Pre- School Learning Alliance Conference 2013 (and a potted history of my connection to the Alliance)   2 comments

My association with the Pre School Learning Alliance goes back to the 1980’s, when as mum of two young children (at that time) – I started being a parent helper at the local pre-school, mainly it has to be said for selfish reasons!

My second daughter was ready for pre-school but too young at 2 years of age to attend on her own (how things are changing now) – but as her older sister was already attending, the supervisor suggested that if I became a parent helper my younger daughter could come along with me. So I did and like with so many parent helpers in the then PPA  my personal journey took off in a slightly different direction as I entered the world of Early Years!

I attended committee meetings – and yes the group was a member of PPA – but to be honest that point went over my head – but the ethos of the association was there right in front of me and evidenced every day through not only the practice in the setting, and in the supportive and nurturing attitude of the the staff towards the children – but also to me as a adult volunteer.

The pre school was also the reason why I registered as a childminder – as another parent asked me to care for her child from end of the morning playgroup session until the child’s father’s work shift ended – and me being me – I did it ‘properly’ and registered as a childminder.

A few years later – and just after the birth of my 3rd child, we moved house and area – and I continued with my childminding – and although my edest children were now in school, I connected with the playgroup in my new area through taking the minded children there for some sessions – and yes I joined the committee – and yes the playgroup was a member of PPA (as was), and in due course my third and forth daughter went to this playgroup.

Somehow I found myself representing the playgroup at a meeting being held by the local sub committee of PPA, some how I found myself on that committee, and from there on the county committee, and on the Tutor / field worker course, and a PPA tutor, and editing the county newsletter

I say somehow – but I do know why – it was the nurturing and support – that led to an increase in my confidence, that enabled me to take on these roles – not it has to be said as the ‘soap box’ shouting individual that I am now but as someone who sat quietly, taking notes and feeding back – however those who knew me well at that time will have noted that I did express opinions but in groups of friends, rather than publicly  – and I did over a period of time become more vocal.

And my involvement in the playgroups and the committees meant that I also found myself attending my first ever conference – a PPA one in Bournemouth – as a ‘Just a Mum’ (wonder who remembers that scheme?) However I was only there as there was a last minute opportunity due to someone else being unable to attend – and so I spent the whole weekend wearing a badge with someone else’s name on it    (lacked confidence to ask for it to be changed)

By the way it was at this conference that I also took my first steps in writing, as being unable to sleep – (nothing changed there as I still have trouble sleeping) I spent the night in the bathroom – so as not to wake the other 4 ladies sleeping in the room – writing about my first conference experience.

Moving on – I attended a couple more conferences and was in Scarborough when the name change went through from PPA to PLA  – which my husband quickly said stood for Penny’s Liberation Army – mainly because I was out so much at  PLA related things – and as at that time we had 4 children – guess who was looking after the children while I was out?  But actually he was right because I was changing – I was being liberated from the the shy mummy that I was, to this person who was becoming passionate about all things early years – and it has to be said gathering a lot of knowledge and experience along the way.

A few years later,my personal journey took another direction and I went to work for the Local Authority / NCMA – and so for a period of 7 years I was not part of a member group, or on any sub committees.

Roll onto 2010 and I re- registered as a childminder and leave my LA employment (having gained a lot more knowledge and experience on the way) – and by early 2012, I found myself sat in the office of Neil Leitch  – CEO of the Pre school Learning Alliance  discussing the idea of  individual childminder membership of the Alliance, and a volunteer structure for childminders (and by the way I had also found myself volunteering to help re establish the local sub committee)

Then in January 2013 – just before the publication of More Great Childcare – I started the first ratio petition – and because I had had occasional email and phone contact with Neil about the childminder membership package – I emailed him to ask if he personally or the Alliance as an association could support – and of course the answer was YES – to both.

My life then went into overdrive with constant campaigning, setting up One Voice , blogging, writing letters and articles, being interviewed and so on – all while working 60 hours + hands on with the children in my childminding setting (just as well I struggle to sleep as those extra night time hours have been filled with campaign ‘stuff’)

The number of emails and phones calls between myself and Neil also went up as we discussed ratio issues, and the governments attempts to push More Great Childcare proposals though without listening to the early years sector. Neil kept me up to date with what the Alliance was doing (in relation to the ratio issue) and I of course signed the Rewind Ratio petition and supported the Alliance in what ever way that I could.

I booked to attend the 2013 conference ‘More than just a number’  months in advance (I have to, as to attend, I have to close my setting so parents need lots of notice) – and all was sorted.

Then of course – as we all now know – Nick Clegg made his decision about the ratio issues  (see separate blog on this  link) and so I found myself arriving at the conference in a rather ‘upbeat’ mood.

Part One of my personal feedback on the Pre school Learning Alliance conference.

Almost as soon as I arrived I ‘bumped into Jo who works for the Alliance and who is supporting myself and others with re establishing the Worcestershire branch of the Alliance (and by coincidence – Jo and I worked together for a while in the same LA), Jo introduced me to a couple more people and then I wondered into exhibition. And there I met Bridget and Pat and Jacqui who I have communicated with about various things, but never met before – good to chat to all of them.

In due course we all go into the conference hall – I am surprised at how many people there considering it was a Friday and so early years settings open and of course everyone is having to make budget cuts – so conferences are now more of a luxury –  but despite this the lagre hall was full.

I loved the way they used photo’s of children holding signs to start the conference – put everything into perspective as of course it is because of the children that we were all there.

The chair Graham McMillan gave a warm and humorous welcome and then introduced the first speaker Sue Gregory.

Sue Gregory is not my most  favourite person I have to say – because of the derogatory remarks she made about childminders in her speech about the Ofsted Annual Report  – however I listened carefully – just in case she had anything new to say or any clarification about the proposals within More Great Childcare.

Well she did have a few things to say actually –  and although she used words cleverly to make it sound like she believed in what all those in the room believed in – there was that personal interpretation that made me realise that actually she did not believe in what I believed in. I must make it clear that I am not saying that Sue Gregory does not care about the children – just that she and I have a different opinion about what young children need in terms of care and education

She started by saying that she had a similar background to those in the room – she had been a teacher – (as in a QTS type teacher – not a learning through play type early years educator). She spoke about being a mother and a grandmother and how that had made a huge difference to her views – I would agree – I am a mother to 4 and a grandmother to 8 (currently) and my children and grandchildren have made a huge difference to my personal views – however for the youngest three – who are currently under 2, I certainly do not want the sort of early years experience as described by our early years minister Elizabeth Truss based on the French model, and I have to wonder if Sue Gregory who said passionately that she wanted the very best for her grandchild – has the same vision as Ms.Truss or not.

I am not going to comment on all that Sue Gregory said – just the things that jumped out at me – and to be frank added to my concerns about the future of  the early years sector.

First about inspections – Ofsted have / are changing what they look for – they want to see practitioners who lead and who teach – and will be downgrading if they think settings are nor ‘teaching enough’ – and indeed this has been seen in recent inspections – settings being downgraded.

I have to disagree with this approach – as each child learns in his or her own individual way and to his or her own time table – for Ofsted to say that they are looking for certain things / certain ways of working / supporting – that is like saying ‘one size’ fits all – all children will learn in this way and at this time – and this certain piece of knowledge.

This seems very much inline with Truss’s ideas that children as young as two need formal learning – I will write another blog about this at another time as I don’t want to get side tracked from my personal feedback on the Alliance conference.

Sue Gregory also said that childminders agencies were currently going through the process including consultation – so she could not comment very much – however when the process was completed and legislation in place – she would be able to comment more. HANG ON

So unless I have really misunderstood – agencies are going to happen, are going to be implemented – no matter what (just a few details changed maybe). Of course I have been suggesting this for several months – but here we have the confirmation – the task and finish group, the process of Children and Families Bill, the consultations, and even the pilots – are not to see if agencies are a good idea, are workable, are going to be used, are going to achieve the outcomes the governments says it wants to achieve – but are just a cover up – so government can say they consulted – when in fact all they are doing is discussing the fine detail. Shameful, disgraceful – and a complete mockery of our so called democratic society. The government have decided that agencies will be implemented whether they are wanted or not , whether they will improve outcomes or not – and why? My guess is the bottom line is to save the government money – nothing more.

There was mention of the changes to wording for inspection grades from Satisfactory to ‘requires improvement’ – but at the moment only for group settings – Ofsted are not sure yet if the wording will be changed for those childminders who join agencies, or those that remain independent – so we shall have to wait for clarification on that.

There was of course a lot more to Sue Gregory speech – some graphs, a powerpoint – other worrying facts, however she has promised to make these things all available and so when she does I will write a blog about it, as I will be able quote from her actual materials used.

(At question time at the end of the speeches – Simona McKenzie asked a question about support to be given to those childminders who wish to remain independently registered with Ofsted – the reply was brief – as it has not been decided yet way support will be given to childminders who ‘require improvement’ or in general terms – but Sue Gregory did say that yes it would have to be provided as it will be to any setting requiring improvement).

That’s the end of Part One – more to follow as soon as time allows

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

2 responses to “Pre- School Learning Alliance Conference 2013 (and a potted history of my connection to the Alliance)

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  1. Interesting Penny, especially about the focus for inspections and on agencies. I just can’t see hwo the agenices idea will work and I think the response to Simona’s question again shows lack of forethought!

  2. Pingback: Friday 6th June – Part One of my feedback on the Pre school Learning Alliance National AGM / Conference 2014 | Penny's Place Childminding

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