Quality and standardisation of training once childminder agencies are up and running   1 comment

Most likely the first thing people reading this will notice, is that I am now saying ONCE childminder agencies are up and running – I have stopped saying IF childminder agencies are introduced.

On Tuesday 12th there was a meeting with the DfE for those interesting in finding out more and potentially running childminder agencies.

I do know people who were at the meeting and I have had some feedback – which along with the information that we already had about the pilots which start in just 6 months time, in September 2013, the notice that the pilots will be evaluated in early 2014  and then rolled out in September 2014.

Therefore I have personally come to the conclusion that childminder agencies are going to happen – and that the government want then to be successful and available in all areas of the county.

I have lots of questions and lots of concerns about childminder agencies – but for this blog I want to concentrate on the issue of training.

Over the last few weeks I have attended some update training provided by my Local Authority, one on infection control and one on safeguarding. Discussion via social media with colleagues, made me realise than even now there are huge differences in what is provided and what the requirements are in different areas of the country.

Lets take safeguarding as an example;

Living in Worcestershire, I am required to do a level 3 course and to be the Designated Senior Member of Staff- Safeguarding, and to update every two years.

Colleagues living in a neighbouring Local Authority have to undertake  level one training

Other colleagues are required to be the Lead Practitioner for Safeguarding

Some have to do an update every year but on different aspects – so a rolling programme

Some are able to update online – some have to attend face to face training

Some just do training when first register as a childminder, some every year, some every two years, some every three years

That is a huge amount of variation – and there is possibly a lot more variation if consider the content of the courses.

The reason for all this variation is the note at the bottom of page 13  in the Early Years Foundation Stage 2012 where it says ‘Taking account of any advice from the LSCB or local authority on appropriate training’

There are  around 150 local authorities in England – so that is in theory around 150 different sets of criteria for safeguarding training and other training that the local authorities have control over.

First Aid training is currently a little bit more standard as it has to be 12 hours – however from discussion with others there are still slight variations in actual content.

Details about training requirements in the future once childminder agencies are introduced are vague, but we do have some information to base our thoughts on.

From More Great Childcare page 12 – it says that agencies will be able to provide training – although does not say if all training or some training

However on page 29 of More Great Childcare it says

‘We will work with partners in further education and training to improve the quality of training available to childcare trainees, including through ensuring that the quality of  placements they experience are normally only in good or outstanding settings and are of  high quality themselves.

We will remove constraints on childcare training; for example, the obligation to use only local authority-approved first aid training. This will ensure that there is competition in the market for high quality training and professional development.


Interestingly – it does not say in the section about Ofsted as the sole arbiter of quality on page  37, anything about Ofsted setting the criteria for training.

Furthermore from feedback I have received about the meetings about childminder agencies, it is clear that the government are suggesting that childminder agencies will be responsible for the quality of the childminders in the agencies – and could provide initial training, first aid training, child protection training and continuous professional development. My understanding of this is – all training for childminders in the agency.

Taking this in relation to the information received about the business models for agencies being open, not government driven and with very few actual requirements, so few  ‘must do’ – I believe we have a very worrying picture of the future with regard to training – in fact I think we have a potential for inconsistency and even more variations in content, quality and requirements for training.

I think it is a reasonable assumption to think that we will end up with more childminder agencies than we currently have local authorities. Also that some agencies will be huge, some medium size and some small very local ones.

I think it is also reasonable to assume that all agencies will be different – for example we already know that we will have self employed models, employed models, those run by schools, children’s centers, day nurseries – and of course businesses.

We also know that the services offered will vary, the way the services are paid for will be different, as will the quality of those services.

The points above are worrying enough – but there is much more to be considered;

Training for those childminders who choose to remain independent and to not join an agency; Who will provide their training? Who will decide what training or CPD they need to complete? Who will keep track of that training record? (at the moment LA’s hold information of training accessed through them) .

Will the LA’s still provide training for childminders – indeed for any provider? Will the fact the providers will be able to access their training ‘elsewhere’ mean that the LA’s will not know who needs training and therefore what and how many courses to put on? Will LA’s find it financially unsustainable to only provide training for those who choose to access training through them?

My fear is that ‘market forces’ and more choice will lead to confusion, higher prices and even lack of availability due to the criteria that many colleges and training providers have  about not running courses if not enough attendees.

However there is another very important issue top be considered – that of working in partnership with colleagues across all sectors of early years. In recent years there has been a huge amount of progress in this area – and although still room for improvement especially around the times training and meetings are held, it is now possible for myself and childminding colleagues to attend training with colleagues from day nurseries, from pre schools and schools and children’s centers, thus sharing good practice and acknowledging our differences but more importantly acknowledging our similarities.

If some childminders are to access training via the agency they join, opportunities to share good practice across a range of types of settings will be limited at the least.

If group settings are to either access LA training or in house training, again all the benefits of working in partnership with others will be lost

If independent childminders are to be somewhere in the middle with no clear path for their training needs to be met, and maybe accessing training from independent trainers with no one checking up on their CPD apart from Ofsted every 3 or 4 years.

To be frank – it will be a mess and potentially dangerous as time moves on and those market forces lead to more and more variations in amount of training, content of training and cost of training – not to mention no clear consistent tracking of training across all sectors.

In my opinion – particularly for registered childminders – this is going to create more divide between childminders and other practitioners, and also between the different agencies and independent childminders- with the possibility of childminders living in the same street either belonging to different agencies or remaining independent.

How on earth will parents be able to judge the quality of their prospective childminder?  How will parents know if the legal requirements have been met or not?  How will comparisons be made so best decision about most appropriate childminder for their child be made?


And a final point – what will happen if;

A childminder wants to change agency through choice or has to because moving out of the area that agency operates? A independent childminder wants to join a agency in the future or a agency childminder wants to become independent?

How will anyone be able to make an informed decision about if meet requirements for training in these circumstances ?


In my opinion there seems to be huge problems about a lot of issues in connection to agencies but that the issue of training in the future is a huge can of worms that no one appears to be acknowledging or doing anything about providing clarification and detail about.




One response to “Quality and standardisation of training once childminder agencies are up and running

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  1. Penny, very good blog. I worked within a local authority, before we transferred over to Ofsted as Inspectors in 2001. The main reason for this was to provide consistency in terms of regulation nationally. Hence, why we had the National Standards. There are lots of unanswered questions. I think it will be, ‘Houston we have a problem!’

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