The fifth and final part of my response to Ofsted report   Leave a comment

Although there is a lot more that I could say – I have decided that this is my last response to the Ofsted report.

I am picking up now on points 13 -20 which talks about the state of early years provision in England.

Again I have to comment on the governments negative view of childminders – it seems the report is designed to show childminders in a poor light and not to acknowledge their strengths. The whole thing seems to be providing evidence for Wilshaw ‘s statements earlier this year to be justified – and to provide the evidence as to why us ‘poor’ childminders need more support than any other sector and that a agency or hub is the only way forward.

The trouble with data is that it is possible to extract information to support any point of view – ask any uni student – it is possible to find evidence to support the most feeble and ill thought out idea – and make it sound not only  like a sensible idea but the answer to ‘the problem’ – the problem of course being the one set by the person writing the assignment – or in this case the report.

The report says that ‘Improvement of the quality of childminding is more likely if childminders have greater access to support, advice and training from other other years practitioners who have already demonstrated that they can deliver good and outstanding provision’

You may be surprised to read I agree with this – provided the term ‘other early years practitioner’ is replaced by the term ‘childminder’.

What makes me so very cross though is we (the childminding community) have been there and done that – and it was successful – apart from the fact that it was not funded properly or long term.

We had the Support Childminder scheme – which was a low cost scheme that used experienced childminders who had a good or outstanding grade to provide peer to peer support to those childminders just registering and for their fist year of childminding (variations in each  local authority)

We had the children come first networks- which although a bit restrictive with regard to criteria such as number of visit per year required and assessment criteria – worked and many ex childminders or part time childminders were recruited as network coordinators to visit, assess and monitor childminders, and to provide training and support such as toy libraries. I was personally one of these network coordinators – and the only problem with this scheme was it was not funded sufficiently to allow all childminders that wanted to – to join, nor was in funded in the long term as so as funding was reduced / not ring fenced- money was diverted to other things, criteria was reduced and even removed and in many cases the children come first networks have been closed and local authority models designed to just facilitate childminders offering NEF and two year funding have replaced them.

I realise that neither of these schemes are likely to be available again in the future because of the funding issues – but what these schemes proved is that childminders themselves can support each other given the means to do so  via volunteer peer to peer support networks,that could be  overseen by local authorities or the main charities such as NCMA and PLA but run by childminders themselves.

People like myself could  carry out this role  (and there are many childminders like me with the experience, the knowledge and the proven record of leadership and management) . How it would be funded would be up to the government to decide, but from my experience as a volunteer and providing training and information sharing a lot can be achieved on a very low budget – and maybe childminders would pay as they use or even have a surcharged attached to their Ofsted registration fee to cover the costs.

The membership organisations have a lot of experience in setting up and over seeing volunteer structures – so it makes sense to ask them to advise – or ask people like me!

The next point I want to look at is the statements that say that childminders are not improving as fast or as much as other sectors of early years. This may be true but the report gives the impression that childminders are not improving (point 19 ‘Childminders have performed consistently worse than childcare providers on non domestic premises’) and even that are incapable of improving because (point 19 ‘some childminders still find it difficult to assess children’s starting points’).

These statements need unpicking – until 2008 most childminders (unless they offered NEF and were part of a network) did not have to work to a set curriculum – so compared to other sectors of early years childminders have had to make considerable more adjustments to practice – and most have done this – as is shown by the figures provided by Data View. In 2009 so the first full year after the introduction of EYFS 08,  9% of childminders received an outstanding grade and 56% a good grade – this has improved each year and now stands at 10% outstanding and 61% good – meaning that there has been an increase of 6% of childminders who have been judged as outstanding or good. Also in 2009 36% were satisfactory or inadequate and at the end of the EYFS 08 cycle 29% were satisfactory or inadequate – so an improvement of 7% over the cycle of EYFS 08 – a remarkable achievement for a group of providers who mainly work alone, who work in their family home with the associated restrictions that brings, who work with mixed aged ranges, who struggle due to working alone and hours worked to attend training and meetings, who have to do everything themselves- so even after all the children have gone home there are hours of paperwork, cleaning and sorting to be done every weekend (or during evenings).

I wish that instead of highlighting the negatives the government had highlighted the positives and just how far the average childminder has travelled in during the last 4 years.

This negative attitude of the governments is not doing anyone any favours – yes there is a percentage of childminders who are not improving as fast as maybe the government would like -but there is also a percentage of pre schools and nurseries who are also not making significant progress.

It would have been nice to have had a positive report from Ofsted that celebrated the achievements of the early years sector and in particular the childminding sector.

My(almost)  final point is – until we have the data to prove that children who attended childminder settings – and the corresponding data about qualifications and Ofsted judgments – we can not be sure that these children are the ones not doing well in the end of EYFS profile assessments.

And food for thought – what about the children who stay at home with parents or are cared for by grandparents while parents work – what is the comparison of their assessment results – and not only the end of EYFS assessment but the Key Stage One tests as well , and the end of primary school and the end of high school ones – because I have a feeling that those who have had more of a home based early years experience will in the long term do better – certainly the children I have looked after over the years have all gone on to university or well paid jobs, and successful relationships.

My final, final point is – how about a rethink – what about registering all childminders   under basic standards of safeguarding – but then giving the childminder the choice of remaining on a list of registered but ungraded childminders – or choosing to have a graded inspection , and becoming an EYFS childminder – as and when they are ready, because to be frank some childminders just want to provide a safe, home from home environment, where safeguarding is paramount but without the need to meeting the learning and development requirements – and some parents also want this type of service . So why not give parents the choice – after all those parents who choose to use a nanny have this choice why can’t other parents have the same choice – a registered, graded and regularly inspected childminder or a registered childminder who meets satisfactory requirements and is insured etc but who does not follow the learning and development requirements .

Maybe different names might be needed or a pre fix to ensure everyone understood the difference – and of course those who choose not to be graded would not be able to access quality improvement funding or NEF – but for some childminders that would not be an issue.

Surely it is better to offer choice to parents and to childminders than to ‘tar all childminders with the same brush’. If we are potentially going to have a two tier system why not give childminders the choice about if they want to be a EYFS childminder or not.

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

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