Part Two – Meeting with Early Years Minister on 16th October 2013   4 comments

As with part one – personal comment – after the meeting in italics

I finished part one of this blog with a comment from Elizabeth Truss that I had not heard mentioned before – based on the fact that childminding agencies could select which childminders joined the agency.

It does make sense from a quality assurance point of view  and to ensure agencies are successful – but it seems to me that those agencies that do only select those childminders that will provide high quality childcare and education – will have several issues to consider. Such as;

How they will encourage people like me who have successful, established childminding settings to join?

What they will do to ensure that those entering the profession are going to provide this high quality childminding practice?

What they will do if a childminder ‘on their books’ does not maintain that high quality practice?

How they will assess those who switch agencies and do not have a Ofsted grade because never been inspected by Ofsted – so only have another agencies judgment about their practice?

I can’t help wondering how the practice of selecting childminders who have the highest quality practice will achieve the Governments aims of driving up quality and supporting those childminders who find paperwork difficult or time consuming, or even recruiting new childminders whose practice can at best only be described as ‘having potential’. In my opinion – the majority of people who find paperwork difficult or too time consuming to keep up to date – are the people who will have lower grades currently from Ofsted – because they do not fully meet the requirements of EYFS. A chicken and egg situation maybe? These childminders might want support but because of their Ofsted grade the agency may not want them in the agency.

Personally I would question how such selective practice by agencies meets inclusive practice requirements

However to be fair to the Minister – she did say that they agency would look at the Ofsted report of someone who currently has a lower grade to see why, and to decided if they would be able to support this person to improve their grade.

Question then has to be – what will be the incentive for the childminder to remain in the agency – once they have had the support?

This raises further questions in my head – about retaining Ofsted individual inspections.

I asked the Minister if  childminders could chose to pay Ofsted and remain inspected by Ofsted – as well as joining an agency for support. As readers will know from part one of this blog the Minister does not see any point in childminders in an agency also being inspected by Ofsted as agencies are a new work of working and the agency will quality assure the agency childminders.

I have a different view about this – you see much of my work  – especially during my time working for the Local Authority has been around the area of quality assurance – I used to assess for a couple of the national quality assurance schemes – across all settings, and my role as a childminding network coordinator was also a quality assurance scheme – as is ECCERS (and the related schemes).

The one thing all these quality assurance schemes had in common was (is) that they are in ADDITION to Ofsted inspection – and I know from experience that in the best settings, the Ofsted judgement and the quality assurance scheme assessment  judgments will be very similar – which is great and reassuring for practitioners and parents.  However  in those settings where judgments made are not similar- clearly something needs checking as either judgment (Ofsted or Quality assurance) may need to be looked at again – as part of their own QA system – and so it is a self checking system on each others judgments. I would ague that in all settings this is good practice – and certainly something which has been encouraged over many years. So why would it be an issue if agency childminders wanted to remain registered with Ofsted? 

Personally – whereas I will NEVER join a childminding agency if I have to give up my individual Ofsted inspection and grade – I might be interested in joining an agency (subject to cost) to access training / support – and indeed a second opinion about the quality of my setting.

Therefore from a business point of view, from a quality assurance point of view  AND most importantly from a consistency of across all settings of  bench marking by Ofsted – I would think it would not only be possible but essential for childminders who join a childminding agency to also be inspected and graded by Ofsted.

However I digress;

So getting back to meeting – I am conscious that so far it appears that only myself and the Minister were involved in the discussion – but of course David Ward MP and Jane and Lynda from UKCMA were also taking part in the conversation.

Jane raised a very important issue – that of the view of parents – Jane is a parent of young children and she does use a registered childminder.  Jane said she would prefer an Ofsted judgment rather than an agency judgment on her childminder, as it is a judgment based on national criteria and by a national body.

The Minister said that childminding agencies would have to ensure the quality of the childminders in the agency and would be subject to Ofsted inspection as an agency – and that as said before, Ofsted would visit  some of the agency childminders. Surely, said the Minister,that at least 2 checks a year by agency staff would be better than one visit every 3 – 4 years by Ofsted? Jane agreed that Ofsted inspections were not frequent enough but that the public and in particular parents had confidence in Ofsted. (It was acknowledged in the room that despite current concerns about Ofsted by the sector – than Ofsted is a well known and respected national body).

Picking up on the Ministers comments  (again use of italics to show personal comment after the meeting) At least two visits a year were mentioned which I find interesting as at first we were told ‘frequent visits’ – and indeed some of the pilot information has suggested as many visits as one a month or one every half term – then I read at least three visits a year – and now the Minister is saying at least two visits a year – I wonder how long it will before we get statements on the line of ‘as and when needed’ or maybe ‘ appropriate intervals’  – and if this does become the reality of  ‘ frequent checks’ – and maybe because of the financial reality of providing the ‘frequent checks’  – what will agencies use to ensure the quality of agency childminders – self filled in paperwork / tick lists maybe?

Ofsted were mentioned by the Minister several times during the meeting – as Ofsted have yet to supply details of the inspection framework for childminding agencies and yet to supply details of how they will ensure quality not only of the agencies but of the childminders within the agencies. The other detail that the Minister is waiting for is will fees for Ofsted remain the same for those who wish to remain independently inspected – or will they go up – and if so by how much. The Minister agreed that these details are now key and that everyone needs to know for their business planning etc.

I emphasise with the Minister as waiting for information from third parties is very frustrating –  and something  all of us who are waiting for details about childminding agencies can relate to. However – and readers may correct me, if I am wrong – but I thought Ofsted were a government funded body who had to implement frameworks set by the government – I remember well the discussions I had with Ofsted around the introduction of EYFS 12 – and being told – we do not set the framework – we have to implement it and say how we will do so. Maybe I misunderstood the Minister and she meant she was waiting for Ofsted to say how they would implement the framework rather than waiting for Ofsted to give details of the framework? If so I have to question why we (the sector) have not been involved with the process of  working on the draft framework – as we were with EYF S 12? It seems to me that for such a huge change to systems and ways of being registered and inspected that the sector has not been involved, and that with evaluation of pilots starting from December 2013 and implementation / roll out of agencies from September  2014 , it would seem that agencies and the associated frameworks will be presented as a finished product.

So that is part two finished – part three will look at parts of the meeting with the Minister that were about the pilots and the free entitlement to education places.

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

4 responses to “Part Two – Meeting with Early Years Minister on 16th October 2013

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  1. Hi Penny

    Thanks for taking the time to feedback.

    I have worked in the sector for many years and in 2001, whilst working as a Registration and Inspection Officer, within a local authority. We were all tuped to Ofsted.

    One, main reason, was to make sure that providers (daycare/childminders) were all regulated against the same standards, then as you know it was the National Standards. Because, every local authority, worked to their own standards and the National Standards and now the EYFS ensured a degree of consistency.

    With this in mind, I am perplexed as how we can ensure consistency from agency to agency, if they are all going to devise their own internal standards?

    Therefore, the solution would be for independent and agency childminders to be inspected.

    • I completely agree Laura, having first registered in 83 /84, I ha e witnessed for myself the disadvantages of having so many different sets of rules and regulations. When the National Standards came in, things improved, a d as we know, although far from perfect, the EYFS 08 and EYFS 12 have continued to ensure that consistency is strived for (if not always achieved).

      You are right of course – all childminders should be inspected by Ofsted.

  2. As always thank you for taking so much time to pursue this and feedback to us all.

    Interesting that you would consider joining an agency if you could retain your independent Ofsted – I was just thinking of asking if you would ever think of running one if you could have input into how it would benefit childminders?

    I feel that not only will the Ofsted annual fee go up (after all the £35 a year is very reasonable) but that if remaining independent then a Childminder will be charged for the inspection when the time comes. If that is the case there is no reason why an agency childminder couldn’t also choose to have an individual inspection.

    • An interesting thought – about if I would consider running an agency – if I could have input into how it would benefit childminders. In the early days of my campaigning – Ms. Truss said she thought I would be the ideal person.

      I suppose I do have some skills and knowledge,but my whole ethos prevents me from making money out of supporting others (in fact usually costs me money). I am considering ways that I can extend how I support others – and it maybe that I will do this through one or more of the childminding organisations that I belong to- and in a way I have started making headway with it through the meeting on 16th October.

      My personal thoughts are that peer support could be used a lot more (supported by the membership organisations).
      ICM-SE as a non profit making social enterprise has a model already in place that supports childminders in a different way to that has been available in the past.

      PSLA have their sub committees – and as chair of the Worcestershire one – I hope to make a difference here in Worcestershire

      Pacey have Paceylocal and the regional forums

      All have websites

      However, I believe childminders should be able to access information about every form of support – in one place (and I am discussing this with the membership organisations), I also believe their should be much more joined up thinking – and less of the them and us attitudes / historic perspectives. And I actually think that with less government funding available – so less competitiveness for that funding – that we may see a completely new ways ofsupporting all through more sharing of information and resources.

      So in answer to you question – no I don’t think I would run a agency – if it was there to make a profit – however I think I will (most likely already doing so) support childminders through a different model

      Oh and my comments about using an agency – I would want to pay to access support and training of my choice, as and when I wanted to – to meet the needs of my setting

      I hope that childminders will be able to continue to be registered by Ofsted – in fact I hope it remains part of the statutory requirements that all childminders HAVE to be registered with Ofsted

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