Archive for September 2013

Worcestershire Pre -school learning Alliance AGM and Conference   1 comment

First an apology for the delay in writing this blog – things have been hectic – what with the Ofsted Big Conversation meeting which was straight after the AGM and conference, a extended family crisis – and then 3 days of various conferences – and then a week off for a much needed holiday – I just have not had time to write this before – still as they say better late than never.

So the Worcestershire Pre – school Learning Alliance, AGM and conference took place on 14th September at Perdiswell Young People’s Center – and was in fact the inaugural AGM as unfortunately the previous sub committee had folded  several years ago – after a very successful presence in Worcestershire and some high profile services and success stories.

As a volunteer – past and present for the Alliance –  I have been involved with the regeneration of the Worcestershire sub committee ever since it was first suggested, and have been on the small steering committee with two other volunteers – Carolyn Blackburn and Linda O’Rourke – plus two members of staff – Jo Randall and Raj Babber.

Many thanks have to go to Raj who organised the venue, the goody bags, the flowers for speakers, the bookings (including phoning round settings) and was there on the day to book people in, time keep and ensure the day was a huge success. THANK YOU RAJ

Although number of members attending were quite low, there were a lot of non members in the room who had come to find out more about the Alliance and what it offered – which was part of the reason for opening the event to non members. We even had one person who had turned up in the morning for the Ofsted Big Conversation meeting – having got the times mixed up – who stayed and joined in with the whole day.

It was lovely to see LA staff and Pre- school learning Alliance staff attending – and a huge representation from Bright Stars Childminding Group (which I happen to be chair of and who, as a group, are Alliance members)

AGM part of the day

Jo Randall took us through the ‘official’ part of the day – which was quite short, as being an inaugural AGM, there were no reports to read from the previous years activities.

Jo read out the financial statement – which was very healthy, as funds had been held in trust for Worcestershire since the last sub committee folded, and so – let’s just say – we should be able to provide an excellent range of support services and training for Alliance members in Worcestershire over the coming year.

The actual elections then took place and I am very pleased to have been voted in as the chair of the Alliance Worcestershire sub committee, Linda was also voted on and will take an officers position. Carolyn was unable to be voted in due to the fact that negotiations are taking place about a student rate for those who are undertaking further education. Carolyn is a full time student and once a student membership is in place Carolyn will be co-opted onto the sub committee. but in the mean time will continue to be an active supporter of the Worcestershire sub committee (There is a student rate for those studying with the Alliance – but not for those studying at college or university)

Personal comment – not part of the AGM, but mentioned at the end of the day

This does of course mean that we have room on the committee for more members to join us – and would like to co-opt some willing people, who are able to give a little time to provide support and advice to the committee. We would particularly like to involve those who work in an early years setting so that we can ensure that whatever we do over the coming year is what members want / need.

We are aware that everyone is very busy these days and that there are huge demands on people’s time – and so we do not expect sub committee members to attend every meeting or be ‘hands on’ with all the sub committee activities. A lot of our communication will be via emails (and  maybe occasional phone calls) as this is cost and time effective. Therefore all we ask is that committee members give a commitment to attend the AGM next year and to attend at least one committee meeting in person over the year.

If you are interested – please contact me – Penny Webb – email:- – or phone:- 01562 824132

Conference part of the day

We were very honoured to have Neil Leitch CEO of the Pre -School Learning Alliance as our keynote speaker. Neil spoke with passion about the young children in our care and how we all need to ensure the children access high quality care and education. He also spoke with a element of dismay, and anger about the current governments policies and proposals – and the fact that the government is not listening to the experts within early years – including the practitioners who actually do the hands on job – day in, day out, week after week, or referring to the huge amount of research available about how children learn, or even learning from our colleagues in other countries.

Neil spoke about the recent letter in the Telegraph that he had signed (and so had I) along with 120+ leading experts in early years about inappropriate curriculum’s, school starting age – and a general ‘Too Much, Too Soon’ culture. He noted with regret that so far the government had not responded appropriately to the concerns expressed – and instead had just insulted those who had signed the letter.

We were treated to a ‘Neil Joke’ – which actually was quite funny (however I promised not to share it here or via other social media – no doubt others will here the joke at other events)

After a comfort break and a welcome cup of coffee / tea – it was time for the first workshops

I was co tutoring one of the workshops with Barbara Skilton  called;

Professional Watching and Listening – how something so simple can change the world for a child!

Without giving away the content – we did cover a variety of situations and feelings of those involved child, practitioner, parent – and got onto the subject of paint colours in settings and the impact this has on children. Very relevant as two of the participants mentioned that the school setting that they work in was going to re decorate soon and had chosen colours that were not ideal  – so they were going to provide some feedback to the school about this issue.

The other workshop was run by Lesley Senter and called;

Positive approaches to supporting communication 

Of course I was not in this workshop but I could hear the laughter through the partition wall – and I saw the ‘snakes’ that had been created – even Neil Leitch had made one (although he hid it in his bag – well at least until the end of the day, when he showed us all his wonderful creation)

The next part of the day was very important – lunch and the all important networking.

However it was at this point that I received a phone call with serious and distressing news from home – and to be honest I nearly ‘lost it’ – however the support and advice that I received from my colleagues from Bright Stars Childminding Group, from LA colleagues and from Alliance staff – was outstanding, and I was able to ‘pull myself together’ and continue with the day – secure in the knowledge that if I needed to suddenly leave to deal with the situation at home, that colleagues would step in and cover for me.

After lunch, we all went to our afternoon workshops

One workshop was – How adults use gestures and body language with colleagues and children – with Lesley Senter. As with the morning session – I personally have no  idea what this session included – but I do know that there was more laughter involved. I think I need to book onto one of Lesley’s workshops in the future, just to see what I missed!

The workshop that I did attend was -Sign Language with Linda O’Rourke and Shelia Jones, this was excellent and we all learned to sign a couple of songs. Shelia and Linda explained everything so well and included lots of information about associated signs to the ones used in the songs – and they modeled all the signs so we could copy them – BUT they did test our knowledge as well! My only problem was that my fingers refused to co-operate! (but looking round the room – I was not the only one having problems with uncooperative fingers) Shelia and Linda reassured us that the more we practiced – the more flexible and co-operative our fingers would become.

Closing session

We all gathered together – but before the closing speech we had an important task to do! A little bird had suggested in the signing workshop that we learnt ‘Happy Birthday’ as one person attending was celebrating a birthday – so we did learn it – and preform our first ‘live performance’ by singing and signing ‘Happy Birthday to a very surprised Carolyn.

As the new chair – it was my job to close the day and to mention some of the ideas that the steering group had come up with – and that the new sub committee hoped to take forward;

A newsletter with local and national information and stories

Training events on childcare subjects

Social events with fun workshops based on members hobbies and interests

Open committee meetings that – subject to space- any Worcestershire member could attend and provide input to

AND – Well whatever members wanted – so a questionnaire to find out what members would like.

Raj then presented the flowers to the volunteers and workshop leaders- and some wine for Neil – the flowers were beautiful and in the Alliance corporate colours.

Everyone attending – both members and non members took home a FANTASTIC goody bag containing a copy of the Alliance book ‘Patterns of Care’, a owl puppet and various other quality items too numerous to mention (oh ok – I admit it – I can’t remember without going to look – but I know several people have mentioned how delighted they were with their goody bag)

So the Worcestershire AGM and Conference closed – but although a few people did leave to go home, most stayed for the Ofsted Big Conversation Meeting – feedback on which is also on this blog.

The Early Years 2013 How Children Learn Conference; Exploring child development throughout the early years. Part Three   1 comment

After a second night in Conference Aston hotel, where despite the comfortable bed and the large room, Penny did not sleep very well (nothing new there) Penny was at the Lakeside Center in time for a cup of hot chocolate and a chat to the lady she met last year and a couple of people that she had not spoken to before, conversation was about the cost of conferences in general – and the noted reduction in attendees at this conference, and about the workshops, and gender differences in children.

We were then ushered into the hall for what turned out to be an inspiration session ‘What is autism? Detection in the early years’ by a young man called Joshua Muggleton. Joshua is not only very qualified in this field and works as an assistant psychologist, and is a published author – he also has Asperger’s.

(Need to add that Penny’s colleague Jackie Noakes was also attending the conference for day two – and so may have further info to add)

There is a little bit about Joshua (and his books) HERE

As many of you know Penny has a grandson with Asperger’s, so Penny was very keen to hear Joshua’s presentation . From Penny’s experience Joshua hit the ‘nail on the head’ as he described the difficulties that those with Asperger’s and high functioning Autism have to live with, the coping strategies, the ‘bungy jump’ effect when anxieties get too high and those  strategies ‘go out of the window’. Joshua explained very clearly how the world is for those with  Autistic spectrum disorders – and used a couple of key words ‘Why would I (the child) want to do that’ , by thinking of things from the child’s perspective things can be understood more – such as for some children adults are a ‘tool’ not a person, such as the need for things to be the same, such as the difficulties caused by not understanding the social rules or niceties

Penny is not going to say any more as those interested will look out for Joshua’s book or for him speaking at events – but as a taster here is a bit from You Tube 

The next session was by Dr, Sue Rogers whose talk was on ‘Playing and exploring; an enabling pedagogy’  You can read about Sue HERE

For Penny the most interesting aspect of this session was the fact Sue had already started to reflect on her presentation in light of Joshua’s presentation – and in fact the two of them had a couple of short discussions – Penny is sure that both Joshua and Sue will now consider each others views / presentations / knowledge to help inform their own work .

In a nutshell, Sue’s presentation was about helping children to be ‘school ready’ within the legal framework but without all the formal activities — so an appropriate curriculum,  in fact the presentation was about all the things that Penny believes in. However in light of Joshua’s talk – Sue added things in relation to the adults role and the difficulties if the child has additional needs – including lack of eye contact which can have huge impact on learning social behaviour.

It was then time for the coffee break where Penny spent time catching up with her colleague Jackie – Jackie is a social media friend and as passionate about childminding as Penny – and as against childminding agencies as Penny. Penny and Jackie had met in person at last years conference- and so had a lot to chat about.

Following the format from the previous day – it was time for workshops. Penny attended the one with Peter Elfer called ‘ What do early years practitioners feel about their work with young children? The provision for ‘supervision’ in the new EYFS.

Peter led a very interesting discussion about how practitioners feel – including the more negative feelings. The discussion covered feelings about children that ‘love’, children that no matter how hard you try you can’t bond with, feeling about colleagues, and managers, what happens when things not going well personally at home or at work – and of course supervision. Some interesting ideas were put forward such as a home visit for staff returning after maternity leave – and taking staff out (in rota) for lunch – or supervision but also to show that value staff and there to listen and to be proactive in solving issues.

Time went very quickly and it was time for lunch – another excellent buffet. Penny and Jackie spent most of the lunch break talking to a practitioner from a international school in Switzerland. This was a really interesting discussion and informative for all – as we discussed practice differences and legal frameworks.

The session after lunch was back in the main hall and was on ‘Behaving like a two year old’ with Dr. Kay Mathieson. You can read about Kay HERE

Kay spoke with passion – and with excellent acting skills, including facial expressions. Her portrayal of a two year is fantastic and has to be seen to be believed. Those who think two year olds are just smaller version of three year olds really need to listen to Kay – or read some of her stuff – as should those who think all two years are the same developmentally – when it is clear they are not.

And then it was time for the final session of the day, and of the conference – this honour fell to  Judith Stevens who had been the chair of the whole conference. Her presentation was on ‘How do children develop their understanding of number’.  You can read an article by Judith on maths in the revised early years foundation stage HERE Luckily Judith is not only a great speaker – she also understands the needs of adults who have been sat still a lot of the day and who are thinking that a post lunch nap might be good. So those in the audience had an active part – looking at collections of things and thinking how children might sort them, about the language they might use – including language based on number stories (this involved some standing up and listening and then sitting again – which was a visual reinforcement  of our own differences and similarities with words used to describe size.

Following the closing of the conference, Penny said goodbye to her friend Jackie, and personally that Judith and Neil for an excellent conference, before rushing to catch the train home

Posted September 28, 2013 by psw260259 in Conferences that I have attended

At last – a little bit of information about Childminding agencies – now let’s take a look at what it says.   10 comments

Some information has recently been posted about the proposed childminding agencies – if you have not seen it yet This is the LINK

First thing that stands out is that the whole tone is that these agencies will be a success – just look at the wording in this – the first paragraph

What are childminder agencies

Childminder agencies are a new way to provide access to high quality home based childcare.  They will help tackle the worrying trend that has seen the number of childminders falling dramatically in the last twenty years and encourage more talented people to enter the profession.  The Government wants to see an expansion in the numbers of independent childminders and, in due course, those working with agencies.  It will be entirely voluntary for childminders to join agencies and for parents to use them.

No if ‘s or buts – just  sounds like everything is going ahead.

Lets look at the second paragraph

Why are they different and what are they aiming to achieve

Childminders are an important and valued part of the UK´s childcare offer.  Many parents find the flexibility and approach offered by childminders a reassuring service in its own right and as a complement to nursery care.  Agencies are, therefore, good news for parents as they will improve parental access to a choice of home based childcare with added peace of mind their carer is high quality and well supported.

Obvious questions are;

Why will agencies be good news for parents? How will they improve parental access to a choice of home based childcare?

Parents already have choice – and choice in how the find the details of Registered Childminders – for example the Ofsted website which has a search facility, Family Link / Family Information service, commercial sites which list thousands of childminders, word of mouth, childminders own website (linked with search engines), local childminding groups own vacancy matching services for their members.

So really plenty of ways to  access information about available childminders.

And the added peace of mind? Well, is that not what we have Ofsted inspections and reports and grades for? Again there is plenty of information available about ‘choosing a childminder

The third paragraph

Who is delivering childminding agencies

Government wants to encourage lots of organisations to take up the opportunity of delivering childminder agencies – from schools and children’s centres, to private businesses including nanny agencies and nurseries, and local childminder networks.  The first agencies are expected to be able to register and be inspected by Ofsted from September 2014, subject to the passage of legislation.

So in a nutshell – anyone can run a childminding agency – they don’t have to have knowledge or experience about childminding.  Just a mention of the fact that ‘subject to the passage of legislation’ – again almost as if it is a ‘done deal’ and just a case of the necessary procedures to be completed.

Next paragraph

I hear there are trials being run

Yes, that’s right.  There are a number of organisations trialling the approach over the next few months throughout England.  Further information can be found on the Government website.

When you visit this government site – you find some more government hype – which those who do not work in the sector and parents may well believe as people still tend to think that the government knows what they are on about.

However the government do not know what they are on about and are providing misleading information – take a look at this from the website

Childminder agencies will support childminders with training and business advice while providing parents with easier access to high-quality childcare. It will be entirely voluntary for childminders to join agencies and for parents to use them.

This makes it sound like childminders don’t access training or support at the moment – of course they do – it is a requirement of the Early Years Foundation Stage – and childminders would not get the highest Ofsted grades if they did not access training and support

71% of childminders currently are graded good or outstanding by Ofsted  – so that is high quality childcare.

Agencies will cut costs and administrative burdens on individual childminders by matching them with parents, saving them from having to spend time and resources trying to fill their places.

What costs will agencies remove? Yes childminders can spend money on advertising – but it is not necessary – there are plenty of FREE ways to advertise.

What burdens will agencies remove? Parents will still want to visit childminders to judge for themselves if the right childcare setting for their child – so this aspect of ‘time’ will not be removed. In addition, the first contact between parent and childminder – either face to face or by phone – is vital and both parties use it as an opportunity to ensure that the available space meets the parents needs and fits in with the childminders other commitments – it is very valued time spent and ensures that neither parent or childminder go ahead with a visit / interview if it is clear that it is not a viable proposition.

Childminder agencies will also bring a number of benefits for parents. They will increase choice in childcare and make it easier to find help with holiday or sickness cover. 

The aspect of increased choice has already been mentioned and is a none starter.

Holiday cover is not usually a problem because a lot of childminders already have a informal network that provides holiday cover for colleagues – but more often that not the parents take their holiday at the same time, or arrange for a member of the family to provide cover during the childminders holiday.

Who is saying that holiday cover is an issue? Or is it a perceived issue by the government or by those that do not use childminders and so assume that it must cause difficulties?

As to sickness cover – yes if  a childminder is unexpectedly ill – then parents do sometimes have to make emergency arrangements or even take a day off. However they have to do this if a nursery or school or playgroup have to close because the toilets are frozen or blocked, if the heating is broken, if they is a lot of snow, or a number of other reasons – AND in all early years settings – if the child is ill, the child can not attend, and so again the parent has to take time off work. THIS IS NOT A CHILDMINDER ISSUE – IT IS AN ISSUE FOR ALL EARLY YEARS SETTINGS.

And the last bit  – The agencies will be registered and inspected by Ofsted, so parents will be reassured about their quality.

This makes it sound like that at the moment childminders are not inspected! Of course childminders are – by Ofsted – the same as every other early years setting – and on their OWN individual practice against the Early Years Foundation Stage (the same as all other early years settings – including school reception classes) – so parents are not only reassured by the Ofsted inspection process but they are reassured that Ofsted report and grade is about that individual childminder.

With childminding agencies – the agency will be inspected and only a small sample of the agency childminders – some agency childminders may never be inspected directly by Ofsted.

Also worth remembering is the agencies will be providing advice, support and training – and by inspecting the childminders in the agency – they will in effect be making a judgement on their own advice, support and training!

Therefore parents will only be reassured that the agency has been inspected – a backward step really from the current system where every childminder is inspected.

Now this is interesting – look at the list of those taking part in the pilots

  • Family Info Link
  • St Bede’s Academy
  • Liverpool Council
  • Salford Council/Rochdale Council/Wigan Council
  • @Home Childcare
  • Entrust Ed
  • NoelQuinnLtd
  • Telford Council
  • Buttercups Nursery
  • Riverside Childcare
  • Merton Council
  • Broadclyst Community Primary School
  • Trio Childcare
  • Bournemouth Council
  • South Gloucestershire Council
  • First Year Childcare
  • Calderdale Council
  • Rutland Council
  • Warwickshire Council
  • Hampshire Council


It says that the trials (pilots) started in Summer 2013 – and yet childminders in many of the pilot areas – STILL have not been told or are just getting invites to attend meetings about them.

You have to ask WHY – those running the trails know – and will have plans in place – WHY have the childminders in those areas not been told before now?

On social media childminders are expressing concerns – they are saying they have been told that they MUST attend the meetings, some are being told that if they belong to a childminding network they have to take part in the trails to enable them to continue being able to offer the Free Entitlement to 2, 3, and 4 year olds – not sure if this is the case or not – as the meetings have not been held yet – but if it is true that amounts to bullying or blackmail.

And remember many of the meetings have not been held yet – so already at least a month (if not longer) has gone by of these trails – and the childminders have not even had the information yet.

Now lets look at some of the things that the trials will be looking at;

What are the trials looking at

The trials are testing out:

  • how agencies can be set up by different organisations;
  • how agencies will recruit and work with childminders;
  • how agencies plan to deal with training, suitability and accountability of childminders;
  • different agency business models and which models are likely to be most effective;
  • how agencies might make the most of different funding streams, including the new childcare voucher system;
  • how agencies might work with Ofsted; and
  • how agencies might work as a part of a community childcare facility, linking with other organisations and working with parents.


This list makes it sound like every trail is testing out every aspect – but we know this is not true – and each trail is testing just one or two or three aspects.


But to find out more we need to look in more detail at the trails taking place – this can be done by clicking on the links to the ‘case studies’

So first Riverside Childcare (copied and pasted in full direct from site)

Title of example Riverside Cares
Centre submitting example Riverside Cares
Local authority/local area Across London with a focus on the east (Tower Hamlets/Hackney/Islington)

Background details to the practice

Riverside Cares, comprised of Riverside Childcare, Riverside Nannies and Riverside Training Company, brings together their depth of knowledge and experience in the recruiting, supplying and training of people in the caring professions since 1989.  They offer services designed for the whole family, childcare and care professionals; ranging from nannies, childminders, au pairs, baby sitters, tutors through to companions, home helpers and personal care help for the elderly and senior family members.  Their supply service for nurseries, schools, early years, crèches and special events both introduces candidates and supplies temporary staff.  Accredited training is offered in classrooms, settings, family homes and via the internet offering recognized qualifications for a career in childcare or care of the elderly.  Riverside Cares ensures carers are fully vetted, including in-person interviews, reference checking nationally and internationally, carrying out of Disclosure and Barring checks and ascertaining suitability for a career in childcare and care.  Families are supported in creating job descriptions, meeting suitable candidates and through the process from interview to employment.  Both parties are given support during this process and after placement.  Riverside Cares is also able to deliver an emergency support service to respond to unexpected needs and supply temporary staff across the whole of London.


About the practice
Riverside Cares, for this pilot scheme, will be supporting a small number of established childminders and those wishing to register as childminders.  We will be utilizing our depth of knowledge and experience in working with childcarers and families to investigate how a Childminder Agency can operate with maximum benefit to service users.  Riverside Cares see this pilot as an opportunity to explore together with childminders how a Childminder Agency can promote best practice.  Riverside Cares are exploring the opportunity of seeing if the inclusion of a Childminder Agency services will enhance opportunities for families and childminders to meet each other.  The aim is that by creating a new medium of contact for both parties, the childminder who is already very busy during  the day, will learn about suitable new clients who needs specifically meet the childminders availability.  Riverside Cares will be looking at a variety of ways to support childminders including training, finding families, insurance, routes to legal advice, web support, admin support and marketing. Another area of interest is the low uptake of 2 year old funding by childminders, by identifying some of the reasons for this Riverside Cares can explore ways a Childminder Agency could support childminders in accessing this.


Evidence and evaluation of difference to children and families
This will be assessed and updated throughout the trial. 

This will be assessed and updated throughout the trial.

Riverside Cares have developed their quality assessment tool and look forward to taking part in this trial.


For further information please contact Jill Wheatcroft ( MSc, BSc, RSCN. RGN, NNEB, PTTLS)

0207 374 6363 / 0207 536 9566


So let’s just unpick this bit

The aim is that by creating a new medium of contact for both parties, the childminder who is already very busy during  the day, will learn about suitable new clients who needs specifically meet the childminders availability.  Riverside Cares will be looking at a variety of ways to support childminders including training, finding families, insurance, routes to legal advice, web support, admin support and marketing. Another area of interest is the low uptake of 2 year old funding by childminders, by identifying some of the reasons for this Riverside Cares can explore ways a Childminder Agency could support childminders in accessing this.  

How will this ‘new medium of contact’ help the busy childminder – will he / she have to attend evening events? Will he / she have to find time to answer emails or phone calls? At some point the childminders has to find the time – and at the moment the childminder chooses the method that works best for them – rather than being told which method to use.

All the areas of support mentioned are already available – and often via more than one organisation – giving choice. Why do the government think childminders need more choice? And a point worth mentioning – it is known that some childminders do not access support etc – even if free – so why do the government think those that don’t access support now – will choose to do so in the future – AND pay for it?

As to the low uptake of two year funding – the reasons are already known – insufficient funding, time delay in receiving payment, requirement to provide same child with 3 and 4 year funding even though funding rates even lower – AND up to now restriction by some LA’s with childminders not being eligible, or spaces on networks (to access the FE) being limited. So what else is there to know – surely addressing these issues would be a positive step in the right direction – and then if take up was still low – to look into the issues at that time.

Now for the case study of First Years Childcare

Title of example First Years Childcare
Centre submitting example
Local authority/local area York and surrounding areas
Background details to the practice
First Years Childcare, based in York and the surrounding areas, is a new childcare organization aiming
to improve quality and support for childminders and nannies including a dedicated website. The
owner previously ran a children’s nursery and childcare agency which focused on supplying nannies
and occasional childcare to families. The owner wants to focus on a small childminding setting and
move towards supporting other childcare professionals.
About the practice
First Years Childcare intend to start work with a small group of childminders in York. They will work
closely with childminders and investigate how childminders might set up and be involved in running
their own agency. That will offer more support, information, training and guidance to childminders
and inspect them yearly, not every three years. Parents will be secure knowing childminders have
been trained and met with and are of a high quality and are supported by other childminders who
understand their unique role in the childcare sector. The agency will direct parents to the
childminders in their area that have spaces, and will reduce paperwork for childminders by helping
with accounts, registration etc. Packages will include the childminder’s details on their website and a
monthly newsletter. Childcare professionals can then choose additional services. First Years intends
to offer help with policy, planning, risk assessment, training and quality assurance and improvement
support. The First Years website is being created and this will help First Years Childcare to play the
role of a local one stop shop around childminders.
Evidence and evaluation of difference to children and families
This will be assessed and updated throughout the trial.
First Years Childcare are in the process of recruiting childminders and developing their website.

Again just unpicking some of the case study

The good thing about this model is that at least there is some expertise in the form of experienced childminders – BUT will they be paid? Will there be a conflict of interest if those in the agency are personal friends?

However there is mention of help with accounts – most childminders either do their own accounts or employ an accountant (not very expensive) also the membership organisations sell account systems that are very easy to follow and have detailed guidance – and finally there are all sorts of systems that can be purchased from simply spread sheets to all singing and dancing system.

It must be remembered that agencies will be charging for these services – whereas if a childminder asks a local colleague or a question on a online forum – the information, support and advice is provide free of charge.

Next case study – At Home Childcare

Title of example @Home Childminding
Centre submitting example @Home Childcare & @Home Childminding
Local authority/local area Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Sheffield
Background details to the practice
@Home Childcare, a private childcare organisation working in the Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and
Sheffield areas, was established in 2005 by Yvette Oliver-Mighten. The owner wanted to respond to a
local need for more flexible childcare for parents fitting in with their working hours. @Home
Childcare offer a unique model where they employ, train and Ofsted register home childcarers,
matching them to families’ childcare needs. The company has a sister organisation, @Home Childcare
Training, who specialises in providing flexible training to practitioners working in the Children and
Young People’s sector. In September 2012 @Home Childcare extended to include childminders to fill
the gap in support and training for childminders which they will be further extending through the trial
as an agency.
About the practice
@Home Childcare wanted to participate in the childminder agency trial because they recognised the
need for enhanced choice and flexibility for parents and choice for childminders. As an agency they
want to see an offer of professional development and career pathways for childminders as a means of
raising their professionalism through differentiated levels of support, training and guidance. They
believe childminder agencies will offer more joined up childcare serving the best interests of children
and their families. Their aims for their agency are to create a strong quality development programme
along with core training and support services; including CPD training, mentoring and opportunities
(leadership skills and career progression).
Since starting the trial, @Home Childcare have arranged meetings with local childminders and
challenged myths put forward in the media. A business model based around training and support
programmes has been developed and recruitment plans have been put in place. They have recruited
a number of childminders, most of them new or fairly new to childminding and are due to discuss
their plans further with their childminders over the next few weeks. They have set up a separate
section of their website to provide information to childminders about their choices and agencies.
They also held an event in July for childminders called ‘Choices for Childminders’ as a launch of
@Home Childminding.
Evidence and evaluation of difference to children and families
This will be assessed and updated throughout the trial.
6 childminders have been recruited to participate in the trial and initial training and mentoring
programmes are starting up. Successful events have been held with positive feedback from
childminders. The organisation are also looking at their internal registration process for childminders
including briefings and home visits.

Unpicking again

The good thing about this company is they have given an idea of the costs to be involved

BUT – professional development is already well established – some of the membership organisations have a scheme in place for childminders to progress through, some have FREE online training, some provide ‘face to face training’, some LA’s also provide training and CPD – so what is new. Repeating the message from earlier in this blog – yes some don’t bother – not even if free or really cheap – so they are not going to bother if they have to pay the sort of prices mentioned by Home Childcare.

As to website and newsletters – there are already hundreds of these available – some free, plus social media is a excellent – and free way of sharing information (this blog being an example)

And finally – let’s look at the case study from Telford &Wrekin

Title of example Telford & Wrekin Council
Centre submitting example
Local authority/local area Telford & Wrekin
Background details to the practice
In Telford and Wrekin, a unitary authority within the West Midlands, they already have the expertise
and infrastructure in place to run an agency building upon the existing Childminder Network. There
are currently 160 childminders operating within the Local Authority and a higher than national
average hold Good or Outstanding Ofsted grades. The network is accredited through a national
organisation who highlight the quality of service on offer to families and childminders.
An agency run by the authority would ensure that high quality places are developed for all children,
particularly for funded two year olds. Increasing the number of childminders offering two -year-old
funded places has been identified as a priority, and as such part of the agency’s role would be
recruitment and induction of new childminders and matching them to families. The agency would
offer a quality service, providing extended support to childminders working with funded two, three
and four year olds and their families.
About the practice
For the childminder agency trial Telford and Wrekin have recruited a designated childminder team, to
restore high-quality local authority services. They are also recruiting designated admin support to
provide a brokerage service between childminders and parents. This will benefit parents by offering
better communication to link them to childminders with spaces; providing a personal service to link
parents to the right childminder for their needs. They have met with childminders and received a
positive response with around twenty childminders participating in a focus group. The agency is
linked closely to their ‘Talking Twos’ work and they are looking at marketing and material to recruit
childminders who can offer two-year-old funded places. Telford and Wrekin are looking at new ways
to support childminders better and are in consultation with them as to what they want (such as
training, etc). The council are also building partnerships with the social care department so
childminders can learn to provide respite care.
Evidence and evaluation of difference to children and families
This will be assessed and updated throughout the trial.
They hosted a Telford and Wrekin Childminder Agency Information evening. A third of their
childminders turned up to the event. The majority were supportive of the Council’s open-mindedness
to the agency model and are happy to participate as co-constructors in the design of the trial. Twenty
signed up to become part of a working group, once the facts had been relayed and widespread myths
were challenged. A dedicated childminding support team has been constructed for the pilot.
PR officer: Russell Griffin

Well – is this not what we had until recently through our Local Authority Early Years Teams? (some of which had dedicated childminding teams) Certainly was the case in Worcestershire when I (Penny Webb) was part of the childminding team

Only difference of course being that once the pilots (trails) are over – all of this will have to be paid for by childminders – and maybe by parents as well.

Personal Opinion

The biggest problem with all these agency proposals is the removal of individual Ofsted inspections

The second biggest problem is that those who are going to run the ‘real thing’ are doing it to make a profit – and many of the things mentioned are already available for free or at low cost – childminders are not going to want to pay out for things they can do themselves

The third biggest problem – all of these things were available through LA’s and membership organisations – so why duplicate things? Everyone knows that this is all about saving the government money – for example by not having to fund LA’s and not having to carry out so many Ofsted inspections – WHY did the government not just say ‘These are the financial facts – we need to save money, so all early years settings are going to have to pay more to access services such as support, advice and training – and inspection.

And the fourth biggest problem – the government are targeting childminders – when actually that is unfair , unprofessional and – sole destroying for those concerned, – and is already having a negative impact on childminders with many resigning or thinking about resigning and many being very depressed about their future as a registered childminder.

Remember the last Ofsted report said 71% of registered childminders were good or outstanding – just a few percentage points behind other types of early years settings.

It is about time the government treated registered childminders with professional respect – and about time the government listened to the early years sector – and stopped trying to make childminding agencies sound wonderful and a positive solution – when it is clear they are not ‘new ideas’, and are not going to achieve the aims stated by the government.

PLEASE SHARE THIS BLOG – IT IS NOT COPYRIGHTED. We MUST raise awareness among childminders, other early years professionals – and most importantly with PARENTS .

The Government has starting promoting childminding agencies with hype, assumptions and factually incorrect information – and we MUST make sure that people are given the facts and then allowed to decide for themselves.

Posted September 28, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

The Early Years 2013 How Children Learn Conference; Exploring child development throughout the early years. Part Two   1 comment

Part One of Penny’s feedback from the Early Years 2013 conference ended at lunch time on day one, so now Penny is going to continue with her feedback and cover the rest of day one.


Lunch was a mixture of hot and cold buffet – and Penny was very pleased to see that not all the food was spicy or had mustard etc added – and the fact that there was also cake provided and fruit.

Having selected her lunch, Penny joined another lady at a table who was a room leader in baby room in a nursery. One of the things that Penny really likes about conferences is that you get the opportunity to network with other professionals – and this is why Penny does not often sit just with friends at conferences – or even sit with friends at all – after all Penny can chat to them att other times and already has a good idea what they think about childcare issues.

So Penny and her  lunch time companion shared info about their various roles, the workshop they had attended and what they thought about the conference so far. Before long they were joined by two other people who were not actual practitioners but worked in  further education. Discussion soon got round to Ofsted inspections – the lady from the baby room had recently had an inspection at her setting , and she felt it had not been a very good inspection. She described how they were marked down due to a trainees lack of knowledge about the children and also for not making the most out of an activity she was leading.

Of course the ladies from further  education were very interested in this – and wanted to know if the student was supervised? – she was, if the person supervising had intervened? – they hadn’t as although not as good as it could have been,the children were enjoying the activity and there were learning outcomes,  the supervisor felt  the student needed to reflect on this during feedback – so next question –  had the student had a feedback session? – yes but Ofsted had not observed it. Everyone taking part in the discussion felt that Ofsted should have observed the feedback session with the student or at least discussed with the person supervising the student what the feedback would be as this indicate leadership and management  of students. Penny’s personal view is the children were not at risk from harm, it can be very hard for staff – let alone students, to know all the children really well (is that not a key role of the key person?), the children were enjoying the activity which is important and there were learning outcomes. Penny was not there on the day but the question in her mind was ‘Was the inspector looking for ‘direct instruction’ type input – such as how many? what colour? and so on  -rather than active participation and learning through own experiences and discovery with the adult supporting ‘. Penny will of course never know the answer to this.

As a result of the conversation, Penny was able to tell her colleagues about the recent Ofsted Big Conversation meetings – which she had had an active part in and had hosted the Worcester meeting.

Lunch time was soon over, and it was back into the main hall for the next session, this was on ‘ Nurturing and celebrating young children’s talents and fascinations’ by Dr. Jacqui Hardie  you can read a bit  about Jacqui  HERE   Jacqui also is the co author of Mark Making Matters.

Jacqui spoke about young gifted and talented children and how you can support their interests and fascinations – and encourage them to interact more with their peers, as often these children prefer the company of adults. One point that struck home with Penny was about the vital communication with child’s family and finding out what the child does at home as this information will often give an insight into interests and fascinations not seen in the setting. As a childminder Penny communicates on a daily basis with the parents of the children and knows the families and children really well – but she appreciates how much harder this must be in group settings especially those that have a lot of part time children. The other thing that Penny noted was how by using the children’s fascinations and interests it is possible to incorporate all areas of learning  – again something that Penny is able to do in her setting – but it was interesting how this could be woven into a busy group setting. Having a grandchild with Aspergers – Penny thought how useful these ideas would be to support children with additional needs as using their interests – even their obsessions – can help support all areas of learning.

The next speaker was Dr. Kathy Gooch talking about ‘Beginning with babies: cultrual expectations, political ambitions and family lives’ yiou can read a little bit about Kathy HERE

Kathy has been involved in The Baby Room Project and you can find out about this HERE

Kathy spoke in Penny’s language not just about babies but also about the Governments eroding of childhood and the damage being done to our babies and young children.

But Kathy did not only talk about babies and their needs – she also spoke about those who work with babies especially those who work in baby rooms in nurseries – and their perceived professional status and the challenges and isolation of their job. As Kathy says many think that babies are not as interesting or as rewarding as working with older pre school age children and so baby room practitioners are not given the credit they deserve – but when you think of the development that occurs within the baby room and the rate that that development takes place – actually those working within baby rooms or with babies in other settings – such as childminders – those working with babies should have a high professional status.

Of course Kathy is right and Penny agrees that those who work with babies should have a much a higher professional status and more should recognise the challenges – and the joys of caring for babies.


There was then a question and answer session – and as Kathy had mentioned politics and the Governments current education  policy  and its impact on childhood – Penny mentioned the Too Much, Too Soon campaign – and if you have not heard of this campaign, not  seen the letter in the Telegraph or signed the petition – you can find out more HERE  (and if you click on some of the other links you will also find out about the Day of Action – and Penny’s involvement.

Feedback from Day Two – to follow ……

Posted September 21, 2013 by psw260259 in Conferences that I have attended

The Early Years 2013 How Children Learn Conference; Exploring child development throughout the early years. Part One   10 comments

As Penny had enjoyed last year’s conference so much, she decided to attend this year’s conference, despite the high cost of doing so.

Cost is important in these days of budget cuts, and lack of funding or support to attend such events, and this is especially the case for registered childminders such as Penny, as to attend a week day conference Penny has to close her setting and therefore reduce her income, as Penny does not charge parents if she closes her setting for training, or her holidays or her illness – only fair really as parents often have to pay for childcare elsewhere.

Although staying overnight close to the conference is personal choice – this conference has cost Penny around £900 to attend, when adding together cost of conference, travel, lost pay and hotel. Even Penny thinks this is a lot – and judging by number of people in the room on the first day – it would appear that cost has impacted on numbers attending.

Please don’t think that Penny thinks it is a waste of money – because it is not – the opportunity to listen to a range of speakers and to network with other early years professional is exceptional BUT maybe if the cost of the actual conference was less more people could attend?

So moving on to Penny’s feedback from the first day of the conference.

When Penny arrived at the conference the first person she saw was Neil Henty the editor of EYE magazine and Child Care Magazine (which is part of the Practical Pre – school magazine). As Penny is a contributor to both of these magazines, it was nice to have a face to face chat with Neil and to discuss all the current childcare issues – as you may imagine it was quite a long chat – which was curtailed due to the conference starting. Even so Penny did manage to place an order for some books before taking her place in the conference hall.

We were welcomed by Matt Govett who is the managing director of MA Education Ltd, who publish EYE magazine who of course organised the conference. However MA Education also produce Practical Pre school and the range of  books sold under the name Practical Pre- school books. Details about EYE magazine can be found here Link to EYE

The conference chair Judith Stevens then made her opening address and welcomed us all to the conference. Judith is Education Consultant and an author with books such as; Maths Now: the definitive guide to maths in the early years and Maths in Stories. More information about Judith can be found  HERE  Penny has noted that Judith used to be a childminder in the past.

As an aside Judith joined the workshop that Penny was in, and ended up in the same discussion group as part of the workshop activities (more about this later) and as it happens Judith is also one of Penny’s Linkedin connections – and was delighted to receive a message from Judith about the conference and the workshop.

The Keynote Session was ‘Developing flexibility of thinking: young children engaging with media and materials’ by Dr. Kathy Ring who is a senior lecturer in Primary and Early Years Education at York St. John University. Further information about Kathy can be found HERE

Without quoting Kathy word for word the presentation was about the provision of media – not IT based media but paper, glue, sellotape, scissors and so on – describing it as ‘Multi Modal Meaning Making’ – which in a nutshell is about how children use the materials provided to explore ideas and to engage in high levels of creativity and critical thinking. Kathy used real life example with photo’s, video and narratives from practitioners and parents to demonstrate this Multi Modal development. For Penny the things that stood out most was the different ways that children used the materials – and the engagement of boys in mark making activities – even those who showed no interest in formal  writing or mark making activities.  Also the fact that although these type of materials should be available at all times – it is OK to have them available at regular  set specific times – important in a childminding setting or a family home when the needs and safety of younger children need to be taken into consideration. Penny is now reflecting on this – and is thinking that maybe after lunch time when younger children nap or rest – the older children could have access to these materials on the kitchen table – while Penny washes up and writes in the children’s dairies – as then Penny will be ‘available’ to support and discuss but can still get on with the necessary tasks – and who knows Penny may even manage to have some lunch at the same time.

If readers want to find out more Penny has found this online – and yes, it is by Dr. Kathy Ring  Click here for article

The next session was by Sue Robb who is head of Early Years at 4 Children. Information about 4 Children can be found  HERE

Sue had come to talk about SEED which stands for – Study of Early Education and Development.  Click here for  Details about SEED project

Penny was pleased to see mention of childminders and acknowledgement that parents often want a childminder place for the children, especially the under 3’s. Penny was also pleased to hear that childminders were valued and that more childminders are needed / to be recruited. Penny was not pleased to hear that childminding agencies are central to these plans.

The most interesting thing about the project is that settings won’t be the ones volunteering to take part – parents will – then if a child of a parent taking part attends an early years setting – that setting will be asked to take part. There are several stages to the project and the data produced should not only be interesting but potentially very useful. Penny is very interested in this project but does have concerns about the methods of gathering data (based on the ECCERS family of audit tools), and on the link to childminding agencies as there is one major problem with childminding agencies and that is the removal of the need to be registered and inspected by Ofsted. If childminding agencies were planned as a support system that people could buy into if they wanted to – but also that there were other support system choices available, Penny would have less concerns and could see the benefit of such support schemes.

There was a short question and answer session – and then a very welcome comfort break. During the break Penny chatted to a lady that she had met last year – and whose school had recently had their Ofsted inspection – so an interesting chat.

It was then time for the workshops – Penny had forgotten to book her workshops – she had had the email but things have been so busy and so many emails now come into Penny’s inbox every day that Penny had simply forgotten – and not remembered until the day before the conference – so as Penny is very much of the opinion ‘You always learn something’ she sent a quick email to the organisers and said ‘any work shop will do’

And so Penny found herself on the ‘ Are you ready for me – now I am two?’ workshop.

The workshop was led by Alex Sefton and Melanie Jenkins who both work for Cheshire East Early Years and Childcare Team. Alex and Melanie have been responsible for producing this resource Link to the Cheshire East ‘Are you ready for me – now I am 2’ resource 

As you will see there is quite a lot of information on the page that the link takes you to – and you can order a copy if you want to.

The workshop was all about the document – the why and how it was produced – and a very important element in Penny’s view – about the training that went alongside the introduction of the resource. Penny has to admit that she thought the resource was very group setting based – and did not seem to include parents or childminders –  BUT Alex and Melanie are now extending the resource and have plans to include a section to support children’s centers and parents – and the are rolling out now to include childminders – they say there has been a huge interest – and hopefully the resource will be extended to specifically support childminders in the future.

As mentioned previously Judith Stevens, the conference Chair joined in with this workshop and it was interesting to hear her views on things during discussions and workshop activities.

Penny should perhaps mention that Helen Moylett  has given her approval to the resource and says it supports DEvelopment Matters and good practice – what further recommendation could you ask for? Penny has some handouts from the workshop and will read these – together with the content of the web page link above – and will then decide if she wants to order the resource to use in her setting / to share with others.

As it was then lunch time – part one of Penny’s feedback concludes – and will continue with part two as soon as possible.

Posted September 20, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Feedback from the Worcester #Ofstedbigconversation meeting on 14th September 2013   2 comments

#OfstedBig Conversation

Feedback from Worcester Meeting


Number of Attendees                                   40

Childminders                                                     15       Group Settings representatives                     13

Pre School Learning Alliance Staff                3      College staff                                                              2

Local Authority Staff                                          2      ICM-SE directors                                                      2

Independent Trainer                                         1      Former providers / Other                                   2


Several people had travelled considerable distances to attend, as can be seen from attendees there was a good representation of all types of early years settings and those who provide support services.

It was a very emotional meeting, with some very upset about their experiences, some angry, and some who had not had direct experiences themselves, completely shocked at what they were hearing.

We started as a large group and a brief overview of why these meetings had been arranged, and what we hoped to achieved. The issues to be discussed and the original thoughts from June O’Sullivan’s blog were read out to help people understand what we were discussing.

We then split into four groups and ‘overlapped’ the questions so apart from the first and last issue, each issue was discussed by two groups.

The brief was – to use the inspections stories from the group to provide the background to what is not working at the moment and then to think about suggestions for the way forward.

We then all came back together for feedback and there was opportunity for those who had not discussed particular issues to give their suggestions. However most found the issues overlapped and so they had already discussed within their group.


The most often expressed concerns were that Ofsted do not have a regulator and investigate everything internal. Everyone though that they should be sector representation on within a regulatory board and also on advisory boards.


The second issued mentioned by everyone was ‘Is there a hidden agenda?’ as it seems that there is something driving this as part of a ‘bigger picture’. People felt undervalued, and it seems that Ofsted are determined to find fault with settings and the sector as a whole.


This feedback from the Worcester meeting is a combination of  from feedback from the discussion groups – as per my personal memory of this, personal listening in to the discussions in the different groups as I went round the groups, general discussion before and after the ‘official discussion’, written feedback from the facilitators of each group.


It is possible that others who were at the meeting may wish to add things from their own personal notes.



Item Issue Key Questions Action from Ofsted
1 Ofsted dual roles of regulation & improvement Can we all agree what this should look like?
  • We felt this is  could be possible. IF  guidelines should be in place Guidelines to be drawn up
  • Set up an advisory board which is sector led / representation to monitor
  • Not every inspector gives advice for improvement .Need to ensure consistency
    • Conflicting advice from Ofsted and LA Ofsted and LA’s to work much more closely on a regional (or LA area) basis, (maybe LA staff to attend Ofsted led sessions for providers – or Ofsted to provide the sessions for LA staff and then for LA staff to cascade in their area.)


2 Ofsted rationale for complaint initiated inspections which go back over 10 years Can we all agree what this should look like?
  • Complaints not relevant  if pre  EYFS?  Staff turnover could mean that no one was present for that complaint / regulations have changed – Should only investigate old complaints if connected to a member of staff who still works in setting and a safeguarding issue
  • OfSTED have gone from not acting on complaints to acting on every single one – maybe because of criticism in Serious Case Reviews. Felt that revisiting complaints already investigated does not achieve anything in connection to the complaint .Set up a procedure to review old complaints as an internal issue for Ofsted to identify weaknesses in their system.
  • Concern expressed that  OfSTED appear to be concentrating on complaint initiated inspections and routine inspections Ofsted to maintain routine inspections especially for those setting with lower grades.
  • Concern expressed that Ofsted appear to be determined to ‘find something’ during complaint triggered inspections. If carrying out necessary complaint triggered inspections to concentrate on the complaint issue first – and then to carry out a normal inspection
  • Concern expressed about malicious complaints and the impact on the settings concerned, Ofsted to clarify at beginning of such complaint inspections if settings have any knowledge / evidences to show it is a possible malicious complaint.
    • Concerns expressed about settings who are pre judged in complaint situations and told due to complaint they can not get outstanding / will lose their outstanding grade because a complaint logged. Settings should be fairly judged on the day – to inspection criteria.
  • Concerns expressed about complaint triggered inspections that do not investigate the complaint. Set up an independent body for providers to complain about inspections and in particular about complaint triggered inspections – that actually do not investigate the complaint that triggered the inspection.


3 Ofsted  Quality Assurance Process Can we all agree what this should look like?
  • Many concerns expressed about this and one very important question asked – Has anyone had the QA team upgrade a inspection judgement? (No one had) Ofsted to ensure their QA systems works both ways and both upgrade and down grade judgements
  • Concerns about number of downgraded QA decisions. Ofsted to ensure that inspectors are capable of making judgements that do not need to changed on such a regular basis.


4 Ofsted inspector training and support Can we all agree what this should look like? Huge debate about this – some even used internet phones to check out inspector criteria – general shock about this!


  • All inspectors should have early years experience, and knowledge of the different types of settings. Ofsted to ensure ALL inspectors have same level of previous experience and training (across Tribal and Prospects)
  • Felt important that inspectors had specific knowledge of type of setting inspecting All inspectors to receive training about types of settings being inspected.
  • Felt 3 days training not sufficient Inspectors to have a longer induction process
  • For new inspectors – even more concerns expressed. During first few inspections  – Two inspectors to be used. (some wanted two inspectors for all inspections)
    • Felt CPD for inspections not sufficient. Inspectors to undertake regular CPD appropriate to type of settings that inspect.
5 Inspector Decision making and feedback Can we all agree what this should look like?
  • Felt feedback should not be given at end of inspections as everyone tired Settings felt they needed time to gather feedback from staff. Feedback to be arranged for following day
  • Concern that feedback given to one person with no one to provide support or to record what is said Settings to be allowed to have another staff member, or a LA staff member or peer support person from another setting to be present during feedback
  • Feedback  needs to  be agreed by all present as a accurate account. Ofsted to consider implementing form for this.
  • General moderation (QA) should take place before feedback given so that the grade discussed  at feedback is the grade that will be given. Ofsted to look into implementing this new system of feedback and moderation
  • Concern about moderation not being based on evidence recorded during inspection, and possible questioning of inspector for verbal recall Genuine QA sampling should be based on agree evidence as recorded by inspector
    • Guidance for protocol and inspection guidance not always followed. Settings to be able to complain if protocol not followed inspection or feedback without it triggering another inspection
6 Significant incidents What constitutes a managerial judgement? Several in room who had made management decisions had then had their decisions questioned, were inspected downgraded and in some cases lost their business and their life long work. Loss of ability to provide the Fee Entitlement a huge problem

  • Managers and childminders becoming scared of making judgements that are later judged ‘wrong’ by Ofsted  Managers should not be penalised for making management decisions
  • Settings felt that inspectors not looking at evidence to back management decisions made Ofsted to ensure that all evidence looked at – and to have form to be signed  by settings to say they are happy all relevant evidenced looked at.
  • Some reports appearing online before providers have seen them Reports should not be published before received by provider
7 New Inspection Regime in November What will this entail and how much information will we expect in the light of heavier emphasis on keeping children safe and teaching and learning?
  • Concerns were expressed about what Ofsted consider to be appropriate teaching and learning, and keeping children safe. Felt that without in depth knowledge of the children and the ethos of settings, or appropriate up to date CPD inspectors could make the wrong conclusions. Inspectors to ensure they ask settings for detailed information and do not base judgements on personal views
  • Due to sheer amount of discussion, verbal feedback from groups was not taken for this issue, however there were handouts available for those who were not aware of the changes



Posted September 18, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Ofsted Letter of Concern   9 comments

In this mornings post (12th Sept) I received a letter from Ofsted raising concern about the care of the children in my setting as follows;

We have received the following information about your provision;

  • That you spend a lot of your day updating various websites that you manage or contribute to, causing concern about whether this may be impacting on the care provided to the children.


The information suggests that you may need to take action to remain compliant with the requirements of registration. We are passing on this information to you so that you can take appropriate action.


You need to keep a record of the action you take but you do not need to write to us to tell us what you have done. We suggest you keep a record in your complaint log. We will review your record when we carry out the next inspection of, or next visit to, your provision.


I was shocked to say the least – not that I think people should not raise concerns – because I think they should. In fact parents using my setting, visitors and family members are all told that they should – no must- raise any concerns. I expect nothing less.

So it was not the fact that someone had raise a concern – it was the nature of the concern – how can anyone know what is going on in my setting and therefore even suggest that there maybe be an impact on the care of the children.

However on reflection, I thought, well maybe someone did have a genuine concern, as I freely admit that I do update websites and comment on childminding / childcare issues on a variety of social media.

Then on second thoughts, why didn’t  the person with the concern raise it directly with me – it would have been a far more effective way to ensure that I responded. As the person concerned seems to be aware of my websites, I am sure the person must be aware that I am a reflective practitioner and also that the children in my care experience a wide range of high quality learning through play experiences – and they must also surely be aware of my personal ethos?

So a private message, a comment on my blog,  a phone call, a email could all have been methods used by anyone with a concern about my setting – and they would have received a direct response from me.


As I say I do use social media – but only for professional comments about childminding and childcare – so again as the person concerned is aware of this why did the not make contact with me through those sites?

Personally, I can not see the benefit of informing Ofsted – they clearly were not very concerned – the wording says MAY be impacting, MAY need to take appropriate action- and important to note –  no need to inform Ofsted of action taken and no time scale.

I have to ask if the person informing Ofsted did actually have a genuine concern – or if it was more to do with the bullying that has been going on over the last year?  I am not pointing a finger at anyone – it is personal reflection as I struggle to understand why this issue was raised with Ofsted – maybe it is the next stage of the bullying, maybe it is an associate of the bully who thinks that I ‘need to pay’ in some way for daring to write the bullying blogs.

BUT maybe it is not connected to the bullying at all – maybe it was a genuine concern by someone who did not want me to know who they are. With this in mind I am going to explain why it is not sensible to make assumptions about things from afar.


As I have already said – I admit I do post comments on social media – and will continue to do so

I do update my blog and other websites BUT I DO NOT SPEND A LOT OF MY DAY DOING SO.

First I need to point out that the parents who use my setting KNOW that I blog, that I campaign, that I support and advise others, that the computer is on most of the day – it is in fact on when they arrive and when the parents come to collect the children. I do not hide the fact – I am open and transparent about what I do.

The parents also know that my computer is in a position where I can see and hear the children at ALL times in the rooms used for play – and the garden. The children are nearly always within sight and hearing (apart from when they or I use the bathroom – in which case it is within hearing only,  just for a few minutes).

Parents also know that there is no chair for my computer – I stand to type, read etc – this means that I can stop instantly to respond to the children – to support them, to keep them safe, to provide physical help if needed or comfort.  Children can come to me or I can go to them – at any point in the day – if I am using the computer or if I am not.

At NO TIME are the children ‘left to get on with it’ while I do other things – the children ALWAYS come first.

Parents also know that I write most of blogs late at night or early in the morning – I might post them at lunch time as sometimes I just want to check when I am more awake that I am happy with the content. Therefore I do not spend hours of time during my working hours writing blogs etc.

So that is my first point – It is impossible to make a judgement on what the situation is from afar – and why direct contact with myself would have been far more appropriate action. And should the person not want to talk directly to me – they could have asked a mutual  friend to raise the issue with me.

My next point is about my ethos and practice about learning through play – unless someone has visited my setting themselves and seen the environments – inside and outside that I provide – and how the children engage in self selected high quality play experiences  – and see for themselves the learning that goes on within that play, people will not realise what my role is  (although as already mentioned – anyone who has read my blogs should have a good idea).

The fact of the matter is the children in my care do not need me to intrude in their play, they ask me questions, they ask for support, they let me know verbally and non verbally , if they are upset or hurt or that things are not as they want to be – of course I need to be available, I need to be able to hear them and see them (apart from the short periods of time already mentioned), and I need to be able to stop everything IMEADIATLEY if needed.

Also it is impossible to tell from a far if one of my three assistants are on duty – and as it happens EVERY day one of them is here for at least 2 hours of my working day – so extra eyes  and hands to help watch and listen

It is impossible to see which children are here, which are sleeping, or indeed if I don’t have any children at all at that moment in time.


None of this can be seen from afar and therefore judgements can not be made

Finally I would , as part of my personal reflection  brought about by the letter from Ofsted, think about some of the things that I could be doing legitimately – that others would not necessarily  be aware of but that I know childminders up and down the country do day in and day out – and without anyone writing to Ofsted with concerns.

  • Printing photo’s
  • Updating records
  • Doing formal observations
  • Preparing snacks
  • Cooking meals
  • Vacuuming  or sweeping up
  • Talking to friends or colleagues in the playground and at toddler groups
  • Texting
  • Phoning people both in connection to the childminding setting, but also in connection to personal matters
  • Driving around for an hour or more doing pick ups and drop offs at schools / pre schools
  • Knitting
  • Reading
  • Gardening
  • Doing assignments for courses undertaking
  • Using the computer for research
  • Using the computer to find suitable resources
  • Having family visitors
  • Having colleagues visit
  • Visiting family or colleagues
  • Writing setting newsletter
  • Preparing displays
  • Writing for magazines or other publications
  • Using emails or private messages to support others
  • Meeting care routines of another child especially babies and those with additional needs
  • Phoning Ofsted
  • Having support visits from LA staff (if grade warrants it)



And so on … the list is not comprehensive

I have of course shown the parents the letter from Ofsted – they are shocked and don’t understand a) why someone would do this – or b) what will be gained by Ofsted sending the letter


So in conclusion from my reflection about the concern letter from Ofsted – I have decided to write this blog as part of the action that I am taking – and giving those who have visited my setting, who know me well  – and the parents of the children I look after, to comment, positively or negatively, as they  are the people who know what it is really like here at Penny’s Place


To finish, in the future,  I would like those who do have any concerns to speak to me directly – my ethos means I will reply and I will reflect on what is said. Of course if concerns continue and / or it is felt that I have not addressed those concern – then of course speak to my local authority or contact Ofsted  – I would expect you to – provided concerns are based on fact and not on personal assumptions about things.

Posted September 13, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues