Category : Articles

Articles Recommended Resources

Reducing the paperwork

Whenever I visit settings to do training, or ask practitioners what would make their job role more satisfying, the usual response is “less paperwork”. I have been discussing this with Catherine Lyon, an experienced nursery owner, who has developed her own solution for this problem.

In this guest blog, Catherine explains the rationale for her software as well as its benefits.

Read More

The Colour of Christmas

This is a very special guest blog by Kathryn Albany-Ward.

A Colour Blind Christmas

Kathryn Albany-Ward, Founder Colour Blind Awareness


Normal Vision



This time of year is tinged with a bit of sadness for me, ever since we found out our son is severely colour blind. Until he was 7 we were in blissful ignorance that the colours of Christmas hold no meaning for him.

Read More
Articles Viewpoint

Public Health England’s 7 Priorities for the Next 5 Years

If you have read my previous post on Sir Michael Marmot, you will know that I’m a big fan of Sir Michael’s research, especially Fair Society, Healthy Lives. I’m also always interested in any plans and proposals  that affect children in this country.

So, I was especially excited to see that Public Health England (PHE) has just produced a report that details their 7 priorities for the next 5 years. These are:

Read More
Articles Viewpoint

Good, Quality Documentation

Simona McKenzie has posed another interesting question for me: “What should good documentation contain as a summary of children’s learning, that is focussed and shows exactly what the learning journey a child has taken?”

My first thought was that there are certain statutory, legal requirements that all childcare professionals need to fulfil. Namely:

The Department for Education’s Statutory Framework (DfE, 2014: 13) calls for on-going (or formative) assessments based on day-to-day observations of the children, without ‘excessive paperwork’ that is ‘limited to that which is absolutely necessary’. This is incredibly vague and open to interpretation, both by practitioners and Ofsted.

Read More
Articles Viewpoint

Being an OWL

One of the great joys of holiday time is catching up on the shows that you just don’t seem to have time to listen to or watch during the working week.

Thus it was that I managed to finally listen to the series on BBC Radio 4 called The Educators. In it, Sarah Montague interviews ‘the people whose ideas are challenging the future of education’, and where better to start than with Sir Ken Robinson. I’ve written before about Sir Ken’s video made at the TED lectures and how his humour and observations help make the point.

Read More

Learning Stories – Using Your Observations for Assessment

51jhE2HJ1yL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_Learning stories imageI had the great pleasure of returning to Birmingham recently. This was to so do some training with a group of enthusiastic and knowledgeable practitioners on Observations for Assessments.

One of the techniques that I had chosen to focus on was Learning Stories. Margaret Carr was promoting Learning Stories as a method for assessment over 10 years ago, so it’s not a new idea. However, it is an opportune time to return  to them as the discussion about how to assess children looks to return (BBC Website).

Read More

Sustained Shared Thinking and your Pedagogy

My new online course on Sustained Shared Thinking is now available. You can get it at a special price here…
» The Sustained Shared Thinking Online Course «

In a previous post on Sustained Shared Thinking I spoke about how important Sustained Shared Thinking is to good practice. Since that post in 2009, the EYFS has been updated and Sustained Shared Thinking now appears on page 7 of Development Matters (2012), the EYFS guidance from Early Education.

Sustained Shared Thinking still appears in the new Teacher’s Standards (Early Years) (Sept. 2013) in Standard 2.4, a replacement for Standard 16 in the Early Years Professional Status (EYPS).

It would seem that Sustained Shared Thinking is here to stay – which I think is really good news. However, that now leaves the question of “How can I ensure Sustained Shared Thinking is  part of my pedagogy?”

Pedagogy, in its simplest form, is the way that we teach, educate or scaffold children’s learning. It is the way that we, as  practitioners, create an environment that encourages children to learn for themselves, to solve problems and extend their own thought processes.

It is more than just what we teach, it is how the idea is embedded into everything that we do, from our own personal approach to the environment.

So how can we ensure that we are both engaging  in Sustained Shared Thinking AND giving children the environment that encourages it?

One way is to make sure that all the practitioners in your setting (whether that is the Teaching Assistant, Childminder’s assistant or your setting manager) are aware of the powerful learning that is taking place when you are talking and actively listening to the children.

There should be areas in the setting where extended conversations are encouraged, for example, quiet, cosy areas; dens; outdoor corners and during small group time. Even simple activities such as nappy change time is an opportunity to chat to your child – to encourage the good eye contact and taking turns in ‘talking’ – that will create masterful conversationalists.

Sustained conversations may take place whilst waiting for snack or lunch or on the carpet after story time. They may happen equally outside, whilst looking for mini-beasts or playing a circle game.

Secondly, wherever, and whenever, these opportunities present themselves, you and your fellow practitioners should grasp them with both hands. You don’t know when, or if, your child will what to explore that particularly idea again.

Carefully observe your children and note when they are the most likely to want to talk, then make sure that you have some time to meet their needs on that occasion. This could mean cutting short a circle time or allowing extra time to get coats on – but Sustained Shared Thinking is so important that these are worthwhile sacrifices.

Finally, and most importantly, make sure that all practitioners value and support conversations with the children, making it a bedrock of your pedagogy.

My new book on Sustained Shared Thinking is now published by David Fulton. Find out more about supportive environments for Sustained Shared Thinking in Chapter 6.

My new online course on Sustained Shared Thinking is now available. You can get it at a special price here…
» The Sustained Shared Thinking Online Course «

And to read my ultimate guide to Sustained Shared thinking, click here:

» The Ultimate Guide To Sustained Shared Thinking «


Early Education (2012) Development Matters London: Early Education

Read More

Children and their Future

This week I was teaching on a SENCO course and the topic of new technology came up. Now, I’m old enough to remember when ‘video-phones’ were a thing of science fiction. But these days my 5 year old nephew is as likely to Face-time me as he is to phone and it’s something that is absolutely normal for him.

So how do young children view technology today?

Read More

Summer is Here and the Outdoors Awaits

As the Summer officially begins today and we have felt some of the warm weather as well, I thought it would be fun to share some outdoor images with you today.

These illustrate some of the great ideas and activities that the practitioners in a nursery in Liverpool created during our recent outdoor play training morning.

Read More

Ofsted inspections 2012

Ofsted Inspections 2012

**Note that the latest inspection document came out in Sept 2014 and can be found here: Early Years Inspections, Ofsted  Please do go to Penny’s blog to see an update on her latest experiences with Ofsted inspections. The post below was initially published in July, 2012.

The new guidance for Ofsted inspections that will be used from September 2012 is now out. It makes for interesting reading, not least because the emphasis is on direct observation of practice.

But what is it like to actually be inspected under the new regime?

Penny Webb is a highly experienced childcare professional, who has worked across the spectrum of childcare and is an ‘Outstanding’ Childminder. I was very excited when she agreed to write about her experiences of a pilot inspection, along with some recommendations to make the most of the inspection.

My name is Penny Webb and I am an Ofsted Registered Childminder, in my last inspection in October 2010, I was graded Outstanding. I have a wide range of other experiences including working for the National Childminding Association and Worcestershire Early Years and Childcare Service, lecturing and assessing for child care courses and carrying out quality assurance scheme assessments.

In January 2012 I took part in pilot inspections for the revised EYFS and Ofsted inspection framework. I was phoned on the Thursday and asked if still willing to take part, phoned again on the Friday to be told the inspection would take place the following Tuesday and received the paperwork to support the inspection on the Saturday. So all in all not a lot of time to get my head round what was then the draft revised EYFS, the inspection process, and all the changes.

I admit that panic did set in over the weekend as I hurt my leg and spent most of the weekend in a lot of pain with repeated trips to Primary Care, and as a result any hope of ‘preparing’ went out of the window. However I went ahead with the inspection, (which was a full inspection without any corners being cut) and was delighted to be told that if it had been a ‘real’ inspection I would have been awarded Outstanding.

It is therefore because of my experiences with the pilot that I am writing this blog as I feel I have an advantage point from which to comment.

Ofsted Inspection Framework for EYFS Inspections from September 2012
Last week Ofsted published their ‘Evaluation Schedule of inspection of registered early years provision. In everyday language this is the document that inspectors should consult when making judgements (and therefore giving grades) during inspections as from 3rd September 2012.

My personal thoughts are that although there have been changes to the wording of the EYFS 2012 and the inspection framework documents since the draft documents, the guiding principles and changes to inspection that I experienced in the pilot remain in place. Therefore I am confident that my reflections are valid and an accurate ‘heads up’ as to what inspections will be like from September 12.

So let’s start to put the new inspection evaluation schedule document into context, it says in the introduction on page four:

Point 4 The evaluation schedule must be used in conjunction with the guidance set out in Conducting early years inspections, the Statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage 2012 and Development matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage.

This is important because it means that all these documents mentioned above must be used together – none of them give all the information on their own.

Point 3 The outline guidance is not exhaustive but is intended to guide inspectors on the range and type of evidence they might collect.

Again important, because it means that inspectors may still gather ‘evidence’ in other ways – so some personal interpretation is possible. However it is very clear that inspectors must gather their main evidence from direct observation (Page 7 – point 14) and must take account of the context of the provision inspected, in particular children’s ages, stages of development, the amount of time children spend at the setting each week, and the length of time children that attend for (page 5 – point 7).

The evaluation document is 16 pages long and needs to be read in full by all early years practitioners, and will be looked at in more detail in a future blog. As a starting point I will reflect on the things that stood out to me as being ‘different’.


The inspector for my pilot inspection hand wrote her notes, this was brilliant as the inspector moved freely around my setting and was able to directly observe activities and ask myself and the children questions throughout the inspection. I understand some pilot inspectors did use laptops and this personal choice about laptops led to much debate during feedback about the pilots. Everyone felt that it was better if inspectors did not use laptops but it was pointed out that some inspectors would prefer to use laptops in the settings.

The observations (including a 30 minute detailed observation) were central to the judgements made – during feedback the inspector referred constantly to her observations, and therefore it was quite easy for me to see how she reached those decisions. I think that in cases where the practitioner wanted to query the judgement made, it would be possible to discuss evidence used and judgements made.

I was very reassured by the inspectors constant reference to ‘age and stage appropriate’ as on the day I had 4 children who were either just 2 or almost 2, and I had worried about how the inspector would be able to judge the progress being made by the children (a key factor for judgements). The inspector was able to identify progress made by referring to ‘starting points’ both from my written records and through discussion, and took on board the fact that one child is bilingual so speech development was slightly delayed.

Personally I think it is very important to give the inspector as much information as possible about the children on the day – even little things like as in my case you have twins in your care.

On the subject of providing information to inspectors, I think it is very important that you give a verbal explanation about the environment provided – especially if like me you do not forward plan in detail or have changed the environment to meet the needs of the children – but the changes have not yet made it to the recording paperwork.

In childminder settings it is common practice to set up an environment with continuous provision and / or resources to support stages of development and interests – but then throughout the day to ‘go with the flow’ making changes as needed, which get recorded at the end of day.

As an example I informed the inspector that the duplo was provided because I had observed that the children were starting to construct two and three piece models, that one child had an interest in tractors (some in duplo collection) – and I was supporting sharing and development of small world play.

The other main difference that I noted was the lack of checking of paperwork – yes the inspector did look at documents – but she only spent minutes not hours doing this. She was not that interested in my certificates but wanted to discuss how my training had been put to use and the impact on the children / setting.

She glanced at risk assessments but asked lots of questions about how I kept the children safe – and had observed incidents of this aspect. She looked at learning journeys but was more interested in discussing interests and next step plans with me – using her own observations of the children to access my knowledge and skill.

In summary I found the pilot inspection very positive, it was focussed on the children and their progress, evidence was based mainly on observations and discussions and paperwork was used as secondary evidence rather than primary evidence. My understanding is that my experiences should be the ‘norm’ for inspections from September 12 – I hope this is the case.

Conducting Early Years inspections

Statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage 2012, DfE, 2012; .

Development matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage, DfE, 2012;

Penny’s website can be found here and her LinkedIn profile is here


Many thanks to Mike for the image

Read More
1 3 4 5 6