Archive for January 2014

I have been wondering ……. These childminding agencies ……… Is anyone in favour of them?   Leave a comment

It has been mentioned on Twitter that myself and other active campaigners against childminding agencies are not hearing the views of those who are interested in joining a childminding agency – and in fact some have said that those with different views feel they can not express those views and can not say that they want to join a childminding agency because they will get a negative response from myself and others.

Although I fully recognise that I am very vocal in my objections to childminding agencies, I consider myself to be a very approachable person and a person who listens to all opinions. This does not mean that I change my opinion back and forth to match the opinion of the other person, but it does mean that I listen and if I think that I have overlooked a particular aspect, I will reflect and I will change my personal opinion in some cases.

I do also ask for clarification and explanations about the questions that I have, from the Government and from those taking part in the trails (pilots). I have also asked for responses from those who think that chat childminding agencies are a good idea to express their views – as I recognise that some people may have different opinion.

However so far no one has told me personally, that they are in favour of childminding agencies and so far no one has given any answers to my questions.

So maybe those who have said the voice of those who are in favour of childminding agencies has not been heard – and indeed can not be heard due to people like myself expressing our views – are right.

This horrifies me – after all my major issue with the Government is that they are not actively listening and not considering the view point of registered childminders like myself, or taking advice from those who represent childminders – so it would be hypocritical of me not to listen to the views of those who think that childminding agencies are a good thing.

So I have been reflecting on why people are not expressing their opinion and are not sharing their professional or personal reasons for wanting to join a childminding agency

In an attempt to enable those who are in favour of childminding agencies to have their voice heard – here are some suggestions

If you do not want to express your opinion as an individual ,you could;

  • Ask your membership organisation to express them for you
  • Pass your views onto one of those taking part in the trails
  • Respond to consultations and questionnaires
  • Write letters to magazines such as Nursery World or Child Care or EYE
  • Write to Ms. Truss telling her, as I am sure she could pass on your views whilst maintaining confidentiality
  • Write to your MP or the Prime Minister or a member of the House of Lords

If you feel yours is a ‘lone voice’, and you are not sure how to get in touch with others who share your views, you could;

  • Start a Facebook group, so others could also express their views, and together you become  stronger and more visible, so people do hear your voice
  • Set up a website or blog to share information about childminding agencies and why you think  they will be beneficial
  • Create a group name (rather than your own) to use Twitter and tweet responses to people like me
  • Join the Facebook groups run by myself and others, and enter into debate – it often only takes one person to be brave and say ‘I disagree’ for others to also say if they disagree.
  • Arrange a meeting in your local area to gather the views of everyone who is in favour of childminding agencies
  • Comment on this blog – others may follow your lead

In fact, if you want to make sure your voice and the voice of anyone else who wants to join a childminding agency is heard – you are going to have to be proactive – otherwise how can I and others who are against childminding agencies hear your voice? How can I or others consider your point of view? How can we reflect on our own opinion and through that reflection adapt or even change our view.

It is possible that I have missed something

It is possible that the really good reasons why childminding agencies are beneficial have been overlooked

It is possible that you may have the answers to some of my questions that would make me think again

It is possible that I am completely wrong and that there are more childminders and parents in favour of childminding agencies than against

However,

If you as an individual do not express your opinion

If you as an organisation trailing childminding agencies do not publish facts and figures about the number wanting to join an agency or expressing an interest

If no one expresses a different view  – how can we hear your voice? How can we consider your view?

SO PLEASE – IF YOU ARE IN FAVOUR OF CHILDMINDING AGENCIES – TELL US ALL – AND TELL US WHY

AND THIS IS A GENUINE OFFER  – IF YOU ARE INVOLVED WITH THE TRAILS OR IF YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL ARE IN FAVOUR OF CHILDMINDING AGENCIES – PLEASE EMAIL ME YOUR VIEWS AND REASONS WHY YOU THINK CHILDMINDING AGENCIES ATE A GOOD THING – AND I WILL POST THEM AS A BLOG HERE ON THIS SITE – WITHOUT EDITING YOUR VIEW AND WITHOUT ADDING ANY PERSONAL COMMENT MYSELF.

PLEASE EMAIL Pennys.place@hotmail.co.uk – and don’t forget to say if you want me to use your name or to post it without your name 

I will send an acknowledgement email

I will also tell you  if I cannot use your views because they are not expressed professionally – but will also give you opportunity to change the words you used, so that your views are expressed professionally

 

Posted January 30, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

I have been wondering ….. These childminding agencies ……. What about co – minders and assistants?   Leave a comment

This is the fourth in  my mini series of blogs, each asking questions about one aspect of childminding agencies – if you have not read the previous ones – please do, as together these blogs pose a lot of questions – my personal questions but questions many others have also been wondering about.

So this blog will be short – in fact quite short – but nevertheless, these are important questions for me – and I suspect for others as well.

I work with a co minder – my eldest daughter Michelle, who is a Ofsted registered childminder in her own right. I also have two assistants listed with Ofsted – my husband and my youngest daughter, who assist either myself or Michelle as and when needed.

So far all well and good – Michelle and I both pay our fees to Ofsted, have our own insurance in place, and attend statutory training via the courses advertised (and often subsidised) by our Local Authority Early Years Team . Garry and Rosie also can access things like First Aid – again via out LA.

I also have ‘back up arrangement with a  registered childminder colleague, who the children know well, and who has provided cover on a number of occasions.

Of course there are many registered childminders who also have a co minder, or one or more assistants – or back up arrangements in place – and for whom everything is in place and works well.

With childminding agencies though, I do not know what will happen (due to lack of information)

So my questions – which I really hope someone will answer, are;

If  2 co minders both wanted to be part of a childminding agency – would they both have to pay a fee to the agency even though it is one setting?

What would happen if one  wanted to join an agency and one  didn’t? (and that might be the case if 2 co minders were both expected to pay a fee).

What would happen if one joined one agency and the other joined a different one (due to personal choice) and there was conflicting information and advice?

How could the agency only support / monitor / train one childminder and not the other, if only one of them joined the agency?

And what about using agency policies, and paperwork in the setting – could they both use these things , even if only one of them was an agency childminder – or would one have to have different documentation?

Then there are the assistants – they are not childminders in their own right but they do have training needs – childminders are happy to pay for their assistants training – BUT if the childminder is part of an agency, will their assistant be able to access the agencies training just for the cost of the actual training? Or will they have to be some sort of  ‘associate members’ of the agency – with or without any additional costs?

With ‘back up’ cover that is already in place – will agency childminders be able to still use their existing back up person? Would it be a different scenario if the back up childminder is not an agency childminder or belongs to a different agency?

I am sure there are other question that others may have – maybe people could put their additional questions in the comments section?

Posted January 28, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

I have been wondering …….. These childminding agencies …….. Would I be employed or self employed?   2 comments

Third in the series of my  ‘I have been wondering ….’ blogs

The information available at the moment is confusing to say the least about if an agency childminder would be employed or self employed.

It appears no one really knows what these childminding agency models will look like – and my best guess at the moment, is that they will all be different, possibly very different – and could include self employed models and employed models.

As an independent Ofsted registered childminder, I am self employed – and nearly all registered childminders are currently self employed – the rare exception being where two registered childminders work together and one (usually the one whose house is used for childminding) employs the other one, but it is rare, as if the second childminder does other work such as babysitting or looking after children in his or  her own home on other days, then they remain self employed.

To be clear, I am NOT considering becoming an agency childminder – but what if I was? I would certainly want to know what my employment status was and I would certainly want details about the differences between self employed status and employed status

I consider being a self employed childminder to mean;

I decide on my fees and my opening days / hours

I interview prospective clients and only take on the families that I think I can work in partnership with, and I think will ‘fit in’ with my current commitments to other families – and of course with my own family commitments.

I decide what I will include as inclusive within my fee

I decide when I will take my holidays

I decide which policies and procedures I need (in addition to the statutory requirements) and I decide if I produce my own or adapt those that I can buy or download or given as part of membership to organisations.

I decide what documentation I need to record the children’s learning and development

decide what other documentation I need to meet the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage

I decide on the terms and conditions of my contracts

I work directly with the parents of the children in my care

I decide what activities and experience to offer the children in my care

I make all the financial decisions in connection to my business

I decide on my own CPD requirements (above the statutory requirements)

I decide if I want to undertake a quality assurance scheme and with whom I do this

I decide who I take out insurance with, so I get the cover that I want

I decide if I want to accept / buy in support

There is more – but the bottom line is – this is MY business and so I make all the decisions

I consider an employed childminder to be someone who;

Has a contract setting out the terms and conditions of employment that is legally binding

Will get sick pay, maternity pay, holiday pay – and redundancy pay

Has parents needing childcare ‘matched’ to them and therefore does not need to advertise for clients

Does not need contracts with the parents of the children as these should be between parent and agency

Has a set wage for a set number of hours  at specified times, and agreed overtime rates

Has all the required documentation provided for them and training / support to fill these documents in

Will have supervision meetings with their manager

Could be sacked or disciplined as per the contract

Will follow the prescribed curriculum set by their employer (the agency) and agrees to do as they are told in terms of how the setting is run so that the employer (the agency) can guarantee the quality of their agency childminders

Has very little flexibility other that that agreed to within the terms and conditions of the contract

May be required to work from other location

Maybe required to share their knowledge with others via team meetings / training

Does not retain ‘ownership’ of document produced during their term of employment

Does not deal financial decisions / matters including any payments from parents or third parties

Has the tools of the trade (including equipment and resources) provided for them – and storage provided so that only need to store  the equipment needed for the children being cared for at that time, in the setting.

Does not fill in a self employment tax return but who does have payslips

There is more but the bottom line is if you are employed you abide by whatever terms and conditions set within that employment

Personally, I do not not want to be employed, but I can see that for some childminders the benefits of being employed would be beneficial and attractive.

However, without details of the childminding agency models that will be available from September 2014 – no one can assume that there will be an ’employed’ option.

Reading the very limited details that are available – it appears that actually the government are not thinking of agreeing to a straight forward choice between agency childminders remaining self employed or in becoming employed. In fact it appears (from the information provided so far) that the Government do not fully understand a) what a childminder does in terms of running their own business as a self employed person or b) how difficult it would be to employ childminders, given the complexity and diversity of childminder settings.

However many of the things suggested as being beneficial to join an agency for do suggest a employed basis not a self employed basis

This is taken from the DfE site under the heading ‘Advantages for Childminders’ Link to page mentioned on DfE site

The comments in blue under each statement are mine

Agencies will help to match childminders and parents, freeing childminders from having to spend time and resources trying to fill their places.

This appears to be taking decisions away from individual childminders – and so fits more with an employed basis

Agencies will remove some of the burdens of registration for childminders. They will be able to handle fees from parents and will have a role in managing government funding on behalf of childminders, such as tax credits and the free childcare entitlement – freeing up childminders to concentrate on the children they care for.

This is a clear indication that agencies could / will handle the financial arrangements and therefore fits more with an employed basis

For new or prospective childminders, those working in rural areas where there may not be much support, or for more experienced childminders who want to work more collaboratively; agencies will offer a support network and a more secure way of working.

A lot will depend on if these services are voluntary or compulsory – if compulsory then would / could form part of a contract – and so fit more closely to an employed basis. If voluntary and childminders have a choice about if they access this support or not, then it would / could fit in with a self employed basis.

Agencies will offer a single place to access training, business advice and support from other childminders. Childminders will be able to call on agencies for support and advice when needed. They will be able to build relationships with other childminders, and be supported in their ongoing professional development, including through training packages and peer support – which will help ensure they are offering high quality care.

This would / could fit in well with a self employed basis – provided any training / support is optional and accessible as and when needed. If there is not a choice and if forms part of the terms and conditions of being an agency childminder, then it would / could fit more with an employed basis

Agencies will be able to offer financial savings to childminders in areas such as training and group activities. Agencies will also make it easier for resources, such as toys and equipment, to be shared across groups of childminders.

Again if optional then would / could be beneficial to self employed agency childminders If the activities such as training and group activities are compulsory (even if as in must attend so many per year) then everything changes as these would be terms and conditions – and so would / could fit more easily with an employed basis.

As you can see from the above – it is not clear and in my opinion there are still a lot of questions to be answered. These are my questions – as a starting point.

Will self employed agency childminders be able to buy into the services they want – as and when needed, and only pay for the services when they use them?

Will self employed agency childminders be able to opt out of services that they don’t want – for example the ‘matching service’ and if so will they be charged less than an agency childminder who does want this service?

Will agency childminders be able to use their own policies and procedures if they want to? And will this be possible if the agency childminders policies and procedures are not in line with the agency ones?

If there are going to be be many different models of childminding agencies – maybe some with employed agency childminders who get the whole agency package, some with self employed agency childminders that buy into services as and when they want / need to – how will the government and the regulatory body (Ofsted) be able to be assured that an agency childminder  does meet the required standards of an agency childminder?

If it will be possible for self employed agency childminders to buy into services as and when they want to – why can’t childminders who choose to be independently registered with Ofsted also buy into agency services as and when they want / need to?

Will a self employed agency childminder meet the requirements set by HMRC as a self employed person?

If an agency childminder is employed, will agency fees still be payable – surely the wage paid to the childminder would reflect the running costs of the agency – but still be at least the minimum wage?

As a self employed childminder – my average earning per hour (after expenses) are often less than the minimum wage due to the number of hours spent doing paperwork, cleaning, shopping for resources / equipment / consumables. Will employed agency childminders get paid for these non contact hours? If so how will the agency monitor these non contact hours?

How will an agency ensure that all its childminders – self employed and employed meet the agencies requirements for food (as in quantity / quality ) for resources (again quality and also appropriateness in terms of type, educational benefit) and if a agency childminder is self employed will they still be able to decide on such things themselves?

Will the agency set minimum requirements for any of services provided by agency childminders (employed or self employed)? If not how will they be able to assure the quality of the agency childminders?

What will happen if a self employed agency childminder decides to leave the agency but the agency is managing some or all of parents payments? How will things be finalised so that both parent and childminder are not out of pocket?

What will happen if a self employed childminder wants to leave the agency but wants to become a independent Ofsted registered childminder instead – will the agency pass on the paperwork to do with their assessment / monitoring to Ofsted?

If a self employed childminder has paid for training from a agency – will that training be recognised and valid in other agencies or to Ofsted?

If a self employed agency childminder has paid for agencies services such as policies / procedures / recording documentation – and then leaves the agency, can they continue to use those documents once they have left the agency? In other words will they be paying to just use the documents while they stay in the agency or are they paying to own those documents?

I am  assuming that if an employed agency childminder, all documents remain the property of the agency but what about the accident / incident documentation and other documents that need to retain? Will the agency retain these for the required period of time? And if so what will happen in the event of an allegation being made several years times? What would happen if the agency had closed during that time?

What will happen to documents filled in about a child by a self employed agency childminder, who leaves the agency, but the parent of the child decides to remove their child from that childminder and place them with another agency childminder? Also what will happen if the parent wants to stay with that childminder after they have left the agency?

In conclusion there is so much that remains unknown, just on the issue of self employed or employed, that it is rather worrying and shocking that childminding agencies are due to be rolled out in September 2014 – just 8 months away.

I will end with the usual request to the Government to provide more information and indeed to say if I am uninformed or jumping to conclusions

Posted January 26, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

I have been wondering …….. These childminding agencies ….. what will happen if a agency childminder suddenly has a drop in income?   3 comments

This is the second of my ‘I have been wondering ……..’ blogs and this one is looking at the scenario that all registered childminders experience from time to time – that of families leaving and the resulting sudden and sometime dramatic drop in income.

Take my personal circumstances, 2 full time children left – sisters. Mum suffered a bout of ill health and could not maintain her employment so gave the required months notice in October and the children left in November with everyone on good terms but with consequence of me having a huge drop in income. With it being Christmas time, it was unlikely that I would fill the spaces as the season jobs had already been filled – so nothing for it but to cut back on my personal and business expenses and cross my fingers that I filled the spaces in the new year.

Now this was bad enough for me – but just imagine what it would have been like if I had a commitment to pay an agency fee? Would the agency say ‘Don’t worry Penny, we understand, you don’t need to pay us until you fill your spaces’     I don’t think so – and why should they? They will have their own bills to pay, and as this sort of occurrence is quite common – the sudden loss of income – an agency could at any time  have several of its childminders in difficult financial situation due to children leaving. Maybe – but not very likely the agency would say pay us x amount a month and then when you are full again you will have to pay us Y amount.

I say very unlikely because if there are several agency childminders on such a deferred  payment plan, how will the agency pay its own bills and maintain the level of service required?

As it happened in my personal scenario, things got worse – 2 more full time children gave notice at the beginning of December – again for genuine reasons but this meant that financially  as from beginning of January things were dire. Staff costs still had to be paid (one staff member did leave easing things a bit),  the tax bill for 2012 – 2013 needs to be paid, all the usual setting expenses are still there . If I had to pay agency fees as well – I think it would have been ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’

So what will agencies do in this situation? Will they be supportive? Or will they just insist that there fees are paid?

Thinking it through – will agency childminders be under contract and so unable to just leave the agency, if they can’t afford to pay the fees?

And worse – even if agency childminders can just leave the agency  – where does that leave them and the parents of the children they care for? My understanding is that you can become an independent childminder at any point in time, BUT you have to re registered with Ofsted, jump through all the hops and yes pay for everything required by Ofsted before you can finally re register – so not a easy, quick or cheap option.

Add to these scenarios of children leaving – what about all the other scenario’s which result in a loss of income for childminders?

Maternity leave

Birth of a baby (so taking up a under five place)

Childminders ill health

Childminders family member ill health

Moving house (so maybe unable to keep current clients)

Moving area (maybe due to partners change of employment)

Ofsted complaint investigation (so setting closed)

Flood, fire and so on

 

Add to that the well know fact, that sometimes (not always) it can take a very long time after registration to take on children or to be full enough to make a profit or break even. In my own personal case – when I re registered in 2010 it took me 4 months to go through the registration process and another 6 months to fill my spaces – that is TEN months in total without any income from childminding and had I become a childminder through an agency I would have had to pay the agency an agreed fee for all of those 10 months or paid an up front, one off fee- and quite frankly, I would not have been able to afford it.

To be quite honest – even if I was in favour of childminding agencies (which I am not) this potential problem with being able to afford to pay an agency – no matter what my personal financial situation was – would be more than enough to put me off from joining.

 

Government – as always – I invite you to respond – and if I have got my facts wrong or have jumped to the wrong conclusions – I would be more than happy to issue a statement from you,  presented the facts or information from you, via this blog.

Posted January 25, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

I have been wondering ……. These childminding agencies …. What if someone wants to make a complaint?   1 comment

As many people know – I have recently had a complaint made against me – a serious one that if proved founded could have closed my setting, if the compliance inspector thought the compliant was founded.

As it happens the inspector has said verbally that the compliant is unfounded and it would appear malicious – although a full inspection is now required under Ofsted’s procedures to ensure that I am continuing to meet the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage 2102.

 

Much as I am more than a bit miffed that someone is able to put in a malicious complaint. I do fully support the complaints procedure that Ofsted have in place. Apart from malicious complaints (which Ofsted do need to address as they cause a lot of distress and harm to practitioners and extra work for Ofsted) the principle of being able to complain and to safeguard children in early years setting is essential. Everyone should be able to put in a justified complaint or concern – parents, other professionals, family and friends and indeed anyone who thinks that a child is at risk or that a setting is not complying with the requirements of the EYFS12.

 

So as I say in the title of this blog – I have been wondering …….. what will happen if someone wants to make a complaint against an agency childminder?

I don’t have the answers because of course we have no detail from the Government or any information about the agency models as evaluations of the pilots are not yet complete.

Therefore all I am doing is raising my concerns via some questions.

Maybe the Government will respond

Maybe those taking part in the pilots will respond

Maybe you will have some questions of your own

 

Who will people need to complain to?             

I am assuming it won’t be Ofsted because agency childminders won’t have an Ofsted number or be regulated by Ofsted

Will it be the agency?

How will people know if an agency childminder or an independent childminder?

How will people who see poor practice (say at a toddler group) know if that childminder is an independent Ofsted registered childminder or an agency childminder – and if an agency childminder – which agency?

How will they know how to complain?

The Ofsted number is well known, all Ofsted registered settings have to display it, local authorities know it, you can find it via the Ofsted website or an internet search BUT with the potential of so many different models of agencies run by potential many different organisations, how will people be made aware of the number to phone? (Assuming they can find out which agency the childminder is governed by)

 

If the complaint is handled by the agency – what will the procedure be?

Surely the agency will not be able to investigate complaints against their own childminders – the ones that they support and monitor and say are of an acceptable quality?

This has always been given as a reason why regulation and support services need to kept separate – so the reason why LA’s support and Ofsted regulate. And I agree they should be separate otherwise there will be conflict of interests, the potential to have ‘favourites’ or be open to bribery or bullying; or be tempted to ‘overlook’ things because of the reputation of the agency.

 

And if an independent body is needed to handle complaints who will pay for it? We all know that handling complaints is extremely expensive.

The agency?  If so of course the cost will be passed down to the childminders and the parents, as childminding agencies will need to cover costs and depending on their model may need to make a profit.

Ofsted?  If so how will the cost be covered? From central Government? From the fees paid to Ofsted by other settings?

The LA? Out of which budget?

 

Will whoever does investigate the complaint have the power to put in place actions or even to deregister an agency childminder?

It appears that there are already going to be a huge number of differences between independent Ofsted registered childminders and agency childminders – will what happens in the event of a complaint be yet another difference?

Will Ofsted inspect the agency if a complaint is made – rather than the individual childminder being investigated?

If so could the poor practice of one childminder, lead to the whole agency being downgraded (and therefore all the childminders in that agency? Could in the worst case scenario – the whole agency be deregistered? And if so what happens to the agency childminders and the parents using the services of those agency childminders?

 

As I say, I don’t know the answers – I am not sure if even the Government or those undertaking the pilots know the answers, but let’s hope that the issue of complaints is taken very seriously, that whatever system is put in place is fair, is robust and most importantly protects the children in the care of an agency childminder.

Posted January 25, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Consultation about inspecting Childminding Agencies – My thoughts   2 comments

So at long last the Ofsted consultation on inspecting childminding agencies has been published

If you have not responded yet PLEASE DO SO – and PLEASE ask everyone you know to do so as well.

This is the link      Link to Ofsted Consultation on inspecting childminding agencies

You can respond online or complete it in a word document on your computer (or print it and fill it in by  hand)  and post it to Ofsted.

HOWEVER before you do respond PLEASE read my thoughts below – because as usual this consultation is designed to get the responses the government wants. Questions are closed, statements are general, responses are limited.

FIRST  WARNING – if you tick ‘agree’, the government will not take any notice of your further comments when publishing the headline results, and so you will  perhaps unintentionally, ensure the government get the response they want.

So unless you agree 100% with not just the statement in the question but everything (this is actually the fine detail behind the statement  that you are not given) – then tick the disagree box

As an example;

Question 2

‘To what extent do you agree or disagree that Ofsted should make an overall judgement on the overall quality of a childminding agency?’

At first glance this would appear a straight forward question and requires that the ‘agree’ box is ticked

But should it?

Look at point 14 on the consultation document  – it says;

‘ The overall effectiveness of the agency’s services to childminders, taking  account of;

– the effectiveness of the agency’s arrangements for assuring itself of the quality of the care and education provided by childminders registered with it

– the quality and standards of the services offered by the childminder agency to the childminders registered with it

– the quality of leadership and management of the childminder agency

From a personal perspective I think by ticking the  ‘agree’  box – I would be saying ‘yes I am happy with all those things’. However I am not happy about all those things, in particular;

‘An agency being graded on its own assurance about the quality of care and education provided by the childminders registered with it’.

If a agency childminder follows the ‘rules’ set by the agency – then of course the agency will be assured that all is as it should be – how could they not be assured?. They would be making a judgement against their own criteria.

Would it not be better if Ofsted based their judgement on if they agreed with the agency’s ‘rules’ and their judgements about individual childminders? So in the ideal world an individual inspection of every agency childminder – but as I now  accept that this is extremely unlikely – then at least Ofsted should inspect a good % of the agency childminders – not just a small sample – and in the ideal world these individual inspections should take place before the Ofsted inspection of the agency. That way Ofsted could compare their judgement against that of the agency, and because individual inspections carried out before the agency inspection – it would be as fair as possible and without any preconceived judgements made from reading the agency documentation.

So by only looking in detail at one point under question two – it is clear that I do not ‘agree’ with the statement – and so in my online response I ticked the disagree box. I did of course go on to give reasons in the comments box.

Moving on to question 3

To what extent do you agree or disagree that childminder agency judgement  should be made against this four point scale?

Again at first glance, it is easy to think – of course I agree – same grades as everything else  – yes agency’s should have the same grades BUT on further reflection by saying I agree ….. Am I saying that I think an agency grade that is applied to all the childminders in that agency is a good thing?

Well I can’t say that I agree with the statement in question 3, as I am totally opposed to childminders in an agency all having the same agency based grade. So once again I personally felt that I had to tick the disagree box – not because I don’t want agencies to be graded on a four point scale – but because I don’t want that agency grade to be used by agency childminders – I want them to have their own grade based on their individual practice.

It won’t be a surprise to readers to read that question 4 is a similar one – on first reading – straight forward but on second reading not so straight forward.

Question 4 says;

‘To what extent do you agree that Ofsted’s inspections should take into account the agency’s ability to use self evaluation to improve their practice?’

I am a great supporter of self evaluation and reflective practice – however with agencies I do have a bit of a problem, because their self evaluation will be about their systems – those of the staff and the agency as a whole – it will not be about the practice of the individual agency childminders. To my mind, it is the no use self evaluating systems if there is not any self evaluation by and about the agency childminders – the ones looking after the children. Of course I am assuming that the childminders will use self evaluation but my point is it will only be the agencies self evaluation that Ofsted take any notice of. And that is wrong – very wrong.

As an example lets take a basic scenario – the agency says in their self evaluation that they have a wonderful risk assessment recording sheet – it covers everything, is easy to use because all the childminders need to do is tick the boxes. Their self evaluation records that 100% of childminders visited have shown them risk assessment sheets ticked, signed and dated. therefore the agency concludes they have an effective system, and their self evaluation is that nothing needs changing

HOWEVER – although they have  100% of childminders visited using the tick and sign list – this does not tell the whole story – (please remember that this is a made up scenario) – 35% of those visited with tick lists in place actually sit in front of the TV on Sunday evening and tick everything then sign it – they don’t check anything!  52% tick the charts but then do their own in head risk assessment and remove risks through out the day as needed. They don’t tell the agency staff because – well they don’t want to rock  the boat or to have to explain everything – or risk being told not to do it in future. And the other 13% just don’t bother and in all honesty had not filled in the charts but had been supported by agency staff to  back fill in and sign – so that childminder and agency staff don’t get into ‘trouble’

So the facts presented do not actually suggest that the agency risk assessment system are effective – but no one knows or will know unless there is a ‘headline case’ in the future when a child is seriously hurt.

Plus although the agency can say that 100% of childminders visited in the last cycle of monitoring – this does not mean all the agency childminders were visited in that cycle – a bit like Ofsted inspections really –  in any yearly stats given in the annual report only aprox 25% of the number of childminders will have been visited that year.

In my opinion if you apply this to all aspects of self evaluation of the agency of its systems, it is easy to see how this alone is not sufficient to warrant a grade that is applied to the agency and to all that agencies childminders.

Question 5

‘To what extent do you agree or disagree that Ofsted should incorporate the views of individual childminders and parents involved with agencies into the inspection evidence to contribute to its inspection judgements?

Oh – an easy one!  Of course that is a ‘I agree’

Hang on though read the information point 18 – the last sentence

‘By surveying a number of stakeholders, inspectors can gain a broad view of the childminder agency’s services and can discuss any issues raised with the agency during its inspection’

So only ‘a number’ – not all

And ‘will be discussed with the agency’ – not with those raising the concerns.

So once again – I felt I could not respond with a ‘I agree’  because the Government would use my ‘agree’ as part of their evidence that people agree with them – as in so many respondents said …….

Therefore in my personally response I ticked the disagree box – but I did say in the comments box how important childminders and parents views are – and gave detail about why I had not ticked the agree box.

So moving to question six – (the last one apart from the bit that asks for information about yourself and how you found filling in the questionnaire)

‘To what extent do you agree or disagree that childminder agency inspection reports should be published on the Ofsted website?’

At last something I fully agree with – and checking the information in point 22 I can see it is so parents and childminders can compare agencies and decide which (if any) to use

So I did tick the agree box BUT I also added comment about the need to also have information available about the judgements of every single agency childminder preferably made by Ofsted but as a minimum those made by the agency.

Oh nearly forgot – question 1

‘To what extent do you agree or disagree that we should give no notice of inspection to childminder agencies?’

Actually I did agree with this, as it is the only way to gain a true picture of ‘how it really is?’

However I left this question to last because I think the other questions should be considered first. Yes no notice inspections are vital BUT the information given makes me think that inspections of childminding agencies will be on the whole, a waste of time and will not provide information needed by parents or childminders about the agency itself – and will not provide information about the quality of the agency childminders – so I put this in the comments box.

I also commented in the box about the consultation – as I felt (as stated earlier in this blog) that the questions were closed, had limited options and were worded to get the response the Government wanted.

I hope you have found this blog useful – however I must end with the following

The views expressed in this blog are my own – readers of this blog should fully consider their own response to the questions in the consultation and not just respond as per this blog – unless of course that is how they personally want to.

Posted January 24, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Two year olds in school based settings   6 comments

I apologise that it has taken me a bit longer than usual to blog about this

Of course I have been busy  – busy looking after early years children ; and 4 of those that currently attend are in fact 2 year olds – so I am currently and constantly being reminded about the needs of 2 year olds.

However it would seem that our Government might have forgotten about just what a 2 year old needs in the way of care and education; in the way of personal and often individual attention and support; in the way they need space to move, in the way that most of them are not yet ready to sit still or share or take turns, or wait; in the way that most of them are in nappies or going through the process of toilet training; in the way that what works for 3 year olds or 4 year olds – does not work for 2 year olds.

They also seem to have forgotten the reasons why research has proven over and over again that under 3’s are best supported in a home based setting or indeed at home with their parents – and that if group care is used that dedicated  toddler rooms are best with staff that are specifically trained to meet the needs of 2 year olds

In fact, I know they have forgotten all these things because of what is said here in this article in Nursery World Link to Nursery World Article on funding for schools to take 2 year olds into school nurseries

In my opinion it was bad enough to hear the the Government wanted to encourage schools to take 2 year olds – but now we hear that 49 schools are being given £10,000 each to not only implement in their school, but to evaluate and then share with other schools.

What a contrast between this initiative and the one for childminding agencies where the trialing of the idea has no Government funded; however both are equally well intended and equally ill thought out.

The whole idea of childminding agencies is actually doing a lot of damage to childminders own professionalism and leading to some (if not many) leaving the profession  – at a time when childminders should be being supported to maintain their status and the high quality care and education that they provide – especially for the youngest children – including 2 year olds.

Let’s hope that those who currently provide care and education to 2 year olds, don’t also decide to leave their profession or to just stop caring for 2 year olds. The potential  will be that those highly dedicated professionals, who have such a passion for what they do, and who have years, if not decades of experience and a track record of high quality provision; will decided that they can not continue any more either for financial reasons or because – to be blunt – the Government have finally gone a step too far  – and they just don’t have the strength or willingness to carry on.

Of course I am biased BUT at a time when the Government are trying to  increase the quality of childcare and early years education, are trying to save money from Government budgets – why on earth are they persisting in ignoring the research about two year olds, and paying out money to set up inappropriate provision for 2 year olds – and  why are they tinkering – no destroying –  the systems for regulation and inspection of childminders, that may not be perfect and may need reviewing but on the whole works ,  by creating a two tier system.

Ah but ……. Truss supporters will say – she has evidence – it says so in the article;

‘The evidence shows that starting younger, in high quality teacher-led provision, can have a real and lasting impact on children’s development and life chances, particularly for those from the most disadvantaged families.’

Maybe I am not well read enough, maybe I have not read the right articles and research papers but try as I might I can not recall any specific reference to 2 year olds benefiting from high quality teacher led provision. I certainly have read some documents about 3 and 4 years benefiting from such provision – especially if attend part time and experience either time in a home based setting or with the parents for the rest of time.

The other problem we have is research results that are ‘pre’ this government, generally focussed on the pre school skills and development, such as self skills (dressing and toileting), social skills (making friends, communicating with peers and adults, turn taking, and so on) and the vital development of all the skills and control of ones own body that eventually leads to reading and writing – in other words what the Government quite rightly call the Prime Areas within the Early Years Foundation Stage 2012.  Whereas what the Government are basing their expectations more and more now on children being ‘ready for school’, and  already well on their way to meeting the targets for 5 year olds (which in themselves are unrealistic for many children).

So as far as I am concerned the research (unless I have missed the relevant document) is about older children and about achievement of the personal skills not academic skills .

Reading further on in the NW article, Truss is quoted as saying

‘We want more schools to offer nursery places and to extend these to two-year-olds. This will provide more choice and flexibility for parents and enable more children to benefit from all that a good school can provide.’

Oh what a shame she is not saying ‘all that a good childminder can provide’  or ‘all that a good preschool can provide’ or ‘all that a good parent can provide’

And there is plenty of choice already available of part time and full time childcare, groups that parents can take their child to and stay with them – and the option  of staying at home with your child   (although Government pressure for all parents to be in work is intense)

The article goes on to say;

The schools in the ‘demonstration project’ have each received £10,000 for participating and offering peer-to-peer support.

Up to £2,500 of the funding is a capital grant for new buildings and expanding premises to offer the places.

The rest of the money can be used to contribute towards developing resources, and staff training and leadership.

A few things spring to my mind;  that is a total of £490.000 in grants; and what a waste that will be if  the evaluations say;

We found it difficult to meet the 2 year olds needs

or

The amount of funding for two years and the current ratio requirements mean that this is not cost effective

or

Parents have not enrolled their 2 year olds or did, but then removed them because they were too tired or upset or their behaviour deteriorated

Of course I am making a few assumptions – and the main one being that the school nurseries will have to apply the ratio limits under the Early Years Foundation Stage 2012 – as all early years settings have to ………….. but will they? What if they are given permission  to apply the 1:13 ratio they can apply to 3 and 4 year olds when they have a qualified teacher ……….. I don’t actually know, but doing the maths and knowing how much a qualified early years teacher earns, how much the funding for a 2 year old is and the ratios under EYFS ….. well it does not add up

Then there are restrictions on what the grant can be used for ;

Just £2,500 for capital projects like buildings – so how are the school nurseries going to provide nappy changing facilities and sleep rooms?  (and in case schools and Government are of the opinion that because two years olds might only attend for a morning or an afternoon session, the two year olds will not need to sleep – they need to think again  – some don’t, some still have a am and a pm nap, some have one 2 hour nap after lunch, some have no routine and sleep as and when need to, factor in unsettled nights due to teething as not all 2 year olds have a full set of teeth  ….. and you have two years olds all with their own unique sleep requirements – and therefore their own unique needs for snack and meal times). And goodness knows what will happen if the schools decide to offer extended care with parents paying the extra to enable their child to stay for a whole school day.

The rest of the grant can be used  for resources, staff training and evaluation – so up to £7,500 per school – it may come as a shock to some but two year olds need vastly different resources to 3 or 4 year old; staff need more than a ‘short course’ to understand the development needs of two year olds – and especially the difference between 2 and 3 year year olds; however my guess is most of that £7,500 will be used for meetings within the school and then travel to and meeting with other schools that they will be required to share their experiences with.

So all in all, my gut feeling is that not much will be spent on meeting the needs of the two year olds.

£490,000 may be a small amount in terms of Government expenditure but to childminders like me,  that are told that  the shortage in the fee we pay Ofsted is a big problem for the Government; and to those like myself  and  my colleagues in other early years settings, who are told by the Government  that we can provide a high quality place for a 2 year old for £5.03 per hour (and for the uninformed that has to cover everything – staff, premises, food, resources, meetings, paperwork – and much more ); to parents who really don’t want to go to work while their child is under 3 or even under 5, but who are told by the Government the should  – it is a huge amount of money that I (and I am sure many others) could think of better ways to spent it.

 

Government (or any of your supporters) maybe you could help with my understanding (and that of the readers of this blog) by providing the link to the specific evidence that says that 2 years do better in a school based setting led by a qualified teacher – and all the other supporting information such as in which country, in which year and how many hours they attended – plus if a long term research project  – the long term outcomes.

I would be more than happy to write another blog if this evidence is provided, as this blog is about information sharing as well as my opinion on things.

 

Posted January 17, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues