Children are at the heart of all that happens
Adults value and focus on every child
Assessment informs planning
Children are given responsibility and develop independence
Children enjoy taking part
The youngest children are secure and develop well
Everyone is included
Children learn to appreciate diversity
Parents are active partners
In the best settings adults organise the day to focus on the needs of each child. The providers promote an ethos where children are welcomed warmly and adults show how they value each child as uniquely special. Every child is treated as an individual. Each child has a key adult assigned who knows the child well. The key person also leads the assessment and planning in close liaison with parents to ensure the child’s welfare, learning and development needs are met effectively. Adults listen and respond to children sensitively and this enables them to feel accepted and to make good progress in all areas of learning. Children delight in celebrating birthdays and achievements.
An inspector said: ‘The achievements of individual children are celebrated; their photograph is displayed alongside a piece of their artwork on a special notice board for all to see. So children feel special and proud.’ (out-of-school scheme)
An inspector said: ‘To ensure the activities meet the learning needs of all the children, the childminder has particular regard for each child’s individual interests, taking her cues from the children themselves. She knows the children extremely well, and uses this knowledge to help them feel nurtured and highly valued.’ (childminder)
A child said: ‘My childminder is the kindest lady in the world and she cares for me like a second mum and I love her very much.’
Expectations of children are high in the best settings. Thorough initial and ongoing assessment identifies what children can do, what they like to do, and what they need to do to progress. Skilled adults use this information and their understanding of child development to plan effectively the next challenges to stretch each child’s learning, play and exploration. As a result children are enabled to build on what they already know and make good progress in their learning and development.
In well-organised settings, time and thought are given to ensuring children can make informed decisions and select activities and equipment to pursue their own interests. Adults help children to understand how to keep themselves safe, be healthy and maintain their personal care. Children learn to manage their own behaviour and act as positive role models for younger children. Sometimes children help plan the activities. This builds their confidence and further promotes learning.
The best settings are organised to ensure children are provided with varied and exciting experiences which enrich their overall development. The children participate eagerly and with great enjoyment. They enthusiastically discover new ways to communicate their thoughts and ideas by writing messages, using pictures and telling stories. Consistent positive interactions enable children to feel secure and help them to thrive in their learning. Children learn to think and understand for themselves, inspired by adults’ open questions.
‘I didn’t know anyone when I first came to the club, but now I have lots of new friends.’
‘We like all the toys but best of all, the drawing and chatting together at circle time.’
Babies develop a strong sense of security through close and caring contact with key adults who spend time with them and whom they get to know well. The all-round development of the youngest children is successfully promoted by activities specially planned or adapted to their needs. For example, new paint and craft activities encourage their curiosity and babies can choose what they want to play with, developing longer periods of concentration as they use all their senses.
Good providers give top priority to promoting the welfare of all children irrespective of background or ability. They know each child well and address appropriately any particular needs arising from their race, ethnicity, gender, ability, home language, culture or religion. They ensure all children have the opportunity to join in and have fun in a wide range of activities that challenge them in developing across the areas of learning.
Both girls and boys have appropriate opportunities for quieter and more boisterous activities in and out of doors.
Children with learning difficulties and/or disabilities benefit greatly from good relationships with adults within the setting, and from adults’ good relationships with parents and with staff from other agencies, such as speech and language therapists. Knowledgeable and trained special educational needs coordinators ensure children’s particular needs are identified early and children are properly supported.
Adults are fully trained to address the needs of every child. Any barriers are actively addressed and overcome, for example by finding creative solutions to allow children freedom of movement within restricted space available. This helps children make good progress in all areas of their learning and development.
An inspector said: ‘The special educational needs coordinator supports children in their transition to their next setting by accompanying them on initial visits to help them settle and to support staff in getting to know the children and their capabilities.’ (day nursery)
Good settings are organised to ensure adults help children to recognise and take into account others’ different needs and backgrounds. Children are routinely offered choices to give them experiences that broaden their understanding of the wider world.
Providers take active steps to learn about the language and culture of the children and their families. Children are helped to feel comfortable in friendly surroundings. Some staff may learn and use everyday phrases and words in the children’s home languages, helping children to take part in conversation.
The case study below gives an example of improvement in a day nursery caring for children who speak English as an additional language.
An inspector said: 'At the last inspection the provider was asked to improve support for children and families for whom English is an additional language. This has considerably improved and is now a key strength.
The manager ensures her staff understand the needs of the children and families who use the setting and they have appropriate skills to support them. The setting is in a very diverse area and has a number of staff members from similar cultural backgrounds who present positive roles models to the children and help new children to settle quickly.
Several parents speak languages other than English at home and some children begin nursery with very limited knowledge of English. Staff engage with children in their first language to settle and reassure them. Staff members write key words and labels in the child’s first language and display these around the setting. They also display lots of positive images of people from different backgrounds in each room including posters to support children’s awareness and respect of differences.
Staff act as interpreters when liaising with parents or attending review meetings. This ensures that information is shared clearly with parents. Staff also help parents translate documents and information, such as children’s progress records.
Staff link in very well with the children’s home life and ensure a broad range of activities is planned to enable children to enjoy different experiences. These are particularly focused around children’s family backgrounds so lots of activities are planned around Muslim, Hindu and Christian faiths. This ensures children and parents feel valued and respected.
Parents stay to help their child settle in and participate in activities and children’s learning. Parents have provided artefacts linked to children’s activities; this enables children to share their home life and family culture with others. One parent has provided a children’s prayer mat to keep in the home corner.
Support for English as an additional language is now a key strength of the setting. The manager has clear plans of how she will further develop this area. She intends to invite members of extended families to come in to read stories and sing songs to children in different languages so all children benefit from this experience and enjoy being part of the multicultural nursery community.' (day nursery)
In well-managed settings, communication with parents about their children's development is a key strength. Managers and key staff take time to gather information from parents about their children.
Parents feel valued and welcomed. They are consulted and their views are appropriately responded to. Providers work actively to include parents and to encourage them to contribute to their children’s learning at the setting. Often parents help with the children, which may also help parents’ own understanding and development.
In better settings managers actively encourage key staff to spend time with parents to gather information about their children. The information about each child can then be used to help plan for each child’s particular needs. Parents are informed about the curriculum and changes, such as the introduction of the Early Years Foundation Stage. This helps them to understand how changes may affect their child.
Well-organised providers recognise the difficulties some parents have in juggling arrangements for work and childcare. They are flexible and find creative ways to keep parents updated regularly on their child’s activities and development. For example, some use a systematic approach to report on progress every six weeks; others find ways to communicate at any time, including the use of email, text messages and dedicated website pages to relay important information quickly.
Parents are asked for contributions to themes and topics and become involved in projects. In some settings parents are included on the management committee or work as volunteers within the setting. Some settings promote a supportive parents’ network, which helps with issues such as weaning or handling difficult behaviour.
Other examples include:
- a minibus service run by the provider that ensures parents, children and staff from rural areas can attend
- a parents’ forum that enables parents to put issues to the provider collectively
- a translation service available for parents.
An inspector said: 'Parents complete an "all about me" booklet about their children which shows where children are in their development so that key staff can tailor activities to meet children’s individual needs. Parents are given feedback both verbally and through "my story" folders which include photographs to help keep parents fully informed about their children’s continued development.' (children’s centre)
An inspector said: 'Informative monthly newsletters include suggestions for activities parents and children can do at home together that reflect current themes and activities.' (childcare centre)
An inspector said: 'Parents are invited into the setting to be involved in their child's learning. For example, they take part in sessions where children learn to sign to nursery rhymes, in Spanish sessions and in sessions within the splash pool.' (early years centre)
An inspector said: 'Staff visit parents at home before children start attending the setting. Parents are encouraged to participate at sessions and become parent volunteers if they wish.' (children’s centre)