Dionne works as a registered childminder in a Bristol suburb. When Dionne’s son was younger, she attended and volunteered at her local children’s centre, being heavily involved, attending groups and being on the Parent Representative Board. Once her son started nursery Dionne describes how she felt ‘I missed all the groups I had been involved in and the environment I’d been in, I felt lost really’. This proved to be a real turning point in her career, she explains that the children’s centre was an environment that she felt happy in and she used the courses they offered to further her knowledge and understanding of early years related issues ‘Through the children’s centre I did loads of courses and this helped me to believe in myself, my confidence was quite low at that point and the staff encouraged me’. Since then Dionne hasn’t looked back and began childminding 7 years ago. It is obvious that Dionne has a real aptitude and passion for working with children. Her setting is homely and welcoming and in the perfect location, opposite a play park! Dionne offers before and after school care for children up to the end of year six, as well as daily childcare to under-fives.
Two years ago, Dionne embarked on her Bristol Standard Journey, having now done her full submission and her first interim submission. She used the e-submission format ‘I did it online, which I found brilliant for myself, as I could do it, leave it and come back to it’. Dionne explains that the Bristol Standard journey has been a really positive and encouraging experience for her. When asked what the best outcome had been from the process, she answered ‘I think it’s my own confidence, believing in myself more and promoting myself more’. Dionne goes on to explain that when a childminding support worker came to visit ‘I could tell her everything, before doing the Bristol Standard I would have just answered what I was asked’. As a result of undertaking the Bristol Standard process Dionne has the self-assurance to recognise how good she is at what she does and explain that to others with confidence ‘It’s having a belief in what you do’.
Dionne has found the process of self-reflection so beneficial ‘realising and reflecting back with the Bristol Standard has made me realise that it’s all come naturally really. When you do things all the time you don’t realise what you are providing’. Dionne explains how useful the dimension training sessions were in helping her to realise how good her provision was ‘at the dimension meetings and hearing other people talk about their strengths and thinking “oh, I do that” but it’s things that I wouldn’t have put at the top of my list before that.’. Dionne feels that when you’re busy doing the job and in the thick of it, that it’s hard to take a step back and reflect, but that the Bristol Standard gives you that opportunity and motivation to consider all that you do.
The target that Dionne has implemented and feels has had the biggest impact on her setting, was to choose to incorporate more wooden resources and more loose parts play into her setting. The children have benefitted from ‘using their imaginations more, exploring, using their senses, generally just endless, they all did different things with them’. Dionne has extended this to the garden ‘the logs, the children love the logs. They love sitting, balancing, rolling and lifting the logs.’ Dionne wanted to encourage more sensory experiences for the children and has created a lovely cosy space in the corner of her playroom, using netting and cushions. Dionne explains what a success this has been and how the children find their own ways of using it ‘some like it for quiet time, to take a toy and have their own space, without being disturbed, or put their babies (dolls) to sleep in there’.
Dionne involved the parents in her Bristol Standard. As a result of targets set in her first submission, she altered and improved her parents’ feedback forms ‘I always had feedback forms, but I changed them, so I got more answers to the questions.’. Dionne found that once the parents were aware of the journey that she was on with the Bristol Standard they became increasingly communicative ‘they were more willing to share information, they realised I was on a journey and that reflected in the children’s observation folders as it gave me a better understanding of the child as a whole’.
Dionne would encourage others to embark on their own Bristol Standard journey ‘it gives you a better understanding of what you do, it gives you more focus and to work out where to go next, it’s about self-belief and then people can see that in you.’. Dionne’s top tip would be to set achievable targets and to have belief in yourself. ‘Working through the dimensions brings it all to the forefront of your mind and when Ofsted come you’ll be able to have the confidence to describe all that you do and why you do it’.
The Bristol Standard journey has been and continues to be hugely beneficial for Dionne, it’s provided a fantastic boost to her self-esteem, she now knows beyond doubt that what she does as an early years professional is good and worth acknowledging and celebrating, but that it is a journey that she can continue, reflecting and improving on her best. Dionne sums her Bristol Standard experience with ‘it validates everything that you do and has been a lifeline for me’.