This morning – Tuesday 31st December 2012, two things have happened – both of which have made me think.
First, WordPress sent me an email telling me about the success of this blog during 2013, and second I have spent about 3 hours writing a blog about childminders no longer being able to claim the Early Years Education funding for their own child – and potentially for their grandchildren.
Therefore my thinking has been about the year just about to end – and the year to come.
According to WordPress;
This blog was viewed about 71,000 times in 2013.
In 2013, there were 148 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 309 posts.
The busiest day of the year was November 27th with 1,614 views. The most popular post that day was If you have not heard – Childminding agencies are being implemented
Other information can be viewed in the annual report – which with a bit of luck and very few IT skills, I have posted on this blog.
So in 2013, I wrote a lot of blogs but unlike my original intention for this blog, they were not mainly about my childminding setting, there were about my campaigning.
I also of course set up petitions – the first being about the proposal to increase ratios in early years settings – and although I am not publicly recognised as the person who ‘set the ball rolling’ on this – I know I was – and so do others – those that I asked to be involved from day one and who all played a very active part – Laura Henry – Nathan Archer – Neil Leitch.
Others then joined in – with the Childminding Forum petition gaining the most signatures – and congratulations should go to them. However I still do not understand why they refused to work together to ensure the maximum impact – they would not post links to the petition I started (although I signed their petition and posted links to it), they refused to post links to my blogs or any other information such as the One Voice site that I set up.
One of their members did approach me to ask if I would issue a joint statement with her – I was willing to do this – but not with the conditions set by her – that of NOT involving those that were supporting the petition that I started – or those who were supporting the childminding forum petition. This would have been completely against my personal ethos of honesty and working in partnership for the greater good rather than for any personal fame. fortune or recognition.
And so the Childminding Forum did it their way – and I did it my way.
This included working with all the major early years organisations and many individuals – including the Preschool Learning Alliance who in due course set up their own paper and online petitions. Neil Leitch the Alliance CEO has since been recognised (quite rightly) as the person who had the most influence and impact on the issue – hardly a week went by without one or more articles from Neil in the media. I don’t mind this at all – I would rather not be in the limelight, however I was touched when during the Alliance AGM, Neil mentioned me by name and I was presented with some lovely flowers. I was also touched when during a pre Christmas phone call, Neil said he had not forgot that it was I who approach him about the ratio petition and therefore me who set the ball rolling – more than enough recognition for me.
Of course we all know that although the plans to increase ratios were dropped, we did not actually ‘win’ as Ms. Truss did not even mention all the campaigning as a reason but just that she had not secured cross party support - still for the time being ratios are not a issue – but actually I don’t trust the Government at all – and so I expect a ‘back door’ way to be found to increase ratios.
However ratios were not my major concern during 2013 – Childminding Agencies were – and they will continue to be a concern as we move into 2014 and get nearer to September 2014 when childminding agencies are to be introduced.
In this case despite campaigning by myself and many others, despite opposition to the plans by all the main organisations that represent childminders – Pacey, Pre-school Learning Alliance, ICM-SE and UKCMA – the Government are just continuing to carry on with the implementation of Childminding Agencies – and with the introduction of the Children and Families Bill which is the legal framework under which childminding agencies come.
I have been very fortunate in that all of the above childminding organisations have been working very closely with me on the childminding agency issues – and through these connections I have had the opportunity to have input in many different documents and been involved in many discussions. However the highlights have to have been the invitation by UKCMA to go to the House of Lords to meet Lord Storey, and later in the year to go to the House of Commons to meet Elizabeth Truss – opportunities I never dreamt I would have.
As a result of my campaigning I have been noticed by other campaigners – in particular those involved with Save Childhood Movement and the connected campaign Too Much, Too Soon. I was honoured to be asked by Wendy Ellyatt, the CEO of Save Childhood Movement, to be part of the Early Education Advisory group, and to be lead on the Childminding Advisory group.
It was through my involvement with Save Childhood Movement that I found myself to be one of the signatories on the letter in The Telegraph that was signed by almost 130 leading people in the the Early Years Sector – a real honour.
And it was also through Save Childhood Movement and the Too Much, Too Soon campaign, that I found myself stood in Downing Street, handing in a petition to Number 10, asking the Government to ‘Stop developmentally inappropriate policy- making in the early years’. This petition is still live, so please take a look at the Save Childhood Movement website, weigh up the issues yourself – and if you agree, sign the petition. Link to Save Childhood Movement website
So quite a year on the campaigning front, and it certainly seems that it will be continuing in the same vein in 2014 – hence this mornings blog about claiming Early Years funding .
In that blog, I stated the following;
What at first glance appears to be just the removal of the ability to claim Early Years Education for your own child or grandchild and a tightening up of requirement to uphold the Children Act 2006 – is actually a much bigger issue that will impact on childminders who are parents or grandparents of children aged 3 and 4, on the profession as a whole – and potentially have a huge impact on Government expenditure if those who are currently childminders decide that they can not continue to childmind for financial reasons, or decide that they can not continue to provide free or subsidised places to grandchildren.
There are currently over 50,000 registered childminders who run successful small businesses, who provide a lot of childcare to their own children or grandchildren without the benefit of accessing childcare tax benefits, who are working parents, who have- to be blunt ‘got off their backsides’ and been proactive in setting up and running their businesses – all of which have huge benefits to society, to the Government and more importantly to the families and children using their childminding service.
Many of these childminders are already leaving the profession because income is too limited, because of the removal of local authority support and increased training costs, because they are fed up with constant changes to regulations, because they do not agree with the introduction of childminding agencies and the resulting unfair two tier system ……..
………….and now the removal of the ability to claim funding for their child / grandchild’s early years education place ……..
……..it will not be a surprise to me, if this turns out to be the final straw, and ever increasing numbers of childminders resign – that is dedicated professional childminders, who have the highest Ofsted grades – the ones who always put the needs of the children first – the ones who really care – the ones that parents rely on to provide flexible, high quality care and education that meets their families needs – the ones who spend hours of their own unpaid time ensure that they do provide the highest standards of care and education.
And continuing here – and as I have indicated in the title – in a bit of a rant
It may well be the final straw for some childminders – and indeed childminders like me – How much more can we take? How many more changes can we embrace?
As I stand at my laptop – on my so called Christmas break, surrounded by piles of paperwork and resources that I am sorting and updating, ready for when I return to childminding on 6th January, as I stand here – after 5 hours of writing blogs connected to my campaigning – I am asking myself - WHY? – WHY I keep on spending hours every week campaigning? Why I spend hundreds of £’s of travelling and campaigning that I can’t really afford? Why I create so much stress for myself as I push myself way beyond my comfort zone? Why I continue to write blogs and letters, knowing that the Government are not listening, knowing that some will knock my efforts and say that my poor spelling and grammar cause my blogs to do more harm than good.? Why I take on more and more responsibility that I really don’t have the time to commit to, and so end up spending every spare second outside my working hours (including many in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep) , and some in my working hours when my co minder is here?
It would make sense (and make life a lot easier) if I gave up campaigning and returned the normal me – the one who prefers not to write for public reading, the one who actually hates public speaking and who would prefer not to express an opinion for fear of ‘looking silly’ , the one who prefers to spend time preparing things for the children to use creatively, the one who prefers to play with and observe children – including grandchildren – all things which this last year have not been the ‘me’ seen in public or in private family times.
As someone who planned to claim Early Years Education funding for a grandchild in 2015 – this could well be the last straw financially.
All in all – I may as well give up and resign as a childminder and just let the Government get on with their plans as they would no longer have an impact on me.
BUT – and it is a big BUT
My passion for childminding, for the well being of children – all children not just my grandchildren and the children I care for, my personal ethos about honesty and my beliefs about appropriate early years care and education – just won’t let me quit. It is what keeps me going, it is what drives me to overcome all my personal difficulties and to push myself beyond my comfort zone.
2013 has been a year of challenge, at times, of despair but also of opportunities and hope – especially with so many individuals and organisations all coming together to speak with One Voice on behalf of the children of this country
To the Government – I despair that you will ever listen – BUT I will not give up and will continue to speak up for the children of this country – who should be able to rely on you – but can’t – to implement the United Nations Rights of the Child.
To those of you who knock my efforts – I wish you would work in partnership with me and accept me for who I am, recognising that I have the best interests of children at the heart of everything that I do – that I am not interested in fame, fortune or anything else for myself – but if you won’t – then I will just accept that I can’t change things and will carry on doing whatever I can – knowing from feedback from others, that my efforts are appreciated, and secure in my belief that although academic skills are important, that people skills and caring skills are far more important and without them we would not succeed or even survive as a society.
To those individuals and organisations that support me – a HUGE THANK YOU. Without your words of encouragement, without you sharing information with me and from me, I would struggle to do what I do, without your donations towards travelling costs, I would struggle even more than I currently do – And in my darkest hours without your support, I would just give up – so THANK YOU – together we can make a difference, maybe not the difference we really want to achieve but we are making a difference.
As to 2014 – who knows what it will bring or what challenges are ahead – but I for one will continue to campaign against this governments short sighted policies – and I will remain an independent Ofsted registered childminder for as long as I can.