Bristol Standard Case Studies
Nicky began childminding relatively recently after a twenty-year career in nursing, which culminated in her working as a community nurse. Nicky wanted a career that she could feel more autonomy with, being able to control when she worked, took holidays and how she worked. Having a young family Nicky chose childminding, hoping it would complement family life better.
Nicky is a sole provider, working part-time caring for two children each day. She provides a calm and welcoming setting, using the large open plan area of the ground floor of her house to childmind in. There is a wealth of resources which are easily accessible, so the children are able to select their own resources. Nicky has created a cosy corner, which reflects the Communication Friendly Spaces ethos, Nicky explains that the children enjoy using it as a space to relax. As well as having free flow around the ground floor there is direct and level access onto a paved area of the garden, which includes a mud kitchen.
Prior to commencing her Bristol Standard journey Nicky had only been childminding for a few months. She found the Bristol Standard process to be more in-depth and detailed than she had anticipated ‘I suppose I didn’t know how much was involved in it and how thoroughly it made you look at your setting’.
Nicky explained that the whole process has proved beneficial, enabling her to scrutinise what she already did and considering how to improve on it, especially as she was so new to childminding, she describes this time as ‘a steep learning curve’. Nicky used the e-submission facility and whilst she initially found this a bit confusing, with the support and help of her husband and Joanne, the Childminding Support Worker, she found it relatively easy ‘Joanne sent me step by step instructions and once I followed those, it was fine.’.
Nicky chose to make switching to a digital system of recording the children’s development a target and this has proved to be the most beneficial target so far. The result of this switch has been that she has less paperwork and consequently more time to spend on other aspects of her business. ‘It’s helped me manage my time better, I found that when I first started childminding I felt that I was trying to get to grips with a huge mound of paperwork, it’s made me cut down on paperwork and made things more manageable’. She feels that the children have benefitted from having a practitioner that knows where they are developmentally, as it’s easier to track their individual progress using the new system ‘The children have benefitted as I’ve had more time to plan and do activities with them’. Nicky explains that another benefit has proved to be improved communications with the children’s parents ‘the parent’s really like it I’ve recently sent out questionnaires to them and had really good feedback on it’. It has enhanced continuity of care between home and her setting ‘happier parents equals happier children’.
Nicky notified the parents via her newsletter that she was undertaking the Bristol Standard. She explains that they seemed pleased that she was striving to always improve her practice and raise standards ‘I think they like the fact that I’ve been doing it, I think it shows I want to achieve a good standard’. She has offered to share her recently completed first full submission and some of the parents have shown an interested in this happening. The children Nicky cares for are under three years old, so have not been directly involved but have been the catalyst for many of the changes made and are certainly benefitting from all the reflective practice that Nicky has done and is continuing to do. Consequently, one of the targets that Nicky set was to increase the amount of open ended, non-prescriptive play for the children. She has recently invested in a mud kitchen and this has proved a huge hit with the children, who are gaining from the cross curricular benefits that this brings.
The monthly Bristol Standard support sessions for childminders were valuable and helped her to reflect on her practice, helping to provide inspiration for targets and ideas to develop. However, she explained that it was easy to become daunted and overwhelmed by seeing the submissions of others. With the support and reassurance of the Childminding Support Worker involved in the Bristol Standard, she understood that it was important to focus on her own setting and way of working and that was just as valid as that of others. With this in mind, Nicky’s top tip for those embarking on the Bristol Standard journey would be to focus on that ‘it is your own reflection and not to worry about what other people have done. I found that looking at other people’s submissions made me worried that mine wasn’t like theirs, not as in-depth. Joanne was really helpful saying that mine was a reflection of my setting so absolutely fine and that it was fine to do it my own way’ . Since completing the first full submission Nicky keeps a list of her targets to hand to help keep her focused and on track.
The outcome since completing her first full submission is that Nicky has gained confidence. As a relatively new childminder the reflective process of the Bristol Standard has enabled her to validate and build on what she knows ‘It clarified what I was doing right and to change things for the better’ and has been a positive experience.