Kirstie has built up a wealth of experience in early years practice since embarking on her childminding career back in 2013. Kirstie has been providing care for children from private families and those who are part of the Enhanced Provision scheme. She is committed to improving the outcomes for all children in her care ‘I’m trying to provide a childcare experience which is lovely and fun for the children but at the end of it I want them to be as independent as they can be and I want to facilitate that – so incorporating some Reggio Emilio and Montessori ideas. Just to make sure that that they’re happy, thinking about their wellbeing as that will be the building block for everything else really’. Outdoor learning is an important element of Kirstie’s practice. The benefits of this have become even more apparent whilst working through the pandemic, spending more time outside, whether that be in the local woods and parks or in the garden ‘we try to be outside as much as possible’. Kirstie is committed to providing a small nurturing environment, for just early years children ‘I feel like I can really get to know them and respond to them and their needs’.
Being reflective is at the core of Kirstie’s working ethos, recognising the many benefits it has. Kirstie has completed a full three-year cycle of the Bristol Standard and is now halfway through Pathway 2. The children are at the heart of all Kirstie does and this philosophy is woven throughout her Bristol Standard ‘I do it considering the children I care for now but also mindful of the children I have looked after before especially, but not only, when considering diversity and equality issues’. Kirstie appreciates the holistic view she gets of her setting and practice through being on her Bristol Standard journey ‘I like that it has specific areas/dimensions to consider – I think I might be drawn to reflect on the more ‘fun’ elements and not consider the maybe drier (!) areas which are as important. I think some are a bit tricky to do as a childminder, for example, Dimension 7, Staffing, Leadership and Management, especially as you are working alone. I like that each Dimensions targets need to relate back to the children; it’s really useful because it does make you really consider why you are actually doing it’. Kirstie goes on to explain how, for her most recent submission she ‘tried to think about the Early Years Foundation Stage and Birth to Five Matters and tie in some the ethos behind those into it as well’.
Kirstie explained how reassuring it was, during her Ofsted inspection, to have her Bristol Standard submission to hand to demonstrate her commitment to self-evaluation and improvement and hopes to be able to use her submissions again at future inspections ‘It will be really useful for me to have to hand and to share with them’. Ofsted appreciated that Kirstie had taken the time and effort to be reflective and then used one of the targets that Kirstie had identified in her submission as an area of further improvement in her inspection report ‘I felt that was quite empowering, that the inspector had chosen a target for me that I had set myself’.
Being on her Bristol Standard journey is a really positive experience for Kirstie ‘It’s given me a focus. It’s quite hard when you work alone to have a plan for where you are going. In this job it’s easy to just get your head down and crack on with it, but taking that time out to think about what you are doing, why you are doing it and to think about what you need to improve on. It’s really important for me to keep me motivated and focussed’. The Bristol Standard has been a really useful tool for self-evaluation and reflection and Kirstie found that covering Dimension 3, The Reflective Practitioner, was beneficial ‘It’s a big one for me, I know I do it all the time but it was about taking the time to think about it more holistically which was useful for me’.
One of Kirstie’s recent targets was for Dimension 9, Partnerships with Parents and the Local Community and has really had a positive impact ‘I’ve changed to an online learning journal and that encapsulates lots of information about each child, their daily diary, their learning journey, their wellbeing and involvement and it been helpful for sharing information two ways – the parents respond more using this’.
Kirstie acknowledges that she hasn’t really involved the parents in her Bristol Standard journey as she felt it was more about improving her practice, but recognises that this could be a useful development in the future ‘I haven’t really involved them but think I will share my targets with them in a newsletter to make me accountable. When I next do my parents questionnaire then I can link the questions to my targets’.
Kirstie’s top tips for those just beginning their Bristol Standard journey would be to attend the monthly discussion sessions ‘they are really useful for sharing ideas, pulling together your thoughts about how to tackle each dimension’ and to ‘make sure you write up each dimension after the session and collate all your evidence! It always takes me longer than I think! I really need to follow my own advice!’.
The Bristol Standard has been hugely beneficial and Kirstie is committed to keep moving forward on her journey, reflecting on and celebrating her strengths and setting targets for improvement. Kirstie’s advice to anybody who is considering starting their own Bristol Standard journey is ‘definitely do it as it is really helpful and it gives you a means to focus your efforts. I’ve often wondered about creating my own self evaluation but I always come back to the fact that the Bristol Standard is validated. Because it’s been through a process where other people have looked through it and considered what you’ve been saying as well, adds extra weight to it’.