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.



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



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.


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.


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


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

One response to “I have been thinking ……

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  1. Can’t argue with any of that Penny (apart from the fact that you should be getting more sleep!) So many people are now writing to MPs and to Liz Truss and DC and perhaps that is the best way forward, if every MP gets a sackload of letters they might be forced into action. It seems clear that Truss has now stopped engaging and has been remarkably quiet in the public arena since the media scrum that followed More Great Childcare. I haven’t seen anywhere near as much coverage of the Children and Families Bill…

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