Archive for January 2013

Wishing Liz Elsom a very happy retirement   1 comment

Last night I received a lovely email from Liz Elsom (who has been my contact at Ofsted for the last couple of years), informing me that she is retiring from Ofsted today.


I have waited until now to write this short blog as I am sure that by now Liz will have concluded her official work for Ofsted.


I am sure that I am not the only person to have received an email from Liz as she was always very professional in all that she did in the name of Ofsted and would have wanted to tell people personally that she was leaving.

However despite the fact that others will have received an email from Liz- I am delighted that she took the time to email me personally – especially considering there must have been times when she wished I did not question things so much!

I always found Liz Elsom to have an excellent knowledge about childcare issues and to be prompt and honest in her responses – going to great lengths to explain things in everyday language.

I think we had a mutual respect for each others positions and the constraints of those respective positions.

Certainly I always upheld my agreement with Liz not to name her on my blog as my contact (up to now) as I understood that she was very busy with all things Ofsted and did not have the capacity to answer lots of individual questions.

So I would like to publicly thank Liz for her advice and support over the last two years and wish her a long and happy retirement – and to thank her for giving me the name of a new Ofsted contact – who will of course not be named – should I ever have reason to contact that person.


Thank You Liz

All the Best


Posted January 31, 2013 by psw260259 in Random Things!

Tuesday 29th January – The day the ‘radio man’ came to Penny’s Place – I   Leave a comment

Before I start writing about the day the ‘radio man’ visited, Just a small apology for lack of daily blogs. This is of course due to the petition which is a huge time commitment and of course ‘something’ had to be temporarily dropped – and as the care of the children is paramount and not to be compromised – I decided to reduce the amount of blogs that I write.


I am sure you all understand my reasons – care of children first, petition second, blogging last.


So – back to yesterday when the radio man visited,. As with all good stories I will start at the beginning;

I woke up as usual at silly o’clock and switched on the laptop – and saw some messages to look at the Nursery World tweets from the early hours of the morning – which of course I did. First mistake – I should have had my first coffee of the day before clicking on the links!

As most people now know the information from Nursery World was about the announcement that we have all been waiting for about changes to regulations of early years settings.

To be honest I was rather depressed – and on went the kettle – just as first mindee of the day arrived.

To say that I was my usual self at that point would be a lie – conflict of interest rearing its head – I really wanted to sit down with my coffee and read all the information, I wanted to post the information on facebook to share with colleagues – but of course Chinzia wanted my attention and so being the professional childminder that I am – I had to wait! Once Chinzia was settled and playing with the large cardboard tubes (linking to her interest in circles of course) and also also ‘painting my house’  with a real paintbrush and lots of imagination – I started to read.

By the time the next children arrived – 2 dads arriving about the same time with Mia, Alex and Shona – it is fair to say I was more than a bit angry at what I had been reading.


The two dads were very supportive and agreed with my reasons (they do know my views very well) but of course had to get on with their day, leaving me to get on with my day with the children – and all the information in my head that – needed dealing with!

I have to admit the I was very grateful for my ethos yesterday – that of learning through play and adult support  rather than adult led / directed play – because once the children had had breakfast and were engaged in their play – centered round the Triangle mirror house, bag filling – and for a change bowl filling and mixing) linked to travelling role play (in a train, car, plane, taxi with much shuffling on bottoms) –  I was able to multi task – supervising, answering questions from children, answering emails , checking the rapidly increasing total of signatures on the petition – and taking phone calls!

And it was the phone calls that caused a change in my emotions – from frustration and anger – to one of panic!

Reason being that several of the calls were from Radio 4 – doing some research on petition and my thoughts, asking if I would do an interview for the PM show that day, and arranging for a radio car to be set from Bristol to my house.

Lunch had to be prepared, tidying up done, nap time beds set up – and some thought given to what I could possibly say.

Time rushed by – lunch, naps, outside play, snack time and then the radio car appeared on the drive.

Luckily the children were very interested in the van with the white thing and two sticky up things on the roof  – and the man who was not knocking on the door but doing things in his van.

Lots of discussion with the children who put their previous knowledge of ‘radio’ together with the man and his van – and decided that the man had come to Penny’s Place to put the music on.

The man did of course eventually knock the door and come in. He was excellent and put Penny and the children at ease, and not at all put off my four small children asking questions and telling him things.


The children were very interested in the headphones and the microphone and the special box of buttons – Penny was just as interested but from a rather different point of view – that of fear!

Sound test was done – Penny a little less stressed, Chinzia recalling using a microphone for singing and dancing – children finding wooden ‘pull handles’ fro the heuristic play collections and pretending to sing and talk into their pretend microphone.

Call made to London where the programme interviewer was – exchange of greetings – and suddenly manwas back in his van doing all the technical sound things, Penny was sat on her sofa in Kidderminster talking to man in London!

And the children?

The children just seemed to know – that Penny was a bit busy – they built with blocks, they coloured pictures – and yes they did shove loads of pictures at Penny – but did not make a fuss that Penny was just smiling and nodding and not (as she usually does) – giving praise, writing names on pictures.

In a flash it was over – the man came back into the lounge and had a lovely chat about the government ideas and child development – the man was very informed about current issues – and about child development (In Penny’s view demonstrating that members of the public have a greater understanding than the government)

Penny thought of loads she could have said or could have put across better  – but it was as the saying goes ‘in the bag’

The man left – Penny praised the children for being so good and we discussed the afternoons events.


Then we decided we had all been so good that a treat was in order – and agreed that some of those left over chocolate tree decorations would be just the right treat. One square one each (actually don’t tell the children but Penny had two – and some chocolate buttons!)

The rest of the afternoon passed quickly and before long it was time to gather in the lounge to listen for Penny. Just as it started two parents arrived and joined us in the lounge to listen together. Mr. Penny’s Place arrived home from work but as could not park on his own drive – had to listen in the car!

On the whole Penny was very pleased with the slightly edited interview and patted herself on the back.

However one young man in Chester listening with mummy – grandson Ben (3) was less than impressed – wanted t to know when granddad would have a turn!





Posted January 30, 2013 by psw260259 in Daily blog from my childminding setting

So what will happen to all the support provided by early years settings?   1 comment

OK,  so it not a secret that I have started a petition urging the government not to change the ratios in early years settings.

And so it won’t surprise many that this blog post is connected to the petition.

I have been thinking about the wider picture, about all the ‘extra’ services provided by early years settings of all types.


In particular I am thinking about children and families who need extra support either in the short term – or on a ongoing basis.

Some examples;

Parent would like some advice on teething, or potty training, or weaning, or any of the other things that parents might just want a quick chat about at drop off or collection time.

And it is a requirement of EYFS 2012 that we discuss things with parents and support them with things that concern the child

So my question is – ‘How will early years practitioners manage this if they have more children to actually be providing hands on care for – and more parents who might need that ‘quick chat’?


Parent arrives very upset, child is clinging to parent and does not want parent to go. It is clear that both parent and child need some support – a chat, maybe some private space and a offer of a cup of tea (or similar). The reason maybe easy to resolve, it maybe more serious – for example money worries, ill health, domestic violence, marriage / partner problems – or just at breaking point about any number of things.

So my question is ‘How can time be found to support parent and child – either just on that one occasion or maybe over along period of time?’


A parent tells her childminder that she will need a space for her new baby – but the childminder is already at maximum numbers. In the past it has been possible to apply for a variation – or now apply an exception to allow the children to stay together in the same setting – especially if there were other reasons why it was important to provide continuity of care.


So my question is ‘ If the childminder has increased the number of children to say 5 under fives – will the childminder be able to still apply an exception and therefore have 6 under five’s children in her care? If not what will be the impact on the child, the parent – and the childminder?


Parent is making esquires about a place for her child with addition needs, that at the moment would be able to secure a place without  additional funding  or staff.

So my question is ‘If all the settings in the area have increased the number of the children in the setting – will they be able to meet the needs of this child or will the parent have to look elsewhere – or not place her child in a childcare setting? Will the fact that the adults in the setting already be stretched to the limit mean that additional funding will have to be found ?

Social services need to place a family of 2 under fives NOW, and there are no foster carers available  – often under these circumstances in the past – special permission could be given to allow these children to be placed with a childminder or in a setting that has capacity’

So my question is – ‘What will happen to these children in the future – be left in a police station or a social services office because childcare settings already over stretched and professional judgement of setting and social services is that children’s needs will not be met in the setting due to the number of children already attending?’


These are just a few thoughts that ‘jumped into my head’ – I am sure that there are plenty of other examples that could be given.

Oh like this one

Setting has to send a member of staff home – or a childminder has to send their assistant home due to ill health or accident. Arrangements are made for parents to collect children / or for staff cover, so ratios can return to normal as soon as possible.  Currently although ‘difficult’  the remaining staff or childminder can and do manage – after all only for a short period of time.

So my question is ‘If settings have increased the number of children in the setting without increasing the number of staff (as per government proposals) how will they ‘manage – even in the short term?


If these examples have made you consider the ‘wider picture’ and you are concerned – please take a look at the petition – and if agree, sign and share with as many people as possible.




Posted January 25, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Saturday 19th January – Penny went into town …….   Leave a comment

…….. to do the weekly shopping ……

BUT as is Penny’s way, she came back with a things not on the shopping list ……

….. and were not for Penny or Mr. Penny’s Place …..

…… they were of course for the minded children.


First she brought










Not the basket – just the pebbles. Will be adding to the collection already have – a bargain at £1.50

And then












Ever since adding a conference where she heard about the benefits of using an abacus for hands on exploring of numbers leading to good mental maths skills, Penny has been on the look out for one. This one was in the sale for £4.99

And then this










This game was £1.50 in the charity shop (price on box when new £8) Idea of the game is you spin the spinner to see how many balls you pick up, and then use the tweezers to pick up the balls and place in your picture board. Great for fine motor skills, colours, counting and turn taking

And then this










79p in the charity shop – it is of course a magnetic fishing game – and will be added to one Penny already has

Then this golden oldie












Penny’s daughters used to have one of these  – so just had to buy it – and only 99p

And then










Not the best photo but is a real baking tray and real knives, forks and spoons for the home area. All from Poundland – total cost £6

And then a bag of mixed things for £2.99 from a different charity shop

And when back home Penny did a bit of  sorting and ended up with this set which is good for colour sorting, counting and simple tower building










and after a bit of adapting , Penny made these for counting, shaking and measuring










All in all Penny spent less than £19 and is very pleased with her new resources



Posted January 20, 2013 by psw260259 in Random Things!

Delighted – but …..   Leave a comment

My attention was drawn to a letter in the Guardian

link to letter in Guardian

I am delighted that someone with as much respect in the early years sector as Penelope Leach and the other signatories to the letter, have spoken out about the proposed increases in ratios for childminders.

In fact I heard Penelope speak at the Early Childhood Action conference on this very matter – and she spoke with passion and knowledge.

However – I do have to question the example given in the letter – and in doing so recognise that editors sometimes change wording or edit out other parts so out of context  – and therefore have no way of knowing if the letter is printed in full as intended or has been changed in some way.

The example in question is this one;

‘……as most childminders work alone with nobody available to help if an ill baby needs carrying and three toddlers all have diarrhoea when it’s tea time for two six-year-olds’.

my objection is that this example gives the impression that childminders regularly care for sick or ill children. In fact childminders are bound by the same guidelines as all early years settings regarding infectious conditions .

To be clear childminders do not care for sick or ill children – if they did they would be breaking the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage .

Of course I understand the message that is behind the example – a childminder only has one pair of hands!

It would have been much more factually correct and positive if the example had said;

‘ if a teething baby needed carrying and three toddlers were toilet training when it was tea time for two six year olds’

So as I say I am delighted for the support but just disappointed that (possibly unintentionally) the wrong image has been given about registered childminders.

Posted January 19, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Wednesday 16th January – Blocks, painting, surprise and feathers   1 comment

It won’t be a surprise to regular readers of this blog that this morning Penny put out the lovely blocks again as part of the environment provided for the 5 children attending.

As expected the blocks were popular – but so were the individual chalk boards (new at weekend)































Not expected or planned was the children’s extension of their play with first the  blocks and then the doors of the house!




















As part of the heuristic resources we have a collection of brushes – all sorts, paint brushes, washing up brushes, pastry brushes, shaving brushes and so on. The children often use the brushes in their play – in many different ways. It started with painting the blocks. Alex in particular was very precise in his painting following the shapes of the block carefully

However the painting of blocks did not last very long and the children revisited an idea from several months ago – painting Penny’s Place


The door in the lounge clearly needed a lot of painting as can be seen!

While they were painting Penny suggested that the top and the bottom of door needed painting as well as the middle (which of course is where their height naturally leads them to paint). There was then a bit of a competition to reach the highest. Mia who is the shortest of the group actually was claimed the winner by her friends – because she reached the highest – by jumping!

So that is the blocks, the painting – what else was there? Oh the surprise ! Cheating a bit because this is the surprise bag full of bits of wood off cuts and misshapes that have mentioned before, however each time we explore the contents the children discover something new and construct different models.


















Finally there are the ‘feathers’ – these were the feathers for our ‘Mummy Owl’ pictures – oh yes Penny has not forgot the topic book – it is just that we have been doing far more interesting things – and our topic is always very low key to be picked up as and when rather than dominating everything we do.

So we read the story – which the children are now familiar with and had further discussion about where Mummy’s went – to work, to Zumba, shopping to get food – which of course linked back nicely to the story and the Owl Babies guessing where their mummy had gone (to get mice and things that are nice)

Oh and part of the aim of this particular activity was to assess the children’s cutting skills – planned? Sort of – thought about it after lunch while thinking what could use to create the feathers.(which were created by ‘snipping some foam pieces).


















A day full of learning and fun

Posted January 16, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Tuesday 15th Jan (PM) – More learning opportunities from the blocks   2 comments

If you have read the blog post about this morning you will have seen the photo’s of the children’s play with the blocks as evidence of the learning opportunities experienced.

However just before lunch we had to tidy away the blocks (hate doing this – but restriction of space being a home setting means that lounge floor needs to be cleared to make space for the ready beds for nap / rest time. We do have space in ‘middle room’ and conservatory that does not need to be tidied but the biggest space is the lounge which is why the blocks were in the lounge).

So Penny supported the children to put the blocks back into the trays – quiet a challenge – NINE trays all with different layouts!



As you can see each tray has markings on the base to show which block goes where – just think about the learning opportunities this presents!

Working together

Working independently

Taking turns (only one person can put a block in a particular tray at one time)

Mathematical language – shapes, sizes, positions (to name a few)

Listening to each other and to Penny

Following instructions / suggestions

Fine and gross motor skills (more gross than fine but some blocks small and need careful positioning to ensure all fit in tray)

Coping with frustration  and failure ! (OK more on Penny’s part than the children’s – as some of the markings can – so Penny discovered actually match several shapes but then if not got ‘right’ due to very tight fitting in some trays and not so tight in other trays- you end up with a spare block or two at the end)

Observations of similarities and differences (which in my opinion are the basis of understanding equality)

Sense of achievement

Thanks goodness Penny does not pre plan (no idea trays would be marked) and thank goodness Penny does not try to predict learning outcomes .

However Penny has ‘in her head’ observations and assessment of the children’s participation in the different aspects – and has noted their progress , which (because yesterday) has now been recorded in the children’s evidence diaries and discussed with parents.

Posted January 16, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues