Maybe a hint about what the Government are considering in terms of Childminding agencies   Leave a comment

As promised the Government are now evaluating the childminding agency trials – and they are doing so via a Mori questionnaire with separate sections for childminders and parents (and I assume also for those running the trials).

I have seen the childminder and the parent questionnaire – and they make very interesting reading – for although the questions set do not of course say this is what the Government will be implementing as criteria / fees for childminding agencies – the questions do give a very clear indicator of what the Government are considering.

This blog is Part One and looks at the childminder evaluation / survey. Part Two will look at the parent evaluation / survey

I would urge everyone who reads this blog to share it with their colleagues and with parents who currently use a childminder (and even those that don’t), also share via your on line social media groups and in any other way that you can.

It is important – in light of the lack of detail in the letter that Ms. Truss has sent to all childminders (if you have not seen the letter that Ms. Truss is sending in the post to all childminders click  HERE)- that we take this opportunity to try to understand what might be implemented, so that we can make informed decisions about childminding agencies.

I have to wonder why the Government have not made the questions in the evaluation available to everyone – if these are the sort of things that they are considering then they should be open about it and they should also give everyone the opportunity to comment and express their opinion. As the Government has gone to the expense of sending a letter to all childminders – it would have made sense to include as much information as possible.

I am not going to put the evaluation in its entirety here, as clearly some of the questions are not going to be relevant and are based on data about those completing them – but I will be using my own words (without changing the meaning or context of the original questions) to highlight the areas that the Government are considering.

I will also be using blue text to explain my thoughts on the questions

Questions for childminders taking part in the trials

What do you find the most challenging things as a childminder?

Possible answers; Safeguarding / Health and Safety / Self Assessment / EYFS Paperwork / Ofsted Inspections / Dealing with parents / Looking after the children / Accessing training / CPD / How difficult training can be / Networking with other childminders / Finding enough work / Other

I am horrified that there is a possible response of ‘looking after the children’. For a start if any childminder finds that difficult – they are in the wrong job – and second, what could an agency do to make that better? I fully appreciate that some children have behaviour issues or additional needs that would require some training or support around BUT that is not what the response says. So either very badly worded or a complete lack of understanding of childminders skills / experience and ability to ‘look after the children’

Mind you  – if the question said ‘Do the paperwork requirements, the constant trying to keep up to date with changes and dealing with unfounded malicious complaints, impact on  looking after the children – I would say – potentially  YES, which is why so many childminders either can not keep up with paperwork because they are looking after the children / spend hours outside their opening times doing paperwork and keeping up to date with the constant changes 

When did you first have involvement with the trail?

Possible answers; Sept 13, Oct 13, Nov 13, Dec 13, Jan 14

So of course we all know some trails started in September 13 – but I was shocked to see that a possible answer is Jan 14 – as this means either some trials only have been running for a few weeks – or that some participants have only taken part for a few weeks.

Which of the following factors do you think would be the main advantage working with a childminding agency?

Possible answers; Costs lower than to remain independent / Access to support / paperwork / Access to business advice / Support with QA / Help to find the right parents / Able to look after more children / Work less hours / Access to Early Years Education funding / Access to quality training / Nothing would encourage me / Other

Is it just me, or is one of the key responses designed to get an indication about if childminders are just concerned about cost to them – and so are the Government planning on ensuring the costs to remain independently registered and inspected by Ofsted, are higher than the costs to be an agency childminder, maybe significantly higher than they are now?

I have noted the use of the words ‘access to’ – as ‘access to’ is not the same as ‘inclusive within fees’ or ‘free if an agency childminder’. This means that agency childminders are going to have to be very careful about what is included in the fees that they pay and what is an extra that will be charged for separately.

I am not sure what is meant by ‘able to look after more children’ – I can only hope it refers to possible placing of children within current ratio requirements – and not a suggestion that agency childminders will not be bound by the EYFS 2012

Also, what is meant by ‘work less hours’ – are they trying to imply that an agency childminder won’t need to work as many hours to earn a ‘living wage’ or are they suggesting that there will be less unpaid hours involved due to not having so much paperwork to complete – again is there a suggestion that the requirements of EYFS 2012 won’t apply?

As to ‘access to Early Years Education funding’ – this appears to be nonsense because as from September 2014 ALL childminders with a good or an outstanding grade can offer the Early Years Funding. However is there a suggestion that in the future only agency childminders will be able to offer these places? I am really confused as to why early years education funding is included here in connection to agencies. 

What other information would you like to receive about the planned childminding agencies?

Possible answers; Information about Ofsted and agency fees/ Information about how agencies will quality assure childminders/ Information about fees to be charged to childminders and parents/ Information about the range of services /Information about parents views/ Information about Early Years Education/ I would not  want any information / Other

My personal answer would be – yes please – all of those things.

It has not escaped my noticed that it says ‘Information about fees to be charged to childminders and parents – worrying as if there are charges to parents this will push up the cost of childcare

If you were to join a childminding agency, would you prefer to be employed or self employed?

Possible answers; Employed / Self Employed

I worry that the Government has still not grasped that if a childminder is to remain self employed, most of the ‘servvices’ suggested can not be provided as the childminder would not then meet the criteria for self employment.

What monthly / annual fee is the maximum that you pay?

Possible answers; under £50 monthly / £600 annually?  £50 -£70 monthly / £601 – £900 annually? £76 – £100 monthly / £901 – £1200 annually? Over £1200 annually?

mmmm – let’s see – over £1,200 – what do the Government think we earn? In my opinion even the lowest fee would be impossible during times of low income when not all my places are filled.

What do you think should be provided for this level of fees?

Possible answers; Registration fee/ DBS checks/ Quality Assurance by the agency / Mentoring/ Training and CPD / Insurance / Other

Have I misunderstood?- I thought the whole point of childminding agencies was that these things would be included. If there are not to be included – or only some of them included – what is the agency fee for?

What factors would effect your willingness to pay?

Possible answers; Affordability compared to remaining independent / level of support provided / level of help provided / quality of training / Amount of help with Quality Improvement / Help with Access to Early Years Education / Other

If you are thinking – haven’t I seen something similar in previous questions – you are right – you have. Here we have answers that are not only similar to those before but also suggesting that the Government are trying to get responses that suit their objectives (by asking twice) we have again the possible suggestion that the fees to remain independent may be set higher than the fees to be an agency childminder ad that maybe the criteria for offering early years education places may change so only agency childminders can offer them in the future.


It is all very very worrying

Firstly,  it is clear the Government have not decided on anything really – either that or they have decided and are just going through the process of appearing to consult with questions designed to get the answers to support whatever it is that they plan to do anyway.

Secondly, from the range of possible fees quoted it is clear that many childminders will not be able to afford to pay them without putting the fees to parents up. Add to that the possibility that parents may get charged in their own right just for registering with or using the services of a agency childminder – it is clear that the the ‘More affordable Childcare’ claim has been forgotten.

Thirdly, it is clear that the Government have not been listening to the concerns expressed by registered childminders and organisations that represent childminders, as there is not an question or possible answer relating to the aspect of childminding agencies that concerns everyone the most – the loss of an individual Ofsted inspection and grade, and the creation of a two tier system for inspection and regulation.


Posted February 9, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

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