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November 2013 Newsletter

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The Ofsted new 'Evaluation Schedule for inspections of registered early years provision' came into force on the 4th of this month. The evaluation schedule provides outline guidance and grade descriptors for the judgements that inspectors will report on when inspecting registered early years providers who deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage. It is available here.

The EYFS handbook for 2014 is now available here.

The Department for Education and the Department for Health have published ‘Good Practice in Information Sharing in the Foundation Years’. The information is available to view on the Foundation Years website.

FSF News

Hope you're now used to and enjoying the new appearance of the FSF website. Next week (1st December) we're going to be acknowledging the inexorable approach of Christmas, and putting up the decorations, which are new to suit the new appearance of the site (frankly the old ones were a bit battered and dusty anyway). We'd love any members who have Christmas themed setting photographs to add them to the Gallery album we've set up for this purpose. Find more information on how to do this here.

Weavers (Tapestry users) please note two things:

  • Program update: Coming imminently. For the full announcement and a list of new features visit this news page.
  • Tapestry price increase: On 1st December subscription prices will change for new subscribers. NB - current subscribers (those who have had a subscription since before 1st December) will be unaffected by this price increase. For the new prices and more detail, please visit this Tapestry news page.

LA Scheme

We'd like to welcome back members from the following authorities, which have renewed their LA subscription. Members need do nothing, their individual accounts will automatically be re-subscribed:

  • For their third year - Oldham
  • For their sixth year - Darlington and Surrey
  • For the seventh year - Northamptonshire and  London Borough of Richmond
  • For their eighth year - Worcestershire
  • For their ninth year - Birmingham

Welcome back to you all!

New Content

Are You Ready for Your Joint Observation? Observing Practice under the OfSTED Inspection Framework

Why does the joint observation element of OfSTED inspections cause us panic and anxiety? Providers and senior management are the people who have overall responsibility in leading and supporting practitioners in their work with children. The OfSTED inspector needs to be satisfied in assessing the accuracy and quality of their abilities in staff monitoring and evaluation of practice. The joint observation opens up a whole dialogue with the inspector where they can assess the senior’s abilities of this first-hand. The positive aspect is that providers and senior managers are contributing towards the judgement about the quality of practice and children’s learning directly, rather than sitting on the receiving end of a day’s feedback. This is an opportunity for all those involved to demonstrate how well early years settings are run through monitoring and evaluation.

Aspects of Art: Sculpture

Working in three dimensions gives children the opportunity to practise skills such as planning and problem solving, fixing and joining, shaping and assembling. This is an art form that involves imagination and the technology of transformation as children explore how to change an object, or a collection of objects, into something else. Sculpture can be done on a small or large scale, by an individual or collaboratively. The key to inspiring children to work in 3D is to have a wide variety of interesting and unusual resources available and to embrace each child’s creative ideas.

A Reception Teacher's Blog

After a ten year break from teaching, Iris returns to face a reception class and her first task is to take the register...

A Reception Teacher's Blog (2)

The Great Reception Bake-off. The day that I cover in Reception is cooking day. I embrace the learning of this valuable life skill at such a young age, and clearly the children do too as it is a very popular activity: oversubscribed in fact. It is also a bit of a dietary minefield.  In this class we have 2 lactose intolerant, 1 gluten-free, 1 severe nut allergy and three vegetarians. So that means dairy free margarine, soya milk, special flour or no flour at all, no meat and no nuts. Flexible baking is the order of the day.

Understanding and Developing Reflective Practice

It is important, when considering reflective practice to examine what early years policy and guidance statements say about the need for early years practitioners to be reflective practitioners. Whilst the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) (2012) does not categorically mention reflective practice it does state the need for practitioners  to 'respond to children's emerging needs and  interests' (pg.7) 'whilst  building warm positive relationships with children'. The EYFS discusses the need for practitioners to plan activities around the needs of the child, evaluate their effectiveness and replan in the light of new knowledge which has been observed. It is interesting to note that the diagram produced around planning in early years settings is similar to that of Kolb's learning cycle.

From The Forum

Help please with an observed group time activity

I have a group time observation coming up and the Headteacher likes to see a totally interactive group time showing progress for all. I have twelve 3 to 4 year old children in my group and it lasts about 15 minutes. Does anyone have a lovely one off fail safe group time that I could please borrow?

Moving over to the early years outcomes yet?

Has anyone adapted all their observation and assessment documents in line with the new outcomes, or have you stuck with the dev matters order? Is anyone being advised by their LA that they should move over soon?

Good progress in nursery - help!

Yes, it's that time of year again - performance management! We have a new head and have combined to make an all through primary and all staff have a target of their class making good progress. So what is this for nursery? Some say moving through 3 steps is expected progress. So I guess this is a bare minimum, so good would be 4? e.g. child at 30-50 emerging expected to be 40-60+ consolidating for good progress?

Late pick up fine

I have certain parents that pick their children up late, 10 mins sometimes 30 mins, usual excuse traffic, runs into the nursery breathless panting, next minute, they are ok, chatting away. We charge them, give them an invoice, but they don't pay; staff are now rightly getting annoyed. We are open from 8-6pm; we tried to extend the hours, but staffing wise it proved difficult and not all parents stayed till 6:30- normally left with just 1/2 children. The help I want now is how can I word a letter/note to parents politely via our newsletter/memo stating that it will not be tolerated and it's unfair to staff, and fines to be paid promptly?

DBS checks.. who pays?

Just wondering how settings are going about paying for the new DBS checks? Are you as a setting paying for them or are the employees paying from them? Our committee have agreed to pay for all employees checks and any new employees will be paid for but if they leave within the 6 months probation period they have to pay the money back to the pre-school. I have also seen that individuals can take their current check to another employer if they are registered with the DBS update service. It's good practice to get them updated and checked every three years... will you be checking them?

Managers and owners

I'm a manager of a pre school and I deal with the day to day running, planning etc and the owner deals with the business side and all finances. I'm finding it difficult to do parts of my job with no access/control of finances. eg craft supply orders, DBS checks as I can only do so much before handing it over as payment is needed (and is not always getting done). Does anyone else have issues like this and how do you deal with it??

Developing a natural outdoor learning environment

I have recently been given the exciting task of improving our outdoor area - we have already resurfaced the playground but now comes the challenge of dealing with two largish grass areas. I am extremely lucky to have a healthy budget to play with but am conflicted about what to do with it - it would be very easy to have built a large 'play area' with soft surfacing built - I have no doubt that the children would love it and it would be safe and provide continuous provision with very minimal up keep. On the other hand I adore the idea of creating a more natural area: plants, boulders, logs, dens, mud kitchens etc. but this requires far more up keep and also far more adult management/involvement. I work in an area where children have very little opportunity to engage with nature and whose outdoor space is predominantly flat balconies, small gardens and pavements. I believe children have a right to engage with nature and also experiment to take risks in these environments. On the flip side the children I work with have significant behaviour issues, find engaging with peers very challenging and have limited communication and language skills - could they 'cope' with a natural environment. Could we as a team? Aaaaggghhh! Any thoughts, advice, success stories etc etc etc very welcome!


I just looked up the word 'oblong' and can't avoid any longer what someone pointed out to me a while ago and I ignored - that squares are rectangles and what I teach children being rectangles are oblongs! What to do?!

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