Letter in The Sunday Telegraph   3 comments

A while ago – I organised a meeting with representatives of  the organisations that represent childminders – so Pacey, Pre-school Learning Alliance, UKCMA and ICM-SE – as well as Laura Henry who was representing National Early Years Trainers and Consultants Organisations.

You can read about the meeting in THIS BLOG

Not all the organisations could attend, but they all gave input and all agreed that we should send an ‘Open Letter’ to the media about our shared concerns.

It took a bit longer than we thought as we needed to gauge the timing carefully. We choose the weekend after Ms.Truss had cancelled the meeting with us all to send our Open Letter  to the Telegraph, and it was published on Sunday 16th February 2014.

Pacey had produced the draft  Open Letter based on views expressed at the meeting and since that date. All the organisations gave input for amendments and approved the final version.

This was the agreed version of the Open Letter as sent to The Telegraph

To The Editor,

As a sector we are sceptical of government’s approach to driving quality improvements in the early years. This is following announcements this week on proposals to introduce baseline testing for four year olds and extended nursery provision through increased collaboration between childminders and school based nursery settings.

 Liz Truss has written to childminders across the country detailing her support for the profession. Ms Truss states that childminder agencies will make working in the profession easier, and cites improved working relationships between childminders and school-based nursery settings. But as a sector we are still concerned that childminder agencies will not help childminders to improve their expertise or deliver benefits for families. Government focus should remain on supporting improvement in the quality of training, which will have a positive long-term influence on children’s learning, well-being, care and overall development.

 It’s encouraging that Ofsted will have a role in assessing the performance of childminder agencies but we still need to see detailed plans of how individual childminders will be assessed and supported to drive their expertise.

 We continue to have reservations that government is taking the right steps to ensure that all childcare professionals are equally supported to deliver a high quality of care. The new system has to be about quality as much as provision and cost, and the childcare sector remains unconvinced that agencies, baseline testing and channelling more childcare services through school nursery settings are the right way forward. 

 Childminders in particular are disappointed at government’s lack of engagement with them as sector professionals, and are committed to working in partnership with the Department of Education and all third sector organisations, given the opportunity.

As the person who had first suggested this working in partnership between the childminding organisations, I was really pleased with this letter and saw it as a major achievement .

It was therefore with mixed feeling that I read the edited version of the letter in The Telegraph – pleased that it had been published but disappointed at the things that had been edited out, and alarmed at how the heading of the letter would be perceived by the childminding sector.

This is the letter as it appeared in The  Telegraph

Telegraph 16.2.14

Childminders need proper training

Government proposals focus on agencies rather than training

6:59AM GMT 16 Feb 2014

SIR – The Government has recently announced proposals to introduce baseline testing for four-year-olds and increase collaboration between childminders and school-based nurseries. As representatives of the childcare sector, we are sceptical of these proposals.

Liz Truss, the education minister, has stated that childminder agencies will make working in the profession easier. We are concerned these agencies will not help childminders to improve their expertise. The Government should focus on improving the quality of training, which will have a positive, long-term influence on children’s learning, well-being and development.

It’s encouraging that Ofsted will have a role in assessing the performance of childminder agencies but we need to see detailed plans of how individual childminders will be assessed.

Liz Bayram
Chief Executive, PACEY
Neil Leitch
Chief Executive, Pre-School Learning Alliance.
Penny Webb
Ofsted Registered Childminder
Laura Henry
Bea Heath
Director, Independent Childminders Social Enterprise (ICM-SE)
Lynda de Wolf
Executive Director, UKCMA

As you can see the editing had removed some important points – and the heading in bold, does not really indicate what the letter is about.

As I feared,  the letter  did indeed create some negative comments from childminders and others.

Mainly because they thought the letter suggested that established childminders needed to improve their qualification levels – some even thought (in light of Government current proposals) that they would be required to become ‘teachers’

After careful consideration ( as I was unable to discuss with the other signatories) I decided to publish the original version of the letter on social media, to help people understand that we (the signatories) did not intend to imply that established childminders need to become teachers or had to undertake compulsory additional training. Although of course we do all support CPD for all childminders.

This morning, I have been able to communicate with the other signatories, and it was agreed that I had taken the right decision, and furthermore that each organisation, could if the wanted to issued the unedited version of the letter on the websites and via social media.

Hence this blog.

So to be clear, our concerns are about the Government proposals for childminding agencies, and in particular the quality of the training for new childminders, and the quality assurance methods to be used for childminding agencies and agency childminders.

We are also concerned about related Government proposals that will impact on the childminding sector.

And finally, we were expressing the disappointment of members of all the organisations, and the childminding sector as a whole, that the Government are not listening to their concerns,especially as the sector is trying very hard to engage with the Government.

I hope this blog has help to explain the background to the letter – and what our intentions were in sending this Open Letter.

However I need to state very clearly, that this blog has not been viewed or agreed on in advance of publication, by Pacey, Pre-school Learning Alliance, UKCMA, ICM-SE or Laura Henry. 

Pacey have published the full letter on their website Link to Pacey website

At the moment the other signatories have not published any further information but they may do later on, so please check their websites


Pre-school Learning Alliance comment on the letter – and the full unedited letter  Link to Alliance website

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

3 responses to “Letter in The Sunday Telegraph

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  1. My eyes have been opened Penny! …. It didn’t occur to me that letters would be changed in that way…the whole emphasis was changed! and I agreed with you, the headline was misleading! If not downright inflammatory!
    The unified response was a great idea! I can’t imagine how difficult it was to compose a letter that would be acceptable to all parties and while it was balanced and open (to input) and didn’t condemn, I suspect ‘Government focus should remain on supporting improvement in the quality of training’ might have meant providing impetus to improve LA training in some areas where it is less than good? (though some areas – including mine – are terrific, the standard and availability is not universal) which was accidentally or deliberately misconstrued in the retelling? I guess ’childminders are asking lots of sensible questions that the minister is not answering’ would not have made such a good headline…even for the Telegraph!
    Personally, I am even more concerned about the change in ratios for 5 – 7 year olds and taking two year olds into school than the illogical concept of agencies at the moment! ….and that’s saying a lot because I am absolutely against agencies!
    Thanks again Penny, for your continued efforts and for sticking your neck out again.

  2. Hi Penny You work so hard to promote the best for childminders, how disappointing to find that even a quality newspaper is not prepared to rock the political boat. l can only see standards slipping and once again becoming fragmented, so undoing the unification of the last two decades .I cannot understand how government ministers fail to match the decline in childminder numbers with yet another change in either standards or the uncertainty of yet another hoop to jump through. The agency model frightens me it puts another lair of management on a pedestal. We see no one in any childminding capacity in person just the occasional email re training but there may be more if we searched. More worrying is that no one has asked if things are ok since our last inspection( not that I would want to encourage that!!) but if l had a problem as a new childminder l can see the idea of an all singing all dancing agency being the way forward. The whole thing saddens me, over the years we have all worked so hard to get to where we are now and this is way more than a kick in the teeth. Thank you for continuing to work on my/our behalf. (Putting money into your account proved difficult last time so l will try again,) Ruth Measures Date: Mon, 17 Feb 2014 10:41:06 +0000 To: ruthmeasures@hotmail.com

    • Thank you for your comments Ruth and for your offer to make a donation towards my campaigning costs,

      As I have said many times it is not the support side of agencies that concerns me or the fact that in future we will have to pay more for training and so on.

      However the lost of individual Ofsted inspection / registration and grade does concern me, and does the fact that there is a choice and other types of early years settings are not included in these changes (although I would not be at all surprised if the Government decided that agencies will be compulsory and will include all early years settings)

      If only the media could pick up on our concerns and as you say ‘rock the boat’ – after all all we want is for the Government to STOP what they are doing, to LISTEN to our concerns and to CONSULT before moving forward with changes that will achieve their aims.

      The sector is not against change, the sector do understand the financial reasons behind the Governments proposals BUT the sector will not stand by and just let the Government implement plans that are not in the interest of children, families or childminders – and will not actually achieve the aims of More Great Childcare or More Affordable Childcare.

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