Allison has dedicated most of her career to working as a registered childminder. Her commitment to providing quality childcare has spanned the past twenty-six years and Allison shows no sign of stopping any time soon ‘I love it! I get so much enjoyment out of children, watching them grow and learn, it so rewarding’. Allison provides Enhanced Provision care, offering support for young children and their families.
As a dedicated early years practitioner, committed to providing quality early years provision, Allison embarked on her Bristol Standard journey in 2013. Allison used the Bristol Standard as a more accessible and meaningful alternative to the Ofsted self-evaluation form ‘it seems so much easier to do your self-evaluation through the Bristol Standard and setting yourself targets is brilliant as well’. Allison appreciates the ethos of the Bristol Standard and how it endorses her vision and values, helping her to think about what she does and why and how her practice benefits the children in her care.
The Bristol Standard has provided Allison with a framework and strategy to ensure that she identifies targets and next steps to work towards, recognising that there are always opportunities to improve on the previous best ‘otherwise you just plod along doing the same things, so this makes you look at your practice and keeps you focused and interested’. Allison explains how easy it is to get lost in the daily work and to miss seeing how you are adding to the quality of the provision. Her Bristol Standard journey has ‘clarified what I do, otherwise you don’t think about what you do as it just happens automatically. When you’re made to think about it you realise what you do and think, that’s really quite good’.
The format of the Bristol Standard and the ten dimensions of quality ensures that there is a holistic view of the setting and how the children will benefit from any changes that are made. Allison found all the dimensions beneficial but that the biggest impacts were from targets she had set from Dimension 5, Play and Learning Experiences and Dimension 9, Partnerships with Parents and the Local Community. One target for Dimension 5 was to develop her knowledge and use of Makaton ‘I did a course on it and then did a refresher course a couple of years later, I did the Talking Tips course as well and the ECAT (Every Child a Talker). Makaton, I think, especially for enhanced provision children who might not speak until much later, has really really helped them. It’s good for their confidence’.
The other target that has proved hugely beneficial was for Dimension 9 and has focused on getting parents engaged and sharing information ‘I found it really tricky to get parents on board, so I set up a WhatsApp page with parents and introduced a policy to say that parents will send me photos regularly too. This has worked really well’. Allison explains that both the parents and the children have benefitted from this ‘the parents get to see what their children have done during the day and come back with comments saying they’re going to give it a go, that sounds like fun. They can see the smile on their child’s face to see they’re enjoying it. I think it gives the parents confidence to try things as well at home’. Allison acknowledges that it makes her feel proud, that with her encouragement and reassurance parents are giving activities a try at home and that the children ‘have benefitted hugely’.
Allison would encourage others thinking about starting their own Bristol Standard Journey to ‘Embrace it!’. As part of her commitment to her Bristol Standard journey Allison attended the regular dimension discussion sessions ‘These helped enormously, to get ideas and to clarify understanding. It was great to get ideas for targets, sharing ideas from other childminders’. Through listening to others at these sessions, Allison was able to validate what she already does and find affirmation that she is successful in what she does ‘listening to others, I think oh yes, I do that, but maybe hadn’t realised until it was bought up’. Allison’s top tips would be to gather evidence as you go along and write up the dimension when it’s fresh in your head after the discussion session.
Allison has found her journey of reflection, through using the Bristol Standard to be hugely positive and beneficial. Allison has used her Bristol Standard as a ‘celebration’ reinforcing her belief that her commitment to providing the best outcomes for children in her care is ‘a passion, not a job’.