Bristol Standard Case Studies
Serena began childminding in the summer of 2015, having spent the previous 6 years working in nurseries. During that six years Serena started a family and having two young children she found the cost of childcare prohibitive, so felt a change in career was needed, enabling her to work and care for her own children simultaneously. Serena explained that she found the change from being employed by a nursery to becoming a self-employed sole practitioner quite scary ‘Working in a nursery made me feel safe, I didn’t have to deal with tax returns, deal with families, getting the bills ready and of course Ofsted, I’d tried to stay away from all of that stuff for as long as I could’. However, with the support and encouragement from her husband she decided to give childminding a try ‘I just needed someone telling me I could do it and it worked’, within two months of starting Serena had taken on two families. ‘I really like children so wanted to stay in this profession’.
Serena’s setting is a spacious, ground floor flat in the heart of the city. The layout of the flat provides a very flexible space for the children to use, there’s a large living space, along with a playroom and another room that provides direct access to a courtyard garden, enabling the children to have free flow opportunities around the setting. The whole setting is full of quality and inspiring resources. It’s also a bi-lingual setting so there are labels written in Italian and English and a variety of both English and Italian storybooks. The central location of the setting enables Serena and the children to have easy access to all that the city has to offer; parks, museums, ferry and bus rides, the zoo and more. Serena provides care for three children over three days each week and enjoys the small, intimate nature of her business.
Just two months after starting her childminding business, Serena embarked on her Bristol Standard journey. Prior to this Serena explains that she’d felt quite isolated and unsure of what she was doing ‘Once I started doing the Bristol Standard I felt so included and supported, before that I felt lost and didn’t know what I was doing’. Serena attended the monthly sessions for childminders doing the Bristol Standard ‘Meeting up with other childminders from Bristol gave me the guide that I needed.’ Serena explained that doing the Bristol Standard was the best thing she could have done for her job, explaining that she felt desperate for support and guidance prior to that. It’s wonderful to hear the positive effect undertaking the Bristol Standard had on Serena ‘I started to feel happier, I started to value myself, I was proud of what I was doing because I was actually doing well, better than I thought at least.’ Serena felt that the positive impact the Bristol Standard had on her self-esteem had also benefitted the children, as she appreciated their need to feel valued and included, so worked on providing a supportive and inclusive environment for the children in her care. This is manifested around the setting with photographs of the children, which promote a sense of belonging. Serena explains how she had taken photographs of a new child coming to her setting, who had recently moved from another country and experienced huge changes. She displayed these photographs around her setting, on seeing these the child was thrilled exclaiming ‘Now I am one of you’. She explained that it was important that her own children felt valued and as a bilingual Italian family, she ensures that their Italian heritage is reflected, with Italian books and writing around the setting ‘This is not just my house, this is everybody’s house.’.
Whilst undertaking the Bristol Standard, Serena reflected a lot on the physical environment and as a result has made changes, ensuring a more organised environment where children can choose their own resources and move freely around the setting. With this in mind, Serena has created a snug, quiet, cosy area which also incorporates a role play area. The children love this space and will take themselves there to relax and have a quiet time, enjoying having their own space.
As a result of attending the monthly Bristol Standard sessions for childminders, Serena discovered the toy library at Bristol Education Centre and explains that the children have benefitted from having the choice of a wide variety of resources and being able to borrow resources which reflect and support their interests and needs.
When Serena initially started the Bristol Standard she told the parents about the process and gave them leaflets explaining what the Bristol Standard was all about. The parents are supportive ‘Every time I tell them I am going on training, you can tell they are pleased that you are working on your skills and knowledge’.
Serena was one of the first, if not the first, childminder to use the e-submission option, ‘It was the easiest thing in the world, easily accessible and the layout was flexible’. She found it easy to collate all the photographs and evidence into the e-submission ‘I thought I would struggle, but no.’. As Serena completed a dimension she would send it to the Childminding Support Worker, Joanne ‘I liked the feedback, Joanne would get back to me straightaway, that was really helpful.’. Serena really appreciated that the feedback didn’t just focus on areas to improve on, but that positive feedback was given too ‘I felt so good, you need to be told that you are doing well, they are really good at that, a really nice team’.
Recently Serena has had her Ofsted inspection, she explained that during the inspection the inspector had gone quiet and was no longer asking any questions. The reason for this was that the inspector was engrossed in reading Serena’s Bristol Standard full submission ‘That’s why she wasn’t asking me anything, she’d gone quiet because she was looking at all the lovely things I usually do with the children and all the answers were in there, she didn’t need to ask me anything really’ . Serena describes how this was an unexpected benefit of doing the Bristol Standard ‘So I am really thankful to the Bristol Standard, because I think it meant a lot to the inspector, I think she was really pleased with it.’. Serena felt that this was a hugely positive unexpected outcome ‘I always appreciated the Bristol Standard but especially after my inspection!’
Serena explained that the format of the Bristol Standard enabled her to look thoroughly into her practice ‘What I loved a lot about the Bristol Standard was, that it is divided into dimensions, so that nothing is left out. It is a journey, a deep reflection, we always need to focus on the children but I was also benefitting.’ The positivity of reflecting on strengths proved a great boost to Serena’s self-esteem, reassuring her that she was doing things well.
Serena’s advice to those considering embarking on the Bristol Standard journey is to ‘Give it a go, don’t walk away.’. She appreciates that it’s a daunting prospect and a big commitment, but reiterated that there is a lot of support available. The monthly meetings enabled Serena to gain support, make friends and benefit from all the shared ideas. For Serena, it’s been a hugely positive experience ‘I did the Bristol Standard when I really needed it the most, I can’t even think of one thing that wasn’t good about it, it was great!’
Serena is a great advocate for the Bristol Standard ‘I have done the Bristol Standard and I would do it so many times, again and again and again. I am pleased with the Bristol Standard, I think it’s just brilliant!’