It would be tempting to give up with all my campaigning – but then …….   5 comments

…….. would I be able to sit back and do nothing while the Government continue to say and do things that are not in the best interests of my profession, of the early years sector as a whole – and most importantly not in the best interests of children and their families?

It is a while since I have written a blog about the governments lack of understanding about childminding . However today I have read the transcript of the debate on child care




I really despair that the government continue to show a complete lack of understanding about Registered Childminding and the precieved benefits of childminding agencies.


This is going to be a short blog – because I have other things to do today – but more blogs may follow.

For now I am going to focus on just two comments during the debate

The first is a comment by Elizabeth Truss

We are seeing 8-to-6 schools blossoming. The Norwich free school has a squirrels club, which means it is open from 8 am to 6 pm, 51 weeks a year. I know that the shadow Education Secretary thinks that free schools are a “dangerous ideological experiment”, but I think schools like the Norwich free school are giving hard-working parents the support that they need.


Another example is the Harris chain of academies, which has promised that every new school it opens will operate on an 8-to-6 basis. I am hugely in favour of 8-to-6 provision. It supports working families and helps to increase children’s attainment, but we must do that in a way that is realistic and sustainable for schools.


Ms. Truss says she is hugely in favour of 8 -6 provision –  as a childminder I KNOW that 8 – 6 provision DOES NOT meet the needs of a huge number of working parents.

How many parents work shifts?

How many parents need to be at work at 8am – or even 9am but have over an hour travel time between childcare setting and work place (remembering rush hour congestion even in small towns)?

How many parents have mixed aged children – so under fives and school age?


How many parents risk speeding fines or take risks with safety to get to collect their child before it closes at 6pm?

In my experience – most parents face some or all of the issues day in, day out .

And for someone who has told me personally that she wants more childminders and greatly respects the work that childminders do – why is Ms. Truss not actively promoting the service that childminders offer – and have done so for decades;

Families of mixed ages together – so one drop off and one collection for busy parents

Hours that are flexible – with early starts including 5:30am for those parents that work shifts and have to actually be at work for 6am or 7am, and of course late finishes well past 6pm

Providing a family evening meal where siblings can sit together and enjoy a relaxed meal together.

I could go on and on about the advantages of childminders providing care for school age children

And any of you reading this who think childminders don’t offer these services, just take a look at my setting website

Penny’s Place setting website

I agree that SOME parents will find a 8 – 6 service very useful BUT in many areas of the country after  school provision is shutting or reducing their opening hours because so few parents are using the service, that it is not sustainable.

Think about it,  ONE family needing this service will not enable a group setting to be viable but a childminder would be.

Or one family requiring an early start and another family a late finish – again a group setting would not be sustainable (building and staff costs) but a childminder or even two different childminder would be sustainable.


However there is no need to take my word for it – ask parents, ask childcare providers, ask membership organisations, ask Local Authorities – there is so much actual data available, so much more data that could be gathered so that the needs of working parents are met and childcare provision can be sustainable.


The second comment that I am going to pick up on is from  Fiona Bruce (Congleton, Conservative)

That is absolutely right, and I am glad to have this chance to put on record that it is a profession that deserves respect. Many childminders do not want the burdens of having to set up and run their own business. They do not want to have the burdens of complying with regulations and training requirements; they simply want to care for children. Let us release them and set them free to do that by supporting this new initiative of childminder agencies that the Government are setting up.


I am going to make some progress now; I have taken several interventions.

The Government’s childminder agency initiative is an excellent step, not least because it will mean that families will have a local resource that they can access to find a childminder they can have confidence in a childminder who has been through the appropriate training, and who is from an agency that they know is maintaining proper standards. The agencies will also provide for occasions when the childminder falls ill, which can cause a great deal of stress to parents; there will be additional cover to provide someone else at short notice when they need that


The Government’s provisions to build up the number of childminders should be supported, therefore, and the agencies will also help to promote take-up of Government funding for two to four-year-olds. At present fewer than 10% of childminders are funded through Government funding. I am sure that a lot of early-year place provision is being missed out as a result of that.


I support the Government’s proposals. They will enable childminders to concentrate on delivering high-quality education and care, which is what they want to do, and not be driven out of their profession simply because they do not want to face the regulations and red tape they have had to deal with until now. They will be able to benchmark themselves against the highest standards. They will be able to access the new framework of training and support and ongoing improvement, and concentrate on giving the best provision to families.


I have to admit that when I read Ms. Bruce’s comments – I had to stop myself from shouting out loud at the computer – does she realise what she has said?


Let’s unpick it

‘They do not want to have the burdens of complying with regulations and training requirements; they simply want to care for children’

And then

‘a childminder who has been through the appropriate training, and who is from an agency that they know is maintaining proper standards’

And then

‘They will be able to benchmark themselves against the highest standards. They will be able to access the new framework of training and support and ongoing improvement’


So I am confused Ms. Bruce says in one statement that childminders do not want the burden of training requirements but then says childminders will (in agencies) have been through appropriate training – and able to access the new framework of training and support.


So childminding agencies WILL NOT remove the burden of training from individual childminders – in fact they will be insisting on childminders in the agency undertaking training – that the agency says is needed to comply with agency requirements.


So – being polite – just how does Ms. Bruce think agency childminders will be freed from a training burden?


Then there is the perceived burden of setting up and running a childminding business – yes I agree some people do need support – but there is a lot of support already available as in books, guidance documents, membership organisations, per support and the internet. You can buy or download planning documents, recording documents, policies and so on.

However the bottom line is the childminder will STILL have to fill in the documents that are required  about the children, and other documents to run the setting safely.


So I really cannot see how much of the paperwork burden just being a childminding agency will save – some specific examples from the government may help myself and others understand this.


And then we get to the quality issue – 71% of registered childminders are graded as good or outstanding according to the latest Ofsted Annual Report – and latest figures show this figure is rising.


Those who are not achieving the highest grades may not have done so because they did not have any children on roll at inspection, or had not been looking after children for very long at their first graded inspection and so did not have enough documentation or other evidence.


However I fully accept there are a FEW childminders who have a repeated grade of less than good – and who are not proactive in accessing support or training

This could be because;

They can not afford to pay for training – so having to pay to be in an agency is not going to improve things for them

They work long hours – so being in an agency will not change things for them – they will still be restricted in what training they can get to

They may have other commitments – a young family, caring for parents, a second job to help family income etc, – these other commitments will not disappear just because they join an agency.

They may be near retirement age / just wanting to ‘see current children through’ and so training has no benefit to them as they plan to de register in the near future

And then there are those who really do not see any point in training – and  those people are very unlikely to see any point in joining an agency that they will have to pay to be in, especially as they will have do training as part of being in the agency

Therefore just how will childminding agencies drive up the quality of those childminders who currently have a less than good grade?

It is much more complicated than the government are suggesting – and as Ms. Truss has already said to me in person that she thinks it highly unlikely that good or outstanding childminders will want to join an agency (she is right we don’t) I have to ask how many of those with a less than good grade will be keen to join a childminding agency – given the reason stated above?


Add to that the fact that those childminders who might find an agency beneficial are not all living in the same area  – and so if numbers in any one area are low – will agencies be have enough childminders to be sustainable? To make it worthwhile putting on training? To be financially worth employing staff – especially if travel costs to do home visit are huge?


As a registered childminder who has been campaigning against childminding agencies ever since Ms. Truss first mentioned them in her paper ‘ Affordable Quality – I have yet to have read anything from the government or anyone else that has made think –‘well these agencies may be worth looking into – and when I read things like the transcript from the debate that I have been commenting on in this blog – I realise that the government are not listening AT ALL to the wealth of evidence and experience from childminders, membership organisation and experts within the early years field.


Personally I have written many blogs, wrote hundreds of letters, travelled to London to Meet with Lord Storey on one occasion and Elizabeth Truss on another occasion, I have become a member of all the main childminding organisations so we can all work together, I have attended meetings, engaged with colleagues from all early years sectors, written articles for magazines and more – and this is just my personal attempt to try to ensure the government listen – my colleagues all over the country are doing as much if not more – but so far the government are continuing to carry on with the implementation of their plans – in full and without regard to consultation responses, to petitions, to letters, to the amendments put forward by some MP’s and some Lords and Baronesses …………………… other words in plain English – they are still not listening.

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

5 responses to “It would be tempting to give up with all my campaigning – but then …….

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  1. Grrrrrr!!!! It just wants to make me scream!!!!!! These agencies are not going to sit down and do our required observations, planning, assessments etc, etc, so how are they going to free up our time????? Are we not already accessing training???? Are we not already complying with regulations???? Do we not already try to cover for parents when we (god forbid) get ill?????? Grrrrrrrrrr!!! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!! Rant, rant rant!!!!

  2. I agree I don’t believe the government or anyone else will listen to reason and stop the agencies from starting up! It will be very interesting to see how the pilot agencies go on but I’m in a pilot area and have not heard anything about the local agency/ies setting up !This makes me wonder weather they are going to succeed on paper no matter what happens in reality and the agencies have already been given the green light by the government ,are the pilots just spin to look like they are doing something when in fact they have just passed on the regulation and support of childminders to a system that is very likely to fail!

    Angeline Hargreaves
  3. Sadly, this is all about money and statistics! The government’s money and statistics! And has very little to do with children, quality standards or families!
    The bottom line is that there is no money left in the pot for support, development or training of childminders; so the government have decided to privatise it! But they don’t know how to do this……..hence the vague agency ‘model’.
    It is the reason agencies are almost certain to go ahead. It is also the reason they aren’t listening. They can’t. They have to be seen to do something quickly, they don’t know how and they don’t have time to consult properly or undertake thorough research.
    Unfortunately, this massive experiment will probably fail for all the reasons we in childcare have identified. I just hope that the knowledgeable, caring and professional childminders who so passionately support children and families can hang on long enough (through the experiment) to pick up the pieces and put matters right when the experiment fails.

  4. Where does the condescension end? Cross. Penny has it right about sustainability of care. Childminding has it all over settings.

  5. As always Penny you have very eloquently hit the nail of the head! Completely agree with all the points you make. As professionals we have all worked so hard to raise the profile of Childminding, pretty successfully I would say. We are just starting to be seen as equals to other Early Years Practitioners and then they come up with the Childminder Agency idea, which is quite frankly, an insult to our knowledge, experience, intelligence and practice. I don’t think that we should give up the fight Penny but as it sadly looks as if it is a done deal, we can only promote the wonderful unique selling points that Childminders offer and strive to be better than we already are. Then, as Angeline says, when it all goes pear shaped we’ll still be here doing what we do best.

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