Archive for June 2013

A document to share – Why I think childminding agencies are not a good idea   Leave a comment

This document can be copied and pasted, changed, added to, bits taken away, made more personal, used as a started point – but please use and share – as there are a lot of people who do not understanding the implications of childminding agencies

 

 

Why I think Childminding Agencies are NOT a good idea

Hello,

My name is (insert your name) and I am a Ofsted Registered Childminder.

I am writing to you as I want to raise awareness of the Governments intentions to introduce childminding agencies as from 2014, in fact they are piloting these agencies from August 2013 – March 2014.

  • The Government propose that;

Childminders who join agencies will not have to register with or be inspected by Ofsted

This will create a two tier system and make it difficult for parents to make decisions about who should look after their child as in future not every childcare setting will have an individual inspection or inspection report

It will also mean that childminders may be graded higher or lower than their actual practice, as every agency childminder will have the same agency based grade.

  • The Government plans that each agency will set it’s own business model

Childminders in an agency will have vastly different practice, quality of resources, training level and things that are included or not included within the standard fee. Therefore even if an agency sets a ‘standard fee’ what you get for that fee will very enormously

Childminders in an agency may have to adopt the agencies policies and procedures that are generic rather than specific to each childminder.

Agencies will have to be self funding so childminders will have to pay a fee to the agency – and each agency will decide what that fee is and what services you get for that fee. It is possible that childminders may pay a % of income or a set annual fee or a fee for each service as used.

Some agencies may ‘match’ parents and childminders – taking away parental and childminder choice.

  • The Government are suggesting that Childminding Networks could be developed into childminding agencies

Please don’t be taken in by this a childminding network is not the same as a childminding agency – and by ‘develop’ it is likely they mean that once childminding agencies are law in late 2014 that there will be a lot of changes made – including charging to stay in the network/ agency, introduction of new agreements and terms and conditions, and even the possibility that if the LA will no longer be able to provide the network coordinators, they may ‘sell’ or pass on the network as a whole to a private company or a commissioned service.

And don’t forget that at the same time childminders will lose the right to an Ofsted inspection and maybe the reason for joining a network in the first place – that of improving practice and Ofsted grade.

  • The Government are also reducing the role of the Local Authorities – and their funding

This means that childminders who choose not to join an agency will find it more difficult to access support and training.

The Governments proposals are going to change childminding and the individual tailored childcare service that childminders provide – and will in my opinion have a detrimental impact on parents choice, individual care for children and on childminders small businesses.

Therefore, I urge you to take the time to find out more about the Governments proposals in More Great Childcare from the following sources

www.togetherforquality.com     www.pennysplacechildminding.com

http://ukcma.me.uk/   http://www.pacey.org.uk/    https://www.pre-school.org.uk/

And finally, can I ask that you consider signing the petition calling on the Government to stop the implementation of More Great Childcare

http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/department-for-education-stop-the-implementation-of-more-great-childcare

Thank you for taking the time to read this

 

Chester to London to meet Lord Storey in the House of Lords – and a story of benefits of working together   15 comments

PLEASE NOTE – THIS BLOG POST IS NOT COPYRIGHTED – IT CAN BE SHARED IN WHOLE OR IN PART AS THE WHOLE PURPOSE OF THE MEETING AND THIS FEEDBACK IS TO WORK TOGETHER TO SHARE INFORMATION AND TO INCREASE KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING ABOUT CHILDMINDING AND CHILDMINDING AGENCIES.

PLEASE DO SHARE – YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION

As one of my daughters said in a text  ‘ The House of Lords, London? What were you doing there?’

A very good question as I NEVER excepted to find myself sat in the House of Lords ‘lounge’ talking to a Peer.

So what was I doing there?

Well ………..

I received a very unexpected message via social media to ask if I could call Lynda de Wolf who is one of the directors of UKCMA – it was unexpected as I am not a member of UKCMA and although I do provide information about UKCMA on the One Voice website in relation to the campaign about More Great Childcare, I don’t really have what you might call a close professional relationship

Then I received a little more information to say that UKCMA may have opportunity to speak to a representative of the House of Lords

Now that did get my attention as I knew the Children and Families Bill – the one that contains details about childminding agencies was about to start its progress of various stages through the House of Lords – as it had just finished doing so through the House of Commons.

So naturally I did phone Lynda – it was late at night because I had training that night straight after I had finished childminding for the day, so it was the first opportunity that I had to phone – and despite it being after 10 pm when I called – Lynda took the call

And that was the start of it – Lynda explained that UKCMA would like me and others to join them at the meeting (if and when it was confirmed). Normally I would not be able to agree to do this sort of thing due to the disruption it causes the parents of the children I look after – however by luck I was going to be on holiday during the week of the proposed trip to London.

(As it turned out the other person that they asked to join them at meeting – Sarah Neville – was unable to go).

So I said ‘Yes, Please, I would love to go’ and as I said it – I got that funny feeling in my tummy and that pain in my back which I know full well means ‘Penny you are taking yourself out of your comfort zone’

Lynda and I then discussed how to publicise the meeting as UKCMA wanted to gather as many views as the could from childminders (all childminders not just UKCMA members) from all over the country – and this was something that I could help with due to my contacts via social media with childminders from all over the country – and of course via my blog.

(and as an aside I was later told by Lynda that they knew when I made the information available as their inbox was full of emails from childminders)

The question we wanted childminders to respond to was ‘ If you don’t want to join an agency – what is it you want instead?’

In the end over 100 childminders responded in the space of a few days direct to UKCMA, plus others left comments on my blog and on the Stop, Listen, Consult petition site link to Stop, Listen, Consult petition

Once the information was available, all that could be done was to wait for the date to be confirmed- and to constantly ‘plug’ the links via social media.

Oh and of course pack for my holiday in Chester area – I say holiday but in fact the whole purpose of my holiday was to dog sit at my daughters house while they are in France.

On the Monday I had a text from Lynda to say that the meeting would most likely be on Wednesday at 10:30 am but was to be confirmed. So I start looking for a bargain train ticket – but was in for a shock – not only were there not any  bargains, the prices were outrageously high!

It would have been cheaper to drive home and get train but unfortunately I couldn’t do that due to dog sitting duties, and so on Tuesday once the meeting was confirmed I booked my expensive train tickets.

And then the childminding community surprised me – they wanted to help with the cost of the train tickets. After several hours of me saying no (part of my ethos not to ask others to cover the cost of my volunteering – and I hardy ever put in expenses connected to my volunteering) I decided that actually, in these days of cuts to funding and everyone having to be more proactive about supporting each other – I thought these offers were genuine and a very positive step in the right right direction of the childminding community taking control and all working together. So I agreed I would accept small donations via my pay pal account – and four people very generously put money into that account – Carol, Debbie , Julie and Jean thank you all very much as between you, you covered just over a third of the costs of the train tickets, car park and so on.

Personally, I think in future childminders are going to have to do a lot more sharing of information and costs of attending things. Some people have the time but can’t afford to go to things, some people would like the information but don’t have the time to go – but would be happy to contribute a small amount to help others attend in return for information being shared.

We may need to set up a committee based group to manage the funds properly and so collect and distribute money – and to enable the sharing of information as widely as possible. Needs thinking about, as I think it needs to be an independent thing so that anyone can use it no matter what membership organisation, online group,  area where live etc

Anyway on with blog about the trip to London

I needed to print the comments from the petition site, from emails sent to me and comments on my blog ready to take with me BUT despite having taken printer, paper and ink with me to Chester ready to do this – my printer was not playing ball (or maybe more honestly my IT skills let me down – again!) It would not connect to my daughters router – my laptop had (although I admit my youngest daughter had done this before heading home after handing over from her week of dig sitting) but despite phoning youngest daughter and husband – both who are much better at such things than me – it would not connect.

PANIC

However this was another case of childminders coming together to support each other- and the problem was solved. Sue who lives about 20 mins from my daughter, printed the signature list and Brita arrange for me to visit the London office of one of the parents whose children she minds, so that the other stuff could be printed. Thank you to all concerned – problem solved.

And so at 4am on Wednesday 26th June I was up and giving the dogs some attention before starting my journey. By 5:20 am I am in the car heading for Chester train station – nervous tummy and all. By 6 am I am parked and sat on the platform (most put out that the station toilets are not open!)

6.26 am and I am on the train on my way to London – so relieved that I had pre booked my seat, as the train was packed by the time we reached Crewe.

8:30 am – three minutes before we should have arrived at Euston station – and clearly we were not near Euston – there is the announcement ‘Due to a broken down train we will be arriving late into Euston at aprox 9am

9 am in London and rushing across London – getting lost on the way – to the office of the parent who is going to do the printing. Get there hot, very red and rather sweaty! Then parents has trouble opening, copying and printing the documents – time is running out – check directions on his computer – should only take 12 mins to get Westminster – but that did not allow for large lady with swollen foot – and so as I arrive at Westminster tube station, Lynda and Jane (also from UKCMA) are having to go in without me – but text to say I am expected. So into the Parliament Gift shop I rush – which way to the Peers entrance please – I am told and off I run – as you would expect it is at the far end of the building

Lots of tourists in the way as all standing looking at / taking photo’s of the magnificent building – push my way through – keep going – can’t see any signs – but when near the end of the building I can see two police officers inside the fenced area – so I shout across to them  ‘ Which way to the Peers entrance?’ ‘ They reply  ‘ And who are you?’ I tell them ‘ You are expected they say’ and let me in – I feel like a very important person as I am told to go through the door in front of me (nerves now beyond a joke and I am starting to think ‘get me out of here’  – only think though due to nerves – no way was I not going to go through with this)

Inside another gentleman asks who I am, tells me not to panic and to slow my breathing (gosh I had not noticed how bad it was) . so I slow my breathing down, get my photo taken for my badge, my handbag and phone security scanned, and then I get escorted to the Lords Lounge (noticing on the way the rows of coat pegs / stands – all with names of Lords etc on them  – reminded me of school).

Inside Lynda and Jane are already seated, Lord Storey stands up, shakes my hand, and introduces himself and his PA who is taking notes. There is another person (a Lord I assume – reading on the sofa). It is clear that the discussion had already started, so it continues.

Before I start my recall of the meeting – I need to make it clear that I am not being critical of Lord Storey’s lack of knowledge of childminding prior to the meeting – because why would he have an in depth knowledge ? And it should be pointed out that prior to the meeting my own knowledge of the House of Lords was also not in depth.

I should mention that Lord Storey is a retired Primary school headteacher, he had a large nursery attached to his school, and knew that childminders collected some of the nursery and primary school children.

Lord Storey asked who was in favour of childminding agencies – all three of said as one ‘We have yet to meet them’

Lord Storey was interested to know if we had tried to contact those that were in favour of agencies. We explained that yes we had tried to gather their views as we wanted to present a balanced viewpoint – but all those that had responded were against agencies.

Lord Storey asking if the Government had consulted with childminders directly – here my information was slightly different to that of UKCMA – this goes to shows how difficult it is for anyone to keep up to date and how difficult to separate fact from fiction, and in any given situation who knows if what they are being told is fact or fiction?

Anyway I explained about the discussion groups that I had help organised for the DfE and the fact that then, as now, everyone was against the idea. I also said that I understood that Ms. Truss had met with some groups of childminders but due to the wording on the invitations they were mainly with those who ‘had an open mind’ and were seeking further information.

Lord Storey asked about the other membership organisations that represent childminders and what they thought about childminding agencies – I said that both Pre school Learning Alliance and PACEY had publicly stated their opposition to childminding agencies, and I mentioned both organisations involvement in debates during the House of Commons discussions about childminding agencies and their involvement in the Education Committee debates.

He also wanted to know if either PACEY or the Alliance had met with Elizabeth Truss – I replied that as far as I knew just once each – and UKCMA agreed that this is what they thought as well – ‘Have you met with Ms. Truss? Lord Storey asked UKCMA ‘ No – not yet they replied but we are trying to arrange a meeting’

Lord Storey then asked what were the good things about agencies – we tried to be positive and said some may find them supportive BUT that the support was already available through LA’s, membership organisations, online forums and peer to peer support.

It was then that Lord Storey said something that surprised me (and Lynda and Jane) he said that a positive would be that childminders would be inspected and that would help outcomes.

Naturally, I jumped in and explain about Ofsted inspections – Lord Storey was genuinely surprised and asked further questions – including – ‘Well how do they inspect you – do they come to your house?’

As I said before starting on my recall of the meeting this is not critical of Lord Storey and he is to be thanked for taking the time to find out more – BUT it is concerning that potentially those who will be taking the Children and Families Bill – including the childminding agency bit – through the House of Lords – will have very little knowledge and understanding about childminding, about what is already in place, about the importance of individual inspections and so on – and therefore will take the wording about agencies at face value – and think – well this seems a good idea.

Lord Storey was short of time as he had another meeting but before he had to leave UKCMA handed him a nicely presented copy of all the comments that they had received and made a point of saying that were not just from their members but were representative of childminders from across the country.

I presented him with all the comments I had – so everyone can be reassured that they comments – however sent in – have been passed on.

UKCMA handed Lord Storey a separate sheet of views – which I recognised as the comments from Rebecca Martland – saying that these were some ideas for an alternative for More Great Childcare – and pointing out that Rebecca is a PACEY member not one of their members.

Before he left Lord Storey had some advice and information for us

FIRST – The House of Lords CAN get changes made at this stage and that the important date to bear in mind is OCTOBER when the House of Lords will be doing just what the House of Commons did and looking at the Bill line by line – and therefore we had that time to get our message across and to ensure the Lords are as informed as as possible.

So work to do!

He also said that as a sector we need to work together, for the main membership organisations to work together on a plan of action that involved everyone and made sure information giving was the same and ‘goals’ were agreed on and acted on by everyone.

I think UKCMA are going to make some suggestions on this but for now I am going to add my comments;

The ratio campaign was successful because the sector did on the whole come together and agree on the aim – unofficially but it was still agreed on and it was reported in the media what everyone was doing and saying.

However it was also not as successful as it could of been as different people were doing different things – all with good intentions but no one was co  coordinating things, there was no sitting round the table either in person or via other methods of communication – in fact one of my personal frustrations was that having set up One Voice to provide links to as much information as possible – I was not sent links to include – I personally had to keep checking websites, blogs, online media and so on to try and keep up to date – and this was impossible as I am one person, I do not have a team behind me, I do not even have very good IT skills being self taught – and being a one finger typist the time taken to undertake updating One Voice was unmanageable, on top of my full time day job of at least 60 hours hands on childminding.

So I have to ask – why did organisations not send me the information? I don’t understand why not because One Voice acts via links back to the original source and was not re worded or commented on my me – maybe someone can tell me why?

The same lack of working together is now happening with the Stop, Listen, Consult petition – it does not have the support of others organisations – some have re tweeted the link -but have not officially given their support. I wonder if it is because some other early years professional do not understand about childminding agencies?

Maybe but surely they could take the word of childminders that this is not what childminders want and support childminders.

And what about the new early years qualifications and the whole QTS status thing?

What about 2 year olds and ‘formal’ learning?

What about the loss of the role of the Local Authorities?

What about play losing its importance?

I think – no I know from reading articles, blogs, tweets and so on that a lot of the sector are very concerned about many of these things – so why are they not signing the petition – as individuals who are concerned? (I understand that for organisations to sign that there has to be agreement and approval to do so).

Are in fact the sector by not supporting this petition saying to government that we are not that concerned? or are they saying this is mainly about childminders issues – and we are not that bothered or concerned? or are they saying I can’t see any point in signing this as we won’t get anywhere with it – and by not signing creating that very scenario? I don’t know the answer – I am just asking the questions.

And so moving forward and bearing in mind the suggestions made by Lord Storey – Can we come together as a sector? Can we work together on a action plan – each playing our own part but joined together by a action plan? Can people put aside the fact that they belong to or work for different organisations? Can people forget historical and personal reasons why have not worked together before? Can people say I believe this to be so important it does not matter what others say or think – I am not a sheep- I am an individual and so I am going to follow my own beliefs and principles and not wait for others to do something first?

Personally and professionally I feel I have no choice – I am passionate about the rights of children, about my profession as a registered childminder that I will personally do what I can to ensure that the children always come first. This is why I give up so much of my time, this is why I will work in partnership with anyone who shares my passion, this is why I will not give up.

What about you?

Please lets all come together as a sector and work together from the same action plan.

Lord Storey had one more suggestion – Involve as many people as possible who work with the children – he valued my contribution and said it was good to hear from those who have to implement the proposals.

UKCMA asked if he thought that if they could get others to come to London, that meetings would be arranged with some of the Lords – Lord Storey said ‘But of course – that is the whole purpose – to listen to views of the people, it is a strength of our system and you must try to get ‘everyday people’ here.

There was time for some photo’s then Lord Storey had to go – but as a bonus his PA gave us a quick tour of the Houses of Parliament – we could not  go everywhere but we were took down corridors to enable us to see much of it through windows and doors. I was over whelmed by the size, the history, the detail in the paintings, woodwork and so on.

V__229D

Lynda, me, Jane

Many thanks to Lord Storey and his PA for really listening and for wanting to know more,

to UKCMA for inviting me to attend with them and demonstrating their desire to work together with everyone,

to the childminders who contributed to the train tickets,

to the childminders who organised the printing,

to my friend Wendy who at very little noticed rustled up some lunch / tea for me

to all the childminders who sent in their views and who share information freely and who provide support to me and each other.

(and to my daughters dogs who despite being left for 15 hours had not left any ‘presents’ for me to clear up)

Together we can and do achieve so much – with the support of others we can achieve so much more.

UPDATE

Since publishing this further donations have been received – rather than keep update the list of names – I wioll leave it a day or two and then add a list of first names of all who have contributed

Monday 24th June 2013 – I am going to be blunt …..   2 comments

……………………………This is the week that UKCMA have arranged a meeting with representatives of the House of Lords to discuss our concerns about More Great Childcare and in particular Childminding Agencies.

UKCMA have been gathering views by asking for them to be emailed to them opinions@ukcma.co.uk – the response has been positive but compared to the number of childminders in the country not very representative.

I have set up a petition with the aim being to get the the Government to Stop, Listen and Consult about proposals within More Great Childcare – the most urgent of which is childminding agencies. The petition now has 2,681 signatures – again positive BUT as the petition is open to all – just a drop in the ocean compared to the population of this country.

SO people of this country – YES all of you – it is your duty to stand up and speak for the children of this country, as they can’t speak for themselves – therefore what message do YOU want us to take to the government about their proposals in More Great Childcare?

A) You are very happy with the Governments proposals in More Great Childcare and think they are in the best interests of children?

In which case you need do nothing

B) You have concerns that the proposals within More Great Childcare are not in the best interests of children and need to discussed further through consultation with parents and the early years sector?

IN WHICH CASE – YOU NEED TO SEND YOUR VIEWS TO UKCMA and SIGN THE PETITION – BECAUSE THIS MEETING THAT UKCMA HAVE ARRANGED IS THE GOVERNMENT CONSULTING WITH US.

THEY ARE GIVING US THE OPPORTUNITY TO TELL THEM WHY WE DON’T THINK THEIR PROPOSALS ARE IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF CHILDREN. THIS CAN BE DONE THROUGH COMMENTS AND SIGNATURES ON THE PETITION WHICH WILL BE HANDED TO THEM AT THE MEETING

THEY ARE GIVING US THE OPPORTUNITY TO TELL WHAT WE WANT INSTEAD OF CHILDMINDING AGENCIES THROUGH EMAILING OUR VIEWS TO UKCMA – AGAIN WHICH WILL BE GIVEN TO THEM AT THE MEETING

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION NOW.

Link to Stop, Listen, Consult petition
PLEASE SEND YOUR VIEWS TO UKCMA.

Link to UKCMA website
PLEASE DON’T WASTE THIS OPPORTUNITY.

PLEASE TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW

Sorry to be so blunt – but I am very frustrated that the people of this country can sign in their tens of thousands petitions about pasties, or fuel rises (which they should to show strength of feeling) BUT only a few sign a petition to ensure the views of the early years sector, parents and childcare experts are listened to, so the children of this country have the the right to care and education that meets their needs rather than Government targets to cut budgets.

The early years sector want to reduce childcare costs to parents – and have valid ideas about how this can be achieved without putting children’s right to high quality care and education at risk

Thank you for reading

Don’t tell anyone – but Penny found some more ‘sale’ things and could not resist   1 comment

As regular readers of this blog know, Penny has a bit of a ‘problem’ when it comes to buying quality resources for her setting – and even more of a ‘problem’ if those resources happen to be in a sale.

Mr.Penny’s Place despairs, Penny’s friends wonder just where Penny will put the latest purchase, partners of Penny’s colleagues would rather Penny kept the information to herself ……

…… but still Penny gave into temptation – again

This time Penny got an email from Sense Toys – and noticed there was a sale on – so Penny avoided looking at the full price things and went straight to the sale page

Sense Toys sales page

Yesterday the postman brough a smallish box containing the things that Penny had ordered. Do you want to take a look? (If not scroll down quickly!)

So first some traditional story ‘things’

 

The wooden figures were all part of one set, but the CD packs were separate items – and not all the matching packs were in the sale

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Then there was a listening game

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And a set of wooden puzzles

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The children love the new resources and had to use them straight away – so we played the listening game – twice, Penny used the wooden props to tell the stories (without books), and we tried to do the 12 piece puzzles – two of the children managed with a little verbal prompting – and two gave up after fitting a few pieces together. Finally we listen to the story on the Three Little Pigs on the CD and joined in with the songs.

 

And if wondering how much Penny spent?

Look away Mr.Penny’s Place (only joking as not Mr.Penny’s Place money)

 

£179 – worth it?

 

Yes ,as these items will last for years – and most likely well past Penny’s retirement – so will be able to sell them on – at some point in the future

Tuesday 11th June – Look what the delivery man brought today!   2 comments

First an apology to all the husbands and partners of childminders – I know some of you get fed up with the ‘Look what Penny has brought / done now’ comments – and on this occasion Mr.Penny’s Place will be very sympathetic to your heart felt cries of ‘NO’ and ‘Don’t even think of it’ because when Mr.Penny’s Place popped home for lunch today and saw the things the delivery man had brought, and Penny had put  in the garden,  his comment was ‘Oh thanks very much, just what I want to look out of the window at’

So what was it that Mr.Penny’s Place was looking out of the kitchen window at?

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The parcel before it was taken outside and unwrapped

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As it looked once unwrapped and played with

Penny of course is delighted with her new purchase – actually they are not new items, they are second hand and were brought from ebay – for about £20 but the bad news is the carriage was a very similar amount. And if you are wondering there are 9 crates making them about £4.22 each – which compares well to other sites.

The children also love the crates and had a lovely time playing with the crates – as Penny does not reference activities and experiences to anything – you the reader will have to assess for yourselves all the learning that occurred!

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Wednesday 4th June – The ordinary day then ended far from ordinary   Leave a comment

I have written about the end to this ordinary day already in another blog, but now I want to backtrack and write about the children attending Penny’s Place did – prior to the phone call.

Normal start to the day with free play and breakfast – then my eldest daughter Michelle (called Aunty Shell by the children I look after) cam round for a play date with her own daughter and one minded child (Michelle is also a registered childminder).

More free play, including using their mark marking books. Penny was pleased to notice that all the children selected their own books by ‘reading’ the names on the front cover – no pictures just their name.

Once Aunty Shell had gone home Penny and all five children got in the car to go to the garden center – on our shopping list were pebbles – big pebbles and small pebbles.

After a bit of a look around – we found the small pebbles – actually they are sold as plant pot toppers and just £1.99 per bag – so we brought white ish ones and some multi coloured ones that were just like the ones in the small collection at Penny’s Place. Then off we set to find the big pebbles – we did finally find quite a good selection and chose a middle sized bag of ‘river stones’. Well the bag might have been middle sized but it certainly was not middle weight – it was very heavy – and the children observed and commented on the effort that Penny was having to put into carrying the pebbles.

On the way home, Penny decided that she had rather over done it – and needed to eat herself and feed the children as quickly as possible – so for the first time since returning to childminding in 2010 – Penny took the children to the chip shop and ordered sausage and chips for everyone. (Rest assured did meet parental wishes and dietary needs).

We ate the sausage and chips at Penny’s Place then the children went down for their nap /rest.

After rest time Penny asked the children if they would like to go outside to play – they did – and they want to play with the pebbles – so they did – the pictures tell the story

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Pre-School Learning Alliance Conference 2013 – Part Two   1 comment

Part One of my personal feedback from the Alliance conference ended at the point where Sue Gregory, Director of Early Childhood, Ofsted finished speaking.

Next to speak was Neil Lietch CEO, Pre-school Learning Alliance, Neil told a story about his grandchild and being nervous when speaking in public. (I will not repeat it as a personal story). He also told us all about the conversation with Nick Clegg – that amazing conversation when Nick told Neil that the ratio campaign was over because he – Nick Clegg would not be backing it (mind you I had heard this before when Neil phoned me) – and the question is  just what should Neil do with all those Rewind Ratios balloons?

On a more serious note Neil spoke about his visit to the French nurseries, and what he found there, about Elizabeth Truss’s ideas – and about the decision made to challenge the government about the ratio issue – even though at the time the Alliance was in the middle of a funding round and applying to the government for funding for several projects.

Then a  bit of a surprise for me – I was mentioned (with others) for my role in the ratio campaign – and Neil mentioned that if around for the ‘Drinks Reception’  after the conference, that the Trustee wanted to give thanks in  person. (and yes – I had pre booked to go to the drinks reception).

The next speaker was Liam Byrne MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. I was more interested in what Liam was saying as a father of 3 young daughters, as it was very clear that he is very proud of his daughters and wants the best possible care and education for them. As to the Labour Party stance on things – yes he was saying the right things but to be honest until the ideas are published and made public, I shall retain my right to reserve judgement. It is not that I don’t believe Liam – but I am afraid that my recent dragging into the political arena means that I now require evidence of policy and the research to back it up – before believing any statement.

It was then the question and answer session (mentioned in part one)

Then a real treat for us all,  the presentations of the Volunteer Awards – this had special meaning for me as some of my family, friends and colleagues had nominated me for an award – and although I was not short listed, I was very honoured that I had been nominated – and so could image how those that had won were feeling – proud, grateful, nervous, to name a few feelings. And I was right about those feelings – all of those who won awards were clearly feeling very emotional – and they all thoroughly deserved their awards – inspirational people.

The awards were presented by Amanda Lamb the TV presenter (who happens to be very pregnant and who happen to have some funny stories to tell) but it was children on the stage who presented the flowers that caught my attention (well they would as I am not much of one for celebrities and hardly ever take any notice of TV / film / magazines etc – but I always notice children!)

And then it was lunch time – describe as a Fork Buffet Lunch. It was a fantastic selection of cooked meals – I chose the fish pie and vegetables, followed by a dessert that I do not know the name of but was a cross between a cake and a biscuit – quite large and  served with cream.

While waiting to get my lunch, I took the opportunity to speak to Mel who also works for the Alliance about a new publication that the Alliance are doing, and gave Mel permission to use the information on my blog, if it was of any use.

Over lunch I sat with some people I did not know – but it turns out that the lady sat next to me works with Sue – someone I knew from my previous involvement with the Alliance.

After lunch I looked round the exhibition and order some painting sponge shapes – and as I brought two sets – I got the offer price.

I also spoke to the people on the Educare stand about the free training that all Alliance members can access. I admitted that I had not done so yet – but was keen to do all the modules, so I could provide feedback to my childminding colleagues (look out for a blog in due course) and to Educare. We also had a brief discussion about childminder specific modules.

I also spoke to the people on the volunteers stand – was given a toy dog to keep, and given some balloons to hold while my photo was taken.

Then I spotted James – who I have spoken to on the phone a few times and who I met when I was meeting Neil at the office. We had a long chat about recent events and our hopes for the future now that the ratio issue has been won. James then had to go and sort some photo’s out – so for a few seconds I was stood alone – but then who should walk right by me?

Yes Neil – and walked right past me, was what he did!

Then he stopped, turned, said in a questioning voice  ‘Penny’ while checking out my name badge.

‘What have you done with your hair’ he said

‘ Nothing’ said I

‘Well it has grown a lot and was more wavy when I last saw you’ said the observant Mr. Leitch (and he is right because when my hair is shorter – as it was when we last met – it is much more wavy).

After apologies from Neil for not recognising me – and a telling off for me, from him  –  for not making him aware that I was there, we hugged and air kissed in a professional manner before discussing the ratio issue, my new petition, the conference so far etc. Neil checked that I would be staying for the drinks reception – but then had to rush off as it was almost time for the AGM part of the conference.

I was asked for my Voting Card tear off bit – and after a search through my bag (and the pulling out of baby wipes, hair brush, medical supplies and so on) I handing in the tear off bit and took my place in the hall for the AGM.

The AGM was carried out professionally – and a point I liked,  to a time slot – with the end time clearly stated at the beginning – along with the other rules governing AGM’S.  All the Trustees were introduced – along with those sat on the stage. The chair’s report mentioned the childminder specific membership which will be available soon. All the  motions were passed.

After the conclusion of the AGM we went to our seminars – mine was the other side of the hotel and had the title ‘ Raising the status and quality of the workforce; the implication of More Great Childcare proposals for workforce reform’ and was led by Michael Freeston

I found it a very interesting seminar and liked the fact that we had a total of an hour and a half (with a 15 min break in the middle) as this gave us plenty of time for in depth discussion. I preferred this format to formats where two short workshops are provided. Just after the break I asked Michael if  he thought that the qualification requirements would be coming in for childminders – and he said Yes, he thought so – and also as Ofsted / DfE were pushing for group settings to have those qualifications even sooner than the Nutbrown review suggested – that the requirement for childminders would also come in sooner – but stressed that it would not be applied to those already registered. Micheal said that there may be ‘top up’ qualifications for those who already had a qualification and who wanted to be a Early Years Teacher. (Please remember these are Michael’s personal views not ‘official’ Alliance views)

Michael then spotted my name  badge – and apologised for not realising I was in the session – and like all the Alliance staff made me feel welcomed and valued (I think someone at the Alliance has been mentioning my name- for all these different people to know who I am)

Anyway the conclusion of those attending the same seminar as me was that – the ‘new’ qualifications were unlikely to raise professional status or pay – on their own and that there was more to high quality care and education than just a qualification.

Just  Drinks Reception before heading home – red and white wine and Orange juice were on offer, I had orange juice and chatted to a couple of ladies – one of whom had been in the seminar as me – and one who I happened to have connected with via Facebook.

Then there was a banging on the table to draw everyone’s attention to the final part of the day – which turned out to be a presentation of a huge bunch of flowers to …… ME, to thank me for all the effort I had put into the ratio campaign.

And

…… I was given opportunity to speak to those in the room – which I did telling them why I had started the petition and why on the day that I closed the ratio petition I had started another petition calling for More Great Childcare to be scrapped. If you agree with me about this please Click on this link

However the day was not over because as soon as I put the lovely flowers down on the floor, a lady from Scotland came up to talk me – and then two childminding officers from a London Borough – all very interested in my campaign, in the Alliance childminder membership … and my blogs.

Before we knew it – it was nearly time to go home. Neil came over to say goodbye to me (more air kissing and hugging) and I introduced him to the ladies that I was talking to – Neil said something on the lines of me being his best sales person – before saying goodbye to the ladies and heading home. Shortly afterwards Jo came over, and together Jo, the two ladies from London and I , made our way out of the hotel and home – and for me the challenge of getting the lovely flowers home safe via train.

A fantastic day – Thank You,  Pre School Learning Alliance – I hope I will be able to attend next year – and that by then there will be lots of individual childminder members.

Posted June 8, 2013 by psw260259 in Conferences that I have attended