Archive for August 2013

Help needed! How do we get letters read and appropriately responded to?   Leave a comment

Penny  is  of course referring to letters that she and her colleagues are sending to our MP’s, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Ms. Truss, the DfE and Mr. Gove  about childminding agencies.

Hundreds of letters have been sent – all slightly different, all raising personal concerns, all written in childminders own time and sent at their own expense – and more importantly all written in the belief that we live in a democratic society where we have the right to express our opinion, to voice our concerns – and to have them listened to and responded to.

The good news is that the letters are sometimes responded to – but the bad news is that ‘standard’ replies are sent – and usually signed by a person who is not the person that the letter was address to.

How can so many different letters be responded to with a standard reply?

And why do those standard replies just say what we already know – and re quote bits of More Great Childcare and More Affordable Childcare?

The reason childminders are writing is because they HAVE READ both More Great Childcare and More Affordable Childcare and they want to express their concerns and / or ask for clarification about specific aspects.

Penny finds this patronising and insulting – surely the Government have a duty to respond to concerns raised and genuine questions asked?

Penny wonders if the Government think that childminders really can’t understand the original documents and so they best repeat the key messages that are contained within the documents – maybe in the belief that if they say it often enough – that like a child learning  times times my rote – that childminders will eventually be able to quote the key points back and not question if they are true.

If you, the reader are noting a slightly cynical tone to this blog – you will be right.

To be honest Penny is tired – tired of keep trying to get the government to listen and to consult – in fact to show the slightest indication that they are listening to the concerns expressed.

You see, Penny has personally been campaigning against childminding agencies for over 18 months – and that is a long time to keep on writing letters, emails, articles for the media, blogs, doing interviews , explaining in person, working in partnership with other early years professionals and providing information via social media and the One Voice website.

In the very early days before she had responsibility for Early Years, Elizabeth Truss did respond in person – but only to put her point of view and to suggest that Penny might be the ideal sort of person to run a childminding agency.

Since then – just standard replies – no answers – no explanations to suggest that Penny had missed the point/ didn’t understand the bigger picture – no offers to meet with Penny and colleagues for discussion and two way sharing of information / no fine detail about the Governments plans to enable Penny and colleagues to make informed decisions.

So as the heading says – How can Penny and her colleagues engage with the Government – at any level? How can they ensure their voice is heard and their concerns at least listened to and not brushed aside with another standard letter?

In an attempt to open a dialogue with the Government Penny has TWO questions that she would like an answer to – and if these questions get answered then she will ask another two questions.


Why can’t childminders who wish to join a childminding agency  remain  registered and inspected with Ofsted instead of through an agency?


How many CHILDMINDERS have indicated through letters or consultation responses or petitions or any other means that they DO want to join a childminding agency?

Posted August 30, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Surely not all of More Great Childcare proposals need scrapping – so why start the Stop, Listen Consult Petition?   2 comments

I was contacted today by a childminder to explain why they had not signed the STOP, Listen, Consult petition- she contacted me because I had posted on social media a question about why the majority of childminders had not signed the Stop, Listen, Consult petition as follows;

Stop, Listen, Consult Petition Update

Now 3,645 signatures – so that means over 50,000 childminders have NOT signed. I am beginning to think that I am wrong and childminders do want to join an agency. Surely if a childminder does not want to join a childminding agency they would want to send a very clear message to the Government by signing the petition?

I, and a very small % of the total number of childminders are spending hours of our own time writing letters and blogs – and sharing information in every way that we can think off. ALL the organisations that represent childminders are against the idea of childminding agencies and are lobbying government, writing articles and sharing information. 

We are doing this because even if childminding agencies are optional and remain optional – there will be a two tier system of those childminders registered with an agency and those childminders who remain independently registered with Ofsted.

For this reason alone PLEASE sign the petition – what have you to lose by signing the petition? Or more importantly what have you to lose if you don’t sing ? – and by not doing signing send the government the message that most childminders have not said they don’t want to join an agency and therefore assume most do!

I am very grateful to the childminder for taking the time to contact me because it is always helpful to hear others view point and to look at things from a different perspective. In this case several interesting points were raised which made me reflect on things.

So first the childminder made it very clear that they were against childminding agencies and had signed the two petitions that were specifically against childminding agencies.

These ones

Link to agency government e petition

Link to agency petition

I am aware of these petitions as I have personally signed both of them – and I would encourage everyone who is against agencies to sign them, as we all need to do as much as can to get the message to the Government that we do not want childminder agencies.

However the childminder who had written to me made the point that although had signed the two petitions above they felt they could not sign the Stop, Listen, Consult petition because it was calling for a blanket scrapping of More Great Childcare – and they thought some of the proposal within More Great Childcare were good proposals and should not be scrapped.

I have replied personally to the childminder to give my thanks and to explain that I agree – some of the proposals are potentially beneficially.

So why did I decide to start a petition calling for More Great Childcare to be scrapped – if I though some of the proposals had merit?

Well for several reasons;

  • First, the time issue – after the ratio issue was dropped by the Government, time was running out to start campaigning about separate aspects in turn – so in my opinion one petition seemed the best option
  • Second, I thought that if started several petitions at once for each aspect that it would lead to confusion – and quite likely dilute the support as people would only sign the one most relevant to them – so again one petition seemed to offer the best potential to gain signatures.
  • Third, I thought that if we managed to to get one or two other aspects dropped by the government – that More Great Childcare would not be a very workable document due to the aspects removed and the gaps created – so therefore  it would need re writing and if going to do that then the original document would need scrapping to make way for the revised version
  • Fourth, For me personally there was a very important principle at stake here – that of proper consultation.You see we had had the Nutbrown review and the resulting report ‘Foundations of Quality’ which a lot of people had not only fed into but on the whole were in agreement with most of Cathy Nutbrown’s recommendations. AND then the government more or less disregard the recommendations and although saying that they had taken heed of Cathy Nutbrown’s words of wisdom – they hadn’t – they had cherry picked and use things out of context. As we all know now Cathy Nutbrown herself felt so strongly that she published another report called ‘Shaking the Foundations of Quality’ In addition the consultations that started to be released before I started the Stop, Listen, Consult petition demonstrated that the government were not really consulting as there were too many closed questions, too many questions designed to produced the response the government wanted.  Therefore in my opinion – the only proper solution would be to stop the implementation of More Great Childcare – and to Listen to the concerns being expressed – and then to Consult fully.

It was never my intention that all the proposals would be dropped – just that the document More Great Childcare would be scrapped and after proper consultation through listening to parents, childcare practitioners, sector organisations, and reference to research from this country and round the world, and evidence based on practice in this country that a new document would be produced that would contain the proposals from More Great Childcare that did support the recommendation put forward after the consultations, either with or without amendment, and new proposals that would support children, families and childcare setting whilst meeting the government targets to cut budgets and streamline systems.

So to be clear the STOP, LISTEN, Consult petition is not about scrapping all the proposals within More Great Childcare – it is about scrapping the document More Great Childcare – and basically starting again and putting together a new document that contain the ‘good bits’ from More Great Childcare and ‘new bits’ to replace the bits that are causing all the concerns within the sector.

Therefore if you have not signed the Stop, Listen, Consult petition because you like some aspects of More Great Childcare – take a look at the wording on the petition site

The proposals within ‘More Great Childcare’ are not based on research or prior consultation with the Early Years sector. The victory over the ratio issues, and the responses to the Government post publication of ‘More Great Childcare’ consultations have proved that the Government ideas need to be scrapped.

It is important that full appropriate consultation with everyone involved in the Early Years sector take place BEFORE any new proposals are published or implemented

The main areas that need consultation and changes to proposals include; 
Dropping plans for childminder agencies 
The retention of the role of Local Authorities in support and quality assurance 
The early years specific qualifications

Our message is simple; 

Hopefully you may now feel reassured that you can sign the Stop, Listen, Consult petition because full consultation would mean everything would be fully considered and those proposals that are in the best interests of children, families and childcare settings would remain – after all the sector is not against change that is beneficial.

Link to Stop, Listen, Consult petition

One final thought – after looking at the number of signatures on the two childminding agencies specific petitions – there are even less signatures than on the Stop,Listen, Consult petition – and even if all three petitions signatures are added together – there are still at least 90% of childminders who have not signed a petition.

So my questions and points from this morning are still valid;

I am beginning to think that I am wrong and childminders do want to join an agency. Surely if a childminder does not want to join a childminding agency they would want to send a very clear message to the Government by signing the petition?

I, and a very small % of the total number of childminders are spending hours of our own time writing letters and blogs – and sharing information in every way that we can think off. ALL the organisations that represent childminders are against the idea of childminding agencies and are lobbying government, writing articles and sharing information. 

We are doing this because even if childminding agencies are optional and remain optional – there will be a two tier system of those childminders registered with an agency and those childminders who remain independently registered with Ofsted.

For this reason alone PLEASE sign the petition – what have you to lose by signing the petition? Or more importantly what have you to lose if you don’t sing ? – and by not doing signing send the government the message that most childminders have not said they don’t want to join an agency and therefore assume most do!

Unless you want to join a childminder agency – Please sign at least one of the petitions – it does not matter which one but to hedge your bets as you won’t know which one other people will sign – and therefore number of signatures across the 3 petitions may get diluted – why not sign all three.

Posted August 24, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

As the pilots for childminding agencies start, there are some questions ALL childminders should be asking   12 comments

If we do not ask certain questions – we may well find that childminding agencies are declared a success. We may well find that the government decide they are so successful  that they should ensure all childminders join one. We may well find that the option to remain independently registered and inspected is not available in the future.

Please Note

This is one of the most important blogs that I have ever written – and I am writing it in the first person because I want this blog to be shared widely with just about every childminder in the country (and with those who are thinking of registering as childminders) because the future of registered childminding depends on childminders and prospective childminders reading this and asking the questions contained within this blog.

I want to make it VERY CLEAR – I give permission for this blog to be shared by providing the link back here, by copying and pasting , in part or in its entirety (with or without the link)  into emails, into newsletters, on to social media, in magazines, via organisations and associations, also to be shared verbally; in fact to be shared in anyway that is possible.

This blog is not for personal gain in any way – apart from a genuine effort to save the profession that I am passionate about, because I believe that moves are being made to ensure the Government have the data to say childminding agencies are so successful that after the evaluations,  they will change their plans and say that independent Ofsted registration and inspection is not cost effective and therefore all childminders will have to join childminding agencies.


So why am I so concerned ? 

I believe those who are saying – ‘well it is simple – we just won’t join an agency and they will therefore not be successful’ are trusting the Government not to change their plans

I believe that those who think local authorities will still support them – no matter what – do not understand that the budget cuts that local authorities have had so far, are not over yet

I believe the government is pushing local authorities to move  to commissioned services – that is the local authority farm out all the services they provide to BUSINESSES – that is companies that need to make a profit, will not receive Government funding and so will charge  for the services they provide

On what information are my concerns based?

As we all know the pilots for the childminding agencies are now starting to be rolled out and I think most of us know that there will be a first stage evaluation in early 2014 and final evaluation in March / April 2014.

This means that the pilots are only to be running for 6 months maximum – in fact it will be a lot less as the data will have to be collected and presented to the Government. Take out the Christmas holiday period and it becomes clear that actually these pilots are only going to have a few weeks in which to demonstrate if childminding agencies will work or not.

However very little other information has been released – and even with an ear to the ground and many colleagues across the country passing on the little bits of information that they have been told – the picture is a little vague.

I think that 3 or maybe 4 local authorities have been given the go ahead to run pilots, some nurseries and although not 100% sure – maybe some businesses –  all of which supports the Governments intention to pilot different models and aspects of agencies.

I also have heard several rumours / suggestions that childminders may be enticed to take part in the agency pilots through free resources or access to online training or payment of some of the things we all have to pay but would rather not (such as the fee to ICO,) or free access to online magazine subscriptions or documentation packages.

The list above might seem familiar to some, as I believe in some areas childminders have been asked ‘What can we do or provide to improve our service to you? – and so without knowing it, childminders have outlined the ‘package’ that they would like!

Some have suggested that prospective childminders may not have a choice and will automatically go through the registration process through the pilots, and then into agencies.

And so although all of the things mentioned would be very nice, and it would be tempting to say – ‘Yes Please’ – caution and common sense need to be applied.

You are all sensible people, you all run your own business – so think about it;

The question has to be ‘WHY?’

‘Why would a local authority, or a nursery or a business want to give you something for nothing?’

In these days of budget cuts, and rising costs – you rarely get something for nothing – there usually is a catch – and so it makes sense to check things out, to ask some questions.

I am not suggesting that these are the only questions that you should ask – but they are a good place to start

Are you taking part in the childminding agencies pilots in any way? 

It is important to ask ‘in any way’ because it would be easy to say ‘no’ as in not doing everything – when in fact we know that some are only piloting certain aspects.

By taking part in this training / trial of online support,(and similar) are there any conditions – if so please can I please have a copy of the conditions in writing?

This is important because it is easy to think how nice, this sounds good – without checking the small print. Also just by taking part in ‘a no strings attached’ trial you could unknowingly be providing the evidence for agencies – ie data such as 95% of childminders taking part in the trail said they found it easy to use / improved their practice and so on. Therefore question one should also be asked.

Why have you called this meeting?

It is possible that meetings will be arranged – and maybe different groups of childminders together – so that sales tactics can be used. If you think about it, those who have a satisfactory grade will have different support needs to those who have a good or a outstanding grade, those in active groups will have more understanding of current issues than those who don’t. Therefore the sales tactics can be tailored – at the end of the day all that is needed is people to take part in the pilots – so that data can be collected.

Why are you giving me this resource / documentation?

There will be a reason – they want you to feel grateful and so more willing to try things. Or they want your opinion about documentation – and don’t be surprised if they flatter you by saying ‘We are asking you because you are so good at checking things / providing feedback etc’ – because again they want to be able to say that experienced childminders like the new documents / found the resource beneficial – so ask why and what their next steps are.

You say this is free – will it always be free or will I get charged for this support / documentation / training etc in the future?

You must ask this question because it is possible that if everyone says the resources / documentation is really good (which they are likely to if it is provided free in the first instance) – that at a later date there will be a charge applied – and even if not applied to the first cohort of people a charge could be applied to others / become part of an agencies services.

Whatever you do – Please do not sign ANYTHING or add your name to a list, or say you are interested in receiving any resource or documentation or training or online support without going home and thinking about it, without discussing with colleagues, without having everything clearly stated in writing- including the answers to your questions

Prospective Childminders

If you know anyone who is applying to become a childminder and going through the registration process PLEASE get them to ask if they are part of an agency  – remember charges can’t be made yet, inspection has to be done through Ofsted at the moment BUT rumours suggest that some prospective childminders may be asked to sign up for ‘a support package’ with no idea that the support package will in future be part of an agency and that there will be a cost applied. Again even if the first cohort are not charged and get everything free – the data of succcess will be there – ie childminders are using the agencies

Please remember that your development worker / network coordinator, any other LA staff may know less than you –  because if services are going to be provided by a business or a commissioned service instead of the local authority – these staff could well lose their jobs and so they may not be told anything or only given brief or vague details.

Those of you who think I am being over dramatic – worrying for nothing, even that I am spreading speculation and creating stress and worry for nothing or maybe for my own benefit – I say to those people what evidence have you got that I am wrong?

I understand that some local authorities and others have spent considerable amounts of money and time into putting their agency proposals together and in setting up systems so can roll out agencies as soon as the changes to the law are made – would they do this if they were not confident that not only will agencies be implemented but also that childminders will join them? And with so many saying they don’t want to join an agency and so many others saying ‘Its easy – we just won’t join’ where has the confidence that childminding agencies will be successful come from?

And a final point – unless I have missed it  – the wording within the Children and Family Bill does not say;

some childminders can choose to join agencies

 childminders will have the right  to be individually inspected by Ofsted

It says

Childminder agencies

Schedule 4 (amendments to the Childcare Act 2006 to provide for the registration of childminder agencies on the childcare registers and the registration of certain childcare providers with those agencies, and other related amendments) has effect.

In the explanation taken from THIS PAGE

  • Clause 73 and Schedule 4 contain provisions for childminders to register with a childminder agency rather than applying directly for registration with the Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills

Well of course I may be wrong – but that wording suggests to me that this could be read as ‘all childminders’ as much as it could be read ‘some childminders’

So at the end of the day all we have is the word of Elizabeth Truss – and she could change her mind – she could say as so successful it would be wrong to prevent all childminders from joining an agency – she could say the Government can’t afford to individually inspect childminders – she could say that as some cm getting a lot of support through agencies it is unfair that others get little or no support.

In fact she could say a thousand different things – but that all have the same impact – ie all childminders must be registered and inspected through an agency.

OR She may get replaced by someone else who will say – I did not say that and I think ………..

So I am asking you all directly and personally

– can you take the risk that Elizabeth Truss will not change her mind or be replaced?

– what do you have to lose by signing the petition Link to Stop, Listen, Consult petition

– what do you have to lose by writing to your MP, the DfE, the representatives of the House of Lords

– what do you have to lose by asking questions to ensure you are not unwittingly providing data that will provide evidence of the success of childminding agencies.


What do you have to potentially lose if you continue to say ; It is simple – all I have to do is not join an agency?

I would say – Potentially you have everything to lose – and in my opinion to potentially lose the right to remain registered and inspected by Ofsted is not worth the risk.

Posted August 19, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Pre- School Learning Alliance – Worcestershire Sub Committee AGM and Conference   Leave a comment

I am very pleased to be able to pass on information about the Pre  – School Learning Alliance Worcestershire Sub Committee AGM and Conference which will be taking place in Worcester at the Perdiswell Young People’s Leisure Club on Saturday 14th September 2013.

I am currently the acting chair of the steering group that was set up to re launch the sub committee which sadly folded a number of years ago.

This is the Divisional Director – Jo Randall’s welcome – as copied from the booking information form

Worcestershire AGM and Conference

14th September 2013

I am delighted to be supporting the steering group in the re-generation of the Worcestershire Sub-Committee.

We have always retained many valued members in Worcestershire and it is exciting to be part of the launch of the new committee to bring the area back to its former glory!

The recent National AGM saw changes made to the Memorandum and Articles of Association to make it easier to form Sub-Committees. Only four members are needed on a committee and only two people need hold a position of Office. Please consider if you could become involved to support and influence and truly make a difference to the early years sector in Worcestershire.

Being part of the Sub-committee is a vital part of our national Governance and really allows you to not only make changes locally but also nationally.

I would urge anyone wishing to find out more about the committee to please contact us before the AGM or talk to us on the day.

We hope the conference will be the start of great things to come in the future and I would particularly like to thank Penny Webb, a Registered Childminder and Blogger; Carolyn Blackburn, Linda O’Rourke; Previous Treasurer, Volunteer and member of Music in Motion and Raj Babber, Divisional Development Manager in being instrumental in getting us to this place.

The Alliance has been through many changes since Worcestershire last had an active Sub-Committee but many things for which we are well respected and proud remain as ever important.

Here are just a few to give you a flavour:

Campaigning and lobbying is still an important part of our work.

You can’t have failed to have seen our recent successful campaign on ‘Rewind on Ratios’ challenging the Government on its proposed changes to childcare ratios. Penny was firmly behind this campaign and we are very grateful for the promotion she gave it.

Membership Services is vital for the continued success and growth of the organisation and the sector.

We have offered additional services to members to include free on-line training through Educare and have just developed a new membership package to Childminders – we will be happy to discuss this and other membership benefits with you on the day.

Please join us on the day and enjoy your own copy of’ Patterns of Care.

I look forward to meeting you and wishing Worcestershire good luck with the re-generation of the Sub-Committee.

Kind regards,

Jo Randall, Divisional Director

Pre-school Learning Alliance


Full details and a booking form can be accessed by clicking here  Worcestershire Subcommitee Conference & AGM 2013 Programme (3) (1)

But here are the main details for those with limited time but also to tempt you to click on the link and fill in and return the booking form


Lunch and refreshments included

Members and non members welcome

Neil Leitch CEO of Pre -School Learning Alliance will be attending to give the keynote speech

Information about the childminder specific membership package will be available

Those outside Worcestershire who don’t have a local Pre – School Learning Alliance sub committee in their area, are welcome to attend

AGM part will be short!!

Choice of workshops – every attendee can attend one workshop in the morning and one in the afternoon

Free goody bag (priority will be given to those attending from Worcestershire)


I hope that people will want to attend to find out more about the Pre – school Learning Alliance  and what the Alliance has to offer all its members, and look forward to welcoming you all on Saturday 14th September.


If you have any questions please do email me


Posted August 17, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Penny’s Involvement with the Save Childhood Movement , the Too Much, Too Soon campaign and petition   Leave a comment

Penny wonders how many people have heard of the Save Childhood Movement?

You can be forgiven if you haven’t heard about it because it is  very new,  only being launched  in April 2013. at the Flourish Summit. Penny was there at the summit – as were hundreds of other people. You can read about the Flourish Summit  here Flourish Summit Website

You can also read Penny’s own feedback from the Flourish Summit ;

Part One of Penny’s Flourish Summit feedback

Part two of Penny’s Flourish Summit feedback

Part three of Penny’s Flourish summit feedback

However although the Save Childhood Movement is very new – it is actually the bringing together of several campaigns, many of which have been around for a long time  including Early Childhood Action and Open EYE  which may be more familiar names – and many different people and organisations all of whom share a common belief – that in this country  inappropriate polices are preventing children from ……………….. well from being children  and that something has to be done to protect children’s rights.

When you break down how much needs to be challenged and changed – it can seem an almost impossible task as there is so much that is not as it should be, to enable children to flourish and and reach their full potential.

Some reading this may think Penny is being a little dramatic, but Penny is not alone  you can read  the key messages from the Flourish Summit  HERE

So how did Penny become  involved?

Well, of course those who know Penny well, will know that Penny is quite vocal in objecting to formal curriculum’s, testing of young children, lack of child led play, lack of outside play and so on.

Some may even know about Penny’s long involvement with the Pre school Learning Alliance (and the former Pre School Playgroup Association) which believes in learning through play, the rights of children and supporting families and children.

A few may know that Penny herself has a strong personal ethos of helping others and volunteering,

Penny guesses though that not many will know that Penny has been a supporter of Early Childhood Action and Open EYE – almost from the beginning – although regular readers of this blog will know that Penny attended the Early Action Conference in October 2012 – you can read Penny’s feedback HERE

It is therefore easy to see how the Save Childhood Movement encompasses Penny’s personal values, ethos and principles and to understand why Penny would want to be a supporter

However – Penny is more than just a supporter, she is actively involved and how that came about was to be honest –  a bit of a surprise to Penny!

Penny had made contact in relation to the first UK Children’s Day – as follows;

I may be known to some of you as I have been a supporter. If you don’t know me or of me – a look at this site will explain who I am and my campaign against proposals in MGC.

This is a fantastic idea and I shall be promoting it as widely as I can, including on the One Voice site as this day is all about the things I believe in and the government are trying to prevent.

I have been thinking about  a day to celebrate childhood and a means to come together to say that we object to the governments plans.

Therefore I wondered if there was anyway we could join together to get our message across – The Children’s rights – which are clearly not part of the governments plans.

I am not sure how we could do it but maybe something on the lines of This is what we believe is right and support – this is what we believe is wrong and don’t support.

Please let me know asap if you think we can work in partnership on this.

I will be at the Flourish Summit

Best Wishes

Penny Webb
Registered Childminder


And then Penny received a reply, part of which said  ;

 ‘would you be interested in joining our Early Years Advisory Group?’


So there we are – Penny said ‘YES PLEASE’  to the invitation to join the Early Years Advisory Board of the  Save Childhood Movement – and her campaign against the proposals for increased ratio in early years settings (and now More Great Childcare in general) were linked via the website.

Penny has to say not only was she surprised but also very honoured to have been given the opportunity to not only be involved but to help inform decisions made and the way forward., not only from a personal perspective but as a representative of the childminding community. Although Penny is not the CEO or director of a national organisation that represents childminders, Penny does have links with a lot of registered childminders all over the country – and is a member of all the national organisations that represent childminders, and therefore feels that she is in a position to represent childminders through sharing  their views and opinions – and of course by passing on information via her blog, the One Voice website and the Together for Quality One Voice Facebook group.

That then is the history as to how Penny became involved with the Save Childhood Movement – If you are interested click HERE to visit the Save Childhood Movement website

Now for what is going to be happening in the future

First a petition has been started because – wording taken from the Too Much, Too Soon website

‘We think that children in England are being badly let down by the system. Our children start formal learning much earlier than elsewhere in the world, they are put under all sorts of developmentally inappropriate pressures that damage their heath and wellbeing and now even their play is being eroded. Boys and summer-born children  are particularly disadvantaged by the current system and can carry the consequences throughout their lives. We think this issue is just too important to ignore and are bringing people together to call for urgent change’

You can sign the petition by clicking HERE

You can visit the Too Much, Too Soon website HERE

Please Note – If getting confused by all the different links – think of Save Childhood Movement as an umbrella body – because as Penny said at the beginning Save Childhood Movement brings together a lot of different organisations – and each has its own identity and aims.

Second there is a letter going out to the media about the Too much, Too Soon  Campaign – the list of signatures is impressive (and does include Penny’s  – although Penny does not consider her signature to be impressive), the signatures are still being added to, ahead of the letter being published.  Look out for it – it will also be published on the website  – so hopefully everyone will have the opportunity to read it

Third Penny has been tasked with forming a Childminding Advisory Group, and to submit the wording for the groups section on the website – quite a challenge but something that Penny is delighted to do.

So far initial invites have been sent out to leading people in the childminding world to join the Childminding Advisory Group and responses are coming in

Neil Leitch CEO Pre-School Learning Alliance has agreed to be involved

UKCMA have agreed to be involved

PACEY have expressed an interest and are meeting with Wendy Ellyatt (who is the director and founding member of Save Childhood Movement) to discuss their general involvement

ICM – SE have yet to respond

Sarah Neville has declined the invitation due to her other commitments

Once the group is up and running, the group members will decide who else should be invited to be involved.


Penny is personally very excited about taking this forward and hopes that through the Save Childhood Movement, that the early years sector will all unite and have a platform from which to share information and support each other – and more importantly through their combined voice influence policy decisions and reverse the relentless drive towards ‘school readiness’ and ‘mini adulthood’

Each child has his or her own individual needs and rights – which as adults we should ensure are acknowledged and protected.

Childhood should be valued and preserved – not rushed through to reach adulthood as quickly as possible

Registered Childminders have a key role to play and by providing childcare in a home environment are able to provide high quality care and education that meets every child’s individual need without a  formal curriculum, tick list assessment  or set timetables.

Please take the time to look at the Save Childhood website Click HERE


Posted August 17, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

More from our Early Years Minster – Part One of Penny’s personal look at the article – Maybe some ‘good news’   Leave a comment

Nursery World have published an exclusive article today The Ministers view Shaping More Affordable childcare

Penny wondered if the Minister was going to make announcement about some additional funding for early years settings – or some ‘real’ help for parents with childcare costs – and so Penny eagerly read the article.

However, it seems that there is no funding available for early years settings or towards parents childcare cost – and also no new ideas that we have not already read in More Affordable Childcare.

Oh well –  Penny is not that surprised – but as reading the article, Penny thinks she might as well ‘dig a bit deeper’ – as she may have missed something important – something that will make childcare more affordable.

So using the copy and paste method so don’t misquote the Minister or Nursery World (remember link to article is at top of page)

UK families face some of the highest childcare costs among OECD countries. Some families spend more than 25 per cent of net family income on childcare – more than double the OECD average of 12 per cent – while UK childcare professionals are some of the lowest paid in Europe. The Government spends over 40 per cent more than the OECD average on childcare for children aged less than three years. That is why we need to reform our system to make it work better.

Penny wants to know why the OECD figures are still being used as she thought it was now recognised that it is very hard to make comparisons between countries, and because there are so many variables – it is quite likely that UK parents actually do not pay one of the highest amounts, nor that the government 40% more than the OECD average.

Certainly in Penny’s setting where parents pay £29 per 10 hour day – EVERY parent either is receipt of tax credits or makes a saving on National Insurance payments, so none of the parents actually pay £29 per day,  and as their family incomes vary greatly, the % of their gross or take home pay spent on childcare will vary greatly as well. So how can anyone come up with ONE figure (even if a ‘up to’ figure)

So in Penny’s eyes these facts from OCED are not worth mentioning. What would be worth mentioning is how much parents pay for childcare in various parts of the country, in terms of low , average and high costs, same for pay in those areas – and the associated average tax credits – so that we had a low, average and high actual  % costs – in other words how much of total income including tax credits,, Ni/ tax vouchers and so on, is spent on childcare.

We know the current childcare system can be complicated for both providers and parents to navigate around. We also know that not enough of the money spent reaches the front line. Childminders, nurseries and schools all face barriers that prevent them from expanding. And sometimes provision is patchy and fragmented and does not make best use of the excellent facilities we have available. In More Affordable Childcare we are taking steps to tackle this.

We want to make it easy for good providers to expand and work together collaboratively, which is why in More Affordable Childcare we have identified ways to help deliver a level playing field. Parents want seamless, flexible provision and we’re trying to help you create that by simplifying things.

Penny would agree with the Minister on these points – and the aims are admirable –  however it is not as straight forward as it is made to sound, and Penny has yet to read anything that will make childcare more affordable.

Part of the problem is the inconsistency different providers experience. I hear from parents that often they are using a brilliant, reliable childminder – but they can’t access early years funding. This is a problem. Childminders are an important and valued part of our childcare offer. Many parents find the flexibility and home-based approach offered by childminders a great service in its own right and as a complement to nursery and school-based care.

However, fewer than 1 per cent of funded early education places are delivered by childminders – diminishing parental choice. This is unfair, which is why the Government is taking action. The proposals set out in More Affordable Childcare mean that local authorities will base their decision on whether to fund providers to deliver early education places solely on their Ofsted inspection rating. In practice, this means that any childminder rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ will be automatically be able to deliver two-, three and four-year-old places. This will also apply to nurseries.

As a childminder Penny welcomes the opportunity for more childminders to provide funded early education places, not only because it will give parents more choice but also because it will mean that children can – if their parents want them to  – stay with their childminder rather than leaving the childminder setting to go to a pre school or nursery.

However where is the ‘More Affordable’ bit of this? Nearly all 3 and 4 year olds access their entitlement to funded early education places – therefore nearly all parents are already benefiting from 15 hours free early education (and childcare). All that will happen is some childminders will be more sustainable as children will stay with them – but some pre schools / nurseries will be less sustainable because some 3 and 4 years will access their funding  at a childminder setting instead.

It is a slightly different story with 2 year olds as the % take up of places is less – and so room for growth, however with the funding criteria, the ability of parents to actually get their children to a setting, and the fact that many of the two years accessing the places will be from non working families;  2 yr old places are not going to have much impact on making childcare ‘More Affordable’ for working families.

HOWEVER – Penny needs to make it clear she welcomes the funded places  for 2 year olds ,as they will help narrow the achievement gap, and maybe help some settings that are struggling to fill their spaces, remain sustainable.

Oh and something worth consideration – if the childminders providing the funded places join a childminding agency – who is going to pay the prorata part of the agency fee for those funded hours?

Currently, fewer than 10 per cent of childminders have access to this funding; these changes mean that around 70 per cent of childminders will be able to offer funded early education places.

Certainly potentially very good news – however some childminders do not want to provide the funded early education places, and some can not afford to offer the places as the funding rate is a lot lower than their normal hourly rate – an issue that childminders share with many pre schools and nurseries.

Penny is going to break the next paragraph into bits as several important points made

I have also heard from nurseries and childminders that there are sometimes mixed messages about requirements from local authorities and Ofsted.

In some areas there have been mixed messages and indeed conflicting messages – but on the whole early years settings value the support provided by the local authorities, rather than changing the role of the local authorities -Penny’s opinion is that all that was needed were Government set requirements that all local authorities followed.

That is why we are reforming the system so that regionally based Ofsted teams will work closely with local authorities on improving weaker providers, based on issues identified in Ofsted reports.

Penny thinks it is important that Ofsted do work closely with local authorities, and remember when during her time working for a local authority that Osted inspectors and local authority staff did meet regularly to share information. It worked well – but then the meetings were stop and information sharing became much more difficult.

However Penny does not think it is good practice for Ofsted to inspect and to provide advice and support- as she considers this to be a conflict of interests – would be like a driving instructor testing their own clients and deciding if able to have a driving licence, or a teacher marking their pupils GCSE papers, or a world cup final having a referee from one of the countries playing. Penny also remembers when Social Services used to inspect, advice and support but it was stop as considered bad practice – Penny wonders what has changed?

Local authorities also play an important role in making sure there is high-quality provision in their areas by encouraging good providers to expand.

In some cases – yes high quality providers may be able to expand, either by opening another setting or by enlarging their current setting, BUT there is little point if that expansion means that the setting is then unsustainable because not enough business in the area, or it puts another high quality setting out of business. Expansion of number and size of settings needs to be carefully planning through market research and consideration of provision already in the area.

I want to reassure you that local authorities and Ofsted working together with nationally consistent criteria will create a level playing field for all good quality providers, including childminders.

Penny has read this bit THREE TIMES – because on the face of it , it appears that our early years minister has forgotten that she is introducing childminding agencies.

Read it again yourselves!

However, It is proposed that agency childminders will not be inspected by Ofsted, will not be supported by the local authority – and so there will not be a nationally consistent criteria or a level playing field – unless the early years minister has forgotten, or is just letting the information slip through that  the proposal to introduce childminding agencies is being dropped.

Maybe the Early Years Minister could clarify this?

And although Penny has not yet read anything that promotes More Affordable childcare – Penny is going to end part one of her personal thoughts on this – because she does not this bit to be overlooked

‘local authorities and Ofsted working together with nationally consistent criteria will create a level playing field for all good quality providers, including childminders’

Because unless an over sight or bad choice of words – childminding agencies would seem to be against the principle of that statement

Posted August 17, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

The Government claim they value registered childminders – Really?   5 comments

Before you start to read this blog – Penny needs to make it clear that these are her personal thoughts and opinions and not those of any organisation or association that she is a member of, or associated with.

Penny has asked similar questions before, however the things she read in the media suggests that the Government do value childminders and want to encourage more childminders

However looking at the bigger picture and taking lots of  information into consideration (that may not appear related), Penny now has a more specific question;

‘ Are the Government intending to end registered childminding in its present format – and replace with something totally different?’

First we have the whole agency proposal and the removal of individual Ofsted inspections, and instead,  the registering and inspecting childminders via childminding agencies . Childminding agencies will be  taking on the role of support, and guidance, and as we know – all childminding agencies will be able to set their own terms and conditions – or as the Government prefer to say ‘their own model’  It would not take a huge leap to have childminding agencies that had standard policies and procedures, documentation for  recording learning and development – and who knows maybe a comprehensive pre set curriculum with every child  attending a childminder setting that is part of the agency, doing the same things at the same time as all the other children attending that agencies childminding settings. Maybe agency childminders will also have to open for a set number of hours, charge a set fee and so on

Penny must stress that this is all just speculation on her part – but having read about agencies in other countries – all of the above are aspects that are in place in other countries – and so who is to say they will not be implemented in this country.

Penny acknowledges that some childminders will welcome this kind of service – and so will some parents BUT is it registered childminding where each setting is different, where parents, childminders and the children are able to make choices and have a service that meets their individual needs – or is it more like a childcare franchise? In fact what is there to stop an agency operating like a franchise?

So all in all – a change to how registered childminders may operate in the future

Second we have the whole Hubs idea – where childminders could be part of a Hub run by a Children’s Center, or a school, or a nursery – and where it is very clear that childminders are seen as being ideal to provide the wrap around element – so the hours when schools / nurseries/ Children’s Centers are closed – in other words the anti social hours,/ the hours when it is not financially viable for those running the Hub to be open. Another role for childminders could be the transportation between different settings – so in effect a taxi service – again often not financially viable for nurseries, schools or Children’s Centers to provide.

Third, add to this the proposed relaxation of planning requirements – this is not going to be much help to childminders as they operate from their family home, usually in residential areas – so hardly a surplus of empty commercial buildings. Planning for any extension to their family home would be subject to the normal planning requirements in residential areas – and the final problem – if a childminder did extend and operate from other premises that they did not live, they would be not be classed as childminders – and if they do live in a large enough house to expand their service if more that 3 staff are needed at any one time (including the childminder) they would not be classed as childminders but as childcare on domestic premises.

In Penny’s opinion, increasing group care setting size and number of settings –  if not not backed by market research could lead to childminders have more competition for available business and potentially sustainability issues – although of course new markets could become available if these group settings become Hubs – and have a need to involve childminders to provide the wrap around element.

Fourth and perhaps the biggest threat to registered childminding –  is going to be the charges to the rules about those who are self employed and who claim Universal Tax Credits.

With new proposed rules about submitting evidence of earnings on a monthly basis and a minimum income requirement, many registered childminders will no longer be able to claim these tax credits.

Not because they don’t work hard or even a minimum number of hours but for the following reasons;

They have under five’s of their own so are limited by regulations about how many children they can look after

They have part time children on role who produced part time pay

They have other commitments such as caring for elderly relatives

And Penny is sure many other reasons not stated here

However a double whammy will be that some of childminders clients  are also self employed and have chosen a childminder because of the flexibility  of hours and personal service as the needs of their business change. These clients may also not meet the requirements of the proposed new rules for universal tax credits, and so they may not be able to continue with their business – therefore not need childcare – and therefore both businesses could close.

Then there are those clients that use childminders who are teachers – and who currently do not pay for childcare in the school holidays – maybe because the childminder chooses to spend time with their own children during the holidays – and it is therefore a mutually beneficial agreement BUT under the new rules the childminder would not earn enough during the school holidays – the only way round it would be to charge teachers (and others who do not work all year) for the childcare place all year – thus putting up the cost of childcare for those parents.

Then there are the times when a childminder will hold a place open – without payment of a retainer or for a small retainer when parents are on maternity leave – thus reducing the childminders income for a number of months – and potentially their ‘right’ to claim tax credits.

Therefore Penny thinks that registered childminding as we know it, is going to change – we will lose the flexibility that childminders provide re hours and fees, we will lose those personal decisions about if to charge when place not being used (many childminders take the long term view and the yearly income – not a week by week financial decision),

Ironically the idea of Hubs and childminders providing the wrap around element could also not be sustainable because if childminders choose to provide only these hours – either because it suits them or because the group settings that have extended have absorbed the available market share – then they also won’t earn enough to be able to claim universal tax credits.

Add to this the underlying messages about those without the required qualifications, the Government view that formal learning is ‘best’ – Penny can see that registered childminding as we know it now – and the individual high quality care and education that is tailored to each families and each child’s needs – will soon be no longer an option for parents.

And many of the 55,000+ registered childminders will be looking for other employment and being a drain on the benefits system until they find work.

Penny asks that the Government STOPS, LISTENS and CONSULTS – before they make decisions that will in future years be seen as not only ill though out but as having a huge long term cost to Government budgets and to the future of our society.

Posted August 16, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues