The Pre – School Learning Alliance interview Truss – OH DEAR! – It appears she is still NOT listening   5 comments

As a member of the Pre – School Learning Alliance -I was delighted to see that they had had the opportunity to interview Elizabeth Truss for their members magazine ‘Under 5’

You can read the interview via this page on the Alliance website

I was particularly keen to read this article because I am very aware of the Alliance’s view on the proposals in More Great Childcare both from things that I have read, their support for the petition that I started link to original ratio petition; their own campaign and petition link to Alliance Petition ; and from personal discussion with the Alliance CEO Neil Leitch. Views that are in fact very similar to my own views

I printed the pages from the article  in the link,  as I wanted to be able to read and scribble comments on it  – and lets just say – within seconds the page was covered in comments and lots of these –  ? and !

I thought I would comment on each question and answer in order and to respond to the bits in ET’s response that I think are worth commenting on – so I won’t be commenting on everything in the article. To ensure I don’t misquote ET’s words I will mainly be copying and pasting those bits as recorded in the Alliance article

Question One  – is about ET’s main priorities for Early Years.

ET says  ‘If we get this right, we won’t just give children from all backgrounds a better start in life, we’ll be giving the economy a massive boost by helping these talented mothers back to work. That is a great prize to work for.

Penny says – It is the getting it right that is in question here – a ‘better start’ is a welcome and needed initiative BUT it must be based on research, from knowledge of the experts in this country and the hands on experience and views of  the practitioners who work with early years children – AND the views of parents.

I am not sure I like the bit in this statement about getting talented mothers back to work. Most mothers who want to work – whatever their talent – will get a job – provided there are jobs available SUITABLE to make the most of their talents – and that pay a living wage.

AND – what about the talented fathers who can’t get a job?

AND – what about those mothers and fathers who think it is in the best interests of their children to  take some time ‘out of work’ , or work part time or juggle childcare between them – to care for their children themselves?

It appears to me that the government are far more interested in saving the government money than they are in meeting the needs of children and their parents.

AND one other thing – It seems to me that alongside – if not before, the need to tackle the issue of childcare costs – you need to tackle the issue of availability of employment and the benefits systems – because to work talented mothers (and fathers) need jobs and they need systems in place to ensure that to move into employment does not mean they are worse of  – which means tackling the low pay issue of many jobs that are currently available (due to the fact that people can’t afford to work for minimum wage).

Question Two – asks about the governments vision for early years and the role that early years providers should play in supporting children and families

ET says – ‘Our vision is of high quality, affordable childcare that gives kids a good start in life and helps parents back to work …… I think we need to trust professionals, give parents more choice and drive up the quality of training and qualifications….’

Penny says – I think everyone in the early years sector would agree with the first part of the statement. As to the second part – yes Ms. Truss you do need to trust the professionals – all the ones who are saying that your plans will not give children the best start in life.

Interestingly ET does not actually answer the question about what part she thinks early years providers should play in this.

Question Three – is about Cameron’s desire for the UK to be a child friendly nation

ET says I am struck by the apparent mismatch between the amount of money the Government pours in to childcare and what we as a country get out. Even though we’re spending around £5 billion a year on childcare, more than many other comparable countries, parents still face sky high costs, many childcare staff earn barely more than the minimum wage and providers often struggle to stay afloat.

Penny says – there is one word in the above statement from ET that stands out to me – the word – APPARENT. Up to now ET has not used this word – is this a sign that she may have actually read some of the research and articles that I have? The ones that are on One Voice link to One Voice site, the ones that say that actually it is very difficult to make comparisons but that we do not seem to pay out as much as other countries – and that we get better value for money than many countries, and that parents do not pay the highest childcare costs when all factors are taken into account.

ET goes on to say in response to question three – That’s why I think childcare in this country needs reform………………….These reforms aren’t easy but I’m convinced they will help deliver world class childcare in this country. 

Penny says – I have to strongly disagree – reform is the wrong word! What we needed was to continue with the ongoing programme of reflection and consultation, only making changes when backed by research and evidence from THIS country that would improve outcomes for children both in the short term and the long term. Therefore as ET’s ‘reforms’ are not based on either of these things, I also have to disagree that the reforms will help deliver first class childcare.

Question Four – refers to the poll carried out by the Alliance among its members and asks ET to respond to those who say higher qualifications won’t lead to a great ability to care for more children

ET says . …….All the countries I have looked to for inspiration – France, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands – ensure they have well-qualified, well-paid staff. They also allow those staff to look after more children and trust them to exercise their professional judgment ….’

Penny says – Maybe Ms.Truss has not read June O’Sullivan’s blog on her visit to French Nurseries, maybe she has not heard that the Dutch    system is not working . Maybe the ‘true picture’ in these countries was hidden from view during her visits, or maybe she was selective in only using information that backed her proposals. Whatever the case I have personally read more articles, blogs and research documents that suggest that the countries that Truss mentions are NOT providing high quality care and education or making childcare more affordable JUST by increasing ratios, or that staff providing childcare with increased ratios are happy about it or think it improves outcomes for children.

ET goes on to say in response to question four – it’s only those providers who employ well-qualified staff that will be able to move to higher ratios. I’m very encouraged that popular providers such as Ros Marshall of Kids Unlimited, John Woodward of Busy Bees and Ben Black of My Family Care have welcomed our proposals

Penny says – and what about all of those who have said it is not a good idea – including Cathy Nutbrown whose review these proposals are supposed to be based on.

And I maybe wrong but haven’t Busy Bee’s issued a statement to say they won’t be increasing ratios?

Question Five and Six – asks about concerns that market pressure will lead to settings having little choice about increasing ratios and creating a two tier system

ET says – I should also emphasise again that by no means every setting will be able to move to the higher ratios because of the requirements we are putting on qualifications. Only high-quality nurseries with well-qualified staff will be able to use this freedom. …….. Instead there will be some settings with well-qualified staff that look after more children, and other settings with less well qualified staff that look after fewer children ……

Penny says – In my opinion Ms.Truss has completely missed the point of this question. There are many group setting that ALREADY have staff with higher qualification who have stated that they do not want to increase ratios – but if a near by competitor increases ratios and lowers costs to parents – market forces may force them to lower prices (and put even more pressure on sustainability) or increase ratios to bring in more income so they can lower prices.

Furthermore she has completely forgot that in childminding setting she is proposing that ALL childminders even those with no formal qualifications may look after FOUR children on their own – with no other adult available for support. Due to the difference in age bandings between group and childminding settings  – ONE childminder could care for FOUR children aged over 12 months but under 2yrs OR two babies under 12 m and two children aged between 12m and 2yrs. This means a childminder COULD have sole care of two babies aged say 8 months and two children aged 13 m perfectly legally (or any other combination of children under the age of two)

Question Seven – Asks about the free entitlement and if with higher ratios children will receive an appropriate level of support especially vulnerable children and those with additional needs

ET says   I would return to the point that the evidence shows the quality rather than quantity of staff is the most important feature of a good early education. There will only be more flexible ratios where staff are highly qualified – so it won’t be the case that children in higher ratio settings will have lower quality care.

Penny says At this point I had to put the article down – I despair – having a grandson who is now diagnosed with Aspergers and having seen how much he needed one to one support  in pre school and how the school system completely failed him, and how he is now doing well in in a specialist school with low ratios, having looked after children myself with complex needs, with English as an additional language, with elective mutes – I know that despite being  trained to level five I still only have two arms, one mouth, two legs, one lap and only a certain amount of time and energy . However this is not just my view point it is the view point of thousands of parents, practitioners and early years experts – the very ones that Ms.Truss is not listening to.

Question  Eight  – are about the funding received for via the Free Entitlement for 2, 3 and 4 year olds

ET says – In my own words – not ET’s – not a lot really – just about reducing the LA role to ensure more reaches front line staff – completely missing the point that an average £5.09 per hour per child does not cover all the costs especially for those whop only offer funded hours – and ignoring the point that under funding of the free entitlement drives up the fees of those who access non funded hours.

Question Nine – the final question – is about the Childcare commission and consultation

ET says  –  As the Commission has proceeded, my officials and I have had the benefit of many meetings with many people with an  interest in childcare. The commission launched a call for evidence last year, and we’ll continue to talk to the sector at formal events, and at informal meetings too. We will be making an announcement on the commission, focusing on making childcare more affordable, soon.

Penny says – having seen the questions, having seen the responses of many, having read many articles and many blogs – I will be very interested to see just which responses are used and published. In my 30 year experience of the childcare sector – I have never seen such strong and almost universal disagreement to any government proposals that in my opinion it will be nothing short of a miracle if the government announce that the sector is in favour of the proposals in More Great Childcare.

5 responses to “The Pre – School Learning Alliance interview Truss – OH DEAR! – It appears she is still NOT listening

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  1. Penny, great response.

    Have you seen Ms Truss’s article in the Telegraph:

    Speaks volumes. I summarise this by saying that if there is a change to the proposed ratios, we will be very surprised.!

  2. Once again Penny, I am very impressed of your ability to summarise and conclude particular views being expressed currently. I believe your support to many who visit your blog is unrivalled. You clearly hold a great deal of knowledge, experience and integrity within the sector. Keep up your incredible work, I really admire the speed you are able to react to articles so eloquently.

    • Thank you Julia – it is my passion for what I do that drives me – as an individual I can respond quickly as I don’t have to worry about line manager approval, the company image, or even what others might think about my views.

      Of course well behaved children who are self motivated individuals who lead their own play does help! This morning they have been doing puppet shows for each other, using the magnetic letters and trying out some new 12 piece puzzles. And luckily I can type half a sentence – spend some time supporting a child and then type the other half of the sentence! (Which might explain why sometimes a bit disjointed or with text missing!)

  3. Pingback: The Pre – School Learning Alliance interview Truss – OH DEAR! – It appears she is still NOT listening | Debbie's Blog

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