Part Four of my response to the Ofsted Report   2 comments

This blog post is going to look at points 6,7 and 8 of the report, as these points are all linked.

So point 6

Overall, pre-schools and nurseries are better than childminders at preparing children for the next stage. Although most childminders provide children with a good level of care, many have found it more challenging to provide for the learning and development set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage.

The choice of words is misleading and frankly insulting  to childminders. I have already mentioned in Part One of my response about the number of children who are not receiving childcare and education that has been judged at good or above, pointing out the huge difference in the number of children in  childminder settings and the number in pre school / nursery settings.

I now want to explore the actual childminders – the report says that 29% are judged as less than good – so that means 71% are judged to be good or above.

Within the pre school sector, 21% are judged to be less than good and therefore 79% judged as good or above.

So why is there not a general statement about pre schools / nurseries  finding it challenging to meet the requirements of EYFS  (pre schools / nurseries in this group are described under point 8, as ‘weaker’ ) – we are talking about a 8% difference in number of childminders judged lees than good and the number of pre schools / nurseries.

I find the difference  in choice of words about childminders and pre schools / nurseries to be unacceptable – it is clear that it is not just childminders who find aspects of EYFS ‘challenging’. We all work to the same framework and as with all things some will find it more difficult and need more support – and it is right that this is highlighted – it is not right that headline points (and video clips) give the impression through choice of words that one sector has significantly more difficulties than another sector.

In my opinion the report should have just stated the facts using the same terminology. So;

21% of pre schools  and nurseries, and 29% of childminders are judged to be less than Good (or something similar)

Shame on you government – if I used such discriminatory wording to describe the development of  the children in my care – I would be held to account – I am holding you to account on your discriminatory wording.

Moving on to point 7

It is likely that the quality of early learning would benefit from strong links between weaker and stronger provider, including good schools.For example, childcare provision linked with a children’s center is generally of higher quality than provision that has no such association.

I have to ask does the government not realise that many childminders have been trying to make  links with schools and children’s centers  for years? Some schools refuse to work in partnership with childminders, some children’s centers although willing, do not have the capacity and so many offer a once a month drop in (some are able to offer childminders access to all activities).

This aside – The main issue is that  the type of early learning offered with children’s centers and schools simply is not appropriate for childminders working with small groups of children, often mixed age groups, often under 3’s.

And lets look at the practicalities of possible ‘association’ – namely the timing of such events – maybe meetings, maybe training – anything in the normal opening hours of schools and children’s centers is not appropriate due to the fact that childminders will usually have children in their care at those times. Early evening events are also not suitable for many due to the fact that childminders provide extended hours care – often to 6pm, frequently to 6:30 and sometimes later. When I have asked in the past about providing training in children’s centers later in the evening (so ending at 9:30 or even 10pm) I have been told not possible because of the cost of caretakers to lock up, and center staff being unable to help due to cut backs in TOIL hours.

Much more could be done to improve links and to share information – but for the actual daily practice  aspects – childminders need support / advice from those understanding childminding – and best practice would be – in my opinion support from another childminder or someone who has had experience of being a childminder.

I find it interesting (amusing even) that the government is not suggesting that as a outstanding childminder that I go and support my local children’s centers with a lower judgement than myself – or my local school that was at one point in ‘special measures’. Of course I am pleased that I have not been asked because my knowledge, skills and experience are not appropriate to be used to advise / support schools or children’s centers – but why does the government not understand that this works two ways?

Moving on to point 8

There is a strong case for good and outstanding providers with high quality leadership and management to operate a nuclei or ‘hubs’ for networks of childminders and weaker group care providers in their area. Such hubs would drive improvement through advice, support and training. They could also take on the role in registering and overseeing smaller providers.

So here it is then – the ‘agency model’

It is talking about childminders (so all childminders?) not just the ‘weaker’ ones being managed by those with high quality leadership and management – and because it also mentions the role of registering and overseeing smaller providers – I am reading between the lines that the government has decided that childminders (clearly the smallest type of provider) will not be able to take on this role – and worse, far worse that someone could register and oversee (does that mean inspect if they are going to have the power to register?) my setting that has no experience of childminding.

I can not find reference to childminders and weaker group settings having choice in this –  it appears from this document that there would be no choice.

What will parents currently using my service make of this? What will prospective parents think?

I know what I would think – those providers that are ‘overseen’ by others and not Ofsted – must be poorer quality, not as good – I think I would choose to send my child to a setting that was inspected directly by Ofsted. Wouldn’t you?

And what about the cost of this unwanted support and overseeing? My guess is the government is not going to pay for this – and that I would be required to pay for it myself.

JUST WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT THINKING?

This would not drive improvement – cross sector support is not the way forward – support needs to be sector specific. There is a big difference between working in partnership across sectors to being ‘overseen’ by someone from a different sector.

Just my personal opinion – what it will lead to is very low morale in the childminding sector, it would lead to those who currently work very hard to lead and manage their own setting very effectively to think ‘Why bother, what is the point?’

It would lead to people like me, giving up childminding – and at my age this is not a good time to have a career change – so would I become ‘unemployable’?

And if it was optional – just how would that work – some who choose to be involved and some who don’t?

In my experience those who have the higher judgments are the ones who already seek support and seek training opportunities, those who work in partnership with other professionals – and they will choose not to pay for something they can put in place themselves. Those who have the lower judgments do not seek support – for a variety of reasons including the costs, the timing, and the willingness to do so – so these people will also have reason not to choose to be part of such ‘hubs’.

When will the government start listening to the sector and realise that ‘agencies’  ‘hubs’ or whatever name they come up with next – just will not work unless ALL settings have to (by law) be registered, inspected and ‘overseen’ by such a body.

A hub is not a totally bad idea – if for peep support, and if free (or very low cost).

A hub where all settings can access support / advice on a ‘pay as you use’ system also could work

However (maybe I am missing the point)  don’t we already have ‘hubs’ where we can access training / support when we need to – are they not called ‘Local Authorities’ and ‘Training Centers / colleges’ and ‘membership organisations’ ?

Why spend such large amounts  time, effort and money on debating this (and if the government continue down this road) on implementing  and managing this (because I am assuming that the hubs would be approved / inspected and so on to ensure quality and consistency)?

Why not invest that same time, effort and money into supporting the ‘hubs’ already in place?

 

Posted November 30, 2012 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

2 responses to “Part Four of my response to the Ofsted Report

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  1. ‘ If anyone says to you that staff morale is at an all-time low, you know you are doing something right. ‘
    Sir Michael Wilshaw

    From the Guardian 24.1.12

    Need I say anything more.

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