The Alliance Early Years Agenda:Interim Report – Part Two of my thoughts   Leave a comment

In Part One, I gave an overview of the Alliances interim report – and looked at the area of funding. For Part Two I am going to do as I promised I would – and dip into another aspect of the report – this time childminder agencies – which starts on page 27 of the report.

Childminder Agencies

Of course this aspect is very close to my heart and those who know me well, know that my personal campaigning against childminder agencies has been going on for over 2 years, ever since Elizabeth Truss first mentioned the idea.  I have also been working in Partnership with the Alliance as the organisation that I volunteer for, in expressing our shared concerns about childminder agencies – but also with other organisations who represent childminders – as I believe it is only by working together that we can fully represent the concerns of the childminding sector and indeed the whole early years sector.

So this part of the report is very interesting to me as gives an indication of the views of others – not just the childminders who completed the survey, but others who answered the questions in relation to childminder agencies.

There is, as there is for all aspects in this report some background information about the whys and hows of this government proposal which was just presented as ‘something that was going to happen’. And despite continued objections not only from myself but from all the early years organisations – to varying extent and about varying concerns, huge protests from registered childminders themselves – apart from some vary limited and ineffective consultation the government has continue to demonstrate a ‘not listening’ approach and worse a ‘not giving any detail about the costs or the benefits or indeed the framework for the business model that government prefer. Instead the best has been – either ‘no response’ or continual repeating of statements from More Great Childcare.

 

Looking now at the data in the report – in response to the question based on –  ‘Do you support the proposal not to inspect all agency childminders on an individual basis?’

85% said NO they did not support that proposal and only 3% said yes they did (with 4% not giving an opinion). I find that shocking  – 85% do not support the proposal – and yet the government claim that people are in favour of agency inspections from the results of their own survey. Very clever use of data from the government, as of course their consultation did not ask the above question – it just asked – if agencies should be inspected – a totally different question, and of course people want some form of inspection – on the lines that something is better than nothing – BUT if the direct question is asked about individual childminder inspection  – you get a totally different answer.

In my opinion the government should now be using this research by the Alliance to reconsider their approach to the inspection of childminders who choose to join an agency – but of course they won’t because as with so many government proposals at the moment – this is all about saving the government money – nothing to do with high quality settings and nothing to do with best interests of the child.

The Alliance report goes on to mention the problem of agency staff qualifications and training – something which I am personally concerned about and have raised on several occasions. I know from personal experience that to be able to support childminders you need to understand childminding and either to have personal experiences as a childminder or to have specific training from someone who has the appropriate experience and qualification,. Furthermore because their is no set model or criteria (that we have seen yet) about the training of the actual agency childminders – there is going to be a huge variation in the amount of training provided and the quality of that training. It does not take much imagination to realise what the potential impact could be if the training of staff and / or agency childminders is of low quality or of insufficient level or quantity.

The report highlights the concerns that have been expressed over and over again about the loss of individual inspections for childminders – again something that I have personally done my best to highlight is the issues of this loss of individual childminding inspections, through this blog and through encouraging people to fill in consultations and to write to MP’s and Minister Truss, Ofsted and anyone else that mat be able to influence a change in direction on this.

Continuing with my thoughts about the Interim Report – there ids a question about if childminders are planning to join a childminder agency – and for the first time since I began my campaign I have seen evidence that someone is interested – in that one %  of respondents said that they were defiantly interested in joining an agency – so to be clear that is one % of the childminders (or prospective childminders as we can not be sure that those who responded to this question are childminders)  so 1.2 people which due to % translation difficulties has to mean ONE person, however a further 2% said that they would probably be interested which is about 2.4 people.

I applaud these people for answering honestly, as to date no one that I or my extensive connections of colleagues have spoken to anyone who is interested in joining a childminding agency – although in the last couple of weeks one person has said she might be interested via my Facebook group. Being generous with the numbers and rounding up rather than down, that means POTENTIALLY there are FIVE childminders / propestive childminders who are very interested or partly interested in joining a childminder agency. Even if we add the 10% who are undecided – about 12 respondents – it is hardly the huge interest that the government claim to have had from childminders.

Looking at the number of respondents who have said they do not want to join a childminder agency you can see the contrast and the other side of the coin. 60% definitely do not intend to join a childminder agency and 26% probably will not join – so adding those together we have 86% who definitely or probably will not join a childminder agency – about 96 people.

Of course no one can tell if these percentages from the survey are representative of the views of the entire childminding sector – but for the purpose of this blog – let’s assume they are. If we take a ‘ball park’ figure of aprox 53,000 registered childminders – if 86% don’t join a childminder agency – it will leave 7,420  who might join a childminder agency. That does not sound that bad does it – a possible 7,420 agency childminders?

Well actually – it is terrible news for the government because that is the number all over the country – scattered across all the Local Authority areas – so 10 here, 20 there and so on.

Add in the fact that we do not yet know where childminder agencies will be set up – due to lack of feedback to date about the pilots and who is going to go forward. So it is entirely possible that we may have an agency set up in one area but only a few or even no childminders willing to join – and childminders willing to join in an area where no one is going to set up an agency.

I wonder how the government are going to manage this and declare agencies a success?

In fact I wonder how the government are going to go forward with agencies at all – because despite the lack of official feedback from the pilots – feedback is slowly coming to light via those who have taken part or those whose LA’s have taken part – and to date – it is not a very positive picture for the government – as many (if not most) of those who have made their position known, have decided either not to go forward at all or not to go forward at this moment in time and to wait for others to  prove agencies are sustainable / workable.

There is more in the interim report about the impact on cost and worry about quality, and the view that agencies will not encourage more people to become childminders. I hope you will read the section on childminder agencies in full for yourselves (link to the report is in part one of my blog on this Link to part one of this blog )

 

However for me this research by the Pre school Learning Alliance has given me some evidence that despite a few coming forward to say they are interested in childminder agencies – the numbers just don’t add up. So thank you Pre school Learning Alliance.

I will look at another aspect of the Interim Report as soon as I have time.

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