Archive for March 2014

Tuesday 25th March 2014 – At last – the meeting with Truss takes place   14 comments

This was the rearranged meeting from the one that was cancelled in February – so a period of about 6 weeks had passed – and during that time the Children and Families Bill has become the Children and Families Act 2014 – and with it the legal framework for childminding agencies.

And so in some ways this meeting was going to be totally different to the planned meeting in February

Huge thanks have to go to UKCMA for arranging this meeting at the Ministers request – it was a golden opportunity to bring together the key players within the childminding sector AND some childminders.

 

This blog is based on my personal recall of the meeting – and it will without a doubt be slightly different to the recall of others in the room, as each person attending will recall things from their perspective.

I will start my personal recall from when  my friend and colleague Jen, and I arrived at the Department of Education Buildings in London.

We were a little bit early for the pre meeting get together, so after signing into the building at reception and being given our visitor badge, we went into the large and comfortable waiting area.

My phone started ringing  and it was Lynda De Wolf (UKCMA) saying that she and her UKCMA colleague Jane Slatter are stuck in traffic and could I welcome people and go through the agenda to identify who wanted to talk about what – and to ensure that the childminders present were all given opportunity to speak about what was important to them.

This was because Elizabeth Truss the Early Years Minster, had asked that each organisation attending that represents childminders  to invite one of their childminder members, as she wanted to hear the views of childminders.

Jen (who was attending as a member of ICM-SE) said she would like to talk about childminders perceived and actual professional status. Jen is a childminder and also owns a preschool, and she is very aware that her professional status with others both within and beyond the early years sector is higher when people talk to her as a pre school professional, than they do when they speak to her as a childminder professional – even though her ethos and practice is the same at all times.

Next to arrive were Liz Bayram, CEO Pacey, and Jane  who is the Pacey Vice Chair but also a full time childminder. Jane was keen to talk about funded 2 year olds and extended hours. Liz was happy to add to discussion  as needed, but wanted to challenge the idea that childminder numbers had fallen significantly more than other early years settings

There then followed a flurry of arrivals – Sue Robb from 4 Children; who are managing the agency pilots on behalf of the Government

Neil Leitch CEO Pre school Learning Alliance and Julie – who has been a childminder but now trains childminders and runs a childminding network. Julie wanted to talk about about quality of training and childminders CPD. Neil was also happy to add to discussion and agreed with Liz about the data around childminder numbers.

Two members of Morton Michel staff who wanted to talk about the insurance side of things

Two people from  Trio Childcare  said they were happy to chip in, as and when appropriate.

A lady from from Early Years Training Enterprise – naturally wanted to contribute to the discussion about the quality of training.

There was also a senior member of Ofsted Staff attending ( not at the pre meeting get together but in the meeting so mentioning here) who was fairly new to her role, but who impressed me with her actions so far and particularly welcome was the fact that she was reading a lot of  inspection reports and acknowledged that the ‘bricks’ currently being thrown at Ofsted were justified and that changes needed to be made.

There was also of course myself who was attending as myself – but who also happens to be a member and volunteer for Pre school Learning Alliance, and a member of Pacey, UKCMA and ICM-SE – and I wanted to focus on quality and costs

In fact listening  to the pre meeting discussions, it was very clear that now that childminding agencies are a  legal reality, that everyone wanted to ensure that HIGH QUALITY CARE AND EDUCATION was the driving force in the run up to the implementation of agencies in September 2014, and continuation of independent Ofsted registered childminders.

 

As Linda and Jane from UKCMA arrived in the waiting room – so did the lady to take us up to the meeting room, therefore I was only able to give the briefest update to Linda as we walked through the very impressive Department for Education building.

Elizabeth Truss was waiting in the meeting room (as was her PA, her researcher – and a couple of other people who to be honest, I have no idea who they were as they sat away from the table on the edge of the room)

Elizabeth Truss welcomed each and every person into the room with a smile and a handshake – it was clear who she knew well – and I was surprised that my personal welcome was ‘Nice to meet you – again’  showing that the Minister  remembered that we had met before.

As soon as we were seated, the Minister launched into what I would call ‘Government hype about childminding agencies’ – she had graphs and visual images to back up what she was saying – personally I considered this to be a complete waste of the time available, as everyone in the room was already very knowledgeable about what the Government was trying to achieve and progress so far. Maybe some meeting background notes could have been circulated by email to attendees – just to ensure everyone was   fully informed prior to the meeting?

Notes were being passed to the Minister from her staff – and it turns out that they said the same thing as the note passed to me by Linda ‘Introductions?’

The Minister apologised for forgetting to do the introductions  and ensured everyone introduced themselves.

My recall from this point onwards – is not necessarily in order of when things were said, and as I was not taking notes, and was general discussion, and although did cover the agenda items – discussions were, as would be expected connected and free flowing. I am not even going to try to record who said what and in what order – and so you will get the main discussion points in the order that they popped into head as I am typing.

There was discussion  about Local Authority support – and how in the past it has been a ‘Post Code lottery’ as to what was available, the quality and the cost – and this agreed by everyone in the room. However those childminders in the room said their LA’s had provided excellent support.  It was also mentioned that due to budget cuts that the support, advice and training was becoming more expensive and less available; with some areas having hardly any early staff left and very little support available;  to some areas managing to hold on to their staff and were  continuing to provide support; to  some were sitting on the fence for as long as possible before deciding if wanted to provide an agency based model of support in the future either directly from the LA or as a commissioned service.

The Minister responded saying  that she hoped that agencies would improve things. I said that I really could not see what had changed and that agencies would not improve things for childminders,  and it  would still be a postcode  lottery. The Minister either misunderstood or avoided my point on purpose, as she then started to explain in great detail that established childminders such as myself would not really have anything to gain by joining an agency – and then she started repeating what she has said many times before about spreading costs of start up, support, training etc.
I interrupted her mid flow – maybe not the most PC thing to do – but I was cross as we had already listened to about 10 mins of hype – and I did not not want to waste any more time on hype.

So I said in a slightly shaky voice, something on the lines of – ‘ I am sorry Minister but I have not come all this way to listen to this – please can you answer my question’  I said, it appears that there will be no standard model, so no standard costs or level of service for that fee, agencies may not be available in all areas, and even if there is an agency in a particular area it may be a small local model or a huge national model. It will still be a postcode lottery with regard to availability , cost and level / quality of service. The Minister mentioned St.Bede’s – an outstanding school, with outstanding nurseries and how they were now  going forward with setting up an agency. I interrupted again saying that I understood that the childminders local to St.Bede’s were not interested and that interest was from a few parents – who may or may not have the full information about what is involved or the options available (those who read my blogs will know that I have reported on the presentation by the head of St.Bede’s that I heard when I attended a Westminster Education Forum)  More from the Minister about agencies not being for the likes of me – I interrupted again, and said I am not talking about me, I am talking about people in my area who may want to become childminders or join an agency – it would still be a postcode lottery as to if there was an agency option.

The Minister did not answer my question but Sue Robb did pick up on it and said something on the lines of   ‘as Penny has alluded to, there may not be an agency in her area or other areas’.

 

Personal Comment

As the Minister appears not know  which of the pilots will go forward and set up a childminding agency, and has no idea how many companies or individuals will want to set up agencies (or where)  until feedback from the trails (as Truss prefers to call them) have been received – and the requirements from Ofsted are known – would it not have been better to leave what was in place in way of LA support until these facts were known?

It seems a rather silly move to me – to remove support BEFORE new methods of support are established.

 

It seems very clear to me that in the early days – there will not be that many agencies and certainly there won’t be an agency in every area – and where there is there is unlikely to be a choice of agencies.

This means that those who are wanting to registered as childminder are going to need information about options of being an independent childminder and an agency childminder – and availability.

 

There was a separate discussion about the possible of Government leaflets and information for parents / prospective childminders clearly explaining both options, and for them to be available on Government websites and other websites.

In my opinion this would excellent and  would help reassure established childminders that the Government are going to promote independent Ofsted registered childminders as well as agency childminders.

Right at the end of the meeting the Minister was asked if she would issue some information to stress that independent childminders would be promoted and I asked the Minister if she would also be able to say that childminding agencies would always be optional and that they would never become compulsory.

The good news is the Minster said – she had already said this – and it was the case. What I hope now is she follows this up in writing and on the information leaflets. It would be a step in the right direction – and very reassuring to myself and I am sure to many other childminders as well. 

Of course we have to bear in mind the Governments change and Ministers change – and that U turns have been known – but still I think a very positive statement from the Minister that I welcome.

 

Getting back to my recall

Another really interesting discussion was about ensuring the quality of agencies and agency childminders  – even after the discussion I remain to be convinced that this has been thought through; it appears that the Minister does not understand the professional reasons that  registered childminders value their own grade and report – and the impact this has on ensuring reflection and CPD – and therefore a continued improvement in grades. I also do not think either the Minister or Ofsted know how to ensure the quality of agencies and agency childminders – YET.

However I am convinced that the Minister would like to achieve high quality agencies and agency childminders – and more importantly I am convinced that the lady from Ofsted present at the meeting  was very clear that Ofsted MUST get it right – otherwise there was no point to any of it.

She was able to confirm that Ofsted will be taking Prospect and Tribal  inspectors ‘in house’ as it has been difficult to manage them ‘at arms length’.

 

 Personal Comment

I would agree about Tribal and Prospects, and consider this to be a very positive way forward. However, it does raise other questions around the management of agency staff ‘at arms length and I did ask the question. Truss thinks it won’t be a problem because there will be robust systems – I have to disagree. However let’s wait and see what Ofsted come up with first – maybe there is a workable method out there somewhere.

Julie and others both brought up the subject of training – as in the quality, the accessibility, and the cost – I think they are right; these are key issues both for agency childminders and independent childminders.

Personal comment

I also think that at the moment there are not enough trainers who have an expertise in childminding – and this is also a worry to me in relation to childminding agency staff – will they have that ‘expertise in childminding’ or will they be generic early years ‘people’ or even  have no experience of training within early years or childminding. I hope this is addressed in the requirements for agencies.

Returning to discussion about agencies – after the meeting had officially finished and the Minister had left the room – Jen and I had an interesting discussion with a member of the Minister’s staff about why the Minister had pushed ahead with the removal of the need for agencies childminders to be registered and inspected by Ofsted – considering she had said in the meeting that agencies were nothing to do with saving money from Ofsted budget (as an a side the Ofsted lady said it was an issue and they could not continue as they had been doing)

We explained to Truss’s staff member, that if agencies were just for support, advice and training – that childminders could buy into if they wanted – no one would have an issue with that – and as I have said many times an agency model that included Ofsted inspection would have my approval.

And this is the interesting bit – The staff member said – There is nothing stopping you – or anyone else – setting up Childminding agencies – outside the legal framework’  (meaning the children and Families Act 2014) mmmm – cogs in my brain are going round and round – are yours?

Jane (childminder Jane) did bring up the very important topic of funded 2 year olds and the problem with the hourly rate and the fact that it drops when the child gets to 3. I spoke about the number of weeks of funded – the minster pointed out that can stretch the weeks – but as I pointed out – that means less ours per week  – so either way did not really meet the needs of parents and caused difficulties for childminders as can be difficult to accommodate the stretched hours (as it is 11.4 hrs – if do over 50 weeks) or if take over the 38 weeks face a loss of income over the other weeks. The Minister spoke positively about the pupil premium and that would be a help in the future – and also about the tax free childcare (however if you don’t work or don’t earn enough to pay tax this won’t help).

The Minister was asked if the Government could consider address the issue by increasing the number of hours – she did not reply but she was seen making a note – maybe she had not considered the problem of delivering 11,4 hours?

 

Other discussion included the fact that agencies might grade their childminders but by a different system – such as Gold, Silver Bronze or First, Second, Third or whatever; and that reports would be available within the agency (and childminders would have a copy). The Ofsted lady was not at all happy about that and said it would lead to confusion.

Personal Comment

It worries me that we could end up with very many different grading systems and that some of them might have the same names BUT different benchmarking for that ‘grade’. How would parents be able to compare and make informed choices, with so much incompatible information??

AND why? WHY do the Government think that having some sort of grading system would be useful / valuable? Oh let me see – parents like the Ofsted grade and report, childminders have said they don’t want to lose their grade and report …………

 

………. HOW SILLY …. HOW ILL THOUGHT OUT …….. Yes parents and childminders do want a grade and report – one that is consistent across all settings and is awarded by a national body,  against standard national bench marking ………..

 

……. AND WE ALREADY HAVE THAT SYSTEM IN PLACE – not perfect, needs looking at BUT it is in place already so why not use it?

 

Jen brought up the issue of the low professional status of childminders – and linked it to her personal experience. Others agreed and said since the introduction of EYFS 08 things had been improving – slowly but they were improving.

 

Personal Comment

I think childminders have come a long way since Ofsted took over from Social Services, and even more so since the introduction of EYFS 2008, we were moving in the right direction – but then along came Truss, Wilshaw and Gove – with their comments about childminders being unable to understand / implement the EYFS, being unable to run their business, lacking in basic skills in English and Maths – and so unable to ‘teach’, costing too much to inspect, needing to have their professional status raised ….. and so on

Those who don’t understand childminding believe this and therefore have an even lower opinion of childminders – and seem to think that we charge too much, that quality is better in group settings and so on

And this is all because of comments constantly made by Government – and yes Government have said some positive things about childminders – and all over shadowed by the negative comments.

Conclusion

There were of course other discussions, but these are the ones that I personally felt worth mentioning – others who attended will feel other discussions were more important depending on their own perspective – and so I would urge readers to read articles and blogs etc from other attendees, to gain a overview and not just my personal view.

 

Finally, I was disappointed that my view of the Government in terms of using people to tick their boxes without any thought to personal cost in time and money, was proved founded; and  that the childminders in the room that  were attending in their own time and at their own expense (and had already had a lost of income and costs from the cancelled meeting) were not provided with coffee / biscuits  (just water) or any other small token of appreciation.

If it was me, asking people to provide valuable input based on sector knowledge to help me achieve my business aims, I would ensure they were made to feel valued – and if my ‘boss’  would not sanction such an expenses claim, I would provide a small token of appreciation at my own expense.

My letter to Sir Michael Wilshaw in response to his letter to early years inspectors   22 comments

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22nd March 2014

Dear Sir Michael,

I wanted to write to you and congratulate you on the letter you sent out to the early years inspectors. You may.be surprised at such praise from me, because I am sure you must be aware that I do not hold you or Mr.Gove or Ms.Truss in very high regard.

However, for the very first time, I have seen just a hint of some level of understanding about what early years children do. In fact your list of activities that early years children might be engaged in, is fairly good – for someone who does not have an early years background.

I am referring to this list – which I am sure you will recognise from your letter to the inspectors

 learn new vocabulary and begin to use it in a meaningful way

 recognise and sing nursery rhymes and familiar songs

 enjoy listening to stories and looking at picture books

 build small towers while counting play bricks

 make shapes from modelling dough and begin to make marks on paper

 climb stairs and begin to play with a ball

 start to get dressed and undressed.

As I have said, you have shown a hint of some level of understanding – not much – but a hint.

To help your professional development, just a little pointer in the right direction – early years children are actually capable of a lot more – and from birth, not from 2 years of age.

The Development Matters guidance  document may be a good place to start to further your own knowledge. Such a useful document that I know many people still refer to,  unlike the Early Years Outcome document that really does not give much information – well it wouldn’t would it – given that it is just the first column from Development Matters. A bit like just having the first chapter of a Shakespeare masterpiece – waste of time and a huge lost opportunity.

However, my initial excitement that finally we might be getting somewhere, was short lived, as you go on (and on and on) about being ready for statutory schooling.

Being ready for statutory schooling should not be the focus – as statutory school starting age is the term AFTER they are 5 – not at 4 when most children enter school reception classes.

It would be worth reminding your inspectors that a lot of the older children in early years settings actually are still within the 30 – 50 month developmental ‘norms’ as described in Development Matters (and for that matter in Early Years Outcomes). Of course some children will be making progress as described within the 40 – 60 month descriptors, but it is unreasonable to think the children will be ready to start their statutory schooling, or all making progress in the same way, at the same time.

In fact, would it not be better to ask your school inspectors to expect this from children in reception classes? This way the pressure could be removed from children, from practitioners, from parents AND from inspectors.

Getting back to your letter, let’s look at your next bullet point list

help children to learn

teach children to listen to instructions and be attentive

teach children to socialise

 motivate children to try things for themselves

 support children to manage their personal needs

 challenge children to think and find out more

 encourage children to speculate and test ideas through trial and error

 provide good models of language

 develop children’s ability to express their ideas and use their imagination

 extend children’s vocabulary and teach them to use new words

teach children the early stages of mathematics and reading.

I was disappointed because although your list does include far more appropriate words like; challenge; develop; support; encourage – the word teach is the word that you have used most (and to help highlight this I have put it in red)

Of course all will depend on personal interpretation of what ‘teach’ means – and I am really worried that your understanding of the word teach, is very different to my understanding and that of many colleagues within the early years sector, because you continue in your letter to say;

Inspectors must expect adults to provide more than just supervision and care for children. They must also evaluate and report on whether:

 staff sufficiently focus on children’s learning

 staff spend enough time engaging in purposeful dialogue with children

 children have sufficient time to practise and reinforce what is being taught

 staff assess children’s skills, knowledge and abilities accurately and use this information to plan how to improve children’s progress

 staff have sufficient expertise to teach children basic skills in the three prime areas of learning as well as in literacy and mathematics

 the setting has a well-organised, regular and effective professional development programme that is improving the quality of teaching.

This list really does not show any understanding of how children learn through play – and often play that they self-select. Adult planned activities for early years children should be limited to setting up the environment and then observing what the children do within that environment as they develop the ‘Three Characteristics of Effective Learning’  – which to remind you are ; playing and exploring; active learning; creating and thinking critically.

Furthermore early years practitioners who ensure the overarching principles of the Early Years Foundation Stage are implemented in their settings, will provide children with the opportunities to develop the Three Characteristics of Effective Learning.

And as it appears you have forgotten about the overarching principles of EYFS 2012, I have taken the trouble to note them here;

Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured.

Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships

Children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and / or carers; and

Children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates.

I am sure you will have noted that the  word ‘teach’ is not mentioned once, that nowhere does it say that children should be taught or expected to ‘catch up and / or all be ready for school (which would be impossible as in any year group there will be children who are a whole year older than the youngest in the group, and children who have had life experiences that mean that there is some temporary or long term delay in their development)

A lot of time and effort went into ensuring that EYFS 2012 was based on research, evidence from practice, and knowledge of early years experts, inspectors and practitioners. I know this because I was personally involved as a practitioner.

Many considered it to be an improvement on EYFS 2008 – and although not perfect and although needed further development, things were moving in the right direction.

So why do you think you need to interfere and set guidelines for the inspectors that are in conflict with the principles so clearly set out in EYFS 2012?

Stop interfering – children are unique human beings, they are not robots and cannot be programmed to develop quicker, just because you say they can; any more than you can demand that caterpillars turn to butterflies any quicker – and I have used this example on purpose because if the delicate balance of environment and development of a caterpillar is tampered with – the caterpillar does not turn into a butterfly – same with our children, tampering (interfering) hinders or prevents development.

I think you should be asking yourself WHY after years of constant changes at all levels in the education system, that we still have children leaving school who cannot read and write, why so many who do go on to get degrees, cannot get a job, why so many cannot maintain personal relationships.

Time you listened to those that actually understand how young children develop;

Time you understood that you cannot demand that children develop faster than they are developmentally able to

Time you trusted those dedicated professionals who work with young children, to do their job – which they will do.

Time you realised that you (and Governments past and present) are the issue not early years practitioners (or school teachers)

After all  – decades of Government policies and constant changes to those policies – have not made any difference

After all  – billions of £’s of tax payers money spent (without any agreement by those tax payers) on the implementation of those policies have not achieved the Government aims.

And finally – the children of this country (and their parents) are not pawns in a game that you can play a game of life with; they are not born with the sole purpose of providing a tax revenue;

They all have their own dreams, ambitions, and abilities – all of these should be respected; all of these should be equally valued;

And they all should be encouraged and supported to be able to support themselves financially, physically and emotionally – but to live their lives as they want to.

One size does not fit all – one lifestyle does not fit all – one benchmark of success does not fit all – we are all unique.

Penny Webb

Mother; Grandmother; registered childminder; and campaigner for the rights of children as set out in the United Nations ‘Rights of the Child.

My confidence in the complaints system is at an all time low – continuing my story …….   5 comments

On Tuesday  19th March, I ended my previous blog with my Next Steps plan, as follows

Next Steps

My co minder is waiting to read her re worded report before deciding if she wants to proceed to a stage two complaint, direct with Ofsted (and to be fair to the inspection company – they have told her can do this if she does not accept the re worded report)

I am still waiting for my draft report and will decide if I complain about the wording when I have read it

I am waiting for a response to my stage two complaint – and will then decide in proceed to a stage three

So now to give you the follow up to those next steps so far

As mentioned in my update on previous blog (added Wednesday 19th March), I have had the first response to my online complaint – which I am copying here, in case you had read the previous blog before I added the update

Thank you for contacting Ofsted with your concerns regarding the inspection of Penelope Susan Webb. Your concerns were received in the complaints team on 17 March 2014.

 

Your complaint will be responded to by xxxxxx the inspection services provider for the inspection who will conduct an investigation and aim to send a response to you no later than 30 April 2014. Where this proves not to be possible, they will write to inform you of progress within this time.

 

Your contact point at xxxxxxxx will be a member of their complaints team.

Details of how to contact them are given.

So there we go a wait of up to 6 weeks – and even then they may not have finalised it – before I can follow my next step and move (if needed) to stage three in the complaint process

From feedback / comments that I have had from others – it seems unlikely that I will now get a draft report until the investigation into my complaint is completed (But if by some chance I do – I will let you know what it says. Will be interesting as my co minder and myself were told it would just be slightly differently worded to my co minders)

Therefore the only other next steps feedback I can give you concerns my co minders report.

I should clarify and let you know I have my co minders full permission to blog about her part in this complaint process and to use wording from her report.

Co minder sent email detailing her objection to the wording in her report – and as you will know if read previous blog, she had a call from the inspectors line manager

Today – Thursday 20th March she was emailed the reworded report and a letter from the inspectors line manager – which interestingly said

‘Thank you for taking the time and trouble to write to us on this matter and confirming this concern is now closed’

Rather odd as co minder had not said was closed and had said would look at the reworded draft report before deciding if would go to a stage two complaint.

So co minder has read the reworded (or as it says in the letter ‘minor amendments to the text within the report’) and so have I.

She is not happy – and neither am I.

She has emailed them back to say still not happy

I have made amendments to the text in her report  so that inspectors line manager / complaints team can see why she (we) are not happy with the wording

Take a look at the examples below – and see what you think

From first version of draft report

The inspector observed the childminder engage in a range of indoor and outdoor learning activities and daily care routines with the children

From reworded draft report

The inspector observed the childminder engage in a range of indoor learning activities and daily care routines with children.

So was first draft a ‘copy and paste’ statement (which in itself is a ‘no no’) OR was it a cover up of an inspection that did not follow guidelines?

As far as I am concerned – the mere fact that the reworded version has corrected this – is evidence that the inspector did not do her job. It is one thing to copy and paste from an old report on same setting and forget to take out that has a dog – when no longer has a dog  (and bad enough as inspectors are not supposed to copy and paste) BUT a totally different thing to say observed something when did not. Reports are supposed to be based on notes made on day, and as inspector did not go outside AT ALL to observe my co minder or myself – it was a lie.

From first version of draft report

The childminder provides a wide range of equipment, such as wheeled toys and  climbing equipment ……

From re worded version of draft report

The childminder provides a wide range of equipment, such as climbing equipment

So again – as this was supposed to be evidence based on observation or discussion or documentation – how could there be an error in the first version? In fact the only evidence of the equipment outside was from a verbal discussion with myself near the end of the inspection – and I most certainly did not say wheeled toys – as have not had any – on purpose –  since registering in 2010.

Even if it was a copy and paste situation – whose report was that copied from – certainly not any of mine from this registration – and as my co minders last report was from her own setting,  not my setting,  it would not have been relevant for this inspection.

Therefore I feel the inspector did not do her job – she did not gather the evidence used in the report on the day – and to me the fact that the line manager took out the words ‘wheeled toys’  suggests ‘cover up’ not just altering facts within description of the setting – this part of the report is supposed to be based on evidence gathered on the day.

So just two examples from first version of the draft report and the second version.

But even putting that aside – my co minders re worded report does not give a true record of my co minders practice.

Look at these examples and see what you think

From second version of draft report

The childminder is keen to develop and further improve her service. She works closely with her co-childminder and attends regular groups to enhance her knowledge, which further supports children’s continued development.

What I think would be a more accurate version

The childminder is keen to develop and further improve her service. She works closely with her co-childminder . and they share information from her co childminders attendance at groups and national events. The childminder has access to a wide range of childcare books and publications such as Nursery World and EYE magazine.

You see my co minder does not attend ”groups’ – she sometimes goes with me to termly messy play days – but not always; She is not a member of the childminding group that I belong to – and has never attended any of the groups meetings or training; She does not attend the national meetings and training that I do;  She does not subscribe to magazines such as Nursery World and so on  BUT I do share information with her, we do discuss things and she does read the magazines that I subscribe to.

The version in the draft report makes it sound like my co minder attends these things and that she is proactive in ensuring her CPD – she is  – but can only do so because of what I do / provide.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I am not ‘saying my co minder is a bad childminder – what I am saying is we have agreed that she works as my assistant and therefore leadership and management is my responsibility – and at my cost.

We are both very happy with this arrangement – it works for us   However, the inspector completely failed to grasp this, and the whole report suggest that my co minder is responsible for and pays for / puts in place all these things

From second version of draft report

There is scope to further enhance children’s safety through more frequent tidying away of toys and equipment in the areas in which they play.

What I think would be a more accurate version

I don’t have an more appropriate version of the recommendation ‘Under ‘is not outstanding yet’

This should not be in the report at all – as  it suggests the children’s safety was at risk

NB – Children’s safety not an issue – there were toys out in ONE of the rooms that were being played with – the other rooms were tidy. An adult was with the children / monitoring safety at all times. It was agreed at the end of the inspection (reluctantly as being pressured to agree to something) that children could be further supported to tidy up – when appropriate to their stage of development (the lack of tiding up was from a not yet 2 year old and a just 2 year old). Safety concerns were not mentioned on the day and therefore NOT agreed to as an recommendation

If the inspector had looked at the staff communication book she would have seen evidence of discussion about tidying up;  if she had looked at those children’s records she would have seen next stage plans about supporting to tidy up especially for the just 2 year old; AND we did tell her in discussion about this recommendation – that we had set times that we all tidied up – that we felt it was appropriate for children of this age to put things in and out of containers – and that we thought that it was unfair to the three year old and the just  four year old to be made to tidy up, when a two year old could empty the contents of a just tidied box in seconds (soul destroying we think) so again justifies out practice AT THE MOMENT of set tidy up times.

I personally feel that not only did the inspector pressure my co minder and myself to accept this recommendation – she then made it sound like the children were at risk – when they were not – and the safety aspect of this recommendation was not part of what we reluctantly agreed to. This means that instead of a recommendation that we would have reluctantly accepted – we now have to challenge why the inspector add the safety aspect to it – and do not accept it at all.

From the second version of the draft report

The childminder is aware of the progress check at age two and has started to collect information about children’s progress in the prime areas of learning to enable her to complete this with parents.

What I think would be a more accurate version

2 year old checks have been completed on some of the children, and the childminder and her co childminder have started to collect evidence on the younger children’s progress ………

My view is the statement in the second version (which is unchanged from the first version) is evidence that the inspector did not look at documentation – or ask the right questions.

From the second version of the draft report

The childminder encourages parents to extend their children’s learning by sending their favourite toys home and sharing the learning journeys Furthermore, parents receive a good range of ideas through daily feedback and newsletters ……………………..

What I think would be a more accurate version

The childminder encourages parents to extend their children’s learning by sending their favourite toys home and sharing the  daily diaries and photographs  Furthermore, parents receive a good range of ideas through daily feedback and newsletters that the co-minder produces …………….

Shocking really WE DON’T HAVE LEARNING JOURNEYS. We do have daily diaries and a huge amount of photographic evidence – in a setting folder.

I write and send out the newsletters – my co minder does not get involved with newsletters at all. Again our choice of working practice, that suits us both – but the wording in my co minders report makes it sound like she produces the newsletters

I could add lots more examples, but I won’t at this stage – as my co minder is going to take her complaint further.

We now both have to wait until the inspection company;

a) responds to my stage two complaint

b) sends me a draft report

c) for a response to my co minders second stage complaint (once she has sent it in)

It may be a while before I have anything further to feedback – but as soon as I do there will be a blog.

If you are going through a similar experience, please do either respond in the comments section, email me or get in touch with the Big Ofsted Conservation team.

Finally – please share my blogs via Facebook, Twitter, email – whatever way you can – because from the messages that I am getting – my experience is not unique.

We need to highlight what is going on, we need to stand together to give each other strength and encouragement – and yes we need to work together with Ofsted through the Big Ofsted Conversation to improve inspections and judgements – and therefore reports.

We deserve fair, consistent, evidence based inspections and judgements;

The children deserve to have the very best early years experience possible, which has been judged to be good or outstanding by a robust inspection system;

Parents should be able to expect to read honest, evidence based reports to help them decide on the best setting for their child;

None of this is possible, while flawed  inspections such as mine and my co minders continue.

Continuing with documenting my complaint process – Up date on my co minders draft report   Leave a comment

Well it is now THREE weeks to the day since my brought forward inspection

My previous blogs have documented everything to date (if not  read them yet  – click on the following links)

FIRST ONE

SECOND ONE

THIRD ONE

Update

On Monday 17th March, I had an email confirmation of the online complaint form that I submitted to Ofsted on 13th March. I was  pleased to see that the text from that online form was included in the email – so I do have a record of my wording.

As of today Tuesday 18th March – I have still not received my draft report

However a little light has been shed on this – because this afternoon, my co minder had a call from the inspection company – from the line manager of the inspector who did our inspection.

It seems that my report has to go through ‘another layer of quality control’ because it was a brought forward inspection. I find it remarkable that I have not been told to expect a delay due to this. I don’t have a problem with any quality control method – in fact I welcome all methods of quality assurance

BUT

The inspector could have told me to expect a delay and for my co minders report to be released first

The lady I spoke to on 26th February (day after inspection)  – could have told me

The same lady I spoke on 10th March – could have told me

But no one has told me – only my co minder in passing on information she had today Tuesday 18th March

Clear, transparent systems? In my experience if the information given to my co minder is correct – no, I don’t think so

So why was the inspectors line manger phoning my co minder?

Well because of her objection to the wording in her draft report

From this point – I need to say that this is my recall of a  phone call from my co minder – who was recalling the phone call to her from the inspectors line manger.

Therefore it will not be word perfect and could not be used as evidence – but I want to get over the general information given – and what I consider to be an attempt by the inspection company to cover up their inspectors professional performance – and to try to  prevent my co minder from putting in a stage two complaint to Ofsted.

Before people jump up and down – and say that is speculative and not fair;

My co minder was told that the line manager ‘Didn’t really want to put the inspector through a stage two complaint investigation’ (or words to that affect)

So very sorry inspection company  ………..but do you think that I (and all the other settings that are having to complain about inspections) want to go through a stage two complaint with Ofsted – and beyond – when actually we have done NOTHING WRONG – and most of us are in this position because of a system that can find malicious complaint to be unfounded – but then do a full but flawed inspection that creates huge amounts of stress and huge amounts of work – and usually huge amounts of personal unpaid time being taken up, as the ‘day job’ of providing high quality care and education has to continue.

Those of us who work in early years are passionate about what we do and do everything we can to ensure the children in our care have the best early years care and education possible – the least you can do is ensure than the regulation and inspection process is the best possible – and currently in my humble opinion you need some actions and recommendations to do this. And one way I (and others can do this) is to stick our neck on the line and complain. I say stick our neck on the line because it is often our word against yours – and when it is an internal investigation, our word is either not believed or things are ‘played with’ just enough to make it seem not worth while proceeding to a stage two complaint – or come to that to a stage three, due to the stress it causes

AND YES  IF ANY INSPECTORS OR INSPECTION COMPANIES OR OFSTED STAFF OR DfE  STAFF ARE READING THIS –  I DO HAVE PROOF  – AND I AM PREPARED TO FIGHT FOR THE RIGHT TO AN INSPECTION THAT IS FAIR,  CONSISTENT AND MAKES JUDGEMENTS BASED ON OBSERVATIONS, (backed up with secondary evidence of documentation) AND TELLING THE TRUTH.

Sorry reader – I have digressed, from my factual account of my complaint documentation. However I think the mere fact that I have put my personal thoughts in this blog, will show just how strongly I feel about this.

Getting back to the phone call from the inspectors line manager – and trying to get the general message conveyed rather than be word perfect.

It was agreed that 4 hours was not very long to carry out two inspection (in fact the line manager thought there had been two inspectors on inspection day)

Nothing to add – it was rushed – the inspector did have another appointment to go to.

The line manager agreed that my co minders report was not factual – and offered to personally rewrite it – taking some bits out and re wording other bits

WHY – I have to ask? It does not alter the fact that the inspector did not follow the ‘robust systems’ for carrying out inspections – not the fact that she submitted a report that was not factually correct.

My co minder was told that the inspector did not have to check all policies and documents – that they were ‘secondary evidence

 I KNOW THIS – I know the EYFS 12 inside out – I even took part in the pilots for EYFS 12 and went to London with others who had helped pilot  EYFS 12 and took part in the discussion about what evidence the inspector needed to see. AND my co minder knows this because she has to listen to me spout about such things.

However – I ALSO KNOW – that there is a list of things that inspectors should check – that were not checked – and that where direct observational evidence is not sufficient (was not in my opinion enough during our inspections) that secondary evidence should be used.

My co minder asked why she had to have her inspection at this point in time – when mine was a brought forward inspection about me – and did not involve her – AT ALL.

She was told that as no complaints on file and her previous grade was a good that no reason why it should not have been carried out at the same time.

I personally have issues about this (not speaking for my co minder – she is perfectly capable of speaking for herself)

One – previous inspection was in her own setting with her own paperwork, her own resources and she worked alone – none of that applied on 25th February.

Two – she has had malicious complaints made against her – and on two occasions a compliance inspector visited her setting – however nothing shows on her Ofsted record online as they were malicious and unfounded – but then so was my complaint that led to this inspection – and nothing shows on my Ofsted record online either. So more inconsistencies – and had the inspector actually checked my co minders internal records? I don’t think she did because my co minder tells me the inspector did not know about the malicious complaints made against her – she told the inspector herself.

The line manager said she agreed that my co minder was acting as my assistant – and that therefore the report did not read ‘right’  – again the line manger said she would re word things

Again WHY? and HOW if it is accepted that I lead and manage the setting could my co minder have a valid inspection in her own right? And even if she could how could she be given a ‘Good’ grade when ‘leadership and management’ is one of the main judgements?

Please don’t get me wrong – in my opinion my co- minder is a good childminder and deserves a good grade – when working alone, and when leading and managing the setting.

These are the main points that I wanted to record here – as to me this is a prime example of why the inspection companies should not carry out their own investigations into complaints about inspections – and why when (if) it is agreed that the inspection was flawed, that the report is not a factual record, that judgements are not based on observations as primary evidence, and documentation as secondary evidence – that the inspection should be declared null and void – and another inspection carried out as soon as possible.

It makes me wonder who the complaints process is designed for – at the moment it seems not to have anything to do ‘robust system’

Furthermore with our Government being known for objecting when it thinks other countries do not have ‘robust systems’ that are fair and consistent – I have to ask – why they can not put their ‘own house in order’?

Next Steps

My co minder is waiting to read her re worded report before deciding if she wants to proceed to a stage two complaint, direct with Ofsted (and to be fair to the inspection company – they have told her can do this if she does not accept the re worded report)

I am still waiting for my draft report and will decide if I complain about the wording when I have read it

I am waiting for a response to my stage two complaint – and will then decide in proceed to a stage three

Final word for now

All of this is unnecessary – and is causing a lot of stress and worry – and workload. I feel very disappointed that the ‘robust systems’ are in fact not robust and from where I am standing at the moment – a complete farce – from the malicious complaint – through to the brought forward inspection – through to the complaints process.

And the Government want me – as a childminder –  to believe that robust systems for childminding agencies will drive up quality, ensure high quality care and education for children attending an agency childminder setting, and effectively  replace the current provision of two inspection companies acting on behalf of Ofsted – with potentially hundreds of childminding agencies, acting as not on behalf of Ofsted – but instead of Ofsted for the individual childminders that join that agency

Please excuse me if I find this rather difficult to believe.

UPDATE – Wednesday 19th March

Update on my complaint

Now had email with info about the investigation into my complaint as follows;

Thank you for contacting Ofsted with your concerns regarding the inspection of Penelope Susan Webb. Your concerns were received in the complaints team on 17 March 2014.

 

Your complaint will be responded to by xxxxxx the inspection services provider for the inspection who will conduct an investigation and aim to send a response to you no later than 30 April 2014. Where this proves not to be possible, they will write to inform you of progress within this time.

 

Your contact point at xxxxxxxx will be a member of their complaints team.

Details of how to contact them are given. So there we go a wait of up to 6 weeks – and even then they may not have finalised it.

No idea if I will get a draft report or not as this complaint against the actual inspection.

 

Childminding Agencies now legal and going to be implemented from September 2014 . … What do those not interested in agencies do next?   6 comments

A good question really…….

What do all those who don’t want to be involved with a childminding agency do now?

Further questions spring to mind – well they do to me – and I am sure others have other questions that need thinking about.

So to get the discussions going, I am going to look at my personal questions (as below in points a – g)  and unpick them a bit. Then at the end of this blog I am going to put forward my thoughts / ideas / suggestions. Not that I think I have the answers because I don’t, but I hope to generate discussion, debate, and personal reflection. We know things are changing, but we don’t just have to wait for the changes to be thrust at us – we can be proactive and do what we do best ;

Reflect on what we want and what we need

Review what our choices and options currently are / going to be available in the future

Plan to make the changes possible and viable options

Implement those changes and options

So my a – g  questions 

a) How can we get information out to practising childminders and prospective childminders about their choices (agency or independent)?
b) Support each other?
c) Drive up quality and ensure that we build on the excellent networking and information sharing that we have established during the campaign?
d) Keep up the pressure about all the other Government proposals that we don’t agree with
e) Gather ‘evidence’ to show if agencies are successful / or not
f) Develop a national group that could be describe as the ‘Independent Ofsted Registered Childminders Agency’
g) Continue to work in partnership with as many organisations as possible

And my thinking about each of those questions

a) How can we get information out to practising childminders and prospective childminders about their choices (agency or independent)?

My worry is that the Government will  make it sound that agencies are so wonderful, that there really is not any other sensible option, and by actively promoting  agencies will make access to information easy  – while leaving people to find out through their own efforts about independent childminders.

Although I have yet to meet or speak to one person that has expressed an interest in joining a childminding agency, I know that some may be interested in the future – and that is fine, However I do not want anyone thinking that childminding agencies are the only option – and so I want to do whatever I can to make sure the FULL information is available.

I also want to work in partnership with as many different organisations and individuals as I can – as I firmly believe that people to should have free access to information so they can make informed decisions.

I am strongly against a ‘them or us’ culture / ethos – and strongly against a ‘I / we are better than you’ attitude. Throughout my campaigning against Government plans – although I have expressed my views very strongly, I have always acknowledged that others may have other views, and that ‘one size (view) does not fit all’.

b) Support each other?

Personally, I think this is going to be a challenge , because with Local Authority funding and therefore support decreasing (if not disappearing altogether), with voluntary work becoming more difficult due to ‘red tape’ and people leading busy lives, with so many different ‘paid for’ services – and with such huge differences across the country in what is available – it will be difficult to ensure everyone can access support (especially free support),.

What I don’t want to do is try to recreate the wheel and put things in place that will threaten the things already in place, or create divide – we all need to work together to ensure we cascade information whenever possible, and network to ensure information about what is available is there for everyone – all without paying a membership fee, or being penalised for accessing support from more than one source.

c) Drive up quality and ensure that we build on the excellent networking and information sharing that we have established during the campaign?

(Of course linked to point b) – One of the things that I am most proud of, is the way that I have been able to work in partnership with a wide range of early years professionals and organisations during my campaigning. I have not always agreed with everything said or done (and I am sure they have not always agreed with everything that I have said and done – especially when I have been on my ‘soap box). Information has not always been shared widely – although I have to say, information has been shared with me – I have not always been able to share with others . Of course I have always respected that confidentiality trust placed in me – but I think that we could do a lot more to share information – which I think will support driving up quality. I also think we need a central place for research based evidence – and surveys – and indeed can see no reason why we cannot conduct our own surveys.

d) Keep up the pressure about all the other Government proposals that we don’t agree with

(This is linked to point c). We all have our own views on things – and especially on Government proposals for the early years sector, so I think it would be really good to have a central point where anyone can comment, anyone can read information and share information – about Government proposals – and about action groups / campaigns that challenge those proposals.

e) Gather ‘evidence’ to show if agencies are successful / or not

In my opinion, there are two sides to this – that of agencies and of independent childminders.

With independent childminders we need evidence of Ofsted grades, of numbers registering and resigning, and parent views. How many provide the funded early education hours, fees charged by average regional stats, training audits – including number of hours of CPD

Similar for agency childminders – but the agency grade, how many agencies, the different fees charged by regional average stats, how many joining agencies – and leaving, parents views, training audits – including number of hours of CPD

So lots of factual evidences – just stating – well …. facts

f) Develop a national group that could be describe as the ‘Independent Ofsted Registered Childminders Agency’

My thinking about this is, there are lots and lots of individuals and organisations that ALREADY provide training, support (including peer support) , advice, insurance, tools of the trade and so on ……… and should all be valued and continued to be supported, plus information about these things cascaded to as many as possible.

However if we really want a national group that could be described as the ‘Independent Ofsted Registered Childminding Agency’. we need to all work together as a collective, with all the separate individuals and organisations playing their part in creating the whole package. Personally I think it would not work if one of the established groups took on this role, as those who belonged to other groups or organisation would think – what gives them the right to lead this, or I don’t want to pay to be part of the company. So I think we need a ‘umbrella body’ which is free to belong to, which does not have membership rules or restrictions, but which provides the opportunity for people to take out and put in what they can / want to – and more importantly allows the umbrella body to act collectively as and when needed (and even then with opportunity for some under the umbrella to opt out of things if they want to.)

g) Continue to work in partnership with as many organisations as possible

This links to all the other points – and is central to my suggestions. I think that the Government has done us a favour – as through campaigning against Government proposals the early years sector has realised that it is by working together that they have the strongest voice.

So those are my thoughts – please use the comments section, to add your thoughts – and your comments about my thoughts.

Now for my idea to bring all my thoughts together in a plan 

You may think my plan – just plain silly and unworkable

You may think my plan has some good bits to it – but that it needs major adaptations

You may think my plan is ok – but that you have a much better plan

Whatever you think – tell me – tell everyone who reads this blog (and share with those who don’t) That way we will get a discussion going and we will be able to debate all the points, all the options, all the ideas – and hopefully come up with something that may not be prefect, but that will work for most of the people most of the time

There is of course a danger that by sharing my ideas here in this blog; that others will ‘jump on the ‘bandwagon’ and do something similar – and if they do – well they do;  that some will not want to be involved because they don’t want to be associated with me – but that is their choice – I want to and I am willing to, work with everyone; that no one will engage with this idea – and if they don’t – well I tried.

My idea;

  • Use the ‘One Voice Together for Quality’ website as the vehicle for the umbrella under which we do everything – however think of a new Heading that says what it is on the lines of  ‘ National Ofsted Registered Independent Childminders – One Voice Together for Quality’
  • If people want to – come up with a new logo – or use the one we already have (provided free by Jennifer)
  • Set up a ‘committee type management’ – thinking one or two lead people from each LA area – who will have the password and who will be able to update stuff on the site – and who will be willing to speak on behalf of the umbrella group in their area – ie to the media, to their LA and so on. Plus a person for each organisation / individual  that works in partnership – so potentially  (NB NOT saying these people would be involved but are the sort that might be involved) Pre school Learning Alliance, Pacey, UKCMA, ICM-SE, NeyTCO, NE Training, Laura Henry,  Save Childhood Movement, Mumsnet, local childminding ghroups – and so on
  • Create clear sections – with sub sections – So Facebook support groups – then by area – then each group to have a lead person who is responsible for sending in  a description of the group, the link to the group – and to sign post to relevant posts about events and training
  • Sections – by LA area with details of groups in the areas – so things like ICM-SE playgroups, childminding groups, Pacey forums and so on.
  • Have sections for training, with all courses we know about listed by area, with links to further info – or details of the contact person.
  • A research section
  • A section all about Independent childminders – with all the facts about how to become / stay an independent cm. Links to other information. Include surveys and so on
  • A section all about agency childminders (the idea being that if some looking for information about agency childminders – they may find this site and then find the stuff on independent cms)
  • A section for each organisation under the umbrella – with links to their own sites , and an overview of what it is they do
  • I also hope that people will offer to do some short articles / blogs about their groups;  their events; their training – and the things they attend elsewhere – not anything that breaks copyright but overviews that will maybe encourage others to attend similar events – and to do their own write ups

I need to make it very clear that I will continue to pay for the running cost of the One Voice site  and that I have no intention of using it to generate any income for myself as I see this as an extension of my campaigning and efforts to work in partnership with others and to support colleagues.

But that is not all!

In each area (that wants one) create new groups or adapt existing groups by adding a new service  – I  image would be part face to face and part email based. My idea is that every one who wants to take part would pay to join and in return would be given a set number of tokens – in basic terms 1 token per £, this income would be used to set up the ‘systems’ and to buy ‘resources’,

However each member can then earn tokens from other members or pay other members for services provided.

I know this sounds as clear as mud – but I will try to explain using myself as the example.

I pay £20 to buy £20 tokens

I earn extra tokens by;

Doing a peer observation or a paperwork audit at colleagues settings  – not a requirement of the group but a service offered. I would write a report for my colleague whose setting I had visited. 

Making a cake for a social event, or by providing snacks for a event with children, or preparing a craft activity (and supplying the resources)

Providing a workshop / training session for colleagues

By producing documents that others might want / need

I would spend tokens by;

Attending training (including that which the group had brought in from outside trainers)

Asking a colleague to do a peer observation on me

Having the PDF of documents written by other members emailed to me

Consuming refreshments at events

In fact there would be no limit to services that I could provide or buy using tokens – and each group would decided which services they want to offer – and the price per service.

Members could buy more tokens if they wanted to / cash in tokens if want to.

The whole  idea is that members could if they provided services earn some money (by cashing in tokens) and members could avoid paying out cash by balancing the services they provide with the services they use.

I would suggest that groups set ‘token rates’ – so maybe making a cake 2 tokens,/ consuming refreshments 1 token for drink and cake; producing documents – 5 token per A4 page / having PDF’s of documents emailed – 2 tokens per document; Doing a peer observation and writing the report 6 tokens / Having a peer observation / receiving a report 6 tokens.

Some groups might want to sell documents / training / peer observation services to other groups – but for ‘real money’ – so I may produce a really good document and get paid in tokens by my group (and they generate an income for the group by selling it to others),   but I could  also sell the right for their members to use,  to other groups  for ‘real money’ as the copyright remains mine.

Same with training and peer observation – if I do them I get paid in cash.

So to be clear – just suggestions – open for debate and I would really welcome your comments positive or negative

Thursday 13th March – I put in Ofsted complaint and co minders report collected from sorting office   2 comments

Continuing with my personal record relating to my inspection and my complaint about that inspection.

So story so far;

6th January – Compliance inspector on door step – Malicious complaint that was completely unfounded

24th February – Inspector arrives for brought forward inspection but we were going out – inspector stays for 30 minutes

25th February – Inspector returns to carry out my inspection and that of my co minder

26th February – I contact Ofsted and inspection company – given incorrect  / partial advice about how to complain

1st week  March – I write two blogs about inspection

7th March – Email inspection company about inspection and fact not happy with inspection – or advice about how to complain

10th March – Call from inspection company – saying did not give incorrect / partial advice – I disagree but my word against theirs

10th March – co minders report put in post

11th March – Cpo minder has card through her own house letterbox, saying she has to go to sorting office to sign for a letter

13th March – Co minder fetches letter (had no idea was her draft report). We both read report and are shocked at what it says. Co minder phones inspection company and says will be putting complaint in about wording – now written

Still no sign of my draft report – rather odd as inspection was on same day as co-minder, however I have a feeling that will be a slight re wording of report sent to co-minder

So why am I so cross about co- minders report – after all,  draft report says she has 2’s across the board – and in all honestly it is a very good report – which any childminder would be proud off – if only it was true.

I will comment fully on my own report – once I get it. However for now here are a few examples from my co minders draft report

The childminder uses her car to take children to local groups – my co minder doesn’t – I do

The childminder receives support from the local authority – she doesn’t. I have but only because of the malicious complaint.

The childminder plans on a weekly basis – she doesn’t – we don’t. We plan all the time and make changes all the time following the interests of the children

Songs, rhymes and discussions further supportds children’s vocabulary as they learn new wotds. They do – but an assumption on the part of the inspector as we did not sing or do rhymes during the inspection and the inspector did not look at any photographs or written documentation to evidence this

The childminder is aware of the progress check at two and has started to collect information about children’s interests …… There are completed Progress checks in the children’s confidential files that were not looked at

The childminder provides a wide range of equipment, such as wheeled toys ……. In fact my co minder uses my equipment – it all belongs to me (which is how we want it – my home, my equipment) however there are not any wheeled toys – not inside or outside or even in the shed or garage.

I could go on – as there is an extensive list of things that are just not true, and a list of things that the inspector claims she did – like observe outside play – when she didn’t. However I will wait until I get my report to comment fully.

There is one thing that does grate though – the report keeps referring to my setting as my co minders home as in  ‘the home’. This is not her home, it is not the children’s home – it is my home but even though it is my home it is my setting and it has a name ‘Penny’s Place’ – and should be referred to as ‘the setting’ or ‘Penny’s Place’.

It is a shame that the inspector did not bother to look at my setting website and read my ethos before (or even after) the inspections – because if she had she would have read this;

I am a very honest person – and being honest is important to me. I cannot cope with lies, or withholding information or with using information creatively to benefit self. I accept that sometimes, what I might call a white lie or withholding information to benefit another person or prevent them from being upset or hurt – can have a place.

Being so honest does not always ‘sit well’ with others – including family members. Sometimes I have ‘dug myself a hole’ by refusing to sit back and allow others to do or say things which I know to be wrong and I know have the potential to hurt others.

As I say – a shame she has not read it – because if she had she might have been more honest in her use of words – and she would know that I would be challenging – as I am indeed doing so.

13th March – I  fill in the Ofsted online complaint form about my inspectioon

Westminster Education Forum – Tuesday 11th March 2014   6 comments

This was my first attendance at one of the forum meetings – and so a new experience.

Before I start my recall, I want to comment on the timing and accessibility these events as I think a lot of people would be unable to attend due to the starting time and the location of the venue.

Registration is from 8:30 and the event ends at 1pm – I can understand the need to finish before lunchtime because then costs go up as organisers feel they have to provide lunch. However a 9am actual start in central London,  means that many people – myself included, can not make the event as it means travelling down the evening before because there are no trains that early from many stations that will get you into London in time. In my case I can get a a train just after 6am and be into Euston or Marylebone for about 8:30am – but then have to travel across London in rush hour which means that it all takes much longer, and that’s without any train delays. The other option would mean driving to a main station then catching a train from there – not always possible, and often pushes costs up because of car parking fees.

I do appreciate that it is easier for London based speakers to  only have to give up a morning of time, however I think that for equality of access that some consideration needs to be given to enabling those who are not London based and who would like to attend such things. Some things to consider;

Include webinars, including ability to view after the event

Hold regional events sometimes – with Birmingham being a good compromise as only 1.5 hours from London and good transport links from other areas. To me it would make more sense for 20 (ish) people to travel out of London, than for 100 or 200 people to travel into London, and even if only offered once or twice a year it would be a step forward.

Hold some events in the afternoon as then people could get off peak trains both to and from the event

The good news is the Westminster Education Forum do offer a concessionary rate but if you are an individual on a low income even that concessionary rate at £80 plus VAT (so £96) is a lot to pay (especially considered together with travel costs ). I think that more consideration needs to be given to making the cost more affordable – and maybe the ideas above will help do that.

Now for my personal feedback – please note that this recall is from memory, as I found it hard to balance a notebook on my lap and to write notes – all with one hand – as I currently have a frozen left shoulder.

In due course the transcripts from the day will be available to attendees – and so at that point – if I need to amend my personal notes, I will do so.

The area of London that the venue was in – was  what I would call ‘posh’  and certainly for someone more used to  my home area, walking past the Ritz and standing in Mayfair were a bit of culture shock. Then the venue itself was – well impressive  – but very welcoming, and very comfortable.

Even before the morning started, the networking was under way. By chance I was sat near a solicitor who is bringing together people from the maintained nursery sector. I listened in to the conversation between this lady and the people behind us, who were from Maintained Nursery Schools, about their concerns and the legal challenges that they might be able to make. I gave the lady my contact details, and mentioned my involvement with Early Education and Save Childhood Movement – and the ratio issue. I hope she gets in touch as I can’t find her details on the attendees list

The Opening Address was given by The Earl of Listowel who is the Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary group on Sure Start Centres.  In my opinion a good person to have opening the event, and chairing the first session – because as we all know this group has asked Ms. Truss foe some more information about Sure Starts centres as they did not think enough evidence or detail had been given to support her plans  –  and this confirms my personal view of Truss – she is rather vague with details.

The Earl made reference to the ratio campaign and the success in getting support from Nick Clegg. My name was not mentioned – which is fine – but I did allow myself a little smile of self congratulation.

We were introduced to the first of the panel speakers – Gillian Paull  Senior Associate of Frontier Economics

I should make people aware the speakers all only had either 10 minutes or 5 minutes for their presentations – so none of the presentations were in depth – however everyone who attended – speakers and attendees are able to submit extra documents to be sent out with the transcripts from the day.

Gillian talked about the cost of Government support and the impact on getting parents – particularly mothers back into work – and said that in her opinion there often was not a huge impact and very little return for the money invested. Although tax credits have been available since 1999 there is very little evidence as to the impact this has made.

She also questioned the claims made recently that childcare costs are too high – and that parents are paying more in childcare than they are in mortgage payments. Gillian expressed some words of caution and said that average figures were not a true reflection because a few paying more than average amounts would alter the average figures dramatically. She also quoted some figures that suggested that only 21% of parents say they can’t afford childcare and that 79% said childcare costs were not a problem.

Personal view – If someone asked me if I thought food costs were too high – I would say – yes they were – because of course I would prefer to pay less – but this does not mean that I think food suppliers are ‘ripping me off’ or that I can not afford to pay the cost. Food is a bit like childcare – it is something that needs paying for and without it (food or childcare) other things are not possible. As with all surveys and consultations a lot depends on the questions asked, the options for responses AND what the person doing the survey is trying to prove, and therefore how they choose to use the data,

Gillian mentioned that there is currently research going on to try and find out the impact and cost of childcare. I will add the links once the transcripts are issued but for now this is one of them (that I remembered – because I already knew about it, and indeed have commented elsewhere on this blog) This is the LINK to the SEED project.

One thing that was of particular interest to me – is the switch of focus / reason for Government investment funding for childcare and education.

Personal view – I had picked this up myself over the last year or two – and particularly in the recent IPPR report ‘Childmind the gap’ (I title that I personally think gives the wrong message) that the Government were now not really bothered about high quality childcare (although they continue to say they are ) and are just trying to get childcare on the cheap – and not at their cost – so that parents are ‘supported’ into work – personally I think it is more like ‘forced into work’ with personal life choices removed and all considerations of what is best for the child binned.

Gillian did of course have other information but for me the most important points are about the claims that Childcare costs are too high – and about the impact of Government subsidises for childcare and education – plus the change in focus on quality childcare to support children and increase outcomes,  to the new focus on getting parents (read mothers mainly) into work.

The next speaker was Anand Shukla CEO of the Family and Childcare Trust

Anand agreed with some of Gillian’s presentation and disagreed with other bits – which will of course be to do with their different roles and responsibilities with the companies that work for. (personally I would love to know what the speakers  own personal thoughts are). Anand had his own comments to make about the cost of childcare, and the reasons for Government funding.

There was some overlap in Gillian’s and Anand’s presentations – and to be honest because I was not taking notes – I can not be sure who said what – so including here as relevant, but please note may have been said by Gillian or Anand – or both!

Universal credit may rise to 80% and will be available for those who work less than 16 hours and who meet the other criteria. However some question as to what this will achieve as people unlikely to change their work habits – they may use to pay for more expensive (higher quality?) childcare or to move from informal to formal childcare BUT this investment in unlikely to get more people into work as those who work part time often don’t pay tax and claim other benefits – which they would lose if worked more hours.

There is also an issue of every time the personal tax allowance is made higher, more people don’t have to pay tax and therefore cannot access the tax free childcare element – so if they work a few more hours but personal allowances have risen they lose out more than they gain.

The Labour party  pledge to increase funded hours to 25 hours – is only for those who are working – so some children who need support for various reasons not connected to their parent (s) working will not get any benefit from this increase in funded hours – it is purely a ‘get parents (mothers) into work ploy’. However as still only for 38 weeks means that parents using this support to return to work will still have to meet the full cost of childcare for the other weeks – which for some may not be an option  financially.

Also speaking in this session Jack Hatch – Executive Head, St.Bede CE Primary Academy, Greater Manchester

Jack is a believer in high quality – and says you get what you pay for (I wish the Government understood that), he has set up childcare on site and has some PVI settings and childminders working in partnership. He came across as a very down to earth man – and said if people wanted to do something similar to him – it was possible BUT it was a lot of hard work – not something that one person could do alone, you need a good team behind you. He said that people should be realistic and except to make a operating loss for the first year or two, but if could manage this it would all settle down eventually. Those were the bits I liked. What I did not like was the structured approach to out of school care with activities being planned – however this is just how it came across and possibly was ‘teacher talk’ and what he meant was experiences – I have looked at their website but although says opening times it does not really give the sort of information that I was interested in.

NB I have since had some local information passed on to me,  and St.Bede’s are involved in the pilot childminding agencies. I further understand that although local childminders are not interested in an agency, a couple of parents have expressed an interest in the agency

Next speaker was from the Department of Education – Richard Vaughan who is the Deputy Director, Early Years Curriculum and Teaching

Richard got of to a good start as he said he was aware of the sectors concerns and debate about the Early Years Minister Ms.Truss. He spoke about several issues, but the one that I was interested in was Childminding Agencies. Richard spoke about the Governments aims behind setting up agencies and what they would achieve – more childminders, higher quality, cost savings – all the stuff we have heard before – but still no details about HOW all this would be achieved.

AND nothing about childminders who wanted to remain independent – only that they could do so, if they wanted to.

I felt disappointed and let down by the Government AGAIN – on the agenda it said;

How will the introduction of childminder agencies impact childcare costs for children, and will costs increase for individual childminders opting not to join an agency?

Key questions that were  not answered.

We then deviated from the agenda a little and instead of the question and answer session  – we moved on to the presentations about Sure Start Children Centres – purpose, funding and quality.

I was looking forward to this debate as one of the speakers was Professor Peter Moss who I have heard speak a few times – and who always challenges opinion and poses questions to think about

Peter spoke about involvement in Children’s Centres and about how they could do so much more, about the dangers of targeted support, about the time it takes to see the sort of impact on children and communities – and how with constantly changing Government targets, and funding and aims, that the long term aspirations for Children’s Centres have not been achieved, opportunities lost – and now  Children’s Centres are  at risk in some areas of closure or restricted services. Peter spoke with passion, knowledge and understanding – and was the only speaker to receive enthusiastic (rather than polite)  applause.

Other speakers also spoke about the benefits of Sure Start centres , and what was happening in their areas.

Next on the agenda was a question and answer session – and I had quite a few questions – so up went my hand.

I did get chosen to put my questions – but the guidance was to be brief

So my question to Richard Vaughan – in my most polite words (not word perfect but my recall of what I said)

‘The Early Years Minster is not answering the questions of myself and my colleagues – and the question we most want answered is ‘ Why can’t agency childminders still be registered and inspected by Ofsted?’

I mentioned that I personally was not against support agencies, or paying for training and support – but it was the issue of some childminders not being inspected by Ofsted that would  create a two tier system within childminding, create divide among childminders, divide among childminders and other early year settings and would decrease our professional status.

I also said if our questions were answered, we may be able to understand the Ministers rationale and therefore would be able to make informed personal decisions about childminding agencies.

Mr. Vaughan reply was on the lines of – I needed to write to the DfE and may to Ms. Truss herself!!!!!

I was so cross that I broke protocol and spoke without the mike!

Wait for the mike came the call from the back of the room where the sound people were recording everything – so I waited

Then I said – ‘I have met the Minister in person and will be meeting with her in two weeks time, that myself and my colleagues have written thousands of letters to Truss, the DfE, the Prime Minister, our MP’s and to some of Lords – and still our questions were not being answered.

I also mentioned that in the past I had worked for a LA as a childminding network coordinator, and my remit had been to work in partnership with Children’s Centres but that my remit was changed and Children Centre could not provide rooms for drop ins or training – not because they didn’t want to but because of all the other things they had to do (which also changed all the time)

Mr. Vaughan replied that agencies were not his lead responsibility (excuse me but as you came to talk about them – a bit of background research might have been a good idea) and so he could not provide the answers to my questions – but he would speak to me in the coffee break – he didn’t to this.

However the woman sat in the row in front of me, turned round and said – I would like to talk to you in the break – and she did.

It turned out that she is one of the directors of Tinies nanny agency – a very successful nanny agency with about 40,000 nannies registered with them. Her name is Lindsey – and I like her. She told me that Truss had wanted Tinies to be involved in the childminding agencies pilots — but they had declined. She told me that she had been invited to go and talk with Truss in the the very near future – and in my opinion it does not take a lot to work out why.

I asked Lyndsey why she did not want to become a childminding agency. She replied ‘ I do not see it as a sound business opportunity – what could I offer childminders that they can not do for themselves or access elsewhere for free or a very low cost? Therefore if I can’t think of anything that I can offer childminders, they won’t join, it won’t be a business success. As I say – I like her – common sense approach. But there was a lot more to Lindsey than just common sense, she had done her research.

She went on to explain that she could not see why parents would want to pay to join a childminding agency either – and in her opinion childminding agencies were all about saving the Government money – not about quality childcare. She said nannies had a reason to join Tinies as they got something out of it – and quality was supported – as judged against a nanny who did not belong to a agency or a membership organisation. However for childminders it would be a backward step and quality of an agency childminder – when judged against a independent Ofsted registered childminder, would be lower and less accountable, and with less opportunity for parents to make comparisons or check against benchmarking.

By now, coffee time was ending – Liz Bayram from Pacey arrived and we had a quick word – before we all returned to our seats – and as we did so a woman came and spoke to me – she was from a London LA and asked if I was rushing for a train at the end – as I wasn’t she asked if she could  have a word with me at the end of the forum – I agreed.

The chairperson for the afternoon session was Baroness Jones of Whitchurch who is the Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

Another good choice in my opinion, and someone who I had heard of in connection to the Children and Families Bill

The first speaker in the after coffee session was Dee Gasson who is Principle Officer, Early Years, Ofsted,

I sat upright and gave Dee my full attention, as she was to talk about Regulating the new childminder agencies

Dee gave an overview about childminding agencies – and how the agency would be inspected not the individual childminders, how it would be the agencies grade and report on the Ofsted website – and how all the childminders in the agency would have the agency grade (so nothing new for me – but maybe it was new  for others in the room). She explained that not Ofsted’s job to set the ‘rules’ about childminding agencies, that is the responsibility of the DfE – however will be Ofsted’s job to regulate and inspect  childminding agencies. She spoke about the challenges in doing this – due to the different models that the Government want to encourage – and the different sizes of agencies from small local ones to huge national ones.

Dee also said that Ofsted would be evaluating the consultation on regulating childminding agencies and the pilots in April and that the results would be published in May.

Ofsted are also gathering the views of parents and carrying out pilot inspections of the pilot agencies over the next few weeks – and in fact have already done one.

My concern about the pilot inspections is that none of pilots  are fully operational – most of them are only piloting one or two aspects – all of the childminders who are involved are still getting support from others – not just the agency, are none of the pilots are charging for their services at the moment – pilot inspections will therefore be limited and based more on on paperwork and ‘in theory’ discussions.

The same with parent views – parents can only respond to questions set – not their real life experiences – so again very limited.

I have to say I was very disappointed with the content of Dee’s presentation – as I am none the wiser as to how Ofsted will regulated the childminding agencies from September – and I wonder how many of the people in the room went away any better inform – especially the 20+ people from LA’s?

Liz Bayram from Pacey was next to speak – Liz spoke clearly and with knowledge – the key points were about; childminding agencies – making very clear about Pacey’s concerns around individual inspections and quality; and about the potential restrictions on people entering the early years sector, and those currently in the early years sector wishing to gain higher qualifications in the future. I thought it was a good speech and I recall several mentions of  ‘We don’t think so’

Katie O’Donovan – Head of Communications and Partnership at Mumsnet gave a very informative speech – complete with slides of graphs showing the views of parents about their childminder now and their views about childminding agencies. I do hope Katie is sharing this with the DfE and Ms. Truss because the Mumsnet survey showed parents are overwhelmingly against childminding agencies and very much in favour of individual Ofsted inspections, reports and grades. So I have to ask – who is in favour of these childminding agencies – and if parents, childminders, organisations that represent childminders, all think that individual Ofsted inspections are vital – why are the Government carrying on making it legal within the Children and Families Bill for some childminders not to have an individual Ofsted inspection?

Ben Thomas – National Officer, Education and Children Services Group, UNISON  – spoke about the QTS issue with the new qualifications, about the low pay in the sector, and the constant changes. Ben also spoke about the issues around the requirement for Maths and English GCSE – and how they are different depending on your age! If you are under 19, you don’t need them to start – but you do need them to use your qualification – so can’t get a job with that qualification unless past your GCSE in Maths and English while doing the qualification. However if you are over 19 – you have to have the qualification before you start

Ben does not think that the new qualifications will drive up quality – and mentioned the fees of around £4,000 for new qualifications

Rob Wye CEO  CACHE – spoke about the new qualifications and how CACHE have put in some ‘extra’ bits’ to address the concerns of the sector, but that there were still issues to be addressed. Rob mentioned that working with Pacey about a qualification for childminders.

Elizabeth White who is the EYFS Improvement Manage, Learning and Improvement, for Leeds City Council spoke about their childminders – over 900 of them and the support their provide – and also the impact of budget cuts, and her concerns for the future around quality and support.

During the question and answer session I asked Dee Gasson two questions;

One  – How would people know which agency a childminder was in – if they wanted to make a complaint? I don’t think Dee understood the question because she said that parents using a agency childminder would have the details about how to complain. In fact my question was more about how other childminders, other professionals or members of the public would know. I am pleased to say that Liz Bayram did pick up on my meaning and said that in her opinion their would be a lot of confusion around making complaints and that Ofsted / DfE needed to consider this.

Two – As my personal experience with my recent inspection has shown, inspector do not always follow the ‘robust systems’ that Ofsted have in place – so could she explain how Ofsted would be able to ensure the quality of the agencies and their judgements. My question was not even answered.

Another person in the audience, from a LA,  asked a very important question around the early years funding and childminding agencies – If  a lot of  childminders joined an agency in one area, and that agency was graded as ‘requires improvement – how would a LA be able to cope with a sudden loss of huge numbers of funded places? No was able to answer this.

Before I finish my recall about the Westminster Education Forum – I want to mention two people  in particular – I can’t recall their names – but it will be in the transcripts – I want to mention them  because they raised questions in both of the question and answer sessions about the well being of children and their attachment needs, and the role and support of parents, in caring for their children – without the focus of getting them into work.  Well done to you both – and once I have your names I will be contacting you.

Finally – remember the lady who asked if we could meet at the end of the forum?

Well we did meet – she works for a LA in London and we exchanged email addresses We had a lovely long chat about childminding , agencies and related stuff. She said she is going to tell her colleagues about me and my campaigning – I hope she does.

I do apologise for these brief notes and my focus on childminder agencies, however as explained with my frozen shoulder it was difficult to make notes – plus I was in a lot of pain all day, plus with current very low haemoglobin levels brain function is not as good as it usually is – especially my recall of things (normal excellent – less so at the moment). However once the transcripts are made available – I will use them to make any amendments needed / fill in more detail.

Posted March 13, 2014 by psw260259 in Conferences that I have attended