Archive for February 2013

Article from Go.Nannies on empathy   1 comment

I suppose the fact that if you do a search for  my name on the internet it comes up quite easily that I should not be surprised that I am getting emails from all over the country – and even from other parts of the world!

 

However I am surprised – and to use a term that I personally hate – ‘I am just a childminder’ by that mean I am just an everyday person – not rich, not famous, nothing special just as I say an everyday person who happens to be a childminder and who happens to be passionate about the children in my care – but more than that passionate about all children

 

So it was a lovely surprise today to receive an email from Annie with a link to Go.Nannies.com (which is an American company) with a link to an article on their site about ‘How to help your child be empathetic’ as she thought the readers of my blog might be interested.

I have had a look – and I think you might be – as some interesting points are discussed

 

So without further ado here is the link

Link to article on Empathy

 

I am very much in favour of thee international links and hope that this will be the first of many such links

I am going to put the link to Go.Nannies in the link section – so it is easy to find in future

 

Posted February 25, 2013 by psw260259 in Random Things!

Children and Families Bill   Leave a comment

Just a quick reminder that you only have today and tomorrow to add your comment about childminding agencies to help inform MP’s

 

Link to comments page for Children and Families Bill

 

However pleas note that although the comments are to help inform MP’s they will not be regarded as  written evidence

as stated just below the comments boxes – as below

Please note that your comment will not be treated as formal written evidence to the Committee and will not be protected by Parliamentary Privilege.

 

 

However it is still worth commenting – and we should all take the opportunity to comment by as many means as possible.

 

There are links to many different consultations and surveys on the One Voice site (click on link below)

Link to consultation and survey page on One Voice

 

Posted February 24, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

I have been thinking ……   1 comment

…….. ‘All owls think a lot’

Oh sorry – this blog is not about the current topic book ‘at Penny’s Place ‘Owl Babies’ is it?

No, it is about Penny and her thinking – which as has been increasingly the case over the last few months has been about the government plans for changes to regulation of childcare settings.

What sparked this thinking you might ask – well two things really – both connected to not being able to sleep and being wide awake at ‘silly o.clock’

Wide awake at 2:11am to be precise (very owl like in fact)

And well what does one do at the time in the morning?

Easy really if your name is Penny – you sort through the pile of read magazines and it has to be said the unread magazines (due to lack of time at the moment), in your bedroom. So sort the piles Penny did!

First she found all the magazines which had letters and articles written by herself – quite a collection really – and put them to one side ready to photocopy and put in the file that Mr. Penny’s Place calls ‘Penny’s file of fame’

Then Penny started reading all the articles and letters around the issues within the document ‘More Great Childcare (and those prior to the document) – and so started the thinking process – ‘What is it within all these proposals that are the main issues? The ones that must be debated with those who have the means to change the plans, the ones that must campaign on until there is no point in campaigning any more because the changes have been implemented?

By now is was about 4:30 am and Penny felt the need for the first coffee of the day and so went downstairs – switching the laptop on as went past on the way to the kettle.

Coffee in hand, Penny started photocopying the articles for her ‘file of fame’ and looked at the One Voice Site – because for a week or so Penny’s has realised that it was getting a bit ‘messy’ and difficult to find things – all down to Penny’s almost complete lack of IT skills with the few she does have being self taught and not the most efficient ones at that (Oh – note the excellent reflective practice here!)

So more reading and more thinking about More Great Childcare – more thinking about the content on One Voice and thinking about how the heck to make the One Voice site easier to navigate.

Finally – and a second cup of coffee later – Penny had; done all the photocopying, found a way to add a search facility to the One Voice  site – and gathered the thoughts in her head. Not bad for a mornings work – and still only about 8am.

So it is now just after 9 am and a lemon sponge cake is in the oven (and once cooked and cooled and cream added – will be sampled with what will be the third cup of coffee of the day) and time to put all that reading and thinking to some use ……

……… so here is ANOTHER Dear …. letter  – this time to Mr. Cameron, Mr. Gove and Ms. Truss (well saves writing three separate letters – and maybe increases the chance that one of them will actually read it)

Dear Mr. Cameron, Mr. Gove and Ms.Truss,

I am writing to the three of you together as you are the people that I believe are responsible for the implementation of the proposals within the document More Great Childcare’.

I use the term ‘responsible’ on purpose because it is you that can lead on any changes to the proposals, you that can actually listen to and take note of the concerns being expressed by all the major early years organisations, and parents, and childcare practitioners.

It appears that;

Despite this country having an elected Government that is supposed to act in the best interests of the people of this country – including the children

Despite the fact that members of the public are supposed to be able to voice their  concerns and be listened to  – and if there are enough  voicing the same concerns, to trigger a debate,  and full and proper consultation

Despite the fact  we have been led to believe that it takes YEARS to make changes to the law that governs early years setting

We find ourselves in the situation whereby;

Despite a total of around 60,000 individuals and all the major early years organisations expressing the SAME concerns – that the government is not listening, is not seeking the views of those with concerns – and even worse  – appears to be actively engaging just with those that support the government proposals

Despite Early Years Foundation Stage 2012 only being in place as the statutory document under which all early years settings are regulated for FIVE months – we are presented with ‘More Great Childcare containing proposals for MAJOR changes to the regulation of early years settings

Despite the face that it took FOUR years for the review of EYFS 2008 to be completed and EYFS 2012 to be implemented – we are told that the the proposals in More Great Childcare will start to be implemented in just over 6 months time from the publication of that document.

Despite the fact that Ofsted and the DfE reassured those who expressed concerns about the ideas in Ms.Truss’s paper ‘Affordable Quality’ that ‘nothing would happen over night’ , ‘that EYFS would be statutory document that we were regulated under under August 2016 – we are told that most of the proposals in More Great Childcare will be implemented by September 2014

Please could one of you explain, in detail – Why the rush? Why can these changes not be fully consulted on, debated, and advice taken from the early years sector? – and most importantly Why can whatever is finally agreed on as appropriate changes  not be implemented in September 2016 as they should be when the cycle of inspections under EYFS 2012 ends?

I think everyone within the early years sector fully acknowledges that;

More efficient ways of funding  and paying for regulation of early years settings need to be found and implemented

Duplication of services needs to be addressed

Those weaker settings – both group and childminder settings need more support

The Free Entitlement should be accessible to more and offered by more settings

That the qualifications and skills of early years practitioners need to be reviewed and appropriate training put in place

And as a whole the early years sector are not against change – indeed most have been very supportive of changes made in recent years, and have been pleased to see the gradual improvement in outcomes for children, the greater understanding of how children learn and the removal of some of the unnecessary regulation and paperwork. Many, including myself have been very proactive and taken part in consultations and pilot inspections in readiness for the implementation of these changes in the past.

However, the changes being proposed within ‘More Great Childcare’- and pushed through with undue haste and lack of consultation – are different because the research evidence shows that these changes are not in the best interest of children – in fact all evidence, including the governments own evidence shows that children need high adult to child ratios, that they need to form secure attachments if they are to develop to the full potential.

So as a recap

The main proposal  – and reason why so many people have signed the petition that I started (and other petitions started after mine)  is the issue of increasing ratios in early years settings.

TO BE CLEAR

WE DO NOT WANT ANY INCREASES TO RATIO  WITHOUT FULL CONSULTATION  and RESEARCH BASED REASONS FOR DOING SO.

The second big issue is the proposed changes for registered childminders and the introductions of childminder agencies.

TO BE CLEAR

MOST CHILDMINDERS DO NOT WANT TO BE PART OF AN AGENCY

However, as I have said I (and many of my colleagues across all types of settings and organisations) are not against change – and in fact we would welcome the opportunity to be involved in full and proper consultation, so that any changes made are in the best interests of the children of this country, their parents, childcare settings and society as a whole.

TO BE CLEAR

We are not against change – we are just concerned that the proposals within More Great Childcare, are not best way forward and are being implemented with undue haste.

Of course as previously mentioned everyone in the early years sector regognises the need to continue with the excellent progress made so far and would support the government in this.

So here is an alternative proposal that will ensure that we  do move forward – and not backwards, which is what the sector believes will happen should the proposals in More Great Childcare be implemented.

1. Put the More Great Childcare document ‘on the table’ so that full and proper consultation can take place – with the aim that changes are to be implemented at the end of EYFS 2012

2. Do not make any changes to regulation before then to allow for data from EYFS 2012 inspections to be collated and reflected on

3. Look at Ofsted fees  – although budgets are tight in early years settings , inspection fees could rise and not impact sufficiently (if at all ) on parent fees. As an example – as a registered childminder I pay just £35 per year to Ofsted to remain registered – this could easily be increased to £50 per year now and maybe £100 over the next couple of years. Similar increases could be applied across all settings.

4. Consider an actual inspection fee – this way providers would pay for each inspection with those requiring more frequent inspections having to pay each time. This would not only increase revenue – it would also be a powerful tool to improve quality and inspections outcomes .NB See below re help with costs for weaker settings

5. Do not remove the role of the LA – it has taken years for this local knowledge and efficient systems to be put in place, if more HMI and/or inspectors are employed at a local level this will all be lost and it will be ‘back to the drawing board’. Instead consider closer links with inspectors and LA’s (as there use to be) to enable that local knowledge to be shared.

6. On training provided by LA’s – please don’t just stop it – or replace it with something different – all those records and cross referencing of skills and knowledge will be lost and so no one will have a complete record and no one will be able to monitor which provider needs what training. Instead  over a period of time, reduce funding for training so that LA’s have to continue the process of making training self funding.

7. Yes – do require LA’s to enable all providers to be able to offer the free entitlement – but don’t remove their role in quality improvement / monitoring. Allow them to use whichever system they judge to be best

8. Encourage LA’s to have networks of providers that sign up to work to specified criteria – such as the ccf networks – however in return for the support, assessment and monitoring it would be reasonable to make a modest charge to help off set the costs (as is required in other quality assurance programmes/ schemes)

9. Work in partnership with the national organisations such as PLA, NCMA and NDNA between them they have a lot of expertise, and support systems in place – this could prove to be a cost effect way not only to consult with large numbers of practitioners but also could provide workable solutions to some of the issues currently facing government and the early years sector.

10. Ensure membership organisations are funded appropriately because their volunteer structure provides excellent value for money in providing support and other services. Please don’t under estimate this, especially the work with those in disadvantages areas.

11. Provide funding via the major organisations to support those  weaker settings and those in disadvantage areas with training and with  finacial support for things like resources and re inspection fees

12. Do train your inspectors in specific early years issues and in particular in child development and how children learn – as well as how it is possible for there to be more than one ‘right way’ to record development and to ‘know’ the child without involving pages and pages  of  written documents.

13. Finally whatever changes are implemented – please ensure there  is clear criteria – do not leave anything involving regulatory decisions up to the decision of  settings, LA’s, training bodies – or networks / agencies because this will create two or even three tier systems where by those who can afford it, buy the best and those who can’t are forced to accept less.

EVERY CHILD DOES MATTER _ EVERY CHILD SHOULD HAVE THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES AND NOT BE DEPENDENT ON INCOME OF PARENTS OR GEOGRAPHICAL AREA LIVING IN.

Please Mr. Cameron, Mr.Gove and Ms.Truss – we are not against you, we want to work with you, we want you to benefits from our combined knowledge and experience to make the best possible changes and improve outcomes for children.

The only reason I, and many others are being so proactive in the campaign against the proposals in More Great Childcare is because we believe these are NOT  the best possible changes and will NOT improve outcomes for children.

On the matter of affordability  of childcare, I look forward to your document on this because I hope that it will provide help for parents in paying for childcare without being at the expense of childcare practitioners or parents or  the children.

Please take the time needed to get it right – do not act in haste and then have to spend billions putting it right later – even if you are not in government at that time you will still be responsible for any consequences to the well being and development of the children of this country – and for any additional expenditure these proposals may cause

Yours

Penny Webb

Registered Childminder

This letter will be posted tomorrow to Mr. Cameron, Mr. Gove and Ms.Truss’s offices and a copy sent to Penny’s  MP.

The time is now just after 12 noon – it has taken Penny  three hours to write this – and as usual it is still full of typos and spelling mistakes (to be corrected before sending the letters).

However – third coffee and slice of very nice lemon cake consumed – so Penny is feeling  that the morning has been spent in ‘useful activity.

Posted February 24, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

All this talk of Agencies – can some one explain what was wrong with Children Come First Networks?   2 comments

I have touched on this subject before in a blog – but this week my attention was re focused on the Children Come First Childminding Networks (ccf networks) because a couple of colleagues have informed me that their childminding networks are being closed.

The people concerned are very upset and angry, they feel they have put a lot of work and effort into meeting the criteria of assessment and maintaining the high standards of care and education required.

Although they understand the need to enable more childminders to be able to offer the free entitlement, they have concerns that without any independent assessment or regular monitoring that the quality of practice and therefore the quality of the care and education provided through the free entitlement places will at best be variable and at worse of poor quality.

So it as as a result of my colleagues getting in touch, that  I have revisited the network idea and reflected on my own experiences before writing this blog.

A little background to start

Back in 2003 I took a post with the National Childminding Association as a part time Network Coordinator. The post was paid for by Worcestershire Early Years and they in turn received funding for the post from the government – who at the time saw childminding networks as the way forward – the way to increase quality and the method to enable childminders to offer what was then called Nursery Education Funding.

In November 2003, the local authority employed me directly to co-ordinate their second network.

My role was to set up the networks, assess and monitor the quality of the network childminders – and ensure the network was approved by the independent assessor and so could be called NCMA ccf Childminding Network. All of this was achieved – as was re accreditation 3 years later , and 3 years after that.

So a huge success story and one that was being repeated all over the country.

Of course all was not plain sailing, particularly from the funding point, as the specific funding stopped and local authorities had to budget for their networks within their ‘normal’ grant application – in other words funding from the government.

In addition many local authorities could not continue to afford to pay the fee required by NCMA for coordinators to be employed directly by NCMA and so many coordinators were taken ‘in house’ by the local authorities – but the networks were still accredited through NCMA and so remained ccf networks.

As a coordinator I know how much work went into getting a childminder assessed as a network childminder – both from a childminders viewpoint and a coordinators viewpoint. I also know that the ‘system’ worked – my policy was that no childminder was told that they could not be a network childminder provided they kept reflecting on practice and making changes. For some childminders this process was still happening 3 years later because of personal circumstances preventing more rapid progress – and this was fine as it meant only those who fully met the network criteria were able to call themselves network childminders and therefore able to provide the NEF places.

But then in 2009 cracks started to appear, the NEF code of practice was up for review (in fact over due) rumours were that the criteria for networks would be ‘slimmed down’ , meanwhile local authorities were under pressure to enable more childminders to provide NEF – and within that lay a huge problem for the LA’s – the ccf networks had a requirement for one coordinator per 40 network childminders.

LA’s could not at that time afford to take on more staff, NCMA made changes to the ccf Networks allowing ‘a lighter touch’ so numbers of childminders per coordinator could increase- but still this did not manage to bridge the gap between the very valid quality criteria of ccf networks and LA budgets – and so the decline in number of ccf networks gathered speed – with just a few LA’s having both the confidence and budget to continue to have ccf networks and even fewer with coordinators employed by NCMA.

Roll forward in time to today – the new code of practice for NEF – now named Free Entitlement is in place – expectations for huge numbers of funded two year old places are  having to be planned for – and so LA’s are – on the whole- dropping formal assessment of childminders for the free entitlement purposes and using their own quality assurance methods to enable most childminders to offer the free entitlement. In Worcestershire it is called the WER – and a variety of things add together to give a childminding their WER score.

And of course this also brings us back to the point in time, of my colleagues contacting me to tell me their networks are closing.

What lessons can be learnt from the Children Come First Networks – and more importantly have opportunities to review this excellent model been lost? Could in fact the agency model actually have been achieved through a revised ccf network model?

Lets look at the similarities

Ms Truss would like (in bold)

Support for childminders with paperwork

ccf network coordinators did this

Matching service for parents to childminders

ccf networks worked in close partnership with their local Family Information Service

Assessment of practice

ccf networks had a rigorous assessment process

Training

ccf networks provided training and there was a requirement for continuous professional development

External assessment of  the ‘scheme’

ccf network were assessed to become approved and every 3 years after that – with criteria that unannounced assessment visits possible at any time

Accountability

ccf networks were accountable to NCMA and the LA providing the funding

Of course I do know the big difference between Ms. Truss type agencies and the ccf networks – which is costs to the childminder and parents

Ms Truss agencies – unknown cost to childminder or parents  but agencies will be business model so will be looking to make a profit.

ccf networks – free to childminder and parents

I am also aware that (even without a maths GCSE)  that the NCMA ccf model was far too expensive to maintain with costs in excess of  £1,000 per childminder per year

So the model would have needed a lot of changes to make it a  cost effective model for childminders to buy into – but  it appears it is too late, as  most ccf networks are closed or under threat of closure, the expertise of the coordinators may still be there but many like myself now have other employment, the toy libraries have been sold on, or given to other organisations or even given via a free raffle to local childminders.

But worse of all , all the hard work of coordinators, childminders and NCMA has been simply binned – in all but a few remaining ccf networks.

Such a shame, such a wasted opportunity, and such a waste of time, effort and government money.

Of course there are some remaining positive legacies from the ccf network experience – certainly it helped shaped who I am, I learnt a lot, developed as person a lot especially in terms of confidence – and I know it helped to establish the ethos under which I currently operate my childminding setting.

I also know that the childminders who were in the network that I coordinated took some valuable experiences from it.

I hope this will be the case for my colleagues who are currently going through the loss of their childminding networks.

Well there is a surprise – Ms.Truss has been cherry picking   5 comments

Of course it is quite well known by now that I am not a fan of Ms.Truss and her ideas, and as many of you know I have been on a personal campaign for a year now trying to highlight to Truss and others in the government just how unrealistic and ill thought out the ideas are – first from Truss’s paper ‘Affordable Quality’ and more recently the proposals in More Great Childcare’.

I have always thought that the ideas put forward by Truss were based on selected bits of selected research – and that she was more interested in her own career development than the development of the children of this country.

Indeed the more research reports that I personally read – the more my personal opinion was reinforced.

However I did not really have any actual evidence  to be able to say that Truss was ‘cherry picking’ the bits of information that she wanted to support her ideas – I had to consider that maybe she had read more research documents than I had – and certainly I had to admit she had visited more countries than I have and has had more opportunities to speak to those who live and work in those countries whose childcare systems she admires.

That is until this this week

Two separate bits of information became available – that have reinforced the ‘cherry picking image and discredited some of the things that Truss has been claiming as fact.

The first was the very enlightening blog from June O’Sulivan – I have never met June in person but I have read a lot of her blogs and I have communicated via social media – and in my opinion June not only ‘knows her stuff’ but says things as there are- in very eloquent words but nevertheless factual and truthful.

June and colleagues self funded a trip to France to visit nurseries to see for themselves this childcare system held in such high esteem by Ms. Truss.

Click on the link to read for yourself what June has to say

June O’Sulivan’s blog about her trip to visit French nurseries

The second bit of information came via social media contacts – and a childminder in Australia.

The actual information from Lorraine the Australian childminder are on the One Voice site

link to One Voice

Lorraine has rasied some very good points – because although Ms. Truss has not based her idea on Australian childcare systems – Australia does have agencies for childminders and a very similar system to the one that is suggested will work well in this country.

Lorraine’s personal experience is that the system has difficulties – there are huge difference between standards and services offered by agencies – she is personally now in her 4th agency which she describes as good  – with the 3 previous ones – well – not good. She says that some are very restrictive and have lots of rules that are upheld without compromise or consideration for childminder, parent or child needs.

Even the ‘good’ agency that Lorraine is now part of does not in her opinion spend any money on advertising and she has to promote her own business – and is lucky that she is allowed to do this.

For me what Lorraine’s information has highlighted, is that a ‘free market’ – or in government spiel the ‘different business models’  is that quality will vary, services will vary, choices will be limited and where choice is available there will be confusion – for childminders and parents.

So it seems that Ms. Truss has taken on the good points about agencies – and the main one from her perspective seems to be agencies save government money  – and has chosen not to consider the potentially negative points.

However it is now clear that Truss is also cherry picking whose views she listens to – she is completely refusing to engage in debate with those who have concerns about her ideas – she is very skilled at quoting from her own documents and also at ‘talking over’ people who are try to make a valid point during interviews.

She is attending meetings with those who like her ideas – there is one such meeting on the 25th February, She is not responding to requests to meet with groups of people who oppose her ideas.

To date she has not responded to any of the petitions set up to urge the government not to change ratios in early years settings – around 60,000 across the 3 main petitions.

She has blocked some people who are challenging her ideas from her Twitter account – including myself.

And I understand that she is pushing ahead with her ideas for childminding agencies at great speed – we know she plans to have pilot agencies up and running by September THIS YEAR – what many don’t know is how far she is already in the process of this.

I believe that she is going to be attending a meeting in EARLY MARCH with interested parties to ‘LAUNCH’ the whole agency idea – that will be BEFORE the Children’s and Family Bill has finished its journey through the House of Commons and BEFORE the results of the consultation are known.

It has to be asked will Truss listen and respond to the concerns expressed in the consultation process? ( that we know are being expressed because many are sending in copies of their responses), Will any  delay in the Children’s and Families Bill cause her to delay her plans.

OR will she continue to only take note of the things that she wants to – will she continue to cherry pick the’best looking cherries that may actually be sour and therefore not the best cherries and ignore all the other cherries on the tree that may have slight blemishes but taste great.

There is a lot that can be learned from cherry picking and indeed from buying cherries from others.

Posted February 21, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

More Resources and Inspiration from Worcester Resource Exchange   Leave a comment

Regular readers of this blog will know that Penny is  a great believer in the value of free play and in particular play based on heuristic play, loose parts and in general using recycled and everyday objects.

So it will be no surprise that last Thursday, Penny and two minded children paid a visit to their local scrap store Worcester Resource Exchange.

A  good ‘mooch’ was had and Penny filled a trolley, while the two children each filled their own bags with self selected ‘treasures’ . I noted that almost everything in Chinzia bag was a circle based item, and that Archie choose many items the same as Chinzia but also lots of bright coloured things.

Today (Tuesday 19th February) we started to use some of the items that we had brought back to Penny’s Place.

The first item was new to us – we had not seen this particular thing before and so selected several different ones in different colours and textures

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If you don’t recognise this resource – it is the material used in vertical binds!

Penny being Penny immediately thought of weaving – large scale with the netting also brought on the same day. However Penny then remembered that actually the outdoor area is not in use at the moment due to a major reorganisation of the garden (going to create a new children’s garden but more about that another day).

So Penny had another think (maybe that was Penny’s Planning?)

and Penny prepared some weaving boards for the children and they did some over and under weaving, reinforcing the language used in their previous work on ‘The Bear Hunt’, practising their listening skills and demonstrating their understanding  ……………oh heck enough EYFS talk – the children had fun, worked independently and were very proud of their weaving – you can see the end results below  (which being an ‘end product’  is in itself are a rare thing at Penny’s Place)

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The other thing that all the children -but Chinzia in particular – have explored to day are all the circle things we brought back – take a look at the photos

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

I have to ask – Will the government listen to early years sector concerns?   1 comment

You see I have to ask – I was brought up to believe that in this country we have a government that was elected by us the public  and that everyone in government had a duty to act in the best interests of the people of this country.

Of course no government is going to be able to please all the people all the time – and some people will therefore not be happy with whatever decision this or any other government make.

However I was also under the impression that the government should refer to research and consult with those that have specialist and expert knowledge of whatever it it that the government are planning to change or implement.

Furthermore I was under the impression that if enough people voiced concerns or objections that at the very least the government should reconsider their plans – maybe make changes – maybe even abandon those plans.

And indeed in the past – both the current coalition government we currently have in power and governments of the past have acted in such a manner – and although I personally have not always agreed with the decisions made by the government – my belief and faith that in this country we have a democratic government has been upheld .

UNTIL NOW

It seems to me on the issue of changes to regulation of early years childcare settings as outlined in the document More Great Childcare – are been pushed through and with undue haste  DESPITE concerns about these proposals being expressed by huge numbers of the public.

At time of writing this blog there are two main e petitions up and running and a paper petition for parents and between them they have attracted around 60,000 signatures.

Although we can not be sure if, or how many people have signed all the petitions – the mere fact that some may have, shows how strongly they feel – strong enough to take the time to sign more than one petition.

However as we can’t be sure,  maybe the government should be be taking into account all 60,000 views. And maybe the government should take the time to read some of the comments that have been left on the petition sites – heart felt comments from early years practitioners, from parents, from grandparents, from ‘experts’ in the early years, from professionals outside the early years childcare sector such as Health Visitors and Mental Health professionals. Some of the comments have been put on the One Voice site to make the comments easier and quicker to read .

Some individuals – such as myself – are spending huge amounts of personal time and effort to express their concerns and to try to unite everyone together who has similar concerns. Not to further their own aims but because they are so concerned they feel they have to do ‘something’.

Apart from all the individuals who are expressing concerns – there are a huge number of research documents that all come to the same conclusion – the proposals in More Great Childcare are not in the best interests of childcare settings, parents or most importantly the children of this country.

In addition the early years organisations are all expressing concerns , all stating publicly  that they think the government is wrong to push ahead with their proposals.

Of course the government is going through the motions of consultation – various consultation documents have been released – but it seems to me that the government are trying not to make these consultations public knowledge – they are ‘hidden’ within various sites, they are not in the same format, there are too many for anyone to keep track of, the deadlines for completion are very short, the names given are misleading – for example staff deployment – hardly everyday language, if the word ‘ratio’ had been used more people would understand. It almost  seems as if the government are hoping that people don’t notice – or if they do that time pressures mean they can’t complete them all or even some of them.

As an example of why I am so cynical, lets take the issue of childminder agencies.

There is not a proper consultation on this issue – just the opportunity to add comment on the issue assuming you found the document in the first place (there are links on the One Voice site), the minister is meeting with selected groups but so far has not issued any statements to suggest that she is going to change any of the details of her proposals.

It is understood that the main early years membership organisation have (or will be) meeting with Ms.Truss but I have to wonder if that is to inform them of her plans rather than to listen to their views and concerns.

And all of this so called ‘consultation’ is with the knowledge that childminder agencies are to be piloted from September 2013 and that various groups / companies/ organisations have expressed an interest in running these pilot agencies.

One thing is very clear those interested in running the agencies will be wanting to make a profit from doing so, and it seems very likely that there will not be any government money to set up or run these agencies – therefore the cynic in me says – it is a done deal – the pilot agencies will just expand –  there will be no evaluation, no opportunity to make changes and especially no opportunity to scrap the idea and go back to the drawing board – because no one is going to invest their own money and time into a so call pilot – unless they are pretty sure that their business model / their agency model will continue into the future and not only be sustainable but will grow and increase profits.

So personally I do think the government is not listening – nor do they intend to change their plans, not only about the idea of childminder agencies but also about increased ratios, the role of Ofsted and the local authorities, the changes to qualifications – or anything else that they slip in through the back door – because I have noticed that although the main proposals are remaining – each article or statement or piece of information that you read there are slight changes to wording which maybe intentional or maybe even the minster is confused by so much information in such a short space of time?

Which brings me to my last point for this particular blog – why the hurry? why not take  the time to consult fully, to have time to debate, to reflect, to make changes?

After all the Early Years Foundation Stage 2012 has only been in place as the statutory document for early years settings for just over 5 months- it is supposed to have a life time of four years until end August 2016.

And maybe I am now being very cynical – but won’t we have had a general election by  then – and is it not possible that the current government and the current early years minster will no longer be in a position to make these proposed changes.

Surely it would be better to take time to consult and to come up with proposals for changes to the regulation of early years settings that on the whole, most people agree with, rather than risk alienating up to 60,000 or more voters.

Although I am not a political person and have been dragged into this arena due to my passion for my profession and my concerns about the implications to the children of this country – I would have thought that actually the government would have more chance of being re elected in the next general election, if they demonstrated through their actions that they do listen, they do take note of the concerns of those who know what they are talking about – and do have the best interests of the people of this country, including the children – at the heart of everything they do.

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