Archive for August 2014

So ANY Tom, Dick or Harry (or indeed Tracey, Dawn or Hilary) can set up and run a Childminder Agency ….   5 comments

……. apart from those who are disqualified, or do not have robust system, or can not demonstrate a knowledge of the EYFS or requirements for running a childminding agency


Please note this blog  is personal opinion – and is not the opinion of any other individual or organisation that I am associated with


I have spent some time looking at the Ofsted Childminder Agency Handbook and the associated Childminder Agency application form – if you have not seen them yet Click Here for the link to the Handbook and Click Here for the link to the Childminder Agency application form


Please do take some time to look through them – and if you have time also look at this page on the Foundation Years website Link to Foundation Years website

I would be really interested in your views because;

Despite two years of my personal and shared campaigning against childminder agencies – with the main points of objection  being loss of individual Ofsted registration and inspection for all childminders; and concerns about the quality of the agencies and the impact that could have on the quality of the childminders in the agency

Despite constant reassurance from the Government that high quality is not only vital but will be ensured through the registration and inspection of the childminder agencies

I now find myself disappointed, frustrated , despairing, worried  – and yes  angry, that no one in Government has taken ANY notice of the concerns expressed; because having read the  Agency Handbook where I had hoped to find at least some reassurance – I  have found NONE.

It says in that the DfE have produced further guidance – so I clicked on the link – and found the same agency info that has been there for months – saying nothing that provides reassurance – at least not to me.


Going back to the heading of this blog, it does appear that anyone can set up and run a childminder agency – I acknowledge that the Government HOPE that schools, Children’s Centre’s and others who are already known to Ofsted will set up agencies – a quick look at the application form reinforces this; however there is no requirement for any level of qualification – never mind a related one, there is no requirement for childminding experience – either as a childminder or as someone who has experience of providing services for childminders – and that REALLY worries me.

Even if those who set up childminder agencies have an early years related qualification, and have got some experience of providing services in the early years sector – their level of knowledge of childminders and the job they do will be limited – and in my opinion so therefore will the level of support. This in turn could then lead to lower expectations or unrealistic expectations of the agency childminders. How can someone provide appropriate support, training and so on – if they do not have a clue about the actual hands on side of childminder?

How can it be right that potentially childminders could be paying an agency to support them – and those providing the support are not qualified or experienced?

With all the Government focus on a graduate led work force and continuous CPD – how can it be right that an individual or a company running childminder agencies are not required to be graduates or to have appropriate experience in the field that they want to work in?


We could even have a situation where  agency childminders knows more than the people they are paying to support them and quality assure them.


And I may have missed it but I did not see a specific requirement for agency owners / managers / staff to undertake a independent quality assurance programme – just the inspection from Ofsted – who will judge their robust systems and understanding of EYFS and the requirements of running a childminder agency. This bit – on page 22 of the Childminder Agency Handbook, jumped out at me – and just added to my concerns

Although a childminder agency does not provide direct care to children and, therefore, does not have to meet the requirements, the agency is responsible for monitoring the quality of the its childminders who do provide care to children and must meet these requirements. It, is therefore, essential that the applicant has knowledge of these requirements and has secure systems in place to monitor how effectively childminders registered with the agency deliver these requirements to children’

Says it all really – if you can talk the talk, have some tick box monitoring sheets, all will be fine – and you will be able to set up and run a childminder agency.- The childminders in the agency will have to jump through hoops to ensure they get a tick in those boxes – regardless on if good practice, practical or possible to implement in a home base setting, is what parents want or what children need in terms of an appropriate environment or curriculum.

This is – in my opinion – reinforced by the statement on page 29 of the handbook;

138. We retain powers of entry into every childminders home. We do not have any inspection or enforcement powers in relation to childminders who are registered with an agency. The purpose of our powers of entry here is not to take action against the individual childminder, but to gather any evidence we might need to pursue an investigation against the agency and so that we can sample the quality of the childminding as part of the agency’s inspection.


So unless I have misunderstood – no complaints will be investigated by Ofsted, no recommendations or actions will be given – even if Ofsted see it for themselves during a sampling of an agencies childminders.

I think my predictions of a two tier systems are even more justified, I think my concerns about agency childminders not having any reason to be self motivated to maintain the highest standards at all times are now – sadly – based on fact because if you only stand a small chance of being sampled by Ofsted during an agency inspection – and even if you are – will not get any direct actions/ recommendations / enforcement from Ofsted – why would you bother?  It would be tempting to just do enough to tick the agency box (or at least pretend you do during a support visit) but not actually bother the rest of the time – I mean once assessed most agency childminder will only be visited once a year, so would not take a lot to put on ‘a good show’. We know this already happens with a few childminders – a quick look on social media confirms this – as requests for policies ‘to look at’, examples of planning to check not missed anything, requests to borrow things, or ideas to do on the day, pop up when people get the call to say inspection due – so why won’t this happen in childminder agencies? – but in my opinion it will be worse because the agency will want to ‘support’ their childminders to ‘put on a good’ show for the agency inspection  – so will they provide displays, planning, resources, other documentation – just at the ‘right’ time or am I being cynical?

Personally, I do not think anyone should provide both support and assess quality – it just does not make sense to me – you should do one or the other – not both, there should be an independent QA measure in place – and the silly thing is agencies in which every agency childminder had their own inspection and grade would fulfil this.


Add the fact that all childminder agencies can set their own model and decide for themselves what they provide in terms of visits, support, training and so on – over and above the very low expectations set by Government – oh and can of course set their own fee – and we have a MESS


The only good thing in the handbook is that is does cover what will happen if an agency closes or is shut down by Ofsted – this is on page 30, point 143


Personal Conclusion

Childminders have been the true Cinderella’s in the Early Years sector for decades – in recent years (since EYFS 2008) huge progress has been made, with many childminders gaining the highest Ofsted grades, many undertaking qualifications, including degrees, many being involved at all levels, of partnership working and are treated with respect; HOWEVER with the implementation of Childminder agencies the Government has dug a big hole into which childminding as we currently know it could stumble and fall into – never to re-emerge.

I wonder how much those running agencies will pay their staff – with no set criteria for qualifications or experience, I can’t help worrying that the pay will be low but the expectations to ‘get the boxes ticked’ high – I also can’t help worrying that those staff will not stay in the agency jobs for long – and if agencies do end up paying staff a reasonable wage – that agency fees will increase – year on year. How can anyone give credit to something that is based on paying profits to a middleman? – Even those that plan to be a  Community Interest Company  – will need to cover costs, and so will add – in one way or another to either  the overall cost of childminding places or the reduction of  childminders income.


My only hope is that those who are  currently  registered childminders will not even consider giving up everything they have worked so hard for, and will realise that the Government hype is just that hype – and saving ‘egg on face’ for themselves.

Certainly – I have yet to meet anyone who has expressed an interest in joining a childminder agency, although some have said they are interested in finding out more – mainly it seems because they are worried about their own CPD. In my opinion once people have read what agencies will offer and the price they will charge for that , they will re look at their options, as there are many other routes to take,  to access CPD and support – including that from those who are experienced and qualified to do so.


However my fear is that those wishing to become childminders in the future may not be given all the facts and may be led to believe that joining an agency is the best route.

At a meeting in March 14, the then Early Years Minister Elizabeth Truss, promised leaflets and information on a website to promote both agencies and independent childminders – I have yet to see evidence of this – and although I recognise that Sam Gyimah may have his own ideas and may not consider leaflets and website info the right approach – I think it is essential that parents and prospective childminders have the full information to make an informed choice, and hope that Mr. Gyimah will listen to those who expressed concerns in the past, and continue to do so.


As I have said many times, personally I am not against change, I am not against a  choice of where childminders can access support and training – I am even not against paying for that support and training; BUT I am totally against loss of individual inspection for childminders, totally against lack of information about choices for parents and prospective childminders – and totally against anything the prevents either directly or indirectly, children receiving the highest possible levels of early years care and education, that is individual to their own  and their parents needs, and so I am totally against childminder agencies in their current guise.


If things change, and  agency childminders have to be inspected directly by Ofsted, and if agency childminders could pay for services as used – I will be first in the line – in fact I may well set up my own – but in the currently format, and in light of the information in the handbook and on the Foundation Years website – I will not be joining a childminder agency – and will be continuing my personal campaign against them, by doing my best to ensure everyone has full, factual information to make their own personal decision – as  I don’t think my view is the only view, and I certainly don’t think my decision about joining a childminder agency, will be agreed with or followed by everyone else.


One size does not fit all – but in terms of ensuring a standard benchmarking of quality, and standard requirements for registration and inspection, and enforcement – the basics have to be the same for all Early Years settings.

I hope that I never have to say ‘Told you this would happen’ if a child or children are the innocent victims of this ill thought out Government Policy.

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

So what is an extremist view? And whose ‘right and wrong’ are early years settings to promote?   1 comment

I am of course referring to this weeks headlines about creationism as a science, and extremist views – and Nicky Morgan’s pledge to prevent public money from being used to fund schools and early years settings who do not promote ‘British Values’

Before you start reading this blog, please note the views expressed in this blog are my personal views – and are not the views of any organisation that I am a member of, or  involved with, nor are they the views of any individual that I am associated with.


I do fully recognise the spirit of the new Minister’s intention – and I do understand that in a very small minority of cases there is cause for concern, that some may have (or are) stepping over the line of respecting and valuing all views – and even in some cases of trying to ensure their personal view is the one that is predominately presented.

However – I can not understand why the Government need to give the local authorities power to withhold funding from those that they think are not promoting British Values, I do not understand why Ofsted need to add judging the teaching of  ‘British Values’ to the long list of things that are open to personal and professional interpretation – and therefore inconsistencies.  I have to ask –  how will an inspector manage to put aside their personal views and beliefs and judge a school or setting on if promoting ”rights and wrongs’ in the required way?

Whose ”right and wrong’ are we supposed to promote?

Each practitioners?

Take any setting and there will be slight variations of even the basics between practitioners – take honesty – Some will think  so called ‘white lies’ are acceptable – others  will be 100% honest all the time – and yet others will only be honest if in their own interest.

Each family attending the setting?  

All those involved in looking after other people’s children are already required to work in partnership with the families of the children they care for – and respect their views and beliefs – but it would be impossible to fully implement the views and beliefs of every family about what is ‘right and wrong’

And if my own family is typical in any way – then  each member of that family would expect something different, for their own understanding of ‘right and wrong’ to be implemented as setting ethos


So what is Ofsted’s view of ‘right and wrong’ ? Is it the same for every individual  inspector?


If so which church? As ‘British Values,’ do the views of the Church of England about ‘right and wrong’ over ride the views of all the other long established churches in England


And if so will they not only tell us what is ‘right and wrong’ ? Will they practise what they preach ? If so, will they sack those that don’t do the ‘right thing?’


And then these British Values – what point in time do we take as our reference point for ‘British Values’?

Now?  – when so many are selfish individuals – just concerned about what is in it for them. When many communities are not actually communities but just a number of people who live in the same area

Recent past? – When it was ‘ok’ to smack children. When women were not seen as equal to men.  When people who were ‘different’ were not treated with respect

Distant past ? When the rich did want they liked – and when they liked – just because they could. When flogging was allowed. When human rights were not heard of?

Or some other point in time? I really struggle to pinpoint that moment in time when British Values were so good that we should hold them up as ‘something desirable’ to recreate.

But maybe others disagree and can tell me just what moment in time British Values were so good?


News stories report that early years settings should teach children to challenge negative and stereotypical  views – I  struggle with that one – how is a child expected to do that – and show respect for others and understand differences between themselves and others?

It requires a huge amount of knowledge and understanding of the world, to even recognise that what they are hearing or seeing is negative or stereotypical.

Yes I fully agree that adults should challenge – but only when it is safe for themselves and the children in their care to do so – sometimes the challenge can not be immediate and sometimes other professional support is needed to challenge some views or actions, and sometimes despite personal desire to challenge, it is best not to because challenging can make things much worse and so it is better to walk away (but challenge through other means)

In my opinion the Secretary of State for Education is tackling this the wrong way, and although well intentioned – and no doubt under pressure to ‘do something’ the measures announced could ‘stir the hornets nest’, and unintentionally cause schools and early years settings to worry about just what it is they are suppose to implement , and to worry that if they do not ‘do it right’ that Ofsted will down grade them – or worse that they will lose funding.

Personal  Practice – BUT is it ‘right’? 

I  personally have  a very strong sense of ‘right and wrong’  – my views about equality have been acknowledged by others to be grounded in common sense and a very realistic understanding of people .

I have challenged other adults over equality issues over many years – for example – why there is a need for ‘a list of  people / things’, in a policy because in having that list you will always unintentionally exclude some and label others. By INCLUDING  ALL  and ENABLING ALL , you should mean ALL and apply that to every thing.

My personal view is that in everything there are similarities and differences – and in my work with the children I care for, I know that I can not possibly  include all cultures or all religions or all types of homes and so on – and further by only covering a few of these aspects, I run the risk of unintentionally giving the impression that these religions / cultures /festivals /  ways of life are the most important  / the only ones that have to bother about.

If I was told that I should cover x, y,z within my curriculum and not cover a, b, c – I would personally consider that to be very bad practice – and possibly extremist in its own right because very narrow, very restricted.

It is my belief that I should focus on festivals and ways of life that are reflected by the children and families using my childminding service ; so if I had a Chinese family using my childminding service, I would celebrate Chinese New Year and other Chinese festivals, however as it happens I don’t   at the moment, but I do have a Polish family and so we celebrate some Polish festivals – such as St. Nicholas Day- and so on. In fact I ask all the families of the children in my care, what festivals they celebrate at home and how they celebrate – in my opinion that is working in partnership and avoids tokenism and assumptions.

And before anyone jumps up and down and criticises my practice – please be reassured I have vast amounts of books, puzzles, dressing up, role play, etc.  that represent different people, families, homes, abilities and so on – and they are always available  as part of the continuous provision.

What I am talking about is the things I focus on, that I plan to include.

I personally think that when the children are older and are more secure in who they are, as an individual, within a family and community sense, they will then be able to take on more complex issues.

However, what I can do (and do, do)  is give the children the skills to observe, and consider similarities and differences – in EVERYTHING, so that they are able to use those skills to understand those more complex issues when they are older.

So the fruit in the fruit bowl; the clothes we wear; the houses we live in, the animals on the farm (who by the way all speak ‘different languages’, eat different foods, live in different ‘houses’  and more); the flowers in the garden; the games we play; the people we see in our community; he shops we go in – and the things in those shops – and more. In my opinion – if a child can say that is the same as me  because ……, and that is different to me, because ….; that is similar to that thing I have experience of because, but it is different because ….. then I have done my job.

And of course the skills are useful in many areas – and in my opinion actually help a child be ‘school ready’ and ‘life ready’


I know this approach works – over the years I have cared for around 300 children, who have come from very diverse family backgrounds, and all of them l have developed the skills needed for life in terms acceptance  that we are all different – those in their families, those in  their communities and indeed those in the wider world;

I wonder  how will Ofsted and my LA view my beliefs and my teaching of ‘right and wrong’ and British Values’ – will they think I am doing ‘a good job’ or will the new powers (and therefore guidance) mean that I will be judged to be lacking in these areas?

And two more question;

1) As someone who openly challenges things and speaks up about things that I think are not in the best interest of the children of this country – will I be seen as an ‘extremist’ for not holding the same views as Government?

2) As the Government rarely fully consults, rarely takes notice of the views of others, rarely has any specialist knowledge about the things they are Ministers for – could their view be described as extremist – in that they impose it on the country – just because they think it is right?

I do of course not support any view that harms or potentially harms others, I do not support any view that is not based on research and / or personal experience – which is why I really struggle to support current Government education policy – including this one.

Good intentions are fine but when good intentions turn into practice  that says I am right – you are wrong – and causes harm to others / potenially causes harm to others – is in my opinion – always wrong.

Government please practice what you preach – being a Government Minister does not give you any more right to tell others,  I am right you are wrong – than being a leader of a faith or an organisation does.

Posted August 12, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

A return visit to Witley Court – Friday 8th August 2014   Leave a comment

Actually this was a return visit for some of the children, but a first visit with Penny for others (although had been with their parents) and for one child a first ever visit

Witley Court is now in the care of English Heritage and details can be found  HERE , however when Penny and Mr. Penny’s Place were children it was a neglected ruin where local children would crawl under the fence and play. Of course Penny did not know Mr.Penny’s Place then as lived in different villages and went to different primary schools – but we did both go there to play on occasion.

Attached to Witley Court is Great Witley Parish Church with a hidden surprise awaiting those who venture inside as can be seen by clicking



Great Witley Parish Church also has a link to Penny’s past – as when a Girl Guide,Penny took part in Remembrance Services and on a couple of occassions was responsible for carrying the flag

Penny and Mr. Penny’s Place have visited Witley Court and Great Witley Parish Church on many occasions over the years and never fail to be impressed or to notice the changes as the court gardens and the fountain have been restored.

So getting back to the return visit 3 x 4 yr old childminded children and 1 x 12 yr old foster child and myself planned this trip a couple of days in advance and then noted  with dismay that the weather forecast was not good. On Friday morning it was drizzling and the skies were grey and very overcast – still undeterred the children made their own sandwiches, we packed suncream and waterproofs and set off.

As we drove the skies started to clear and by the time we arrived at Witley Court it looked like we would be needing the suncream more than the waterproofs.

The good thing about going to Witley Court is because I and Mr. Penny’s Place are members of English Heritage we do not have to pay   when we visit any of their attractions – and our membership  covers any children we take with us. So although I had the 3 minded children and 1 foster child with me – there was still nothing to pay.

After a quick trip to the toilets we set of  down the path towards Witley Court – spying it through the trees and across the lake for what turned out to be a very enjoyable walk . We stop at the great big chunk of  fallen tree which the children climbed – and were surprised to find a puddle on the top of it!

I have lots of photo’s but most have the children’s faces showing – so here a just a few without faces.
















We showed the man at the gate our ticket – and went into the gardens of Witley Court with the imposing building right in front of us.

We turned left – not a lot of choice really as English Heritage are currently doing some work on the building and so you can’t go up the steps and in through the main entrance.

However by turning left  we cold take a good look at he formal gardens and the smaller of the two fountains



We then went into the court itself -and into what was the ballroom, and because I know the story so well I was able to tell them about the fire that had destroyed parts of the court – and show them the charred wood and where things used to be. The children were fascinated about the story of the fire and asked lots of questions about the fire engine – and then were puzzled when I explained they dd not have a fire engine like Fireman Sam . So lots more questions about when the building was ‘fired’.

Next stop was where the grand hall used to be and the grand staircase – the children worked out where the stairs used to be – and while they were looking at this feature – I heard a noise that I recognised – the sound of the fountain starting up – and so I hurried the children back towards the gardens – but not the side garden – rather the front garden – and this is what they saw – the Perseus and Andromeda fountain!












We walked down to the fountain for a better look – and to experience the feel of the water mist and the sound of the water cascading back down. We stopped for snack, and watched the fountain for about 30 mins, before moving on to look at the rest of Witley Court. The children were still asking questions about when it was ‘fired’ – but they were also interested in the bits of pillar and wall in some of the rooms, and in the bits of glass still visable in the walls of the orangery – and it has to be said  – lots of questions about when we were going to go to the play area.


Next stop was the church – the children thought the outer door was a door for a giant (it was huge) . Inside the church they looked into the mirror so they could see the superb paintings , they asked questions about the font – and the lady guide explained to them about how the font had been recently cleaned and the ceiling quite few years ago.

By now it was 12 noon – and it was getting quite hot – so we detoured to the tea rooms just down the lane – had some strawberry ice  cream- and I applied the afore mentioned sun cream to all the children.

Then to the delight of the children we started our journey towards the play area – back past the main entrance to the court, back past the fallen tree and the lake – and then we took a right turn and followed the path through the wood – going over the bridge (where of course they had to look to see if the troll was at home)


Then just when they were thinking that we were not going to find the park – round the corner and there it was!

We found a picnic bench – and another surprise for me – the bench commemorated the life of Clifford T Ward – who had lived in the same village as me and whose children  I had babysat for a couple of times.  (For those interested this is one of my favourite of his songs – Home Thoughts from Abroad – and it mentions Worcestershire – where I lived then – and still do although in a different bit of it  I wondered as I was sat on his bench – if he had enjoyed visits to Witley Court.






Lunch eaten and the children went off to play on the rather grand Woodland Adventure play equipment, of which only part of it is shown in this photo.


And then it was time to head back to Penny’s Place – a lovely day, enjoyed by all.




Posted August 11, 2014 by psw260259 in Daily blog from my childminding setting

Response to the consultation on Childminding Agencies and changes to LA role   1 comment

So less than one month before Childminder Agencies become law and the Government have published their response to the consultation on childminder agencies and changes to Local Authority Role.


If you have not seen it yet PLEASE CLICK HERE

The first thing I want to comment on is the number of respondents – the total of 678 responses is very low and in particular the stated response of 59 childminders plus 13 network childminders (so 62 childminders in total) is disappointing

However there are 105 responses of which it is stated a large % did not state which group they fitted into – so some of those may have been childminders –

Even so with just 678 respondents and less than half that amount for each specific question, the Government should be looking into why so few people respond – and to ensure their consultations do provide effective feedback, I think the Government need to consider other methods – and a key one would be counting the individual responses that go into making  up an organisations response. They could also think about using a more friendly format such as surveys that could be provided via social media and so on.


However, it is my personal opinion that many do not bother to fill in Government consultations because quite frankly they are a pointless exercise with the Government taking very little, or no notice of the opinions expressed.

So will this consultation be any different? Will the Government listen to and more importantly act on the views expressed?

There is only one way to find out – and that is to look at the document and see what the Government response is.

So Question One (on page 6) Number of hours CPD required

50% did agree with the Government that the suggested number of hours CPD for agency childminders was about right – so on the face of it – it would appear the Government have got it right

However 34% said it was too low – and  another 11% were not sure – so actually 45% did not agree that the suggested number of hours CPD was right.

Personally I would have thought this was enough evidence to  consult further – especially when considering the concerns expressed.

Why do I suggest this?

Well take a look for yourselves .. there were 352 responses to this question – so that means that almost  half of the consultation respondents did not answer this question. Is that because they did not have enough information / understanding about childminder CPD?

Those that did answer the question had concerns  and many were expressed about the quality of the training opportunities / CPD that would be provided.  I agree because it would be possible to put on one or two workshops , or send out information via a newsletter – perhaps suggested reading;  and easily provide evidence of 16 hours CPD, because as we all recognise CPD is not just attendance at training.

Concerns were expressed about if the 16 hours were per childminder or per agency

Concern was expressed about if the suggested 16 hours CPD, included statutory requirements for training – which if you think about it – First Aid alone would count for 12 hours in the year that it had to be renewed, or 4 hours a year if averaged out over the validity of the certificate.

These expressed concerns are pretty much the concerns that I personally expressed – and so although I don’t know – I would guess that these concerns were expressed by those who understand childminding and CPD

So what is the Government response to the views expressed for question one about number of hours of CPD?

Well the good new;s is that they will make it clear that it is 16 hours CPD per year for early years childminders and 8 hours for later years childminders

The neither here or there news; is that the Government will be ‘building on the requirements / expectations around CPD  within the guidance document

The bad news; is they are not even going to consider increasing the number of hours CPD requirement

Very disappointing and a wasted opportunity

For a start – Why less hours for a later years childminder?  Why are they not prepared to make it statutory for CPD to be in addition to statutory training requirements? Why have they not said that that Ok we will start at 16 hours for all childminders – and then increase to 18 hours and then 20 hours over the next two years?

Surely if the Government want to increase the quality of childminders and the outcomes for children – they need to use increased requirements for CPD, to support this?

Maybe the Government should find out how many hours CPD the childminders who have good and outstanding grades actually do in a year? Certainly speaking just for myself  – I do more than 16 hours CPD in the average month – in fact I often do more than 16 hours in a week,  if you take into account all things I do that are CPD. And I am sure many of my childminding colleagues would be able to confirm that they also do more than 16 hours CPD in a typical month and that many would say that their yearly CPD total is in excess of 100 hours.

Think about it 16 hours a year is under 2 hours per month – which would be fine if talking about accredited training – but it is not ! If using the term CPD – maybe the Government have a different understanding of CPD to me?

Question two (on page 7)  Number of hours support time 

337 responses to this question – so again around half of the consultation respondents did not answer this question – and again I have to ask why?

46% agreed with the Government – but 39% did not agree – and if you add the 11% not sure you actual have more at 50%  NOT agreeing  with the Government – so you would have thought that further consultation would be required.

A look at the concerns expressed shows that those who did answer this question has a lot of concerns and unanswered questions; for example;

Was  support time  inclusive of CPD hours or separate?

Did support time include newsletters and admin hours?

Respondents were generally in favour of face to face meetings as support time

So what is the Government response to the views expressed for question two about number of  support hours ?


Again there is a difference in the requirement for early years childminders and later years childminders – and I have to ask why – in my opinion if anyone is looking after children – the requirements should be the same.

So the good news is that the Government have taken some notice in that they are changing the wording from  support time  – to – practice support with a focus on CPD requirements

Hang on a minute – go back to concerns expressed for question one – respondents were concerned  if CPD would be of an appropriate quality; in question two they expressed concern that support time might  include newsletters and things that did not include face to face time.

So unless I really have not understood the Governments response – they have just muddied the waters even more and given the go ahead for practice support and CPD to be almost the same thing – which in my opinion will lead to confusion about hours required (Is it practice support ? / is it CPD?) and so will we see the same hours counted twice –  so  counted for CPD and counted for Practice Support?

It seems the Government do not share my  understanding  CPD because they would know that practice support is CPD!

If they had asked for my advice, I would have advised them to have X number of face to face CPD support which would have included training workshops and home visits put on by the agency – and X number of hours of non face to face CPD  to include online training, webinars,  and X number of hours face to face training from outside trainers (so not all ‘in house’) and  a requirement for specific  non face to face CPD support which would have included newsletters, emailing info such as links to articles. But they didn’t ask me – and I have to ask who did they ask – where did they get information / ideas from. Complicated maybe but then CPD can be in many forms and if not wide ranging,  it has downfalls and therefore might not be effective or of high quality.

So the good news is not really good news – is bad news.

The Government do say they are going to build on the requirements in the guidance documents – but I have a problem with that – guidance documents are just that for guidance, so different agencies will apply different bits or even not at all – leading to inconsistencies.

Question three (on page 8) Requirement for ONE home visit after agency assessment


As with questions one and two only about 50% of respondents answered this question – 348 to be precise

54% of those who responded said that they disagreed with the Government that agencies only needed to do one home visit per year after initial assessment and a further 13% were not sure .

Respondents thought that home visit could improve the quality of the provision – I personally agree with this from my experience as network coordinator . Others thought it would be acceptable to scale back visits once the childminder had been assessed – I disagree, it is regular and unannounced visits that work, not planned annual visits. You need to get to know the childminders and their practice really well, you need to understand their issues and their personal issues that impact on their childminding, you need to discuss things in detail – you can not do this is one planned visit – all you can do in one planned visit is gain a snap shot – and tick a few boxes that prove nothing.

Respondents said that each childminder would have different needs – and for a huge number of reasons and so there should be flexibility. I agree but I also think the minimum number of visits should be three per year – if the purpose of the visits is to support and drive up quality and outcomes.

So what is the Government response to the views expressed for question  three about number of home visits?

Well, the government are going to continue to state that there is a minimum requirement for one home visit but will put in the guidance document that agencies may do more visits if they want to.

I am personally really disappointed about this – as the one aspect of  childminder agencies that had potential to improve quality, has been reduced to a tokenism of one visit a year.

In taking this action the government have provided opportunity for yet more inconsistencies between agencies with regard to quality and services.


Question four  (on page 9) Legal requirements for agencies registering with Ofsted

Even less people responded to this question (278) those agreeing and disagreeing were almost the same at 41% and 42% – although there was a larger % of not sure (17%)

Concerns were expressedthat  the draft regulations  were not clear or detailed enough – particularly around moving between agencies and independent  Ofsted registration, about childminder assistants

Concerns were expressed about safeguarding , complaints, child protection  if childminders changed agencies

Concerns were expressed about the quality of agencies and their staff, about inconsistencies between agencies – and about a conflict of interests if providing support and quality assurance. My personal thought about this conflict of interest, is that there is also a conflict as the childminders will be paying for these services and agencies will not want to ‘upset’ their customers.


So what is the Government response to the views expressed for question four legal requirements for agencies registration with Ofsted?

In may not come as a surprise but the Government do not think they need to make ANY changes to the requirements – and will just provide some guidance  – my comments about guidance documents have already been stated.


So that is it, for the part of the consultation that looked at childminder agencies – personally I am very, very disappointed – but sorry to have to say NOT SURPRISED – was there any point in personally spending time completing this consultation? NO


Moving on to Part B that looked at the role of the Local Authority

Question five (on page 11) Anything preventing Local Authorities from meeting duty to secure funded places

258 people responded and views were equal between agree, disagree and not sure

Concerns were expressed about quality and sustainability and what would happen if agency was  judged below good, and therefore impacted on all agency childminders providing EYE.

Concerns about funding childminders in an agency that has not been graded

Concerns about LA not having a support role

So what is the Government response to the views expressed for question five about LA duty to provide sufficient EYE places?

There is some clarification around information sharing – which is welcome – and I hope works in practice. Personally I have found there are nearly always issues around information sharing between organisation – even if only over the amount of time this takes

However basically the Government are confident that the measures there are putting in place are sufficient – despite 2/3rds either disagreeing or not being sure that they are!


Question six (on page 13) Providers for whom may be significant impact

279  responded – the majority thought there would be a negative impact on some providers

The concerns show that most thought that independent childminders would feel a negative impact especially through the loss of LA support

Some thought that higher quality agency childminders could be negatively impacted on, if the agency as a whole was not of high quality / received a low Ofsted judgement

So what is the Government response to the views expressed for question six about impact on providers?

To be honest it is a bit depressing reading it – as the Government do not give any information to suggest that my personal understanding of the draft regulations was incorrect or that they are going to address my personal concerns – or those of others completing the consultation.

In fact for me personally the Governments response has made things worse because there is a line that says LA’s may impose a reasonable charge for services they supply (Information, advice, training. It also states that agency childminders will not have LA support as the agency will provide it.

So – in my personal opinion  this means we could at some point in the future have a situation where only those who can afford support will get it  – both agency childminders and independent childminders – and where does that leave us in terms of safeguarding ?

Dangerous waters – very dangerous waters.

Question seven (on page 15) Groups of children/ parents for whom a significant impact

As with question six, the majority thought that some would be negatively impacted by the proposals – 47% of respondents – which if you add the don’t knows – we have 70% who are not agreeing with the Government (and I acknowledge that the ‘don’t knows – could go either way – but for now they do not agree with the Government) – so surely further consultation is needed?

Concerns were mainly around the issue of quality of the CMA- and therefore the quality of EYE provision and the provision for children with additional needs


So what is the Government response to the views expressed for question seven about impact on children /parents?

To be honest – not sure I understand their response,  as it seems to come under ‘opt out of responsibility’ and pass to others. They talk about high quality but appear unwilling to put in place measures to ensure all children are able to access high quality places – and that something is done if this is not the case

But maybe it is my lack of understanding – so if it is – Please can someone explain

Question eight (on page 16) Practical advice in statutory requirements

It just says over 100 people responded and said they would like greater clarity

So what is the Government response to the views expressed for question eight about practical advice?

Guess what? Yes it will be in the guidance document!

Question nine (on page 17) Is guidance clear about LA statutory duties?

The majority did agree that guidance was clear BUT add together those who disagree and those who don’t know and you have a different picture – because these people add up to slightly more than the agree group – so is more clarification needed

So what is the Government response to the views expressed for question nine about guidance for LA statutory duties?

Oh yes – you are right – further guidance will be provided in the guidance document – welcome but open todifferent  interpretation and implementation



The rest of the Governments response is about creationism as science and extremist views – and I am not going to comment on this in this particular  blog,

Posted August 10, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

It is a good thing that there were no childminded children attending this weekend, because ……   5 comments

……… they would have a lot of questions to ask Penny !


Following on from my decision to reorganise the play space here at Penny’s Place (and if you have not read about it yet – you can do so by clicking on the link Why is the Sofa in the garden Penny?  , this weekend (2nd &3rd August) I decided to reorganised the storage in the garage.


Over the months since the last reorganisation things had become rather untidy –  actually being truthful it had become a mess – and dangerous. This was due to two facts

1) I simply have too much ‘stuff’

2) I simply do not have time to put things away properly and tidily – I am always in a rush, always multi tasking or rushing off to meetings and so on. Not really that good as excuses – but it is the truth. (I can hear Mr.Penny’s Place saying ‘Yep its true – stuff all over the place’, always rushing around multitasking).

However as well as needing to have a major reorganisation to ensure the storage was safe, and to enable easy access to things and to save time looking for things that were not in their ‘proper place’ or were at the bottom of one of my famous piles – I actually had another three reasons for spending just about all weekend sorting and reorganising.

1) I needed to make room in the garage for our foster child’s bike, and fishing stuff, and wellies and walking boots and so on.

2) I needed to find a home for the triple pushchair that I had brought in a sale – and that ever since has been propped up in front of the freezer in the garage – and so needed moving every time anyone  wanted to get something out of the freezer (and it is heavy and bulky so difficulty to move)

3) I wanted to put more of my resources into the drawer units like the ones in the reorganised play space. so that rotation of resources / responding to children’s requests / meeting development needs – would simply be a case of swapping the drawers from the middle room bases, with drawers from the garage bases, Simply really – and easy.


I can almost hear readers asking – but what about those questions the children  would have been asking – had they attended Penny’s Place this weekend

I have not forgotten – coming to them now

The first question they would ask would be ……..

……. ‘Penny, WHO made that MESS?

Take a look at the photo’s and you will see what I mean – because to start the process – EVERYTHING had to come out of garage – well no, that is not true, as some stuff had to stay on the shelves as there simply was not room to get it all out at the same time!











Yes you are right – you can hardly see the lovely environment created in the first part of this reorganisation as stuff is piled everywhere – and worse it overflowed into the kitchen!


And through the open garage door you can see how much stuff is still on the shelves.

I am sure some of you are now thinking Mr.Penny’s Place is a saint (or maybe knows  after almost 38 years of marriage, that is no point in saying anything) to put up with me and all the stuff I have.


The children’s second question would have been ‘Where shall we play?’ Luckily I did not have to answer that one – but if I had it would have been ‘outside’ as ‘inside’ was completely unsafe

And of course the children would have wanted to / prefer to explore all the things piled everywhere – some of which have not been available for some time.

The next question would have been ‘Penny, who is going to tidy up ?’


Well following my own guidance ……. of course, I did as I had made the mess


And by 5 o’clock on Sunday 3rd August the garage looked like this
























So a good job done? All organised here at Penny’s Place?



The spare room looks like this – somewhere in there is a set of bunk beds!












And Penny’s bedroom looks this – boxes and boxes of paperwork, activities, and so on



Oh well – as the children would say ‘Who made that mess?’

It seems yet more reorganisation is needed – this time of boxes and paperwork – but that will have to wait for another day.

In the meantime downstairs is organised and working really well.  The new layout with the option to easily change the drawers in the base units – is,  if I say so myself – one of my better ideas – and so after years of reflecting and making changes – I am now very happy with the play environment and the accessibility to resources.


That is until further reflection, changes to children and their needs brings about another change – and that is how it should be – constant reflection and appropriate changes as needed  (but between you and me – I hope it will be a while before another change is needed, because to be honest – it is shattering doing such a major reorganisation!)