Safeguarding-aware tablets vs open devices

As you’re probably aware there are guidelines and policies in place to ensure that mobile devices are not used in early years settings. The reason for this is to prevent the intentional or unintentional distribution of children’s data.

It is a safeguarding best-practice for early years settings to restrict mobile devices and cameras due to fears around sharing images; it would be very easy to share an image of a child on a social network, such as Facebook, Twitter, email or other forms of online communications, via a mobile phone or tablet. To avoid this many managers implement policies to restrict the use of open devices in their settings, sometimes mobile phones have to be locked away during the day etc.

You may have heard fairly recently that a nursery that was previously rated as outstanding has been downgraded to inadequate after staff photographed children on their mobiles and sent the pictures to parents. Whilst there was a photo policy in place, signed by parents, meaning they only receive pictures of their own children, the use of open devices in the setting poses a risk to children’s information, data and images.

Furthermore, many settings begin using open devices, such as iPads and mobile phones in the rooms to record observations as part of children’s learning journeys to track their progression. These devices are likely to still have access to applications that allow sharing of images and videos making it easy for staff to do so, and therfore counteracting the nurseries priorties for children’s safety. It also allows the productivity of the staff to drop. With a range of applications available on open devices, staff may become distracted during quiet times or nap times where they access these application. This may be detrimental to the setting and could pose a risk to the children’s education and well-being, as well as staff motivations and role.

What options are available for my setting?

When it comes to online and digital learning journeys, motivating staff and engaging parents make sure you choose a provider that takes safeguarding seriously and is one of the company’s top priorities. LearningBook uses locked-down SmartTablets only, which cannot be used to access Internet browsers, social media, emails or other applications and ensures that no images can be taken outside of the learning journey or uploaded to anywhere outside of your control. All observations can only be uploaded to a secureAdministration Portal for staff and a password protected Parent Portal for parents to view and comment on.

Practitioners and managers enjoy all the benefits technology brings with none of the fears!

30 hours free childcare

In order to enable parents, where they wish, to return to work or to work additional hours the government is rolling out funding to support 30 hours free childcare.

In addition to the universal offer of 15 hours free early education entitlement most working parents of three and four year old children may be eligible for an additional 15 hours per week – totalling 30 hours free childcare.

Both entitlements can be delivered over 38 weeks (i.e. school term time) or the equivalent number of hours can be stretched across more weeks of the year.

Any childcare provider who is registered with Ofsted on the Early Years Register, including nurseries, pre-schools, playgroups, and some children’s centres may provide the places. It also means that Ofsted registered breakfast clubs; out of school; holiday clubs and childminders may be partners in providing free childcare places for working parents.

Am I eligible for 30 hours free childcare?

Not all parents are eligible for the extra 15 hours. However, everyone will still receive the 15 hours free childcare that is currently available.

To be eligible for 30 hours free childcare:

  • You  must live in England;
  • Your child is  3 or 4 years old;
  • Both parents must be working – or the sole parent is working in a single parent family;
  • Each parent earns, on average, a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage. The minimum amount will always reflect the lowest hourly rate that a person of your age can legally be paid. This information can be found online;
  • Each parent must have an annual income of less than £100,000.

Furthermore, parents can check their eligibility via the Childcare Choices website using its useful childcare calculator.

When does it start?

The scheme began nationwide in September 2017.

How do I apply?

You can now apply for 30-hour free childcare online via the Childcare Service.

When you apply, you’ll be asked to enter your name, address and National Insurance number, whether you expect to meet the income requirements over the next three months and whether you are in receipt of any benefits. Your partner will also need to fill in this information if necessary. This will enable HMRC to let you know whether your child is eligible for the 30 hours free childcare.

If you’re eligible, you’ll receive a code to take to your childcare provider and arrange your childcare place ahead of September 2017. You will also need your National Insurance Number and child’s date of birth. Your childcare provider or council will check the code is real and allocate your child a free childcare place.

Furthermore, if successful you will have to reconfirm their details quarterly – to ensure all information held is up to date.

Please be aware not all settings will offer the flexible 30 hours free childcare, it’s important to check with your local childcare providers. Also, some settings may charge for ‘extras’.

Useful Websites

Department of Education: Guidance

Childcare Choices

Pre-school Learning Alliance: 30 hours free childcare

Top 3 safeguarding challenges around technology in early years settings

Safeguarding Early Years – Technology

Never before has a generation grown up with such instant access to technology. Only time will tell if this will bring negative side effects. A Guardian article revealed that some leading Silicon Valley entrepreneurs restrict their children’s access to technology. In fact, some 25% of Early Years Practitioners don’t believe technology has a place in their pre-school educational environment.

Increased use of ICT brings concerns around issues. Here we offer some tips on safeguarding early years children when it comes to technology, such as:

1. Lack of practitioner knowledge

Not all practitioners are confident in using ICT, and many lack access to (and information about) which technology is best suited to the EYFS curriculum.

Only 55% of practitioners feel confident sharing a story on a touch screen. According to this report, not all staff are asking questions about the ICT children use outside school; meaning they are missing a big opportunity to learn more about children’s learning preferences and to engage with parents.

With increased training and support these issues can be overcome . IT champions in each setting can help. For small scale childminders in particular, a system for borrowing hardware and software has been recommended.

2. Security

Early years settings struggle to provide the same technology access children enjoy at home due to security issues. When safeguarding early years settings, policy makers don’t have to ban mobile devices. However, many nursery managers choose this policy as sites such as Facebook and Twitter make it so easy to share images of children.

Unlike ‘use your own tablet’ Digital Learning Journey solutions, LearningBook cannot be used for unauthorised distribution. All information is protected from data loss or cybercrime due to strict policies and secure logins.

Of course, it’s also important that children’s access to the internet is supervised. According to this report, many parents understand the importance of locking phones and using technology in a social, shared living space.

3. Health issues

Issues around sedentary, unsociable lifestyles caused by over-reliance on technology are perhaps the main cause for concern among practitioners. Analysis of 1,600 five-year-olds in Western Australia carried out in 2006 discovered a 28% reduction in children’s vigorous activity at weekends. Practitioners must ensure that technology is added to other activities, rather than replacing them, and that it encourages socialising.

What all this means for Digital Learning Journeys…

Of course, at LearningBook, we see the increased opportunity to create Digital Learning Journeys as a key advantage of classroom technology. Videos and pictures have been proven to be much more engaging for parents, much easier for practitioners to create and much easier for nursery managers and headteachers to store (information about each child and their achievements against learning goals is saved digitally, rather than lost or damaged in paper books).

LearningBook overcomes Learning Journey challenges competitors may not have considered:

  • Parents can only access information about their child via secure login;
  • All information is secured against data loss and cybercrime;
  • Other apps cannot be downloaded on LearningBook tablets;
  • Information cannot be shared on social networks, like Facebook.

If you’re looking into Digital Learning Journeys, make sure to ask about these security issues before choosing a system.

Conclusion
In conclusion, many practitioners need greater support in terms of training and managing the risks technology presents. However, the advantages of technology in early years settings cannot be underestimated; when it comes to teaching, engaging parents and improving observations and learning journeys.

Children must be able to enjoy the technology they use in their everyday lives in early years settings, ensuring that all learning styles are catered to. Digital Learning Journey systems, such as LearningBook, are an important step toward that goal.

Why your school or nursery needs learning journeys

Learning journeys can be hugely beneficial for early years practitioners when it comes to tracking progress, benchmarking and planning. That’s why it’s important to invest time and effort into school and nursery learning journeys.

What us a school or nursery learning journey?

A learning journey is a collection of pieces of information that, when connected together, creates a picture of a particular child. It’s a valuable tool for:

  • Assessing a child’s development.
  • Providing a record of a child’s time with you.
  • Helping you plan activities.

You should be able to see at a glance the child’s stage of development and what they need to cover next. Learning journeys enable you to keep track of a child’s development, link it to areas of the EYFS and use your knowledge, as well as information from parents and other relevant professionals to plan activities.

Learning journeys tell a story

Make the learning journey the story of a child’s time and development with you.

  • Start at the beginning with the “all about me” information you gathered during the child’s settling-in period.
  • Ask about the child’s likes, dislikes, routines, comforters, what they like to play with, and any special people or pets in their lives.
  • Give the child the same activity at the beginning and at the end of their time with you to see their progress, for example, draw a self-portrait.

Discover what works for you

Some early years professionals enjoy creating beautiful scrapbooks and journals that can then be kept by parents, but if this isn’t for you and you find it time consuming, find ways to speed up the process. Look at the online tools and apps that are available. Find one that you can take photos with, tag children, and make comments on a mobile device then sync with your computer.

Learning journeys create an up-to-the minute picture of a child’s development, making planning, reporting and benchmarking easy.

How can LearningBook help?

LearningBook transforms how staff capture and analyse progress, and enhances how parents interact and engage with their child’s early years education. Our digitial learning journeys save you time and money, and above all ensure your children and their data is safeguarded and secure.

Find out more or book a free demonstration and trial.

EYFS for parents

In order to fully support their child’s early years learning, parents need to be familiar with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework. This blog gives basic information on the EYFS for parents.

Education can be full of jargon, and keeping up with the frameworks, acronyms and governing bodies can be a struggle even for the most engaged parent. However, parents need to understand that the activities they do at home should be supporting their child in every way possible, and for that it’s vital for parents to have a good knowledge of the framework that schools and nurseries are working to in order to help and not hinder development.

An introduction to the EYFS for Parents

The EYFS is the time in your child’s life between birth and age 5. The EYFS Framework supports all professionals working in reception classes, pre-schools, nursery classes, day nurseries and childminding settings. It sets out:

  • The legal welfare requirements to keep your child safe.
  • The seven areas of learning and development.
  • Assessments that will tell you about your child’s progress through the EYFS.
  • Expected levels (Early Learning Goals) that your child should reach at age 5, usually the end of the reception year.

The welfare standards have been designed to make sure that your child is as safe as possible. These include the number of staff required in a nursery, how many children a childminder can look after, and things like administering medicines and carrying out risk assessments.

Areas of learning and development

The seven areas of learning and development are split into three prime areas and four specific areas. Firstly, children mostly develop the three prime areas first. These are:

  • Communication and language
  • Physical development
  • Personal, social and emotional development

Secondly, as children grow the prime areas will help them to develop skills in four specific areas. These are:

  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Understanding the world
  • Expressive arts and design

Children’s activities are planned based on the areas of learning and development. To suit your child’s unique need, Early Years professionals teaching and supporting your child will make sure that the activities engage your child.

Traditionally completed on paper, Learning Journeys used printed pictures and sticky notes. Alternatively, digital learning journey providers like LearningBook are used to save time, as well as provide more accurate reporting and parental engagement. Schools, preschool, nurseries and other ealry years providers use LearningBook to record and track children’s development in line with the EYFS framework.

Compiled by early years practioners to document achievements through observations, above all learning journeys are used to monitor children’s progression. The learning journeys are key to share information with parents and complete assessments.

LearningBook provides a Parent Portal and Parent App to keep families informed of their child’s wellbeing, day-to-day activities and progression.

Find out more about the EYFS and how you can support your child with our free eGuide, here. In addition, check out these widely used resources on EYFS for parents:

Learning through play

Learning through play is a great way to encourage independence and exploration as part of early years learning. Discover our 3 favourite activities.

Though sometimes parents may not see the method to the madness, play is a vital part of early years development. Children are fully involved in play and use their bodies, minds and emotions; they learn to be in control and confident about themselves while interacting with others. Here are a few ideas for stimulating activities which get children exploring and encourage independence.

1. Dressing up

Children love to dress up and to pretend to be other people, animals and superheroes in different settings.

Tip: Section off a role play area with curtains to make it more theatrical, and provide for all the senses with special lighting and sound effects.

2. Building a den

Outdoor environments allow for plenty of different types of play with wide spaces for movement, den building, climbing, running, and messy play.

Tip: Provide a box of den building materials such as old sheets and blankets, bamboo canes and ropes, bendy sticks and pipes.

3. Building blocks

Blocks are an open-ended resource and can take many different forms from empty food packets and boxes, to big wooden crates, and traditional wooden building blocks.

Tip: Add small world, people, animals and vehicles to a collection of different types of blocks to help children create situations and stories.

Partnerships with parents

No one knows a child better than their parents, and harnessing a strong working relationship with those parents is key, especially in early years education.

Partnering with parents is key to being an Outstanding school or nursery: Parental involvement needs to be identified as highly valued by the school or nursery and should be promoted through parents’ involvement in the planning and assessment arrangements, regular review meetings, workshops and stay and play sessions.

A two-way flow of information

The key to building a good relationship is communication and that’s especially important when you’re dealing with something as fundamental as a child’s early years education. Gather examples of ways in which you enable a two-way flow of information with parents. Look at them and explore how these might be improved. Communication channels might include:

1. Send out a regular newsletter

Parents often have a lot of information to process. Keep it short and to the point with important dates highlighted. Can it be done more visually? Maybe try a video message or include lots of photos.

2. Face-to-face meetings

Do these take place at times that suit parents? Do parents feel that you have time for them; that you’re not rushing to get on to the next one?

3. Informal chats at drop off or collection times

Is there one member of staff available to talk to parents while others are settling in the children? Do you have information, photos or displays on what the children have been learning?

4. Surveys, forms and requests for evidence of home learning

Can these be made easier for parents? Can they be done online? Do you offer guidelines or examples on what you’re looking for, particularly when asking for home observations?

5. Reading records or home learning diaries

Do you offer examples of how to fill these in to get the information you need to support the learning and development of the children?