Archive for November 2014

Safeguarding Children in the widest sense of the word   2 comments

The newspapers, TV and internet are full of news AGAIN about failure to safeguard children.
On this occasion it is about sexual abuse, and everyone is shocked at the scale of the cases already uncovered and the warnings of yet more cases all over the country likely to come to light as further investigations take place.

Social services, Police, Schools, Government, communities are all saying ‘this should not happen’ and ‘how can it go on without us knowing?
Although many are saying ‘we could do better’ no one is really holding their hands up and saying ‘We are to blame’

I would suggest that as a country we are all to blame – every single adult. And we must do better and safeguard EVERY child from in terms of child protection.


Of course we all know about Daniel, Victoria and others – and we can but hope that changes made to the system will prevent any more of these cases where children have been completely failed by the systems and adults of this county, and for this to happen we all need to be prepared to take action, to speak up.

However, I would suggest there are other types of failure to safeguard our children going on right under our noses.

At this point readers will either be worried that more cases of neglect and physical and sexual abuse are about to hit the headlines – or they will be thinking that I have ‘lost the plot’, because how could I – an everyday person possibly know about such things – and know it is going on all over the country?

So maybe at this stage I should make it clear that I don’t have a crystal ball – that I am not the only one with this knowledge – that many have this information – and yet only a few are trying to do something to prevent what is already a major concern and impacting on some children; from becoming a disaster, and a complete failure to protect the children of this country.

I am very lucky that my own campaigning efforts have connected me to a lot of other professionals – including those that lead organisations and associations, and those who carry out research and those who are experts within the early years field.

I am also fortunate to have opportunities to attend national training, university lectures – and to be included in a lot of email communications between those mentioned above.

Regular readers may now be thinking ‘ah this blog has got something to do with Penny’s concerns re the Government and the early years sector’

Spot on it is.

I think my personal outrage at recent Government policy is well known and that people recognise that I am genuinely concerned about the well being of this countries children.

However, it was not until I attended a recent lecture at Worcester University that I made the connection between my concerns and the word ‘safeguarding’ – in the widest sense of the word.

After some reflection, it is now clear to me that the Government of this country (and not just those in power, but also those in ‘opposition’ who do not effectively stop the Government from implementing ill thought out policies) are failing to safeguard the well being, health, and appropriate development of the children BUT potentially by not speaking up and saying we will not support Government policy that is not in the best interests of the children, and that will potentially limit their life opportunities – the adults of this country – that is parents, early years practitioners,, grandparents, teachers – all of us – are responsible for contributing to failing to safeguard the children of this county.

Worrying, shocking and as time goes on and Government impose more and more inappropriate policies for our children – and especially for children in the early years, the more damage, the more failure to safeguard the development of our children takes place.

Now I am sure most adults in this country have not even considered this before, and will be horrified to think that they may be even remotely responsible for any failure to safeguard a child or children.

However, in my opinion to do nothing about things we know are not right, that we know are not based on research and years of experience from within the sector, is as bad as supporting those things.
To implement policies and procedures, which we know will not support children to develop into happy, healthy well rounded individuals who will flourish in life, then we are contributing to failing to safeguard the well being and development of the children.

Of course some people do take action, they do speak out, sign petitions, write letters, take part in debates and sharing of information.
People like me, people like Neil Leitch CE of the Pre school Learning Alliance and Dr. Richard House of the Too Much Too Soon Campaign, and many others. Individuals and organisations are beginning to join together to voice their concerns such as all those involved in the Save Childhood Movement.

But is it enough – will the concerns of those who do speak out be enough to bring about changes, to ensure the Government listens and acts on those concern?

I tend to think not – and certainly my personal experience to date, is that the Governments record of listening and consulting is tokenistic and just for purposes of ‘ticking’ the ‘we have consulted box’

I have been reflecting on my own personal actions – could I do more?

Is starting petitions, writing letters and articles, having a well worn soapbox enough?

Does my actual hands on practice – safeguard the well being and development of the children in my care?

I think I could do more

I do challenge – for example when the Ofsted inspector suggested I put word labels on my toy boxes. I challenged this and asked her to explain how it would improve outcomes for the children. She could not (or would not) and changed the subject- this said to me that she could not justify her recommendation – and she then choose another recommendation. I have not added labels to my toy boxes – and nor will I because I can justify why I don’t need to.

I also do not reference every single thing to do with the children’s learning and development to Development Matters – or even Early Learning Outcomes because I don’t think there is a need – putting things on a bit of paper does not improve the outcomes for children. In fact I think doing so, could limit opportunities in some circumstances because the adults will follow the planning that follows the recording of development and miss opportunity to follow the child’s interests and lead, which can and do change frequently. Sometimes, todays interest is no longer of interest the following day, or extending an interest is not what the child wants to do – they want / need to consolidate what they have discovered.

Of course this does not mean that I never look at Development Matters or other child development guidance documents or books – of course I do but I do so just to check my own knowledge and thinking.

So I already don’t do some things just because Ofsted or my LA suggest it is good practice to do so – I stick to my ethos and principles based on my knowledge and understanding about children.

Do I think I know all I need to know about children – of course not – I think there is always more to learn, more to reflect on. If I thought I knew it all, I would not be trying to gain my degree, I would not subscribe to a large number of early years publications, I would not network and share information (which of course is a two way process).

However, without being big headed, I think I know a bit more than some of those who are in charge of making decisions about the policies for early years care and education within the Government.

So could I personally do more?


Re read the bit in bold – I stick to my ethos and principles based on my knowledge and understanding about children.
If this is the case (and it is) the logical step is that I apply ‘Principled non-compliance’ in terms of implementing practice based on the policies of Government that I think are wrong

So this is my personal plan

2 year olds in school – parents’ choice – but I won’t be offering a wrap around service for two year olds who attend a school based setting, and I will be challenging why it is considered in the child’s best interest. And it is not just about the school environment – because at the end of the day it would be possible to create an enabling environment within any building – but it is also about school based hours and term dates and continuity of care for the children during school holidays and outside school hours. It is about 2 year olds having to potentially cope with different routines, different key persons – all of which are not in the best interests of two year olds.

Baseline testing – I won’t be providing information, or preparing children for this testing, and I will be challenging why it is needed and seeking clarification about how it will improve outcomes for children, how they will ensure that all children are given equal opportunity to take part – rather than some being a whole year younger than their oldest peers. I will want to know how the data collected will be used- and how it can improve assessment, and therefore outcomes, over and above the observations that teachers do and are trained to do.

4 year olds going to school before they are ready – again parents’ choice
BUT I have decided if any parent (from Sept 15) wants their 4 year old to stay at my setting, until they are CSA they can do so – for free (voluntary contributions will be accepted, but I won’t charge). Some 4 years olds are ready, some are not, some schools are better at being ready for 4 years in their schools than others, some schools understand better than others the need for a play based curriculum, and the importance of waiting for children to be developmentally ready for formal academic based activities. I believe parents should have choice, and so in enabling a child to stay in my setting, I hope to facilitate that choice.

Offering early years education places– I currently offer these places for 2, 3 and 4 year olds, but I am concerned that the agreement that I am expected to sign, is becoming too prescriptive – and so although I signed the latest one; I have decided that if there is any requirement to agree to implement something that I do not agree with on a principled non-compliance basis, then I will not sign the agreement. This will of course mean that the funding will be withdrawn. However, it is my intention that any child who wants an EYE place, will be provided with that number of hours FOC.

Is there anything else that I could plan to do? – I don’t know yet, but I do know if there is a national call for action to make a stand against Government policy that I feel will lead to failure to safeguard children’s development (including the assumption that Early years settings can continue to provide services that are not financially sustainable), I will join others in a day of action or a march or signing a petition – or all of them.

It is time that I personally, and we collectively stopped enabling the Government to continue to fail to safeguard children’s well being and development, through our support of policies by implementing them.

I think ENOUGH IS ENOUGH – it is time we took action.

My question therefore is – Will you continue to support policies that fail to safeguard children’s well being and development – and if not  what will you do to ensure the Government understand your position on this.

I would be very interested in your views – Am I on my own? Am I part of a small minority? Or am I part of
growing number of people who can no longer standby and let the Government continue to implement policies that are not in the best interests of children?

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

Seizing the day to improve the nurture of our youngest children – in celebration of the 25th anniversary of UNCRC   3 comments

When I found out about this 1001 Critical Days and Foundation Years  joint information and research seminar, I was very excited and decided despite the short notice that I would try to attend mainly because I had very recently revisited this document, after attending the Early Education seminar and listening to the excellent presentation by Professor Chris Pascal and Professor Tony Bertram .

Amazingly everything fell into place and arrangements were put into place for my childminded children and my foster child. So on Thursday 20th November, early in the morning I was on my way to London, as the event was being held in the Boothroyd Room, House of Commons (actually in the modern bit called Portcullis House).

As I was to get into London very early, I had arranged to meet a friend, that I do not see that often for coffee, and we had a lovely catch up and some discussion around things that concern us both.

By lunch time I had navigated my way across London and despite the cold stood on the bank of the Thames, near the London Eye, eating my lunch. I then made my way to Portcullis House – I was a bit nervous as the last time I visited this building my bag ‘failed’ the security check – but no problems this time – my bag ‘passed’.

I was directed upstairs and sat waiting for one of my Save Childhood Movement colleagues – Marie from ‘Mother’s at Home Matter’. Marie arrived shortly after me and introduced me to her colleagues, we chatted for a while and were joined by others – including Penelope Leach. I had met Penelope Leach once before – at another conference – and not surprisingly she did not remember. However we all chatted until it was time to go into the large room.

It was set up in a similar fashion to the rooms in the House of Commons with rows of chairs at the back, and chairs at tables with mikes in front of them in a horseshoe shape at the front. I took a seat in one of the first rows of the seats at the back – as did Marie and her colleagues.

I noticed a few faces that I recognised but also many that I didn’t (turns out that was a good reason for this – many of them were from health professions)

We were all given a huge plastic bag containing our ‘pack’ – I stuffed mine in my bag – as pointless me trying to read and listen – or listen and note take; however I have of course since opened the pack and can you it contained a thick book called ‘Growing Up in the UK – Ensuring a healthy future for our children’  The date on it is May 2013, but I admit I had not seen or read it – maybe because it is produced by the BMA Board of Science. Anyway I have still not read it, or even dipped into it – I did open it and could see the writing was very small, that there are lots of graphs and research and recommendations – so not really my sort of bedtime reading – but I know I will dip in to it over the next few weeks just to get an overview – so I will know what it is about, and therefore when to refer to it, either as part of my university course or my campaigning.

The pack also contained Penelope Leach’s document ‘Babies are people – All people have rights, so what about babies rights?’ I have skim read this document – I do not agree with everything that she says / writes (in this document or elsewhere) – but this document  is mainly in line with many of my thoughts about the rights of babies and their parents to be the best people to protect their babies rights. However it also raises a lot of questions – and in fact these questions are within the actual text – things like ‘Do all parents have enough knowledge of child development to decide what is best for their baby?’ and ‘Do parents have the right to do what they like with their baby – without reference to the baby?’ (Which I take to mean not responding to what the baby is telling them through cries and body language). I will be returning to this document as I think will be useful in many areas of my professional life and to my CPD, and will raise questions that I will need to reflect on, and decide if I agree or not.

Another document in the pack was a document from the University of Northampton  School of Education, called ‘Transforming Lives + Inspiring Change’ – which really is a ‘sales brochure’ for the university – and so how their training of future educators will transform lives and inspire change. I do understand why this particular document was included – as they were mentioned a couple of times and there are links between some of the speakers and the university. However, I wonder what the relevance was in including it in the pack – considering those attending?

There were a few leaflets promoting forthcoming events – oh to have the time and financial means to attend them all.

And there was a booklet about the 1001 Critical Days manifesto – which was interesting as it is cross party and has the backing of many organisations. I had of course already printed this and looked at it before going to the seminar. If you have not read it yet here is the link -

But that is not all that was in the pack – there was a copy of the UNCRC – useful to have, and some information about PIPUK – which stands for Parent Infant Partnership – United Kingdom. If you want to know more click on the link

Link to PIPUK website

Another leaflet was about Best beginning – I admit not known to me – if not known to you take a look at their website

HERE for the LINK for Best Beginnings

I have only had a quick look but notice there is a lot of information – including some for professionals. I will go back and have a more in-depth look later

And that more or less is the end of the details about the contents of the pack given out.

Please note that this is personal recall without the aid of written notes or handouts from presentations

We were expecting Frank Field  to do the introduction, but he was delayed on other matters – so instead Tim Loughton MP did them- telling how exciting it was for us all – not only because of the excellent speakers lined up, but also because of the cross party support and the cross professional support and attendance with health and education starting to come together, to express concerns and to work on solutions – all with the aim of improving outcome and increasing opportunities for children – covering the 1001 critical days – from conception to two years of age.

Our first speaker was Dame Tessa Dowell MP –  I knew her name and had signed petitions about children’s rights and putting child development at the heart of post 2015 policies not just in this country but in other countries. The petition is now closed, and was a success as this is now being discussed within the UN.

Dame Jowell spoke with passion and determination, she spoke about Sure Start centres, in which she had played a major role in setting up. She spoke about the  role they had in the past and the changing roles over the years – and the loss of opportunities for them to be centres of support for children and their families – but also of hope that things were starting to be re considered. She spoke about the families and children in the areas that she is MP for and what is being done – and what could be done. However the thing I liked most was she questioned why education was ruled by politicians who are not experts within the field of education – and that a better system was needed – cross party maybe? I am sure the same can be said for health.

I have since read that Dame Tessa Jowell is standing down as an MP as from the 2015 elections – I understand her position but it will be a loss to lose someone on ‘the inside’ who was prepared to challenge the historic way of doing things within Government. However, I hear she might be standing as London Mayor and maybe – at least at a local level she will be able to bring about change?

Our second speaker was Sir Al Aynsley – Green – I had not heard him speak in person before – although I had heard snippets on the TV before.

I liked what Sir Al Aynsley Green had to say (well most of it) because it was clear he was passionate about children’s well being – and he had a photo up of a lovely young baby who  turned out to be his granddaughter. Sir Al spoke from the heart and he also  questioned things that are happening now and have happened in the past. He spoke about how things are done in other countries, about children’s rights about the role of their parents.

Also Sir Aynsley – Green said (of the government) – ‘No more reports’ ‘We know what needs doing – we do not need another report’ I can’t remember but I think he said something on the lines of ‘What we need now is some action’

There was of course lots of other things that Sir Al said but as I don’t take notes I don’t want quote him as saying things unless I am sure.

The next speaker was Dr.Gabriella Conti – I found it very difficult to understand Gabrielle’s presentation – I remember the bits about monkeys and attachment – and how the parenting experience passes on to the next generation, ie if a child does not receive good parenting experiences – it is likely that they will be unable to provide good parenting to their own children. This is something that I had worked out for myself, before listening to this presentation.

Gabrielle also showed lots of graphs – and I struggled with these as well as they all looked similar – and the text was quite small. However, I did get the overall impression that Gabrielle was interested  in testing children to ensure they were ‘doing well’ and in the economic benefits of childcare and so on – not surprising considering her background in economics.  I would like to know more – because to me nurturing and attachments are fundamental to well being, and although will (do) lead to children developing to their full potential (whatever that might be) and will have a positive impact on the economics  of a country in the long run.  However in the short term it means investment in services and support for children and families.

All the things that I had heard at the Early Education seminar – were mentioned – health, living wage, support for parents, less stress and so on – but money is needed to kick start this and to start to turn things around.

As I have said, I found it very hard to listen to and to understand what Gabrielle was saying, but I have found this You Tube clip of Gabrielle talking about her work, which you might find useful

After that there was a question and answer session, there were some interesting questions – and some interesting information – such as some training that is going to be rolled out to health professionals. There were some comments about changes over the years – not all for the good, for example new mums being sent home after only a few hours after giving birth;  comments about the lack of men in the room – although there were some; and some self defensive comments from those who felt their profession was being blamed – which was silly because over the years, none of us have got it right – and many of us have followed Government policy in the belief that they had it right. It is only in recent years that people have really started to question the constant ill informed Government policy – and have the confidence to stand up and say something about it

Talking about saying something, I did have opportunity to speak to the room during the next – and last part of the day – which was the interactive and action centred contributions – led by Sir Al Aynsley- Green. The idea was that we would state something that needed ‘sorting’ and give an action plan to enable this to happen.

Everyone also had to write their ideas on a piece of paper (if they spoke to the room or not) and hand it in on leaving (and all would be typed up and shared later)

So my contribution was to enable parents and practitioners to be enabled to support each other and to help themselves through making information easily accessible. I said the much of this information was not rocket science and could be easily implemented – if only people knew about it’

My colleague Marie said something on the lines of  ‘ important to see children’s services and children’s wellbeing in the context of family life and the care they receive at home, whether from parents, foster parents, or other carers.      It’s vital to support and value parenting, as only then can children be supported’.

It was very encouraging to note that nearly everyone in the room handed in a piece of paper with their ideas on (and having someone at the door to collect them, ensured they were handed in) – I may well use this idea myself at events / training.

I then said my goodbyes, navigated my way back to Marylebone station and sat having a coffee and doing a few emails from my phone, while waiting for the train home.

In summary was it worth the long day and expense of going to London and taking a day of work?

Yes it was, the time having coffee with my friend was a bonus, and worth travelling across London to ‘make it doable’ and the seminar was interesting and informative.

But the best bit was being in a room full of people from health, education – and MP’s who were all enthusiastic about working together and making a difference to the well being of our youngest children – I did feel like we had indeed ‘seized the day’ and that we are all on the brink of bringing about change through our determination and faith that we can make a difference and that we should not just stand by and let ill informed policy get in the way of children’s well being and futures.

In fact I sense that many were wanting to join their soap boxes to mine – and that is just what we need everyone on their soap box and speaking up for the children of this country.



Early Education AGM and Seminar 2014   Leave a comment

I very nearly did not go to this years Early Education AGM  and in fact I had sent in my apologies. I was gutted because I had asked in my feedback the year before if the AGM could be held outside London sometimes – and this year it was held in Birmingham (almost on my doorstep)

The reason I thought I could not go was because it clashed with one of my university course conference days.

However a chance discussion with one of my uni tutors made me re think my decision – and I am so glad that I did.

So on Saturday 8th November 2014, I found myself on the train to Birmingham – a little nervous as I was going to Snows Hill station for the first time, and I was not sure of where I would come out in relation to the venue – or in relation to a nearby coffee shop – because as usual I would be very early – and planned to meet a colleague who was going, and to read the paper connected to the seminar by  Professor Tony Bertram and Professor Chris Pascal.

I had printed it out- all 78 pages, because I find it really hard to read on a computer screen.

On the train journey I had a message from Michelle Rogers who I was going to meet, saying that at last minute she was unable to attend – and please could I pass on a message to Early Education to give her apologies – very important as Michelle was standing as a Trustee this year.

So I arrive at Snows Hill and make my way to the exit – with map in hand I find my way to the venue – literally a 2 – 3 min walk – and to my delight on the short walk I passed a coffee shop. Reassured about where the AGM was being held, I retraced my steps to the coffee shop, ordered coffee and cake and settled down to read the paper by CREC, which is an Early Years Literature Review.

If you are interested in reading it, Early Education with kind permission by Tony and Chris have made the paper available FREE to everyone on their website.

Link to download the Early Years Literature Review

While on the website please take a look at the other stuff on there. (And if you are one of my student peers studying at university – take a look at the membership options for university and have a word with your tutors!) However even if your university is not a member of Early Education, there is a special student membership – with many benefits – although not all the benefits of individual membership.

I am an individual member and I think it provides value for money, click on link to go to the right page on the Early Education website Early Education individual membership

I became engrossed in reading the paper – some things I was nodding my head to, and saying to myself – quite right, these things are very important. Other things  I was questioning in my head and making a mental note to mention at the seminar if I had opportunity.

I managed to scan read about half the document in the time available – in my case that means skipping title pages, index pages, and some other stuff that I may (or may not) return to later. I have recently discovered that I am highly likely to be dyslexic and to have dyspraxia (initial assessments done – 3rd, 3hr one to go), and this puts my reading into context – I find it really hard, (as in physically draining) and very time consuming, and the test have shown that I am a slow reader. So my guess is that over time I have developed ‘coping strategies’ – one of which is ‘scan reading’ and coming to a fairly quick personal overview.

So my quick personal overview of the bit of Tony’s and Chris’s paper that I had read – was ‘This is good. So many points that I agree with’ in particular the aspects in relation to the first 1001 days (which is pregnancy and up to two) – and as a result I was looking forward to the seminar even more.

Coffee and cake finished, I set off for the short walk to venue – I find it so reassuring to know how to get to venues and hate arriving late and then unable to find the door in (as was the case with Early Education national conference in Edinburgh). However, no such problems on this occasion. I find the door, go in and can see the signing in desk in front of me.

I signed in, and gave Michelle’s apologies – so they are not waiting for her to arrive. I note that there are not many name badges available and wonder why given the excellent central location and the guest speakers. Even the price for the day (including lunch) was in my opinion very reasonable. However, I then think about my own decisions around which event to attend – and recall several others that I could have gone to, so maybe that was the reason – Early Education members had had to make difficult decisions about which event to attend?

After a visit to the restroom and hanging up my coat (so pleased about this small point – but nothing worse than having to drag your coat around all day – especially if the coat is wet), I wonder into the refreshment area and pour myself a coffee and take a packet of biscuits. I then go over to look at the publications – like many membership organisations Early Education produced a range of excellent publications – and I have several already. If you are not familiar with Early Educations publications – click on this link   Link to Early Education publications on website ( the eagle eyed among you will have already spotted them on the page with the download to Tony and Chris’s paper)

I say ‘Hello’ to a lady that I vaguely recognise and so glance at her name badge – Julie it says – ah the very person that my colleague Michelle had asked me to pass the message to. So I explain to Julie about Michelle being unable to attend and give some personal info as well – Julie appears quite relieved to have the message – and it soon becomes clear why – she speaks to a couple of other people and says, ‘Penny’s message answers our question’. Apparently all is now sorted!

I move away from the publications and find a table, I am joined by a lady from ‘Cosy’ who are displaying some of their resources – and giving out catalogues and posters (I love their posters – especially the ‘stick’ one)

If you are not familiar with Cosy’s resources take a look at their website        Link to Cosy website

We have a lovely chat about play and appropriate environments for children – not just those in the early years. Of course after a while the Cosy lady needs to go and speak to other people.

By now the refreshment area is starting to fill up – and I notice a few people I know and a few other faces that I recognise from other Early Education events – including my colleague Kathryn Solly.

Beatrice Merrick (Early Education CE) comes over for a chat, and we pick up on our discussions from the national conference and emails since then. I find it reassuring that not only are childminders very welcome to join Early Education as members but that staff and volunteers show a real interest in childminding and in how we can all work together in the best interests of children. At first glance it might appear that the historic membership of Early Education (which is maintained Nursery Schools) would not be ideal for productive or supportive partnership working relationships with childminders – but I have found that we do  have a huge amount of similarities in our thoughts about practice that is in the best interests of children – as well of course a few areas of differences . Personally, I think these differences are a good thing as this means there are a range of settings that are not all identical and which therefore – between them – can support the unique – and diverse – needs of children.

Once Beatrice has moved onto talk to other delegates (and to Julie about getting started), I go over to have a word with Kathryn – and as it happens only a quick word as we are encouraged to make our way into the main hall. Kathryn sits by me and we exchange family news (mainly about grandchildren and children) and have an informative chat about dairy intolerance and allergies, as this occurs in both of our families.

I notice James Hempsall is in the room. James is taking a lead role in the funded two year old scheme. I have met James on a couple of occasions and are on first name terms. Information about James involvement in the Two year old project can be found here        Link to Hempsall’s Achieving Two Year Olds

The seminar starts – and after welcomes and introductions, Chris and Tony get down to the job in hand – talking about their literature review. As always, I am not going to repeat word for word what they said – you can read their report thanks to it being on the Early Education website – and you can access more information about their work from the          CREC website.

However, I will give an overview of the things that stood out for me – first the importance of the first 1001 days and getting it right – including;  housing, healthy diet, removing stress, parenting skills – in general happiness and well being of children being the MOST important aspects to make a difference to children. Early education can and does make a difference but can not close the gap enough. The figure given were shocking about poverty, and about the ‘hidden children’ – the ones we do not even know where they are because they are constantly moving accommodation or don’t even have accommodation. The facts about the most disadvantaged were surprising – White – boys – living in poverty; and having the most complex barriers to overcome.

As I sat there reflecting I thought about the children I know, and about my own family members – both close and extended, and about the children that I have looked after over the last 30 years – and I could relate to these facts – and to the fact that things are getting worse – yes some good work is being done and some improvements in some areas seen – but overall things are not significantly improving and in many areas things are getting worse.

The fact about the genetic impact on future generations through the effect of stress and poor diet and poor housing – from grandmother – to mother in the creation of mothers eggs in the womb – and therefore to the grandchild of that grandmother was something that I had not really thought much about – but it made prefect sense to me. As did the fact that many parents today did not receive good parenting experiences themselves – and we now have two or in some cases three generations where parenting experiences have progressively deteriorated.

I also reflected on the whole first 1001  days – and thought to myself – many of my colleagues in this room do not care for children within this time frame – but my colleagues from the childminding sector and day nursery sector often do. I thought about the children currently in my care – 3 of them fall into this category (as do my 3 youngest grandchildren). I thought about the funded two year olds – and couldn’t help thinking that although I know from personal experience the funding does make a difference – that maybe more support for parents in parenting, and with housing and diet – and indeed a ‘living wage’ and less pressure to put their very young children into childcare, could have more impact – make more of a difference to more children. Certainly it needs a lot more thinking about – but does fit in with my campaign thoughts around Too Much, Too Soon – and the whole back to work Government drive – and the idea behind the Save Childhood Movement (which is not just about education)

I remember looking about the document about the 1001 Critical  Days when it first came out – and resolved to re look at it – as my scan and quick personal summary clearly needed some refreshing and extending.

(When I got home I did do this and downloaded the report – and if you want to have a second look, or maybe a first look)

As as Postscript to this bit about the 1001 Critical Days – and my increased knowledge from re looking at the document – I was delighted this week when an email popped into my inbox from another organisation that I am a member of  – AIMH (if interested follow     THIS LINK ) The email informed me that there were still places available at an event in London on Thursday 20th November. I made enquires, sorted out childcare arrangements for my childminded children – and my foster child (amazed all fell into place) and booked a place. Why my excitement?

WELL – This is the event

Seizing the day to improve the nurture of our youngest children – 20th November 2014, 2.00pm-4.00pm

1001 Critical Days and Foundation Years Information and Research joint seminar in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of UNCRC. Speakers are: Professor Sir Al Aynsley Green, Professor Emeritus of Child Health at University College London and former first Children’s Commissioner for England and Dr Gabriella Conti, Assistant Professor, Department of Applied Health Research, University College London

Hopefully all clear now  why I wanted to attend?

So as is often the case – one thing leads to another – but back to the Early Education AGM and Seminar

At the end of Tony’s and Chris’s presentation, we had a little time for small group discussion – James Hempsall joined Kathryn and myself and we shared our thoughts. When feedback was asked for – I had a few things to say both from my reading in the coffee shop – and from listening to the presentation. So up went my hand – actually, I wish my hand and my mouth were not so keen – because my brain struggles to find the right words (and on this occasion it was worse than usual because I had the results from my pre assessment for dyslexia in my head – and instead of giving me confidence that actually despite my difficulties with words that usually I do OK in expressing my thoughts – my confidence had taken a major shaking, and I was physically shaking and starting to get the all too familiar spasms in my back –  and I was thinking I hope I don’t say the ‘wrong word’ or mispronounce the ‘right word’). I have to say I was surprised at the impact on my confidence – however my hand in the air and my mouth in cooperation with my ever ready ‘soap box’ were having non of that ‘I can’t do it attitude’  and continued to attract attention to me – and of course Tony / Chris noticed and there was nothing for it, but to say what I wanted to, with what I call ‘little words’.

I asked Tony and Chris about the data used in their research – because as far as I am aware there is very little research about the impact of childminders – both in relation to when children only attend a childminding setting (as did the children who left my setting to go to full time school in September) or when there was shared care between one or more settings – as is the case for some of children in my care this term. Tony agreed but did say there had been some research but only in relation to childminders and healthy diets (and that he had been impressed by the childminders knowledge and practice), the SEED research was also mentioned – as childminders are involved in this. I am aware of the SEED research but at the moment reserving judgement because I don’t think the research is focussed on the right things or conducted in the right way. However it would be very silly of me to jump to conclusions before the results of the research are published. So time will tell.

I also raised the issue about the paper mentioning that nursery schools were in a prime position to lead the practice of other settings in their local area – I objected to this, and suggested that it would be better to say ‘work in partnership with’, because although no doubt as a childminder I could learn from my nursery school colleagues (and indeed my PVI colleagues) nursery schools could also learn from me. Surely it was a case of learning from each other, and providing a choice of settings and practice, in order to meet the needs of all children. Tony and Chris agreed I had a point.

My final point was in relation to the Governments drive to have a graduate led early years workforce – and that despite my own thoughts that experience was as important (in fact in my opinion you need knowledge, understanding and an ability to implement) I had enrolled on the top up degree to gain my degree – but that it was costing me £6,000 – which is a huge amount to anyone in the early years sector – but especially to childminders as this amount often equated to a WHOLE years income once business expenses had been deducted.

There was general agreement in the room about my points – and indeed a colleague made the point about sufficient funding for the sector – including gaining qualifications.

A few more points were raise – some of which were around the closure and threat of closure to many maintained nursery schools (it appears that like within the childminding sector,  the Government are doing nothing / very little to ensure survival of either sector)

By now we were running late for lunch and so we had to end there. However, before I went to get my lunch – I went to have a chat with Tony and Chris – as it turned out – mainly to Tony as my colleague Kathryn was having a chat with Chris.

I mentioned to Tony that I was one of the people he had mentioned at the beginning of his presentation, who is an advocate for children and not afraid to speak up for the children when Government policy is not in the best interest of children (actually, despite my well worn soap box – I am always scared and a nervous wreak whenever I do object to Government policy- as it is not my natural persona – but I can not standby and say nothing). Helen Moylett, passed me as I said this to Tony, and put her hand on my shoulder – and said something on the lines of ‘She is’

Tony and I chatted for a bit longer, and Tony asked for my email address (and for good measure I gave him my blog details as well) Tony promised to stay in touch and especially if he or Chris needed some input from a childminders perspective.

And as another postscript – as it happens Tony has already been in touch via email

There was a lovely selection of sandwiches and fruit (plus some crisps) for lunch – and I put a few on my plate – I was starving (well not in the real sense of the word – but ready for lunch). As usual though I talked too much and only ate a little bit – I chatted to several people including Ros who I had met in Edinburgh, and a lady from Birmingham branch of Early Education (who I am a ashamed to say I have forgotten her name – but it may have been Margaret), however I do remember the conversations with both of them – which were about Ofsted inspections, labels on boxes, signing with children and other communication methods. Excellent sharing of knowledge and information.

As I had talked so much – I was still hungry (and had not had a drink) when we were asked to go back into the hall for the AGM part of the day, so I grabbed a satsuma and a banana from the fruit bowl and joined the others on the hall.

Again I am not going to repeat word for word what was said – and members will get the official minutes in due course. My personal overview is there was a lot of talk about funding – lack of it last year – and hopes for some in the next year; talk about the new website (which in my opinion is so much better than the old one); talk about publications and the associates training programme; and most importantly thanks to the retiring Trustees and welcome to the new Trustees – including my colleague Michelle Rogers. It was a huge shame that some delegates were so delayed in their travels that they did not arrive until almost the end of the day – and this included one of the retiring Trustee’s – however she did get her well deserved round of applause and like all the retiring Trustee’s a small token of appreciation.

We discussed Early Educations Position Paper which is available on the Early Education website                   and I made a suggestion that Early Education add Childminder qualifications to the things that they plan to campaign about, because in my view if childminders are to be given the same professional status as other early years practitioners there should be the same requirement for minimum qualification – provided phased in. It was agreed that this could be added to the things to be campaigned about.

We said thanks to Julian Grenier  who was standing down as Chair of Trustees, and learnt that a replacement for Helen Moylett in her role as President of the association had been found – but that we would give our thanks to Helen when she officially stood down.

Julian gave the closing speech and I was very pleased to note that Julian mentioned childminders several times – and working in partnership.

Before leaving the room I had a chat with Helen Moylett and Nancy Stewart – Helen mentioned that she had read my blog about going to university, which surprises me that people like Helen might read my blogs on ocassion, without any prompting from myself to do so. Both Helen and Nancy said really nice things about my ability to articulate the things I wanted to say – even with only using ‘little words’ – which helped boost my confidence a little.

Glancing at my phone, I could see that I had a little bit of time before catching my train – so I was grateful to see that coffee was still available, so I poured a cup and sat down for a last minute chat with colleagues (mainly listen on my part) before heading off to catch the train.

My head was full of things I wanted to find out more about and to reflect on – but by the time I was half way home – I had to refocus my thoughts to the next few hours when I would be joining my husband, my foster child and one of my ten grandchildren at a firework display.



Posted November 15, 2014 by psw260259 in Conferences that I have attended

Why I set up the petition about the new Children’s Commissioner   1 comment

In basic terms I set it up because I do not have any faith that the current process to appoint Children’s Commissioners is appropriate for such an important role

I need to be clear this is not a personal attack on the Governments preferred candidate Anne Longfield – although I personally think Anne should not have applied for the post especially when you take into account what the organisation she currently works for – 4Children  – said in  their own written evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights within House of Lords on ‘ the Role and Independence of the OCC.

“In regard to the independence of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, it is our view that the effectiveness of the Office has been constrained by an unnecessarily close working relationship with the Department for Education.”

As 4Children  receive a lot of funding from the DfE ;  and 4Children have  supported recent Government proposals and implementation of policy, I would suggest that this would make it difficult for anyone who works for 4Children not to have had a close working relationship with the Department for Education.

I have personally noted that Anne has not really made any comment, either personally or in her role as CE of 4Children lately – and this could be taken as not supporting Government policy. I can not say because I have not spoken to Anne, or read anything about why she has been noted to have said nothing, and therefore do not known the reasons behind this.

So as I say the petition that I set up is not about Anne Longfield personally – she applied for the post and I can only hope that she thinks she can be independent of Government influence despite her current role.

However, in my opinion to say nothing is not the same as publicly objecting to Government policy – where children are concerned, they need advocates – people who will say what is wrong with Government policies and why not in the best interests of children’s well being.

This applies to all who are in a role of protecting the rights of children.

And it  is particularly important that a Children’s Commissioner has a track record of speaking up for children – all children. This means a very special person is needed to fulfil the role and responsibilities of being a Children’s Commissioner, with a whole range of skills and experiences.


I think whoever becomes a Children’s Commissioner – now or in the future – will be in a difficult position because the Office of Children’s Commissioner (OCC) is within Sanctuary Buildings – which is DfE office in London . I question how the OCC can be independent when their office is within a government building – with DfE and other government people able to ‘put pressure’ on them.

Cynical of me?

Maybe but I think the OCC should be completely independent of government influence, including where their office is situated.


So  what is the petition about?

It is about ensuring the Children’s Commissioner is able to fulfil the role – and that the process of appointing a Children’s Commissioner is fit for purpose

The wording from the petition heading  is

To ensure the next Children’s Commissioner is able to fulfil the responsibilities of role

with the further wording saying

Ensure the Children’s Commissioner is able to fulfil the responsibilities of the role of standing up for and protecting the rights of children under the Children and Families Act 2014, without conflict of interest or direction from Government.

Ensure the Children’s Commissioner has proven record of protecting the rights of children up to the age of 18 years old, or 25 years if they have been in care, are care leavers or have a disability.

Ensure the Children’s Commissioner provides evidence of own knowledge and experience in representing children of all ages, abilities and background.

So to my mind when putting together the wording – this was not about Anne, or about this appointment – but about ensuring that whoever is appointed now and in the future is able to carry out the role  – now and in the future.

If anyone, including Anne Longfield herself, thinks this petition is a ‘witch hunt’ about Anne – then I apologise . It is not about an individual it is about a system, that in my opinion is flawed from start to finish.

So, without going into too much detail, here are a few reasons I think the system is flawed

  • Why do the Government have any say in this – and in particular why do they have a ‘preferred person’?
  • Why is the Education Select Committee involved – the role of Children’s Commissioner extends well beyond the remit of ‘education’
  • Why can the Government over rule any recommendation by the select committee? (as they did with the last appointment)
  • Why is the Office of Children’s Commissioner in the DfE building?
  • Why are children, young people, their parents / carers not consulted with?
  • Why are those who work with and support with children and young people not consulted with?
  • Why is the post not widely promoted so that more people know about it and can apply?
  • Why was Twitter the only method available this time for people to comment – and why only about the key priorities?
  • Why were people only given 6 days to respond?

In my opinion, this just another example of Government doing what they want, of going through processes but just over riding any other opinions or recommendations.

And as Government are only in office for a short period of time – and individual ministers (who often do not have any qualification or even experience in the area that they are supposed to represent)  for even less time as they get moved around to suit Government agendas and impact on popularity, the whole thing is not fit for purpose.


In fact, although I do not support any particular political party, as in my opinion the whole system of Government is not fit for purpose (that is the system not the people who do their best within that system)  – I do agree with David Laws – Government should not be in charge of education policy making as they don’t know what they are talking about and each person ‘in charge’ messes up everything by trying to make their ‘stamp’ on things.

I will go further than Mr. Laws – the Government should not be able to influence ANYTHING to do with children and young people – and certainly the whole system of so called debate, consultation, responding to public opinion, having regard to research and expertise – really is not fit for purpose, because it makes no difference AT ALL – and just wastes a lot of money and time.


Of course not everyone will agree with my personal opinion – and I would not suggest that my personal opinion is the only one worth discussing.

However, things need to change – and sooner rather than later – children are not being safeguarded – and in this I mean not safeguarded from the system.

Let’s start the discussion, let’s invite everyone to be involved, let’s agree to start with a clean drawing board and to come up with proposals that will work – rather than trying to patch up a system that does not work – and has not worked for years.


I am just an individual, I don’t claim to be an expert – but I do listen – as I now have a bit of a reputation not only for listening, but for doing my best to speak up for children and families – and because of that I get a lot of requests for support, I know much more than I am comfortable with knowing.

I can not tell you about any of these requests for support but if I could, you would be as horrified as I am that such things can and do happen – and to be clear I am talking about complete failure of so called ‘robust systems’ that let children down, that do not protect their rights, that do not improve outcomes.

Robust systems, bits of paper, policies do not safeguard children (in the widest sense of that word – so their whole well being, happiness and life opportunities)

What safeguards children and young people is actions – is people doing the right thing, is people standing on their soap boxes and SHOUTING ‘This is not right, this is not in the best interests of children’

To say nothing, to do nothing, or to follow blindly ‘systems’ without even thinking about the reasons or the consequences, is in my opinion


So to finish where I started with why I set up the petition

I did so because I am so fed up with this Government (and Governments before them) just doing what they want, for pretending to consult, for pretending to do things in the best interest of this country and the people who live here.

I did so because although time was short – I had to ‘do something’. I was hearing lots of people saying – this is not right but unable to do anything because of the time scales set by Government. They did not have time to call a meeting to discuss within their organisations; they did not have time to rally supporters – and in many case they did not even have time to think about their own view.

As for the general public – most had no idea that this was all happening

Do I think I had any impact – probably in terms of influencing Government – NO

But in terms of enabling people to express an opinion – YES.  (200 people within less than 24 hours)


And I shall continue to do what I can – to do my best for Children, Young People and families


Because it is important to me

Posted November 11, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues