The Good Care Guide www.goodcareguide.co.uk is a new website and is a joint venture with ‘My Family Care’ and ‘United For all Ages’. The guide will give parents the opportunity to comment on their child’s nursery. In addition, families will be able to comment on elderly care homes. Nurseries will also be able to respond to comments that have been posted by parents.
The Good Care Guide is based on the ‘Trip Advisor’ concept which gives hotel guests the opportunity to rate and comment on their stay at hotels. It is useful for prospective guests to view comments from previous guests in order that they can make an informed choice whether or not to book. For example, comments are made on a range of issues from the quality of food, cleanliness of their rooms to the calibre of the staff. However, recently Trip Advisor has had negative press, with some hoteliers complaining that their hotels have not been fairly rated and commented on. Hoteliers have stated that some of their reviews on their hotels have been of a malicious nature, which has had a detrimental impact on their business. On the other hand there are hoteliers who welcome the independent reviews from guests as a way of generating more business.
So, the question is do we need this Guide in our sector and will it increase the quality within our nurseries and help parents to make an informed choice about childcare? Without a doubt there are some outstanding and first class nurseries within the maintained, private and voluntary sector. But there have been some very poor providers over the years who have been closed down by Ofsted or have been given notice to improve, so we can never be off guard.
In our sector we have Ofsted making judgements on the quality of nurseries and the reports that they produce are already in the public domain. However, with inspections happening every three years or in some cases five years (a lot sooner of course if the nursery has been judged ‘ inadequate’ ) can we therefore say that this is a true reflection on where a nursery is at present in terms of what they provide for children in terms of teaching and learning and offering a caring nurturing environment? I am mindful that Ofsted are currently seeking the views from the sector on how they carry out early years inspections. Therefore, the above may be addressed; in addition they may provide a format for parents to share their views, similar to schools. But, will this be shared with the public?
Yes, nurseries have visits from their local authority who are able to comment on the quality of the nursery and support nurseries in raising the bar. However, these have been reduced nationally due to the current economic climate.
Some nurseries are now commissioning the services of an independent consultant like myself to carry out annual pre-inspection visits. These nurseries who book the pre-inspections value a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ and I do believe give parents the reassurance that a nursery has carefully thought about improving their nursery from many angles. Even if your setting is an outstanding nursery, an external critique could challenge you further in your journey of continuous improvement. In the Guide providers will also be able to promote their services, stating that they use an independent consultant to identify good practice and note areas that need improving. This will help to reassure parents and may help parents with their decision. When I have spoken to parents during a pre-inspection visit, they welcome that the owner has commissioned an independent consultant.
I also believe that nurseries benefit from completing a quality improvement scheme, where settings are able to be self-reflective in their practice and note and act on improvements. Ofsted in one of their annual report stated “Childcare providers who take part in quality assurance schemes are much more likely to be good or outstanding.”
Parents can currently make complaints to Ofsted about a provider and if it is serious they are investigated. If there is a breech in requirements the complaint is then made available online, and rightly so, as the principle of regulation is to safeguard children.
When I was an Ofsted early years inspector, I received complaints around contractual issues, holidays and payments. With this in mind, the question should be; does a contractual issue have an impact on the children that the nursery is caring for? The concern for me was if a nursery was always having complaints around contracts these could be masking other issues. I also investigated complaints around hygiene, staffing qualifications and serious safeguarding/child protection issues.
I do believe that the Good Care Guide should not be the deciding factor for a parent choosing a nursery. Parents should take a ‘jigsaw puzzle’ approach; for instance there are many pieces that need to be pulled together in making their decision; checking the Ofsted report, local reputation, speaking to other parents whose child attends the nursery, visiting the nursery and asking questions of the manager and staff. More importantly, parents should take into account their own gut reaction and use their senses to pick up what the nursery actually feels like and do they think their child will be safe and cared for?
My view is that parents have the right to raise issues, in the first instance with the nursery and if they are serious enough then a complaint needs to be made. There is a difference between an issue and a complaint.
I also believe that some issues do become complaints. As an ex-Ofsted inspector, an independent consultant and an expert witness, I have investigated many complaints that started off as issues. I have come away feeling that if only the nursery had listened to the parent then we would not have got to this stage.
There are ways that nurseries can reduce the number of complaints and issues in their setting:
- Encourage parents to raise issues, better them to raise with you rather than in their local supermarket with other parents!
- Be sure to adhere to the EYFS guidance and requirements at ALL times
- Form positive relationships with parents
- Ensure that communication does not become an issue, be clear and transparent with parents
- Keep parents regularly updated with information that relates to their child, themselves and the nursery; via newsletters, e-communication and more importantly verbally
- Consider setting up a parents forum/association, for parents to discuss issues and indeed support the nursery
- Provide a welcoming atmosphere for parents, for example Kids Allowed make sure that their managers and staff at their nurseries personally welcome parents and children every day. See Jennie Johnson’s blog http://kidsallowed.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/the-importance-of-a-warm-welcome/#entry
- Feedback daily to parents about how their child’s day has been
- Make sure that there is a robust complaints policy and procedure in place and it is clear and easy to understand
- Make sure that staff and parents are aware of the complaints procedure and they are aware of the steps in the procedure
- Act on complaints as soon as possible (especially if relating to safeguarding/child protection) in line with your complaints procedure and the legal requirements of the EYFS and if need be share with relevant colleagues, such as Ofsted and LADO
- Have regular parent meetings and social events
- Have channels for parents to comment on the nursery via a questionnaire or survey and make sure to share the findings with parents and, if necessary, how you may action any of their issues and concerns
- Value the contribution that parents are able to make
- Deal with fees issues sensitively and confidentiality
- Be clear about your contracts with parents, how do you know that they understand your terms and conditions?
- Make sure the key person has a strong professional relationship with parents
- How does the key person communicate with parents, is there equality in the conversation, for example do they give parents the chance to have a say?
- Look at how you carry out showarounds to prospective parents, consider using ‘mystery parents’
- Encourage parents to log on to say positive things (extension of thank you cards) about your nursery and the care that their child receives.
- Develop a reflective approach: embed reflection into your practice, complete your SEF, be part of a quality improvement scheme, book an independent pre-inspection/quality audit visit
The Good Care Guide is another platform for existing and prospective parents of nurseries to use. My only advice would be for parents to think about the other elements when making their decision about childcare.
For me, a nursery should have a real family feel. But, as with most families they can sometimes be disagreements!
For further information on pre-inspections and quality audit visits. Or if you are a parent and want information on how to choose quality childcare, please contact me: laura@LauraHenryConsultancy.Com
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