As part of our continued drive to improve daily practice members of the Senior Leadership and Management team attended a webinar on ‘How to achieve outstanding results through adding impact’ delivered by Vanessa Dooley from Jigsaw Early Years Consultancy.
From the very outset it was obvious that Vanessa is not only passionate about supporting the Early Years sector, as a former Inspector, she knows from first-hand experience how to achieve positive results.
The aims of the session were to discover:
- The importance of reflection every day in our settings and what to focus on
- How paramount protection is with our settings and the need for a consistent approach
- The art of interaction, not only between ourselves but with children and the impact we are making with them
- Where we are able to be inspired and how it is not all about Pinterest and social media
- How progression within our team as well as children is the key to all impacts
- The significance of collaborating with others
In reflecting how to improve practice we need to ask ourselves three key questions:
- What are we doing now and what have we done so for?
- So, what was the impact of our efforts?
- Now, what are we doing next?
To calm and reassure everyone, Vanessa reiterated the need to believe in ourselves and our teams and that any inspection is the one time that we have to shine – to share with Inspectors what fantastic work we do on a daily basis.
The first area of focus is reflection and the importance of reflection every day and what we focus on… our day-to-day vision. What are we trying to achieve overall for our children and families and for our staff teams to ensure that we all have positive outcomes?
For colleagues we need to pay attention to feedback they provide from training sessions. Did that training inspire them and put fire in their bellies to go that extra mile with our children so that they have amazing learning experiences?
Questionnaires are a great way to garner opinion, but these need to be meaningful and distributed in a timely manner with appropriate time for reliction so that any views can be considered and agreed actions implemented.
Staff meetings are an ideal way to upskill and reflect on practice; as well as a chance for colleagues to discuss what they have gained from professional development sessions. For them to have any real benefit, meetings need to be held frequently.
Unfortunately, we all receive complaints – it’s best to deal with complaints openly and honestly then move forward instead of dwelling. We should reflect on what happened, how we handled the issue and what we have learned from it.
Finally, we need to reflect on our last inspection – what were the strengths and what do we need to do to improve further? We need to reflect and ensure that any suggested actions are being implemented.
The second area to focus on is protection and it is of paramount importance that all colleagues have current, up to date and full knowledge of best safeguarding practice and this should be delivered face to face rather than online.
We need to look at our safer recruitment practices to ensure that all colleagues have been brought on board following a robust procedure to protect the safety and wellbeing of children and colleagues.
Safeguarding policies, procedures and training need to be reviewed and updated frequently to reflect any changes in guidance and all colleagues must be aware of their contents with opportunity to evaluate and reflect on any development opportunities.
An important element of protection is Risk Assessment, and it is vital that these are updated and checked by who has completed them to add impact and to maintain the health and safety of our children and colleagues.
Vanessa noted that we must focus on interaction and measure the impact with regards colleagues; what do we do now and what has the impact been? Are we doing enough right now? For our children – we must listen to their voices and act on their choices.
Best practice is that we protect our children’s emotional wellbeing, especially since their return from the negativity of coronavirus and successive lockdowns. We should encourage our children to talk openly about their emotions and embed opportunity for this in our daily practice as well as provide opportunities for them to participate in activities that provoke critical thinking skills.
She also highlighted the need for us to promote sustained shared thinking and recollected an encounter with a little boy during an inspection at his setting. They were looking at chicks that were hatching and the little boy informed her that chicks with a brown strip of feathers on their head are males. So, Vanessa learned something that day!
Partnerships with Parents need to need to be fostered and it is really important they are positive. We shouldn’t just limit communication to our daily reports of toileting, food intake, wow moments and periodic observations. Communication needs to be open and available for all to see, so for parents that don’t always come into the setting, why not put a notice board up outside with relevant and important information such as where to find their local Food Bank and how to obtain support on Domestic Violence etc.
Inspiration is an area of focus and for us to have maximum impact we must review our teams as well as our indoor and outdoor spaces. Our main and best resource is our staff team and we need to make sure that they are supported and have the best opportunities to impart their knowledge and provide our children with inspirational and innovative learning experiences at each and every session that they attend. How are we doing that and what can we do better?
Do the resources in base rooms and outdoor areas correctly reflect the age and stage of the cohort and do they match their interests and fascinations to promote learning and progression? We should be encouraging development in all areas of learning and not merely distributing dot to dot’s that don’t encourage or stimulate development. Are displays of children’s work to celebrate their achievement with an opportunity to go back and make changes to rather than adult designed British Values boards with information downloaded from Twinkl etc? Do base rooms have cosy spaces where our children can sit quietly to read a book or reflect on what activities they have taken part in or how their session is going? Do you incorporate the local community into your curriculum and how do you do that? Do you visit libraries, residential care homes and support children in recognising their place within the local community? Do you invite guest speakers and/or family members into your setting to read favourite texts and share their life experiences?
Vanessa discussed the need for us to consider progression and stated that observations are the key. They need to be meaty to be impactful and not just a photo with a comment about little Johnny that isn’t meaningful. Also, manager-peer observations are a useful tool in driving up the standard of delivery as practitioners can then become aware of areas of good practice, areas for development and any suggested training that may support improvement in practice. Tracking of progress is of paramount importance; whether we refer to Birth to 5 Matters or Development Matters, but we must always be able to confirm the distance that a child has travelled, what their next steps are and what support we provide along the way. We must consider and include our cohort children when planning activities as it is they who will be participating in and benefiting from them.
Progress Checks at Two are an ideal tool in measuring progress and it is best practice to liaise with and exchange information with both parents and Health Visitors. Once completed copies of the report should also be shared with Health Visitors as they may form part of the support team working alongside the child on his/her EHCP.
Progression is also a factor for colleagues, and we need to ensure that efforts are purposeful and have impact. What opportunities are there within your setting for internal progression? Do you have a plan for succession in a range of roles within your setting and what training and continued professional development opportunities are available to support enhancing skills, knowledge and understanding to improve practitioners’ daily practice? What is the real impact of those strategies?
For practice to be effective and have impact settings need to have strong collaboration
with a wide range of people including parents and carers as well as their wider families, other settings where a child may transition from or to, outside agencies such as health professionals and local authorities to name a few. We need this to ensure that the information contained in SEN Referrals and transition documents are factual rather than opinion based and supports the development of children so that they achieve their true potential.
So, to really drive forward and improve best practice within our settings we need to take a step back and measure the impact in the areas discussed. We know that what we do is for our cohort children and not for Ofsted, but ultimately Ofsted are going to inspect and provide their opinion in the form of an Inspection Report. We all aim to achieve the highest grade possible in the quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development and leadership and management in comparison to our previous inspections. We need to reflect and gather evidence to confirm that we have taken the suggested steps for improvement.
We would like to thank Vanessa and the team at Jigsaw Early Years Consultancy for an enjoyable and inspirational webinar. I am sure that we will all take away lots of areas for reflection so that we can work collaboratively with our teams to measure and improve the impact of our work.