Challenging Childminding Agencies – Childminding Organisations Working Together   8 comments

At my suggestion a meeting was held on 16th October 2013, kindly hosted by Pacey,and attended by Pacey, Pre – School Learning Alliance, Laura Henry (representing NEYTCO), and me, Penny Webb (representing myself – and as requested – ICM-SE and UKCMA).

I had called the meeting, wearing my hat as lead for the Childminding Advisory Group within Save Childhood Movement – and as a member of all the above organisations.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I have been campaigning against childminding agencies since the idea was first put forward by Ms.Truss in her paper ‘Affordable Quality’ – and overtime I have felt increasingly that I was not only talking to the wall, but banging my head against it as well. At times I have felt rather alone in my efforts – as although colleagues and childminding organisations have all been vocal in their own objections – as a sector we tended to speak just for ourselves – and not as a sector wide voice.

And so on the morning of 16th October I found myself sat in the reception of the offices of Pacey. I was a bit early but I prefer to be early if at all possible. While I was waiting, Sarah Edwards who is Pacey’s volunteer officer, and who I know, came down from her office to say ‘Hello’. Then Emma – Liz Bayram’s (CEO Pacey)  PA appeared – complete with drinks trolley, and showed me into a meeting room..

Before long, Neil Leitch, CEO of the Pre – School Learning Alliance arrived and greeted me warmly. We spent a few minutes updating on Alliance and personal issues, and then Emma decided that there was a problem with the lights in the room – and showed us into other room. Laura Henry was next to arrive, I had invited Laura to represent the trainers and consultants from NEYTCO – which is a group that Laura has recently set up. Laura is well known to both Neil and myself – so hugs all round and personal greetings.

Liz Bayram, and a new member of Pacey staff – Oscar Plummer, joined us and after introductions, pouring of drinks and some general chat – Liz said something on the lines of  ‘over to you Penny’.

I thought this was a very positive recognition of my role – and ensured that we got off on the right foot. I explained briefly why I thought we needed to work in partnership, and to speak as a sector instead of as separate organisations.

We explored our current personal and organisational knowledge of agencies and our personal thoughts about them. Readers should be reassured that all the organisations that represent childminders are being VERY active both publicly and ‘behind the scenes’ in challenging the Government.

There are lots of meetings happening that childminders are being represented at – but that we (including me) do not hear about, because they are part of the on going process of exploring of issues – with various people, that do not have a specific outcome but that could (hopefully) lead to better understanding of the issues of quality assurance around childminding agencies – and thus help to inform those making the decisions about implementation of childminding agencies.

Personally I think we all have to have faith in our membership organisations and trust them to represent us, using their knowledge and experience about how things work within Government and associated departments. I know it can be difficult when it appears ‘nothing much is happening’ – but from my conversations at the meeting – believe me – there is a lot happening.

After our discussion about the current situation, we all agreed that childminding agencies would be introduced (which is the same conclusion most childminders have come to) and that therefore we had to think about how we could; a) continue to challenge the proposal that agency childminders will not have an individual Ofsted inspection – and b) what they could do  – as the organisations representing and supporting childminders – to provide a realistic alternative to the agency model in terms of information, support, and training.

Everyone agreed (including those not at the meeting via their emails to me) that we all need to work together to speak as a sector, and to ensure that childminders who want to remain independently registered and inspected by Ofsted had the support to do so.

I am not going to even attempt to record everything that was said in the meeting – and it would be inappropriate to do so, as some of the discussions were confidential (for appropriate reasons) and somethings were agreed to in principle rather than in detail. Therefore this is a summary of the things agreed to.

Agreed to;

  • The main points to be included in an ‘Open Letter’ – Oscar (from Pacey) will be drafting the letter , from his notes made in the meeting and sending it to all those involved for approval. It was also agreed that although we would like to get many more signatures (including those of childminders)  for  the letter, that time was against us, due to the fact that the House of Lords are currently discussing the Children and Families Bill. Therefore the signatures on the letter would be representing all the members of all the organisations.

 

  • To base  the focus of any discussions or articles etc. on Quality Assurance and ensuring that all children, no matter what setting they attend are kept safe, are happy ( and therefore able to benefit from the learning opportunities provided). A lot of discussion at the meeting was based on this issue from; inspections – to training –  to the difficulties of the same people providing advice and inspecting / assessing – to a standard ‘bench mark’  (to mention a few)

 

  • To explore  ways in which everyone could work together to support independent childminders, once childminding agencies were rolled out (and in the run up to that point in time). Please note we did start exploring this issue and suggestions passed on to me by childminders were shared in the meeting – however this discussion was limited by time restraints – but will be continued in future meetings / discussions. I think it is safe to say that all the organisations were very keen to pool resources and expertise to benefit all childminders who wish to be independent.

 

  • To explore how we can identify those entering the profession – and to ensure they are aware that they can register independently and do not have to register through a agency

 

  • To explore how to make parents aware of the quality assurance issues – and the choices they will have – in other words to provide information and support to parents.

 

  • To work with NEYTCO to established  a network of high quality trainers that are suitably qualified / experienced about childminding, to compliment the organisations own trainers (and other outside trainers already used)

 

  • To explore how peer support could be developed to ensure childminders were kept informed through cascading of information, how expertise of experienced childminders could be used to support the work of the organisations, including training, mentoring etc.

As you can see we covered a lot of ground and that the meeting was very positive and proactive – I am personally very hopeful that we have taken the first steps towards being able to speak with a united sector voice – and to working in partnership across all organisations that represent and support childminders to ensure that childminders have the best possible access to support, training and advice – giving a real choice both to establish childminders and those entering the profession.

 

I would personally like to thank Pre-School Learning Alliance, Pacey, UKCMA and ICM-SE for supporting the meeting and for agreeing to work in partnership with each other to benefit the childminders they represent, and to thank Laura for representing the trainers and consultants within NEYTCO.

I would like to reassure childminders that this partnership is not about the organisations all joining together to become one big organisation – as that would not be in anyone’s interest – and we all agreed that choice of representative organisation was very important, and that the ‘market’ was big enough for all to be sustainable, for all to develop their own specific membership packages that would therefore meet the different needs of childminders.

 

Finally, as I am what might be called ‘just’ a member of the organisations involved, and a everyday practicing childminder (all be it – a rather outspoken one) I must congratulate all concerned from demonstrating that they do  listen to their members and take their opinion and ideas  on board – and are prepared to take forward those ideas, if in the best interests of their membership and the childminding sector – not always of course – as some ideas are not practical, or do not fit in with the organisations own operational plan or ethos, values and practice.

However, as a great believer in membership organisations and voluntary involvement, I am grateful that they do all listen, do always consider ideas – and even if as members we feel that we have not been listened to, and that our ideas are not always explored  – that there will be a reason why not,   I think it is important to continue to put forward our our ideas and suggestions – and if it is something we feel strongly about – we should not only get on our soap box, but be proactive in resolving issues and reaching compromises, as just shouting about something from a soap box or just moaning to colleagues will not achieve anything – far better to be part of the process and therefore the solution.

 

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

8 responses to “Challenging Childminding Agencies – Childminding Organisations Working Together

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  1. Hi Penny, Thanks for writing this up and so quickly as well! Thank you for inviting me on behalf of NEYTCO.

    Indeed, important that we all work together and share our expertise. After, all it is the children that matter.

    Best wishes
    Laura -x

    • Thanks Laura – wrote most of it on the train last night – so just had to check this morning – and luckily no children first thing today so able to finish. Blog about meeting with Truss being written and will be posted as soon as have opportunity to do so.

  2. It will be interesting to see the figures that are generated for childminders joining/leaving the profession, following a) the trial period; and b) the full introduction of agencies, as this was one of the big reasons for introducing agencies. If the number of childminders does not increase then they will have failed in one of their major initiatives, but crucially it will be important to find out why people are joining or leaving the profession and how much this is due to the agency model. Government tends to just look at overall statistics, so it will be interesting to see how each scenario is interpreted.

    • It will indeed be interesting Neil. We know that numbers of childminders decreased with the introduction of EYFS – and although we have no stats – I am fairly sure that childminders are leaving the profession due to the introduction of agencies – as many are telling me so. What we do not know for sure – is how many were coming to the end of their childminding career – for example because own children have now started school – or because they had undertaken higher qualifications while registered and it was their intention once achieved those qualifications to moved into related careers.

      As to if childminding agencies will increase the number of new childminders or improve quality of settings and / or outcomes for children, only time will tell

  3. Wow,….so much to take in, so grateful that you have taken the time to do this Penny, we all felt as if we were flailing around in the dark somewhat.! Its reassuring to read your comments, and will continue to follow this closely! Many thanks x

  4. Pingback: An opportunity not to be missed – Meeting Elizabeth Truss in person (Part One) | Penny's Place Childminding

  5. Very informative and interesting developments – will share.

  6. Pingback: Letter in The Sunday Telegraph | Penny's Place Childminding

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