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Too Many Key Children?


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I work in a committee run preschool, we have over 60 children on the books, some doing 2 or 3 or full time. With only 4 key persons, this means we have a minimum of 16 key children each. We are all finding this overwhelming. Its not only the observations, there is the learning journeys to update, photo observations, unique stories three times a year, transitition grids, then of course there is the individual planning. I am finding that half term holidays are taken up with updating books, a couple of nights a week to keep on top of it. Just wondered how other people cope, we do not get paid time within work time to do any work, it is all in our own time. Is 16 too much, I know it is the same for everyone in early years, and you almost feel guilty to complain, but it is getting to us all. Would love to hear your views, thanks

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16 might look reasonable when you consider that reception class teachers can be key worker to 30 children, however, if you are struggling then it is clearly too much and it does no one any good at all to continue to work under such stress and strain. Perhaps rather than too many key children you are simply doing too much work for each child. Is there any element of the work you could cut down or cut out altogether? What are photo observations and unique stories? Perhaps I've missed something that happens in pre-schools but I'm not quite sure what you're refering to.

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16 is a lot to keep track of! When my son was in nursery at school and then reception parents never received anything at the end so I take it they did not do learning journals, photos etc as we do. In fact we just got the ELG highlighted on a piece of paper. I think that teachers just havent got the time to do all this for 30 children.

 

I am struggling to actually see my key children! I am now SENCo and have one to one with a child 3 of my shifts, then on one shift I am on toilet duty leaving me one shift! So if they arent in then I am stuffed. We have so many children this year just doing the odd one ot two sessions so the numbers of key children have gone up.

 

Now as recommended by our PVI teacher we are not allowed to take home our files to update (confidentiality). It had been expected that you had to come in when not on shift to do. Hard when you work most of the shifts and then have your own children. They paid us £1 per key child so with 10 I get £10 which is equivalent to 1.5 hours. Not enough when I also have IEPs to do, extra obs for CAF meetings, transition meetings/forms etc.It used to take me an afternoon on a sunday once per half term. Cant say I am really taking hours over each either. I really feel for some staff who are only just getting to grip with the development matters and areas. It will take them longer. I know some staff have actually not done their files this half term. I know that staff are feeling fed up with all of this and whether it be committee or the government at fault they fell they need to make a stand. What would happen we all stopped doing it? Could they follow disciplinary if we are not paid to do it??Perhaps we should do less obs? Manager said a couple per half term but then the files would be empty and how would this look to parents/OFSTED?

 

Committee now looking into getting bank staff in 3 days per half term to relieve staff from session to do their files. So staff doing it in works time. We have tried to do it in session with the children but with 20 staff and lots of SEN children it was awful leading to more stressed staff.

 

At least our committee are trying.

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We have 9 or 10 each maximum and I feel this is more than enough! We have 2.5 hours per week in the office to keep our files/observations etc up to date as well (yes we are very lucky). I think that 16 is a lot

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I work in a committee run preschool, we have over 60 children on the books, some doing 2 or 3 or full time. With only 4 key persons, this means we have a minimum of 16 key children each. We are all finding this overwhelming. Its not only the observations, there is the learning journeys to update, photo observations, unique stories three times a year, transitition grids, then of course there is the individual planning. I am finding that half term holidays are taken up with updating books, a couple of nights a week to keep on top of it. Just wondered how other people cope, we do not get paid time within work time to do any work, it is all in our own time. Is 16 too much, I know it is the same for everyone in early years, and you almost feel guilty to complain, but it is getting to us all. Would love to hear your views, thanks

 

That is alot - it would be hard to feel that you could really 'know' each of your key children. The Pre school group in our setting has a maximum of 7 key children each. Babies and toddlers have only 4 each. We still struggle to keep up with the paperwork so you must be flat out! I interviewed a couple of weeks ago and one girl told me she had 23 key children! No wonder she is after a new job....:o

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Hi Bunjy and welcome to the Forum!

Its not only the observations, there is the learning journeys to update, photo observations, unique stories three times a year, transitition grids, then of course there is the individual planning.

 

It sounds to me as though you could be duplicating things if all these elements are completely different requirements? ie:

 

  • Observations
  • Learning journeys
  • Photo observations
  • Uniqe Stories
  • Transition Grids
  • Individual Planning

Is it possible you could rationalise some of these? Your learning journeys could contain the observations and photo observations, for example, and also contain individual planning? Do you have a fixed number of observations you're supposed to carry out? I'm not sure what 'unique stories' are - would they be what some people call 'special books'?

 

It does sound like you have a lot of children per keyperson. Are some of your staff not included in your keyperson system?

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Thank you everyone. Steve and Kariana, in answer to yr question, Unique Stories are what we have to fill in prior to parent eve, 3 times a year. It is a requirement form our SIP (Setting Improvement Partner), and have questions for the parents to complete too, about the childs likes and dislikes. We have to report their wellbeing and involvement, what they like and dont like, next steps etc. Our obs are written rough and then copied up into the learning journeys which have the 6 areas of learning, we also have to include the photo obs in here, a minimum of 5 per child per term. The transistion grids is another tracking system that we have to fill in from our SIP for each child to see where each child is at.

Marley, you are so right, our manager will say we are doing too many obs, if we dont then we have empty books, which does not look good for parents who expect to see lots about their child and how can you track them on the transition grids if you dont have obs in their books.

Thank you Jo, what you have said is just what we are about to put to our committee and manager, we know that other settings are given time to complete their work in work time.

I would be interested to find out about the confidentiality issue, taking the books home, do you have any more information on this Marley?

Thank you, still interested to hear any more views

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I have 22 key children....very hard work to keep on top of it all. In my previous setting we had cover so we did not have to take them home due to confidentialty. Reasons given were.... if your driving home in your car and you have an accident ...your files are in the car and other people may see them......taking then home and they are seen by other people again etc.

I now work in a small private setting and depending what shift I am on I go in an hour early as I dont want to take them home or put myself in a awkward position.........My new manager thinks I am abit mad with my crazy ideas I have brought with me from a large nursery chain. Lol

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since your sip is so good at giving you jobs have they suggested how you get it all done?? :o our learning journeys have our obs/photos and 'tracking all in one ...would that work? can you do obs on post it notes so that they can just be stuck in the appropriate section? or could you design a mini ob form that could be stuck in? i really dont see the point in making work for yourself...writing out the ob twice seems a bit daft! I empathise...used to have up to 20 key children....i've got half of that at the moment and still dont have time to finish them!!

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How many staff do you have? Are there others that don't have key children?

 

6 of my staff have between 10 and 12 key children each. After a recent course if i was told once i was told a dozen times that other people on the course had 5 or 6 key children. The difference was we have 73 children and others had 25! Tongue in cheek my answer was i cut everybody's hours down by half a day and employ a new member of staff to take on some of their key children :o

 

We have two apprentices that have just taken on 2 key children each, but with new children starting after January they will probably all get one or two more. They do get an hour a week to do them at pre-school in the office, and when time allows we give more. We have quite a few students two days a week and I also use that as an opportunity for staff to catch up on learning journeys in the room rather than the office, which also gives them chance to involve their key children.

Edited by laura
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since your sip is so good at giving you jobs have they suggested how you get it all done?? :o our learning journeys have our obs/photos and 'tracking all in one ...would that work? can you do obs on post it notes so that they can just be stuck in the appropriate section? or could you design a mini ob form that could be stuck in? i really dont see the point in making work for yourself...writing out the ob twice seems a bit daft! I empathise...used to have up to 20 key children....i've got half of that at the moment and still dont have time to finish them!!

 

Agreed!! Speaking as a previous reception teacher of 30+ and overall responsible teacher in a nursery class of 39 (BEFORE the EYFS and key people existed in the world of schools) I got used to being key person to very large numbers.

 

I never write anthing out twice. The systems should enable manageabilty as well as quality. I always tell my settings I'm not bothered where they store things - I don't thnk everything has to be in the same place. Making things lovely is not necessarily part of keeping a professional record of a child's progress.

The quality of the assessment is not measured in the weight of paper
is another favourite!!

 

I would say that the SIP has no authority to require you as a private setting to do anything. your committee/setting leaders are ultimately responsible and answerable to Ofsted not the SIP. If they are doing what your SIP says and it's not working then talk to them. If my settings take on anything I suggest, I like to think it's because we have discussed it fully and worked out the best way to implement it in that unique setting rather than there being a blanket way. They all achieve the same end, just in different ways. A bit like teaching really!!!

 

Just remember - the quality of the assessment is not mesured by the weight of the folder.

 

cx

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I completely agree with what has been said previously. Never do anything twice especially not copying up observations neatly. Whatever you do yours obs on goes into the folder. Although you share these with parents they are mainly for your benefit not theirs, so it really doesn't matter whether they are neatly done. Folders/learning journeys don't have to be beautifully presented. They usually look very good with all the bits of information, photos and some examples of what they children have done without enhancements.

I have always done a very brief summary on a pro-forma, strengths/areas for development etc ready for a discussion with parents, as it helps focus what I want to say. There was a box for parents to fill in if they wished. I sent this home with them to fill in after our discussion, and then popped it in the children's folder as a record.

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Could you please come and tell that to my manager. Our LJ have to be pristen and are inspected on a regular basic. If I write up a post it for another collegue she then has to rewrite it in her own handwriting. We have to make sure we have lots of photos in and 5 obs completed everyday.

All books are inspected friday afternoon lol.

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Could you please come and tell that to my manager. Our LJ have to be pristen and are inspected on a regular basic. If I write up a post it for another collegue she then has to rewrite it in her own handwriting. We have to make sure we have lots of photos in and 5 obs completed everyday.

All books are inspected friday afternoon lol.

 

Our advisory teacher was actually a bit annoyed that we were making the books 'nice' (for want of better word) for parents to keep, and said categorically they are a tool for observing the child's development only........... and if the parents want a beautiful keepsake- they should buy themselves a scrapbook and keep it updated in their own time!!!!!

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The problem with re writing its very hard not to change things- not purposefully but the temptation is still there.

 

Where does your Manager get the number 5 from? You could have 15 obs on a child each day but if they dont tell you anything then what is the point? One obs that tells you what that child is capable of is worth more then 10 that tell you nothing.

Do you not have different people observing the children or do you all just observe your own?

I'm not sure what your SIP is doing giving you advise like this. Actually surely that is all it should be advise? Then it is up to your committee/manager whether they take it on board on not. It sounds to me like your parents must get quite a shock when their children start school and they DONT get all this stuff. Goodness 3 one to one meetings per year with parents? Why, are you not all available at th end or beg of each session to discuss any problems, concerns etc.

I would be inclined to do what the OP has suggested and when you are 'told' you have to do all these things just say 'yes, that would be lovely but how much are we too be paid for this extra work'

 

 

And yes, 16 is a ridiculous amount of key children to have, how can you possibly get to know them all as you should. Perhaps your committee need to look at employing more staff?

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Hi Bunjy

 

On average in my setting, we have about twelve key children.

 

We take our key-children's folders home to 'work' on and are paid one and half hours per week to do so.

 

Ofsted were happy for us to take the folders home, because parents sign the following statement:-

 

I have explained this pathway folder to the parent

and informed them that they can look at it at any time.

They give their permission for me to take this folder, observations

and relevant photographs from the premises to

record their child's progress and development.

 

Key-worker signature:

 

Parents signature:

 

This goes into the folder in the first box for the parents to sign.

 

I hope this helps.

Sue.

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Hi

 

Cait - No she does not have key children as it is full day care . 5 obs are snapshots but need to cover all areas of development. It is a big task to be honest as we have to put in photos and ant thing the child has made etc. This is a new setting so an trying to see if I can try and make it abit more easier. We dont do longer obs.

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I put a sticker on my staff's notebooks which says

 

I want to record this because:

 It is a behaviour incident

 I want to remember it for future study

 It is an exciting development for this child

 It gives me ideas for an activity for this child

 I want to share it with someone else

 

I'd rather have one observation that shows some thought, progression and/or reason than any amount of bits of paper that are observing just for observings' sake. You must focus on what and who the observation is for and what, ultimately is going to happen to it. If it's just getting stuck in a file and never referred to again it's a waste of everyone's precious time.

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Thanks again for your replies, interesting. The problem with the writing it out again neatly dilemma, is that often I have 9 key children in at the same time, I use a rough book to jot down obs in shorthand and very bad scrawl. I usually find I am trying to write an ob down and something happens across the classroom so I have to go and sort that out, then the moment is gone! Also the learning journeys are kept in the locked cabinet, we cant write straight into them and my manager has banned the use of post it notes, she hates them with a passion!

Reception teachers have many more 'key children' but then they are paid a teachers salary, we work for alot less, are not paid for sickness and have no pension scheme.

Bluebelle, your manager sounds a little anal, ours does not inspect but no papers are allowed to be sticking out! It has to look perfect.

Thank you Cait for your thoughts, this makes so much more sense, meaningful observations. Our manager does not have key children, she is there to oversee. There are 4 of us full time, we share the 64 children between us.

Sue and Janie, I like this and will share this with my manager - thanks

Catma, the problem is our manager has adopted the SIP ideas and we have to complete them all.

Lynned, we agree 3 times a year is excessive, the school only do 2!

I keep telling myself that I must weigh up the pros and cons of this job, I have been working in childcare since 2002 and it seems to be getting worse. i know it fits in with my children and I am home for the holidays but I feel like I am living to work with all the extra unpaid stuff! In fact its not about the money its the time! Arrgh..........

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How many staff do you have? Are there others that don't have key children?

 

6 of my staff have between 10 and 12 key children each. After a recent course if i was told once i was told a dozen times that other people on the course had 5 or 6 key children. The difference was we have 73 children and others had 25! Tongue in cheek my answer was i cut everybody's hours down by half a day and employ a new member of staff to take on some of their key children :o

 

We have two apprentices that have just taken on 2 key children each, but with new children starting after January they will probably all get one or two more. They do get an hour a week to do them at pre-school in the office, and when time allows we give more. We have quite a few students two days a week and I also use that as an opportunity for staff to catch up on learning journeys in the room rather than the office, which also gives them chance to involve their key children.

Thanks Laura, this is what I would like for our staff, they are feeling very stressed, and an hour a week will go a little way to ease the burden of work, I propose to approach the committee this week with this proposal, wish me luck, I will need it!

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Thanks Laura, this is what I would like for our staff, they are feeling very stressed, and an hour a week will go a little way to ease the burden of work, I propose to approach the committee this week with this proposal, wish me luck, I will need it!

 

 

Hope it goes well Bunjy :)

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We have a maximum of 10 key children and I'd really like not to have any as (I am Manager/Director) I struggle to spend enough time with them; I think mine get the short straw! I also check every one else's learning journals before termly Open Afternoons. My staff get an hour per week in the office and an hour off in lieu per key child at the end of each term for updating the Learning Journals. We all take stuff home sometimes - staff sign out what they are taking and I take the risk :/ I have two new staff and one has 6 key children and one has 4; this was to give them time to get used to the systems, setting etc. If I get any new children next term and thus can afford to keep them on, I'll give them more - up to 8 each is plenty.

 

It is a delicate balance between making things look attractive for parents and the time it takes - tricky. We don't usually copy stuff out but I do check spelling, punctuation & grammar and very occasionally ask for things to be re-written - we work in education so it's good to get that stuff right without being totally OTT about it!

 

Last week one of my new staff had stuck photos in and annotated them and the tenses were all muddled up and there were spelling mistakes and sentences with words missing. I re did it myself and talked her through it - she was fine about it and will hopefully improve!It's really hard, for the money I can afford to pay, to find people who are great with the children, reliable and also with a good standard of written English. (All staff are Level 3 or above but it doesn't always follow).

 

I ask for reports (summaries which are mostly ticks with a sentence each on each Aspect) to be typed and emailed and I edit, correct and print them. This is partly what the 1 hour per key child is for per term.

 

I have one member of staff who does one-to-one for an SEN child and is great with him but has very low levels of literacy. Her handwriting is huge, letters within words are all different sizes and spelling is poor. She has a book I bought her for writing her obs in and I transfer (whilst correcting mistakes) these to his Learning Journal - he's my Key Child. I know it's possible to change stuff but we are professional - I am aware of this and hopefully it's not significant.

Edited by anju
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Reception teachers have many more 'key children' but then they are paid a teachers salary, we work for alot less, are not paid for sickness and have no pension scheme.

:o - they don't get any more hours in the day though! Or adults necessarily. 30:1 is still ridiculous, regardless of salary.

 

Cx

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