At last the evaluation of the childminder agency pilots   4 comments

So AFTER the publication of the childminder agency Ofsted Handbook – and the DfE Step by Step guidance for setting up childminder agencies – we now have today 5th September the evaluation of the pilots – or as DfE prefer to call them trails.


I have awaiting the publication of this report with interest – I wondered what it would actually say  – and if it would correspond with the informal feedback that I have been getting over the last 6 months from various sources.

I wondered if there would be any snippets of information that would ease my concerns

I wondered if there would be anything within the report that was new information or at least evidence based research

I wondered if there would be anything that suggested as a result of the pilots, that had indicated that childminder agencies were needed, or would offer anything that had not already been tried before / was available elsewhere.

In general, I was doing a lot of wondering.

And so tonight I get my first look at the document (mainly because been busy during the day with my minded children and my foster child – not because I was not interested in reading it sooner)

If you have not read it yet – HERE IT IS

So – Am I enlightened? Have I found out anything I didn’t already know? Am I reassured? Do I think the pilots have been useful? Do I now want to issue an apology and say – sorry I was wrong, these agencies are going to be wonderful – just what we all need (parents and childminders that is)


Let’s start at the beginning and work our way through this 20 page document

Page One – Cover page

Page Two – contents page

Page Three / four – Introduction

Oh let’s just look at page three and four, as useful reminder about why childminder agencies are being set up

The introduction of CMAs aims to:
 encourage more childminders to enter the market;
 offer support, training and development for childminders;
 improve the quality of childminding provision; and
 provide help for parents in finding a high quality childminder.

There is also a little bit of information on page 3 about who took part in the pilots – and if interested there is a list in Annex A

Page Five –  Contains information about the pilots and who took part. Although not news to me – it may be news to others – it says on page 5

No services were provided to parents or childminders during the trial period and so firm conclusions on the viability of agency models tested as part of the trial cannot be made at this stage

Interesting I think – they ran a pilot on some aspects of childminder agencies – and yet because no services were provided they have not been able to really test out childminder agencies – and so cannot come to any firm conclusions.

I find that rather difficult to accept – I am well aware that legally childminder agencies could  not be set up before September 2014 BUT;

Surely they could have set up mock ones where they piloted everything – with the childminders still being registered with Ofsted (and if inspection due, still inspected),

Surely they could have provided services to parents – but without charging them?,

Surely they could have carried out support visits and provided training

Surely they could have done this within different models – got all the financial figures but not charged anyone (and maybe through taking part in the pilots the DfE could have picked up the costs?)


And I am not just saying this without any thought behind it  – I have taken part in enough pilots – those for quality assurance schemes, those for changes to Ofsted inspections and so on – and in every case those taking part did everything required – so complied a portfolio and went through a quality assurance visit and had feedback; or took part in an inspection with feedback and report. In each situation the outcome was not valid / legal, and in each case ‘fine tuning’ was needed as a result of the pilots – but at least everything had been tested.

Not so for childminder agencies – and as far as I am concerned there was NO REASON why fully functioning agencies could not have been piloted (but without  cost to those taking part, with the current inspection framework and support still in place) – WHY? I have to ask – Why did the Government not want to test childminder agencies out properly before rolling them out?

To me it is a bit like drawing a new model of a car on a piece of paper – saving lets do x,y and z. Testing those parts individually  – and without ever putting all the components together launching the car and letting people drive off in it, without knowing if it all works together or if it is safe or if there is public demand.

There would be a public outcry if this happened with cars – and quite rightly

So why are more people not jumping up and down and protesting loudly about childminder agencies? After all these agencies are about the care of children and are now legal – without any proper testing.

Anyway before I wind myself up too much with my own words – let’s move on

Page  Six – It is noted that there was  negative media and concerns from existing childminders  – and whose fault was that? – yes the Government for not giving details, not answering questions and to be frank not conducting ‘proper’ pilots.

The pilot activities are listed – sounds quite good – but some of these were paper exercises, some of them were discussions. In fact most activities were of the ‘Consideration of’ or ‘Exploration of’ type – and if you don’t believe me – take a look at Annex Two.

Page Seven – Talks about the key findings; It says

In exploring how areas of the policy may work in practice, the childminder agency trials have played an important role in policy development. Learning from the trials has helped to inform regulations for childminder agencies and ‘departmental advice’ on childminder agencies.

REALLY – Having read the documentation mentioned   – all it seems to have done is ensure that the guidance and regulations are as ‘loose’ as possible with lots of words like MAY, MIGHT and COULD.

There is also mention of the business costs – and in so many words it says that you need to do some Market research! WOW now isn’t that enlightening? Surely they should have more to say than that? Some examples maybe? Some actual costings maybe?

They talk again about the established childminders and myths around childminder agencies – but as I have said before this is all the Governments own doing – they mishandled this project from beginning to end

Page Eight –

There is an example given that says how engaged with childminders – but the only thing to have come from that is to say that some childminders may wish to buy services such as training from an agency – Now that is a surprise – of course they will – IF the price is right and the time right.

Oh and they showed the childminders how the agency costs could be offset through their tax returns! Another astounding piece of information – most childminders are well aware of offsetting expenses against their tax return – but maybe it was new information to the DfE?

They talk about there being little demand by existing childminders, and the need to ‘add value’ and considered costs carefully – I read that as a code for ‘Be careful these agencies will be difficult to make sustainable

Page Nine – More talk about costs and be careful as to what fees are charged

Mentions that some experienced childminders may want jobs as mentors – in my opinion these might be the childminders who are planning on resigning as childminders – or who are thinking ‘covering their own backs’ , or the sort who already carry out that sort of role for membership organisations and enjoy volunteering. But nothing that we did not already know. Childminders have always acted as mentors (or peer support) to each other

Page Ten – some suggestions of Business models and packages – I may be wrong but I am sure I have seen similar list elsewhere – now was it membership organisations? Networks? LA’s? mmmm – nothing new again – just re inventing the wheel from what I can see. I could have provided that list in about 10 mins – and for free – in fact so far – if the DfE had took me out for coffee and cake one morning I could have provided all this information for free (well aside from the cost of coffee and cake)

Page Eleven – Talks about the value of parental contribution – but just look at the percentages stated – the highest response is 31% – hardly something to base a business model on

In then talks about ‘new services’ – Now I am getting cross – these are not NEW services – they are already offered through various schemes – clearly more re inventing of the wheel – but what a joke they make it sound like they have come up with some really good suggestions – but they haven’t – been there, got the T-shirt!

Page Twelve – Has a box with examples of these new services – why didn’t they ask membership organisations, social services and LA’s who already have these in place? Why did they not ask me?

The last bit of page 12 is about helping childminders with expansion – how the heck do they think the many childminders who have successfully expanded their business have coped up to now – without childminder agencies? Clutching at straws comes to mind

Page Thirteen – All about recruitment and marketing – and nothing we didn’t already know – just basic common sense really

Page Fourteen – All about recruiting new childminders – think they may have copied and pasted from a LA / membership organisation website – it is all ‘old’ information – we did not need childminder agency pilots to find out any of this – we already knew it.

Page Fifteen  and Sixteen – All about quality assurance  and working with other –  Just what everyone already knows – however this bit made me smile;

Consideration may need to be given to separating within an agency the support and quality assurance functions of an agency to minimise conflicts of interest.

What have I and many others been saying – agencies should not provide support and quality assurance – and here they are saying there is a conflict of interest


The rest of the document is just the Annexes and list of who took part.


So there we are are you any more informed? Are you reassured?


As far as I am concerned my answer to these questions that I asked at the beginning

So – Am I enlightened? Have I found out anything I didn’t already know? Am I reassured? Do I think the pilots have been useful? Do I now want to issue an apology and say – sorry I was wrong, these agencies are going to be wonderful – just what we all need (parents and childminders that is)


IS NO, NO, NO, No and NO

What a complete waste of time, effort and money – and what is worse based on these pilots, we now have the guidance – and childminder agencies are going to set up – without the benefit of ‘proper trails’. or ‘proper evaluation’. The Government might as well have said – just go do what you want – it will be fine’


Only trouble is – I am worried that it won’t be fine


Posted September 5, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

4 responses to “At last the evaluation of the childminder agency pilots

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  1. am i being cynical that the week this comes out the wonderful leadrer of ofsted says we are useless. More bashing of childminders to force us to join an agency

  2. I read it yesterday and thought it was the typical ‘well this is what we said we wanted to do, we will waffle around whether it has worked or not because actually it hasn’t, but we are going to do it anyway and hope that we can con as many new childminders as possible into doing it because they won’t know any better, and then we can say it has been a huge success’. They wouldn’t want to own up now and have do a complete U turn, especially with Sir Michael Wilshaw wanting to get rid of us anyway!! It was complete tosh when the idea was first put up and it still is and always will be.

  3. In the words of our illustrious (big mouthed, and thoughtless), HMCI I can use negative or stereotypical phrases cos he does. The idea is damaging, contains NASTY surprises, thoughtless, load of hot air, BAD way forward, and NAUGHTY of the goverment to think that we as an Early Years Sector would be “STUPID” enough to swallow it, hook line and stinker – sorry sinker.

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