your curriculum are the things I am considering as a high priority. The other thing is your learning walk; take ownership of it and shine through it. You know your setting better than anyone else, so don’t just save that learning walk for when you’ve got an inspector coming. Practice it; the whole thing about doing the learning walk is practice, practice, practice, and encourage your staff to be doing the learning walk as well. Let them take ownership of it. Because if you just do a learning walk when the inspector comes, then it’s not going to become a natural part of your day. So those are the three tips that I want you to be thinking of, one is your learning walk, two is checking out your joint observations and making sure that you’ve got them. If they’re going wrong, evaluate them, stop them, and change them. We want to see that you have evaluated it and said it’s not going right; I need to change it and give the reason why; that’s exactly what we are looking for.

The last one is making sure that your curriculum (if you are designing your own curriculum, then a high five to you because that is amazing) it has to be ambitious enough for children to be able to extend their learning. However, you need to remember that it shouldn’t be so ambitious that the children will not be able to reach that. So those are the things, the three tips of my findings of the quality improvement audits. If you are reading this and panicking, get in touch with us as we may be able to support you with something, we would be delighted to help you.