End of an Era – Mia is leaving Penny’s Place after 3 years ….. What is in store for the next 3 years?   1 comment

Today is the last day at Penny’s Place for Mia – Mia has been attending since she was just over 12 months old and is only leaving because she is going to ‘Big School’  and mummy and daddy do not require before and after school care for Mia.

So a bit of a sad day – but also day to celebrate – and we have celebrated  today. Mia’s parents  provided a caterpillar cake (very appropriate as ‘our’ caterpillars are currently the center of attention as we wait for the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly) and a party bag for each child.

The children all made party crowns, played their favorite games – and after rest time, they  all had their party bags. Penny inflated the giant balloons and added some rice,  she also inflated the princess magic wands and the giant hammer from the party bags.  The children and Penny sang  and danced with the balloons  (which happen to be two of Mia’s favourite activities) had a lot of fun and made a lot of noise.

As a treat the children watched a DVD – their choice – which happened to be ‘Number Songs’ -while the children watched and joined in with the number songs –  Penny was able to gather all of Mia’s things together – The farewell presents and cards – including the large group one –  ready for home time.

Yesterday Mia had taken  home her photographic record of her time at Penny’s Place – all 120 pages of it – full of photo’s of Mia and her friends – together with comments written from Mia’s point of view.

And so – now the children have gone home – Penny has been reflecting on the past 3 years –  which  has all been very positive

BUT

As Mia’s place is already booked up by a new little one – due to start in September and Penny has been thinking  what will be the situation be in relation registered childminding and Penny’s Place in 3 years time?

One thing is certain there are going to be changes – lots of them – some we know about already, some we have yet to be given full details about – and some have not even been thought about because between now and when this new child that is starting at Penny’s Place is due to go to school we will have had a general election – and possibly a different political party at the helm.

There is little point in worrying about what we do not yet know or about the results of the future general election, however the proposals currently being pushed forward by this government are causing Penny to worry as they  may well change registered childminding  as we know it now – and therefore Penny’s Place as we know it now.

Childminding Agencies

The pilots are starting in August – yes in a couple of days – the pilots are to be evaluated in early 2014, with final evaluation in March 2014 and rolled out across the county from September 2014.

That might sound like a reasonable plan – but when you hear that the pilots are just ‘testing’ various aspects – and  some times ‘in theory only’ , that there won’t be time to compare how an agency ‘judges’ a childminders practice compared to Ofsted, that a lot of the things that an agency may be able to do in the future can’t be part of the pilots – then it does not seem like such a reasonable or sensible plan

Then there is the fact that some childminders are  ALREADY being approached by companies that are going to set up agencies – very worrying as not yet law and changes could still be made before it is law. Penny  hopes no one signs up yet – would be very foolish to do so before the facts are known.

It is not a secret that Penny WILL NOT be joining a childminding agency – however the impact on Penny and Penny’s Place could be considerable – and could mean that Penny’s Place does not remain sustainable or that childminding in the future evolves into practice that Penny does not consider to be in the best interests of the children.

It is all speculation at the moment – and worse fears may be unfounded – but Penny has been around long enough to know that if rumours start that are unfounded and make a proposal seem worse than it is – that counter rumours  (if not actual facts) are leaked to the media so that potential ‘damage’ is limited. In the case of Penny’s worries about childminding agencies – there have been no ‘counter rumours’ or ‘leaks’ to the media.

So why is Penny worried about the impact on sustainability of Penny’s Place and her career as a registered childminder?

First there is the cost of remaining an independent childminder – no facts as yet,  but it is possible that the fee payable to Ofsted may go up – considerably-  because the Government have made it clear that they can not go on subsidising the cost of childminder inspections – and being realistic those that join an agency will be paying more for their inspections as they will be paying  via the agency whatever fee they set – certainly the £35 per year that childminders currently pay Ofsted will not cover the cost of support, regular monitoring and training that have been mentioned in Government documents about childminding agencies.

Training may prove to be another area that becomes more expensive – at the moment Penny accesses  a range of training – local training – usually at a subsidised rate through the Local Authority – and national conferences which vary in price but with travel and sometimes overnight accommodation can work out quite expensive. However if the Local Authority have to charge a fee to cover costs this will have an impact on how many courses Penny can attend – and a knock on effect as to how many conferences she can attend as well

Therefore increased costs could mean Penny may have to increase fees to parents or cut down on training or spend less on resources or a combination of these things – let’s hope not as for Penny none of the choices would sit comfortably with her ethos.

Another area connected to childminding agencies that concerns Penny is her fear that the government may through the media, through children centers and so on ‘sell’ the idea of  agency childminders being ‘better’ than independent childminders to parents and parents to be – making it harder for Penny to convince potential clients that as an independent childminder she is able to provide appropriate care and education for their child.

In fact Penny thinks the government is already trying to under mind those who are not teachers or teacher led – by suggesting that those without GCSE Maths and English are not as capable as those with the qualifications- and that those children who are cared for by graduates / teachers will do better than those who are not. All very discreet but the message is already ‘out there’ and being spread.

Penny wonders if the childminding agencies will be ‘teacher led’ – ie they employ at least one teacher to support and advise the agency childminders –  and in doing so – by default – making all the agency childminders meet the governments stated preference as being teacher led? Penny wonders if the government will slowly move the goal posts so that to provide the Free Entitlement childminders have to either hold one of the proposed new Early Years qualifications – or be ‘teacher led’?

Penny has mentioned before  ‘back door’methods of getting childminders to join agencies – and the above are examples of ways that the government could do this.

Then there is the dwindling market due to government policies – and it has to be said funding for some projects – or removal of barriers to make it easier /more cost effective to ;

Enable schools to take in 2 year olds

Enable schools to provided extended hours childcare

Create ‘Hubs’ around school and children’s centers with childminders being seen as ideal for all the anti school hours and the collecting from one setting to take to another setting role – in other words all the ‘bitty hours’ that no one else wants and which are unlikely to create enough income to make a childminder sustainable.

All of the above are worrying Penny as they made lead to Penny’s Place becoming unsustainable

BUT

What is worrying Penny most is the governments complete lack of understanding about how children learn through play and the governments insistence that formal learning (and testing) are the way forward – because Penny completely disagrees and will do everything in her power to stop the government from implementing these ideas – which in Penny’s opinion will have long term consequences for the children of this country and society as a whole.

And if she can’t stop these proposals from being implemented – Penny feels so strongly about her principles and ethos – that although she will continue to childmind and will continue to implement her practice based on her ethos until whatever point in time Ofsted inspects her – should Ofsted consider her practice to be inadequate – Penny will close her setting rather than conform and introduce formal learning (or testing)

If you agree with Penny’s opinion – please support her efforts to get the government to listen by signing this petition Link to petition ( please don’t confuse with the previous petitions started by Penny – a click on the link to the petition will tell you if you have signed or not

Or write to the DfE to explain why childminding agencies are not a good idea – sample letters and address of DfE here

Please support Penny and her colleagues – as Penny would really like to be hosting another leaving party in 3 years time when child taking Mia’s place is ready to go to school.

Thank You

One response to “End of an Era – Mia is leaving Penny’s Place after 3 years ….. What is in store for the next 3 years?

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  1. It seems to me that the govt and ofsted are just trying to get rid of childminders. They hold them to the standards of a big organisations such as a school attached pre-school or large nursery chain and although they talk about different approaches they want every childminder to behave the same and perform to the exact same procedures producing chidren with the exact same learning outcomes. They forget that these are pre-school children, all children are different and that parents send their children to childminders because they want a loving home atmosphere NOT some labelled, drilled and standardised pre-school schooling environment. As a parent, I don’t want a young qualified childminder with a degree, I just want a supportive and experienced childminder who my children love to visit and who are allowed to play. My child is three for goodness sakes, I don’t want him to have ‘lessons’, he’ll get enough of that over the next 20yrs.

    The irony is that while they want all child minders to behave the same way and observe the same standards, they do not expect the same of their ofsted inspectors who seem to be able to grade and interpret on a whim, use subjective judgement, authoritarian language or grade depending upon the mood they are in on the day, as shown time after time when two childminders can get an exact same report, one getting satisfactory and one outstanding. One getting pulled down for not doing something whilst a different childminder gets outstanding and doesn’t do half the things a failed childminder does do.

    If they want consistency and strict assessment criteria they need to get their own house in order first.

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