The NDNA Funding from DfE – Have they sold their ethos, principles and members trust for £1 million?   7 comments


The news story in Children and Young People caused a bit of a ‘throwing arms in the air’ and ‘scratching heads in disbelief’ from a lot of the early years sector.

It also resulted in a number of emails and phone calls to me personally.

I expressed immediate concern about the funding that NDNA are to receive and the truth that maybe hiding in the press release the NDNA issued.

However – I do like to check my facts and to give benefit of doubt as I know that some times media reporting is designed to ‘provoke a reaction’

So I was pleased when Claire Schofield from NDNA issued some further clarification about the funding.

I have decided to comment in sections to Claire’s clarifaction.

Claire says;
Following an article in Children and Young People Now, NDNA has addressed some misunderstanding of the work that it is planning to do to support members under its Department for Education Grant.

Penny says;

Good idea considering that lots of people see this grant in negative terms

Claire says;                                               

Over the next two years NDNA will be working under the grant to support the early years sector in England to develop high-quality, sustainable childcare to meet the needs of children and families. The funding we will receive from DFE is £500,000 in 2013-14 with a similar amount in 2014-15.

Penny says;

An admirable aim – but it is the detail that is needed to be unpicked. ½ million £’s a year is a lot of money that should be used to wisely and with clear outcomes planned from the start
Claire says;
Our activity will include:
· Fifty-four training events across England over the next two years. These events will use up the majority of the grant to roll out subsidised training to nurseries, responding to the feedback we’ve had from members on the reduction you are seeing in local authority training and support.

Penny says;

That is good news for NDNA members  but what about non members, what about NDNA members who can’t access the training, and fifty four training events does not seem very many for the whole country and to enable all to access. Also it seems that the government are saying they are making the cut backs to LA budgets because the government need to cut budgets and because the LA’s are not consistent in what they offer from one area to another. Surely by providing this funding the government has shown it does have some money available but is making accessibility even more restricted. And yes I know some other early years associations have had funding for training – but not all associations – and more important some practitioners / settings are not members of any early years organisation

Claire says;

The first series of these events is now underway on the theme of Supporting a Child’s Journey Through the Early Years, covering tracking children’s learning, promoting positive behaviour and meeting children’s individual needs. See:

Penny says;

I find it interesting that these events are already underway – surely a sign that NDNA knew about this funding ages ago? And I also wonder why the government have funded this when I would have thought that by now most nurseries had a good idea how track children’s learning and plan to meet children’s individual needs – so with this in mind the funding is going to an impact on even less settings and less children.

I am maybe being a little bit negative but this funding appears to be more of  a ‘sweetener’ to ensure than NDNA undertake  the ‘less acceptable’ part of the government funding criteria.

Claire says;

· Two small pilot projects (NB I have moved details of other pilot projects further down so the ‘staff flexibility’ issue statements from Claire are presented together)

o Staff flexibility – working with 15 daycare providers to test models of staff deployment and flexibility
To prevent any misunderstanding of NDNA’s staff flexibility trials NDNA has shared more details on the trials. There has been an overwhelming message from NDNA members that relaxing the childcare ratios is a risk to the quality of care for children. NDNA has been asking government to stop, rethink and listen to evidence from the sector and academics. The trails are not about testing out government plans to alter ratios, but to contribute to the evidence which is lacking in the UK on how staff can be flexibly deployed to ensure high-quality provision that meets the needs of every child.

· Trials will take place within the overall ratio and qualification requirements of the current EYFS

· A total of 15 high-quality nurseries will be asked to volunteer to take part in the trials

· Trials will run for one month, with a strong focus on evaluation of the trials and learning from the experiences and expertise of the practitioners involved

· The trials will be practitioner-led, with the practitioners involved putting forward their ideas on using staff differently across the nursery to meet individual children’s needs

· The proposal for trials was discussed with NDNA’s Board of Trustees and National Policy Committee – made up of elected regional chairs, sector experts and academics. There was a general feeling that international comparisons are unhelpful as they do not compare like with like and we need to have evidence from UK settings on deploying staff more flexibly within the current EYFS regulations whilst ensuring quality

· Trials will be on provision for 2-5 year olds and not involve under 2s.
We’ve been in touch with members who’ve voiced concerns about the story in CYP Now yesterday to set the record straight on what we are really doing – here’s the message we’re sending. We’re clear that the trials are about deployment under the EYFS as it is now, not trialing government’s proposals for ratios

Penny says;

Personally I am not convinced – this sounds like testing out increased ratios to me. My reasoning being that under EYFS says that with the right qualifications settings can have a 1:13 ratio of 3 and 4 year olds , by having the age range as 2 – 5 year olds AND using staff flexibly, it would be feasible to test out the higher ratios without specifically saying so.

And please correct me if I am wrong – but isn’t flexibility of staff within the setting already part of EYFS 12?    3.27 if I’m not mistaken.

So this brings several questions to my mind

  1. Are there not any settings currently using staff ‘flexibly?’ – if there are surely it would be better to ask those who have more ‘real life’ experience and most likely over a period of longer than a month
  2. If there are not any settings currently using staff flexibly – surely the question is why? And not to set up  a very limited ‘force trail?’
  3. 15 settings over a one month period? Hardly a longitude study, hardly a worthwhile study. And from my personal experience of working with increased ratios (under exceptional circumstances) it is possible to ‘manage’ for short periods of time – such as a month. However in the long term it is a different picture and there are 3 possible outcomes, First the staff throw everything they have into doing ‘a good job’ for the sake of the children, but they get behind with other things, their own health and well being suffers, they become stressed, second the staff are either unable or unwilling to keep on ‘doing ‘a good job’ and the quality of the care and education starts to slip thus impacting directly on the children, third, the only way to keep on ‘doing a good job’ is to restrict activities, introduce new procedures that limit opportunities but keep children safe.

So in my opinion – this study can only have one purpose (in the governments eyes) to say look it works as long as practitioners have the appropriate level of qualification – it works.

  1. I am assuming that those settings that take part will be broadly in favour of increasing ratio either within the current EYFS or under new regulations – either way the results / feedback will be biased.

Claire says; ( this is the other part of pilot information that I moved – as mentioned above)

o Integrated wrap-around care – 12 trials bringing together day nurseries, childminders, schools and Academies

Penny says;

As a childminder I am not happy about this because this suggests that childminders are being viewed as the ‘wrap around’ bit – the extended hours that no one else wants to do.  Some childminders will be happy to do this work – many will not.

And again correct me if I am wrong but haven’t 4 children had funding for doing something very similar?

Again 12 trails – are not sufficient to base future plans on

Claire says;
· Maths Champions – recruiting EYPs as local maths champions to inspire practitioners to develop their own maths skills and to lead innovative practice in maths for under fives.


Penny says;

I find this depressing and insulting and my big question is WHY? You do not need to more than average maths skills to inspire under 5’s or to implement innovative and effective maths.

Unless of course we are not talking about the maths through play, routines and everyday experiences.

Again I have to ask what is behind the governments thinking?

Well those are my initial thoughts – I hope that I am wrong, I hope that NDNA do not find out when it is too late – that the government have been creative in the wording for the criteria for this funding and that NDNA do not end up with ‘egg on their face’

(By the way I don’t like being negative but I feel I should speak my mind – as I did when CYPN announced Pacey were to be involved with the ‘turn parents into childminders scheme’ – the whole thing shouted ‘AGENCIES’ to me – and so I did blog about it. And of course we all know now that Pacey have withdrawn because they did not agree with some aspects of the scheme. I guess I will never know for sure if I was right about the scheme being linked to agencies – but certainly something major made Pacey withdraw)

I may well be wrong in part or in full – and it will give me no pleasure to say ‘told you so’ if I am right – but hopefully by writing this blog I will have added to the debate, made people think and reflect on the details of the scheme

7 responses to “The NDNA Funding from DfE – Have they sold their ethos, principles and members trust for £1 million?

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  1. Penny, I think this is a really harsh judgement. I am an NDNA member, but I know that the events they run are open to members and non-members alike. Many of the membership organisations rely on DfE funding to carry out a lot of their work – barely a day goes by that there isn’t an announcement that 4Children have been given another large grant to do something or other. Yesterday the announcement was also made that they would get £1.5m to run ‘children’s hubs’. Sounds mighty like Family Information Services to me, but we had those and they have been cut with the reduction in LA budgets. If DfE makes grants to support research into Early Years, I would rather see it go to a variety of different organisations (including the former NCMA) than just to their strategic partner. I am very happy that the NDNA represent the interests of my nurseries and the families that use them; I hope your member organisation does the same. I think it is a shame that the various factions within early years can’t give each other a bit more respect.

    • Thank You Sarah for your comments, and I think it is always good to have different personal views about things expressed

      I think my comments were harsh – but they were also harsh about the Barnardos (and at that time Pacey) funding. When I get time I will also be commenting again on the hubs (have commented before about hubs before we knew the details)

      My main objection is aimed at the government and the way they take away something that is working (but of course needs continual reflection and review) and replace it with something else.

      I also think the government are very skilled at making something sound like a good idea – but when you unpick the details it is a cleverly disguised way of getting what they want.

      I mentioned the Pacey withdrawal because at first Pacey were supportive but then found there were bits that they did not like (I am not a Pacey member)

      It was also why I mentioned that I hope NDNA do not end up with egg on their face – meaning I hope they do not find out further down the line that the government are going to use the data from these trails ‘creatively through cherry picking the bits they want’ to provide the evidence that higher ratios will work.

      As they did with Cathy Nutbrown’s report, the so called ‘evidence from the French system and so on.

      The bottom line is I could be wrong;
      and the NDNA are fully in control of this and know what they are doing and will use the funding to great effect to benefit us all
      or I am right
      and the government are in control and will use this project for their own means

      or NDNA are fully aware of what they are doing and know that really this funding does include providing ‘evidence’ that higher ratios will work

      Time will tell

      And yes – my membership organisation – which is the Pre – School learning Alliance does represent my setting and the families that use my setting in just the way that I want and need them to.

  2. Sadly, I feel you may be right…..
    With all that funding and limited events. The day rate is still hefty!
    £85.95 per person for NDNA members
    £98.55 per person for non-members.

    Date Location
    31 May 2013 Ramada Hotel, Farnham, Surrey
    6 June 2013 The Hilton, Blackpool
    14 June 2013 The Hilton, Nottingham
    27 June 2013 Teaching and Learning Centre, Middlesborough
    3 July 2013 Thornhurst Manor, Doncaster
    10 July 2013 Folly Farm Conference Centre, Bristol/Bath
    18 July 2013 London
    2 August 2013 Stevenage Golf & Conference Centre, Stevenage
    30 August 2013 Centrelink House, Birmingham
    *Different workshops will be held in Scotland & Wales.

    Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive, NDNA said:

    “Particular focuses of our work will be supporting the sustainable provision of the two year old free early education offer and trialling approaches to increase provision of flexible, affordable, high-quality care and learning.

    “The exact details and timing of the programme of work are being developed and agreed in discussion with DfE. Trials on flexibility and out-of-school care will contribute to development of sound policy through evidence from expert practitioners at the front-line in the UK. Flexibility trials will focus on 2-5 year olds and work within the current EYFS regulations. We will be exploring ways to address issues such as getting more highly-qualified practitioners working directly with children, with robust professional judgement on staff deployment by those leading practice. Trials on integrated wraparound care will pilot seamless childcare services for families, finding innovative solutions to partnership working.”

    • Thank you Catriona for your comment and for the details of the training events.

      I think the fee is hefty as this is a funded rate? I know it is possible to put on training at this sort of price without having funding provided.

      I did look at the details to see if worth attending but found that my nearest event is on a Friday and as the information talks about ‘the team’ I feel that it is not designed for a sole practitioner such as myself. This of course is fine as after all it is the National Day Nursery Association and their main target audience will be nurseries.

      Another thought that I had was – couldn’t the funding have been provided so that trainers from all organisations and private trainers could receive standard training – suitable for all settings – and then be cascaded to practitioners all over the country – at a realistic set fee? This I feel would be far better use of funding, more inclusive and have a much bigger impact on the outcomes for the children of this country. As I say just a thought.

  3. Thanks for the blog Penny and Sarah and Catriona, you both raise relevant points. It is important that we are able to state our feelings on sector issues and I am pleased that colleagues are able to do so, via social media.

    My feelings are that the DoE in the past and present have funded a number of initiatives and we should question the impact that the funding has had on the children, families and the sector.

    I know that all of the National Organisations, have done in the past and currently doing great work with their members. However, can National Organisations survive without Government funding?

    I also, applaud the Day Care Trust and Family Parenting Institute for coming together as one organisation and in the past Age Concern and Help the aged, who are now Age UK. Maybe, this could be considered as an option for the National Organisations in terms of their long term sustainability?
    We are all working hard to have a more joined up approach within early years and recognise that children and families deserve the best. This has been relevant over the last year, when the sector has come together to oppose the various Government proposals.

    My thoughts on the NDNA and DoE project, which I have shared with the NDNA in the spirit of transparency:
    My initial thoughts are:
    How will you choose the 15 settings?
    • Settings who are in agreement with the ratio proposals
    • Location: affluent or High-deprivation – city, suburbs, rural, town
    • Parents on benefits
    • Quality of setting
    • Size of setting
    • Stand alone or part of a chain
    • Qualifications of staff
    I don’t know how one can carry out full research on only 15 settings?

  4. Hi Penny
    I find I tend to agree with you on many things but I am concerned as to your reaction to the NDNA being awarded a comparatively small amount of money to do work on behalf of the DfE. Many organisations, including members organisations including Pre-School Learning Alliance, NDNA, the old NCMA as well as others such as 4Children etc. There is nothing new in that, what is new is the divisiveness of More Great Childcare and the fear many dedicated professionals have for much of what it contains and the impact it will have on the children we all care for.
    I had a concern for months before MGC came out and this was around the ratios of adult to child, the level of qualification of staff and the space ratios. After years of working within them I started to question what research evidence they were based on and as far as I could ascertain these ratios and qualification levels were apparently ‘plucked out of the air’ when the government were setting down the first National Standards for Early Years sometime around the late 1990’s. At the same time Ofsted became responsible for registration and inspections. Up until then each individual local authority set their individual ratios and qualification standards.
    The point I’m making is that Elizabeth Truss has used France and various other countries to justify her attempts to increase the number of children we can care for as well as actively encouraging setting such as mine to use the 1:13 ratio for 3 & 4 year olds. Unfortunately, there is no authoritative research in the UK to counter her claims.
    I understand that a very small part of this grant the NDNA has been awarded is to look at current practice in outstanding settings and the possible trialling of more flexible ways of working. BUT these trials will only be conducted under current ratios, EYFS and Ofsted. There will be no trialling of the proposed new ratios for under 3’s.
    The NDNA is an extremely professional body and would not be ‘hoodwinked’ by the government to get involved with anything their members disagree with or accept cherry picking of their results. The proposed use of this grant has been discussed and agreed by their national policy committee which is mainly made up of professionals working within early years running daycare settings. Their believe is that this research that is to be carried out will give UK based evidence on effective staffing deployment whilst maintaining and improving quality of education and care of children. Without such evidence how will we ever be able to beat the More Great Childcares proposals?

    • Thank you Ken – for your comments – and I often find I agree with you on many things, as I do with most of your comments here.

      I do hope that you are right that NDNA have not been ‘hoodwinked’ and that they do not allow cherry picking of the results.

      My comments are of course personal – and maybe I did not express myself clearly enough – in that the title was a question – that I did not actually answer.

      I hoped that I had made it clear (but clearly had not) that it was not particularly NDNA that I was having a go at (although I accept that people have read it as such) but rather the government and the way they have of manipulating things.

      I agree completely with your points re MGC and the way the government are using various things to justify their ideas.

      I also agree that we need some UK based evidence and research and like you have been asking for this for months, however I don’t think the either the number of settings or the length of time of the NDNA project will produce the evidence need – for the reasons stated in my blog – and again those comments were not directed at NDNA as I am well aware that the DfE will have some input into time scales and how the funding should be used.

      And of course I realise (and commented on ) the fact that trials will be under EYFS 12 and do not involve under two’s, but still believe that the government are not to be trusted to not twist facts or cherry pick.

      Finally I hoped that my blog would make people think about the funding – and it has certainly done that. And as I said at the end of my blog – I maybe wrong.
      I was just expressing my opinion – and through the comments on this blog – others have the opportunity to express their opinion.

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