Archive for December 2014

My review of my professional and personal roller coaster ride through 2014   5 comments

I should perhaps mention that I don’t like fairgrounds rides – at all – even the ‘Galloping Horses’ are a bit much for me. However this year the only way that I can think to describe both my professional and personal year, is as a roller coaster ride; a ride that I have been on, often against my will, hanging for dear life, or screaming ‘STOP, I want to get off’; a ride with  exhilarating highs, which have overcome (or at least squashed for a bit) my fear; a ride that to me seems to have gone round and round in circles too many times with the all familiar feeling of ‘has no one got any common sense – can’t they see that reinventing the wheel, giving things different names will not make the experience any better, why don’t they just press the stop button, ask some experts’ advice, and get back to basics based on well-known theory and evidence based practice that works?’

One of the problems of course is the people (government) controlling the professional roller coaster that adults from the early years field  are on, are doing so just because they have a name badge that says they can. These people have no training or qualifications – or supervision from those who are qualified and experienced – they just turn up on the first day of their job – and get on with it – in the only way they can – their way!

Which results in accidents, even fatalities and a whole lot of people like me, who really do not want to be on a roller coaster but who feel they should be, to protect the children who have been told by those with the name badges, ‘Oh yes, you can – in fact you should / must experience these rides that you are not developmentally ‘big enough’ for yet, and which may cause damage to you in many ways.

And my personal roller coaster ride has been as unpredictable and at times as scary, but also at times more like one of those rides for the whole family, where you are taken gently through a journey of discovery with an enjoyable surprise around almost every corner.

And so, this is my reflection of my year on the roller coaster ride through 2014, some of it will be about my childminding. some about my campaigning, and some about my personal life, as of course my personal and professional lives combine to make me who I am, and therefore my experience of not just the roller coaster ride, but the whole funfair. It is not a campaigning blog, it is just an honest, personal recall which for once I have written for my own benefit, but which others may be interested to read.

As an aside, my blog stats tell me this final blog of 2014, is actually my 100th blog this year – not bad for someone who blogs in her spare time (which at times is in very short supply), and who freely admits has a bit of an issue with words.

Please note within each ‘monthly section’ of the ride, I have just recalled my memories –and in no particular order (and some bits may have got jumbled up in my memory). I have not put links to the original blogs about my experiences – and in fact some bits are being written about for the first time – but if you the reader do want to read any of the original blogs –use the ‘search box’ as it works quite well.

Santa had hardly had time to hang up his red suit and have a well-deserved rest, and I had not had time to fasten the safety harness on the roller coaster, before it came crashing down into a unexpected nose dive. Not once, but twice.

First nose dive was the knock at the door from the Ofsted compliance officer on January 6th – there had been a complaint made against me – in fact 3 separate parts to the complaint – all serious in nature and with the possibility that I would be de registered, if proven factual.

I should make it clear, that I believe in people informing Ofsted when they have a concern – in fact they MUST in order to safeguard the children. I would do so myself, and without hesitation. However people who put in malicious complaints should be ashamed of themselves as this not only causes unnecessary stress to the person or setting concerned and even result in settings closing because the stress is too much- it also causes parents worry; it costs Ofsted in terms of time and resources, and also could lead to a serious concern not being investigated quickly enough because Ofsted are dealing with malicious complaints.

Anyway in my case the Ofsted compliance inspector was very happy with everything and stated that in her opinion the complaint was completely unfounded. However, due to procedures at the time, I would have to have a full inspection – this in itself did not bother me, and as I was slightly over the 3 years since last inspection, and I thought it would be beneficial to have an inspection, and have an up to date professional judgement on my practice – especially as I had publicly stated that I would not implement practice that was not in the best interest of the children, and wanted to know Ofsted’s view on my practice.

The second nose dive of the roller coaster (and not something many people know) was the loss of my top teeth (due to very thin enamel on my teeth I had top dentures in my late 40s but had accidentally lost them recently). Not directly professionally related – but certainly had a huge impact indirectly, as I had to face the world (including childminding, attending meetings and so on ) with no top teeth, and only a few bottom teeth, (which were later removed before the fitting of a full set of dentures in February).

On a more gentle and smooth part of the ride, my personal campaign against childminding agencies continued, and I wrote a number of  blogs with the title ‘I have been wondering …..’ which were well received and created a number of valuable discussions and comments.

In a dark section of the ride we had opportunity to take part in the first consultation on childminding  agencies. Like many government consultations it was hard to respond without being led by the hand through the dark, and to go in the directed direction and give the answers they wanted. It was also difficult to see (and not just because a dark section of the ride), what the point in responding was, because it seemed part of a ‘done deal’, and even if everyone shut their eyes and refused to engage in this part of the ride, or bravely stood up while the ride was still going and shouted the responses, so people could hear above the noise of the well-oiled government machinery – nothing would be changed.

In February, Garry (known better in this blog as Mr. Penny’s Place’) and I, held hands, shut our eyes and bravely took our first step on what has turned out to be another slightly different but nevertheless  roller coaster ride – that of becoming foster carers. Fostering Panel actually turned us down because they thought there was a conflict of interest in my job as a registered childminder, and my potential role as a foster carer. Luckily our fostering agency disagreed and we were approved as foster careers.

February also saw the arrival of the Ofsted inspector for the inspection following the malicious complaint, on the morning of 24th February, although the inspector came in for about 30 minutes, I had to ask her to return another day as I had a doctor’s appointment that morning.
I have not told many people this (up to now) but that appointment was more personal bad news and a huge stomach churning twisting downhill bit of the roller coaster ride – my GP had concerns about my health following some routine blood tests, and so wanted to run some more tests – because in his words, if he didn’t find out the cause of my latest blood test results, ‘I was going to fall off the planet’ (or in this case fall off the roller coaster – resulting in serious injury or even death). I was really worried, but had to push it to the back of my mind, as of course I had an inspection to get through. The inspector returned the following day 25th February, I have documented my experience elsewhere on this blog – but let’s just say it was the worse inspection that I have ever had – and I have had a few over the years (and always volunteer to take part in pilot inspections and so on). Of course the inspector did not know but I had other things on my mind, and although up to working and doing my job, l was not at my best when it came to challenging her (although I did my best –  given the circumstances ).

The next day – 26th February was my birthday- but there was news that was both good and bad. My daughter had unexpectedly found out that she was pregnant, this was a shock to us all, but of course news that a new grandchild was on the way is good news. The bad side of the news was that as my daughter would, after the birth, have two children under five,  it would make continuing to work together financially not viable for either of us, and so in the best interests of the children, we took the hard decision to stop working together as soon as possible. As if that was not enough up and down of roller coaster emotions, we also had to start the compliant process with Ofsted, because we were both unhappy with the inspection (and this was before we had seen the draft reports). I was worried about what the health tests would show, I was upset that I would no longer be able to work with my daughter, and I was distraught that I had been given a grade for my inspection that was not based on my practice (some people ask why – after all I got a GOOD, but to me a good that is not based on my practice is not worth having). Despite birthday cake and presents, and friends, family and minded children doing their best to cheer me up, it was not a ‘happy birthday’.

A more positive experience was the response from colleagues and parents to Truss’s plans for childminding agencies. Many wrote letters and sent them to me so that I could give them to her at a planned round table meeting.

Meanwhile a bit of an enjoyable bit of the roller coaster ride – as a direct result of a meeting I had arranged, between myself, Pre school Learning Alliance, Pacey and Laura Henry representing NEYTCO (and with input from ICM-SE and UKCMA) there was an open  letter in the Telegraph about childminding agencies.
A major disappointment occurred when Truss cancelled the planned round table meeting at very short notice, causing myself and others, loss of income and a waste of paid for travel tickets. The childminding community were outraged and to be honest they were responsible for keeping me on the roller coaster, because with all the other ups and downs and almost constant pain from the new teeth, I really wanted to stop the ride and get off.

However, with the support of everyone (and maybe a tightening by some of my safety harness), I stayed on the ride.
The meeting with Truss was rearranged and finally took place – I took around 200 letters from colleagues and parents and gave them to Truss. The meeting though was very frustrating as there was no new information, just more churning out of the same phrases from More Great Childcare.

On the train journey back from London, I took part in urgent phone conversations as our first foster child – an emergency placement – was going to with us by bedtime. The foster child was fantastic, but our (mine and Garry’s) 10 day experience of this particular roller coaster ride was so horrendous that we both seriously considered if we would ever attempt that ride again
More emotional twist and turns of the childcare professional roller coaster ride when Sir Michael Wilshaw’s managed to upset just about all childminders with his comments -and as expected I responded with what turned out to be one of my most popular blogs of the year.
Myself and my daughter continued to navigate the Ofsted complaint system –which was a very unpleasant high speed ride, which dropped into a deep, dark hole, with no way out – not even a escape route, just a blank wall at the end of the drop which to bang our heads against, and to try to climb out without the right resources or support.

Another big dip in the main roller coaster ride – another health issue for me – a frozen shoulder (and I was still undergoing tests for the other issues). It was with arm in sling that I ventured to London again to attend a Westminster Forum, mainly due to the fact that childminding agencies were on the agenda. As always with my trips to London, there were times when I was nervous, scared and well out of my comfort zone of how much of this particular part of the ride I could cope with –and times when I forgot about my fears and enjoyed parts of it.

The roller coaster continued through April, we had the publication of the revised version of EYFS, (dated March but April before I published my blog) to be known as EYFS 2014. Many were unhappy with changes so soon, as we had only just got used to the previous version and had thought that changes were not due until 2016. Anyway we had until September to get our heads round the changes – and so I wrote a blog to support colleagues. However for me personally, I was too busy hanging on for dear life to the safety harness of the roller coaster through my personal and professional experience of the ride, that to be honest, I often had my eyes shut, as I just could not take anymore.
The stress during the ride through April included, continued efforts to get the Ofsted complaint system to work, preparation for the West Midlands Ofsted Big Conversation meeting (which I chair and to which we were expecting a senior Ofsted person to attend) –oh and a visit to the consultant on the same day as the OBC meeting. As I say, I was at the point where I could not take anymore –but as with all roller coaster rides, there is no getting off mid ride, you just have to hang on, and continue.
The visit to the consultant (which was about those concerning health issues from February) was shocking as the news was not good and further tests would be needed, and also uncomfortable, as the consultant decided there and then, without even a local anaesthetic to remove a growth from –well – from a private part of my body.

It was while in discomfort and shock, that I had to go out just an hour or so later and chair the OBC meeting. I am not sure how I managed this, as all I wanted to do was go to bed and cry – what I do know is without my friend and colleague Carol’s support, I would not have managed.
There was further consultation on childminding agencies –and my comments about the first such consultation apply to this one as well.

However, there were some more positive parts of the ride through April. I found myself on a bit of the high part of the roller coaster ride – I was very nervous, not sure if I would survive and enjoy, or if I would be disappointed by the experience. I was to meet a professional colleague, (in a public place, but on a one to one basis), someone who I held in high professional esteem, and who I liked as a person – but I was not at all sure if there was a hidden agenda, and I would find myself in a situation of being unable to say ‘no’ and taken on a part of the roller coaster ride that would hold more ‘out of comfort zone’ experiences for me. The good news was that there was no hidden agenda or frightening bits of the roller coaster ride . The whole meeting was very enjoyable and the start of a professional relationship turning in to a professional/personal relationship based on professional and personal shared values and ethos.

During May, the ride continued to twist and turn. We had the responses to the first consultation on childminding agencies – let’s just say – much as expected and no surprises in the direction being taken.

A high –and mainly enjoyable bit of the ride was attending the Early Education Conference in Edinburgh. Garry, had decided (unusually for him) to come with me, not to the conference but to Edinburgh, and so was also a very enjoyable mini holiday.

With the support of my colleague Linda, and staff from the Pre – school Learning Alliance, we organised and held the first event of the recently reformed Pre-school Learning Alliance, Worcestershire subcommittee – a ‘meet and greet’ session which was a social event but also an information sharing event, including in this case a fun workshop.

And during May, Garry and I did get back on the fostering roller coaster. We had some introductory sessions, as at the end of May our new foster child moved in, on a planned change of foster carers.

As a result of the OBC meeting and professional contacts made with Ofsted, I was given opportunity to a have a phone discussion with a very senior member of Ofsted –Gill Jones. It may not of escaped your notice –that despite my extreme frustration and disappointment with my personal experience of Ofsted inspection and the complaints system –that I am still actively seeking and taking opportunity to work in partnership with Ofsted.

In June there was a brief lull in the twisting, turning high and lows of the roller coaster ride –and maybe something to do with those with government name badges, putting the ride into automatic mode while they thought about re shuffles, and elections –and summer holidays. Whatever the reason, I for one was very pleased to enjoy a slow section of the ride and opportunity to look around and enjoy reading the Pre – school Learning Alliance report on the Early Years, which was based on research and consultation of members. Very interesting reading.

I was also able to enjoy attending the Pre-school Learning Alliance AGM and conference in Birmingham –even though it meant taking an unpaid day off from childminding.
Finally during June, and as well as supporting our foster child in his first weeks with us – and in celebrating his 12th birthday, I was able to do some reflection on planning – and the benefits and disadvantages of both forward and on the job planning.
During July the professional roller coaster came to a sudden halt! No one was allowed to get off the ride – but those with government name badges were suddenly taken off the job of controlling the ride. There was a brief pause and a collective sigh of relief, while those on the professional roller coaster ride waited to meet the new ride controllers. Once in place the new ride controllers Morgan and Gyimah wasted no time in establishing how they would control the ride – which was very soon clear, was with no more expertise or clear direction that the previous controllers Gove and Truss.

In July, I had a major reorganisation of my childminding setting and wrote a blog called ‘Why is the sofa in garden Penny’ which was popular with colleagues and led to requests from colleagues for me to write a book! (Personally I am not sure that I ready for that particular roller coaster ride, or that the world is ready for my attempts to navigate and manage words professionally)

Holiday time – and time to relax, and hopefully have a break from the roller coaster ride – but it was not to be. Although a less bumpy part of the ride, it was also a time of stress, as while on holiday, grandchild nine was due to arrive, and I was worried that I was not at home to provide support; notice was received from a parent  that no longer wanted a place for her child in September, creating general worry about the sustainability of my business from September when three children were due to start school; ……and an unexpected request to consider delivering a keynote speech for a Local Authority – and believe me that freaked me out! On the positive side though I did managed to climb the hill from the campsite for the first time in years, and I did ‘chill out’ some of the time, with my husband, foster child and family dogs.

Grandchild nine arrived late, but safely on the morning of the day we left the campsite, and so I was able to provide post birth support and enjoy those first Granny / grandchild cuddles.
The government published the responses to the second childminding agencies consultation –another case of why bother giving the ride controllers your opinion based on knowledge and experience, if they are going to ignore it. Unfortunately it looks like the roller coaster ride is going to continue to be full of twists and turns, and heading in a direction that makes no sense to anyone.

So into September goes the roller coaster with the new controllers continuing to find their way round all the controls – and making plenty of mistakes in doing so.

I returned to university in a final attempt to gain my degree (having deciding a while ago that a piece of paper called a degree would not make any difference to my ethos, practice, or opinions) – I now understand that our society does place value on a bit of paper called a degree, and so I really needed to at least try to get one. I hope you the reader have noted that I have not said that I won’t increase my knowledge by gaining a degree, because of course I will. I firmly believe that you learn something every day; that you never stop learning; and you never know everything.

I attended the Northamptonshire CMA AGM and conference as their guest of honour – a first for me and being honest another emotional roller coaster ride, of pre stress, getting there stress, meeting new people stress – and sheer enjoyment from the very warm welcome that I received.

In September, I also attended the Nursery World Awards as I had been nominated for the Outstanding Contribution award. I did not win, or even get Highly Commended. However, what I did get was the most fantastic supporting statements from colleagues – including many of the leading people in the early years field, and parents of the minded children. I have printed all of these, and have them in a folder as a keepsake. With hindsight, I realise that award events are really not my ‘thing’ and part of the reason is everything I do is for the benefit of others – children, families and colleagues – and so I am never likely to do well at things, or enjoy things where I have to promote myself or seek recognition for what I do.

We finally had the evaluations of childminding agency pilots – I could have cried or screamed or both! Having endured two years of government hype, and spent two years saying why childminding agencies were a bad idea – (mainly because of the removal of the requirement for agency childminders to be registered with Ofsted) – we get the report – which says nothing new – just confirmed what everyone already knew – but by now it was too late, the government had invested a lot of time and money into this particular new ride (yes, yes – I know they are not putting money up front to support the set up of this new badly engineered ride, but the background work, the meetings, the creative thinking and manipulating of things, the building of the ground works and infrastructure has been expensive – very expensive) – and so as far as the Government controllers were concerned – both those that had just been moved and those new to the job – childminding agencies would be a success – and they would ensure everyone knows that they are the most wonderful thing since sliced bread (although we all know sliced bread is often not as good quality as the tried and tested fresh bread cooked that day).

We had another consultation to fill in – this time on ‘Better inspections for all’, and for the first time the  consultation was available to complete via an online survey type method. An improvement, and slightly more options to leave comments – but it was still very leading with carefully worded questions.
I wrote a couple of blogs about  my university course – and quickly got behind as work load and time pressures overtook me (still the intention is still there, so as they say, watch this space – if the roller coaster slows down in 2015, I may find the time)

Also as part of my university experience, I have found out (been assessed) that I am dyslexic and have dyspraxia indicators as well. I have often thought that I have issues with words, but had not realised that my personal struggle to climb the steps to the helter skelter, were not climbed by everyone else – it seems that the steps for me were very steep and with lots of barriers that had to be climbed over (or gone under – in fact got round in whatever way I could), and even when I got to the what I thought was the top – it was not the top and I could not enjoy the ride down in confidence that I had the skills needed – I was sort of left stranded there mid-way, without a mat to go down on, and without the strength to climb any further up. Still, having read my assessment report, I do feel proud of my achievements – as it has all been achieved why dragging a huge boulder round with me, which as you can imagine is very draining both physically and mentally.

Wearing my volunteer hat I organised (with support of Linda my volunteer colleague and Alliance staff) the Pre – school Learning Alliance Worcestershire AGM. And I am pleased to note here that as a result of this a few extra people have climbed on board the volunteer ‘swinging boats’ – a old fashioned ride that works by everyone pulling together on the ropes,  using whatever skills they have, to ensure the ride keeps going  and that the free ‘power’ of many hands making light work of supporting each other and colleagues.
I wrote a letter / blog to Sam Gyimah, in an attempt to help him think about the importance of the roller coaster ride that he was now controlling – but so far my efforts have been as ineffective as my attempts to help inform Truss. So I remain on the ride, eyes wide open, waiting for whatever twist or turn, or indeed sudden dip in to a dark or unknown part of the ride happens next.
Grandchild ten made her safe arrival, and joined our extending family of children, grandchildren and foster child, on the dodgems, where everyone does their own thing as an individual following interests and personal development; as an immediate family unit, with occasional bumps and frustrations when can’t get the dodgems cars to coordinate direction or speed; and at times as a whole extended family when all come together in times of need and support, and times of celebration and shared enjoyment.

October was also the month that my husband Garry and I celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary – and celebration of surviving the complex, confusing and challenging ‘Marriage Maze’ which you start together, but then head in different directions walking  on your own with a few dead ends, wrong turns and frustrations when can’t find either the other person or the way out; but then catch sight of each other, reach out, hold hands, and remember your way – together – heading towards the next turn and whatever is around that corner with confidence

November was also a relatively smooth part of the roller coaster ride and whole funfair experience that I enjoyed – I attended the Early Education AGM, this particular ride, which is more of a risk free roundabout ride, than a high risk roller coaster ride, has not always been smooth running, as although always made welcome and allowed to  join in, some of the instructions, terms and conditions have not always been easy to understand, as this ride is very old and when first used was only designed for a particular type of user – however things have changed and now everyone is not only welcome to join the ride, but also is made to feel comfortable and included in every way.

I actually did write and deliver that keynote speech that I had been to consider way back in August – I was petrified of stepping onto this particular ride – it was one of those stand up rides where the sheer force of the ride keeps you standing up, in more or less one position – and once started there is no stopping it – it just keeps going. However, once on this ride, I surprised myself – although nervous of overstepping the safety mark, and doing or saying something that would be frowned on my those paying me to do this, I did actually enjoy it – and think I might venture into trying more of this sort of ride experience in 2015 – that’s if people want me to / ask me to.

In late November the roller coaster ride slowed right down, and I took opportunity to join others in London for a seminar on the 1001 critical days – which was a bit like taking a break from the stress and worry of being constantly on a ride that I would – on the whole rather not be on – and having a nice relaxing picnic by a lake with lots of chat and sharing of information between friends. In fact while in London I did meet with a friend and shared information and had a good chat, over some tea / coffee and crumpets.

I  tried another ride for the first time – the Pre – school Learning Alliance Divisional meeting – some people on this ride were familiar but some faces were new to me – but it soon became clear that this was another ride where everyone had to take an active part in keeping it going – I suppose it was a bit like a rowing boat on a boating lake – one made for many to use at once – everyone has to take turns at pulling on the oars – but there is opportunity to take a breather for a time, while others have a turn. I was actually chosen (voted in) to represent those rowing this boat, at national level, and will therefore be making even more journeys to London in 2015. I only hope that I am able to do my fair share of rowing and therefore support my colleagues in their aims.

December                                                                                                                                                                                           And before we knew it – we had reached December, although this last part of the year on the roller coaster had been a smooth ride with hardly any bumps – there was still plenty going on, including the launch of NEYTCO – and another ride that I have stepped onto as a volunteer as lead for the West Midlands region. This day in London was quite relaxing, as I had a later start than normal for a day in London, I met a friend for lunch, and the launch itself was a bit like a big ‘pirate boat’ type slow and gentle ride, with everyone doing a ‘Mexican Wave’ together, and all singing a rousing song – in unison – before all heading off to their own parts of the country to prepare for end of term, holidays and for some, seasonal celebrations


Summary of the year

There is a lot that I have not recalled here, such as events with our foster child, my involvement with Save Childhood Movement which at times through the year has been hectic with numerous back and forth email discussions.; or the articles and letters that have been published; or my attendance at other conferences and workshops, or other family holidays; or my developing personal and professional relationships with many in the early years sector through my partnership working and volunteering.

On the whole has it been a good year? – well YES – with two new grandchildren, a folder full of lovely supporting statements and some wonderful experiences that I did not even dream I would have when looking forward to 2014 at the end of 2013, a weight loss of over 4 stone, a foster child who has settled and been with us for 8 months now, there have definitely been some very good bits to this year.

However, they have been some very bad bits – the health concerns – which remain a concern but appear not to be so vitally important to resolve quickly  now, but that do of course need resolving at some point.

The awful Ofsted inspection saga – which has had an impact on my motivation to ‘go to unreasonable lengths’ within my childminding practice – not that I have not continued to provide outstanding experiences and opportunities for the children, because I have. But it has been hard to do the ‘extra things’ when you only do them to provide evidence of your practice for Ofsted – and it does all seem pointless when the inspector you get can’t even be bothered to look at that evidence, or to record the things you say, or observe your practice or even have any understanding of who you are, what you do or the impact on all of that on the children in your care – and who cannot even justify the recommendation they  made when asked to.

I will be frank, I have come close to giving up and de registering – but being me I can’t do that and I have to keep trying and volunteering to make things better – hence OBC and offering to take part in the next Ofsted pilots and so on.

As I say a very bad experience, which has impacted on me – and now 10 months later, I am only just finding my full motivation – but I am no longer going to ‘tick boxes’ just because Ofsted say I should, if there is no benefit to me, my setting or most importantly the children I care for. No, the difference that finding my motivation again is going to make, is I am going to challenge more, I am going to ask for justification for why I should do the things that Ofsted say I should but which I can see no reason for doing. And yes this means I am staying on the Roller Coaster ride, I am revamping my well-worn soap box, and I am going to shout a lot more.

2015 looks like it is going to be a challenging personal and professional year for me, but I know that MANY others will be joining me on the roller coaster ride through 2015 – because …..

…… yes because like me they are passionate about the well being of the children of this country, and safeguarding them – in the widest sense of that word – from those who wear government name badges but who should not be in charge of the roller coaster ride – never mind allowed to interfere in the rights of children to develop naturally at their own pace, to follow their interests and dreams, to experience secure family lives and live in a functional society,  as generations of children before them have done.

Maybe, just maybe – 2015 will be the year when those who wear government name badges listen














Posted December 31, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

SEED research – and in particular the bit that covers the views and experiences of childminders   1 comment

Way back in September 2013, I wrote my first thoughts about the SEED project, after listening to a presentation by Sue Robb from 4Children at the Early Years 2013 – How Children Learn conference.

(I should point out that 4Children are only one of the partners in the SEED project – and that it is funded by the Department for Education.)

It is fair to say that apart from being pleased that childminders were to be involved I was not over impressed with the methods that they planned to use at that moment in time – and I expressed my concerns

I have kept a general (but not close) eye of the development of the SEED project since that time – and have mentioned it in passing a couple of times – the most recent being when SEED was mentioned in response to a question about data about childminders, that I asked at the Early Education AGM and Conference. I mentioned that I was reserving judgement until I saw the results of the research.

And now we have the results in the form of a Research Report from SEED on the views and experiences of childminders.


There is NOTHING in this report that I (and a great many other childminders) could not of told the researchers, and backed it up with evidence from the childminding community, local forums and online social media.

The content of this so called research study is common knowledge – and in fact I have blogged about it, written to Ministers about it, done talks on it – and even spoken to the ex early years minster Elizabeth Truss about it.

Every organisation that represents childminders could have told them this because they are aware of their members views and concerns.

Every local authority could also have provided this information

But before I get too negative about this research report – maybe readers have not seen it yet?

So here is the link


Of course this report is part of a much bigger project – and so will not be the only research that has been carried out using the funding of this project. However, I have to question why money was wasted on the research into childminders experience and views?

For a start – take a look at the number of childminders who took part (look at page 15 of the report) Just TWENTY childminders took part – yes TWENTY

Broken down by area as follows
East Midlands 4
London 2
South East 5
South West 4
North East 1
North West 3
West Midlands 1

For goodness sake – that it is not representative of the childminders in this country – it is a minute number of childminders and can not possible represent the views of the many different areas, types of practice, local issues, diversity of population – in fact it can only represent the views of those few individuals.

My views as an individual are well known – but I don’t consider my view is representative of the entire childminding community.

When I went to a meeting at the Department for Education with Ms. Truss – I took about 200 letters with me from childminders from all over the country – 200 different opinions – and many of them covering the subjects discussed as part of this research survey (scroll down to page 42 and Appendix A where there is a ‘Interview topic guide’ which covers the questions to be asked)

That is TEN TIMES the number of views – as an alternative method – these 200 people could have been contacted to ask their opinion – as they clearly were interested in expressing their opinions – and without the incentive / thank you of a £20 voucher.

I have personally taken part in a number of telephone surveys and have filled in lots of consultations – for free, in my own time and without any benefit to myself – other than being able to express my opinion. Why was it felt necessary to give out vouchers – and does doing so change the make up of the type of respondents?

So – just in my opinion – what has been gained from carrying out this research?

NOTHING really – the information was already in the public domain, and so has no purpose. It has not explore new areas, or sought the views of sufficient numbers of childminders. It has not reached any conclusions that had not already been reached and expressed by many before. I can not see how this research report will inform changes to future policy or practice, because nothing new has been stated.

So, as far as I am concerned – I was right to be concerned about the methods used within this aspect of the SEED project – and I consider it to be a complete waste of time and money – and as the money came from the Government – that is my money and your money.

Who do I blame?

The childminders taking part – NO – they just answered the questions asked

The people carrying out the study – YES – in part, as researchers they should have examined the information already available, and they should have ensure the number of childminders taking part was representative of the childminding community. However, I do not know what criteria or restraints were in in place – and so can not really hold those who carried out the research responsible – without knowing the criteria and restraints.

4 Children and the other partners in this project – YES – If you take on a Government funded project such as SEED – it should be robust, and fit for purpose with a clear knowledge of what information is out there, what needs looking at in more detail, what needs to be verified, and a clear knowledge of the market / sector / product that researching

The Department for Education – YES – if going to spend public money on research or consultation, it must be fit for purpose and must provide ‘value for money’ including impact of future policy and practice, that will benefit the public/ society as a whole. It should not just state what was already known – so there are many questions in my head about why this research was carried out – and actually what was / is the intended purpose of carrying out this research?

Post Script
Some childminders have contacted me to say that they have recently (in December) had visits from 4Children, as part of the SEED project.

This is part of the bigger project of visiting all types of settings and is a long term study, following 2 years old through settings and mapping their experience and learning.

Therefore these visits are a separate part of the study – however in my opinion – it makes even less sense (and even more of a waste of money to do the separate phone interviews – as those childminders being visited as part of bigger research project could have been asked these questions.

Posted December 20, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

How many hats? Is it possible to have too many hats?   2 comments

I have not always been the sort of person to wear different hats – and adopt different persona’s to fit the hat that I am wearing at the time. This is a fairly recent thing, although looking back with hindsight, I can see this has developed over the last 10 years or so (before that I just had one hat – the private me one that I wore everywhere), but these days I do wear different hats – and lots of them!

Over the last couple of weeks, I have  had cause to wear several of my hats one after another, and have commented on social media about my diverse life …….

……… so just for fun, I thought I would have a go at recalling all those different hats and to try to describe the hat and the persona that goes with it.

First Hat – Private Me
My natural persona under my ‘Me’ hat is one of lacking confidence, of being quietly spoken (actually of preferring not to speak unless I really have to!), I have always hated phones, hated confrontation – or even lively debate, at school I never spoke up (as proved by my school reports) – but lurking under that hat is an opinionated, stubborn persona, that is also  passionate about the things that concern me. Sometimes in the privacy of my own home, or when with very close friends in person or via email – I slip my ‘me’ hat to one side, and do speak up about the things that concern me – in fact sometimes I forget that I am not wearing one of my public hats and I don’t shut up and can go on and on and on – until someone pushes my hat back on straight, and I retreat to the private me – well hidden by my ‘me’ hat.

However most of the time, my private me hat is firmly on my head, I prefer to listen and to support my close friends and family, I also will bend over backwards to help those close to me – maybe with a phone call, or meeting for a coffee, or giving advice or opinion on something that they ask for help with.

Honesty and confidentiality are very important to me – and form the basis of my personal ethos (which is similar to but not the same as my professional ethos).

I am happiest when wearing my private ‘me’ hat, I like my own company, pottering about in jeans, t.shirt and nothing on my feet. When wearing this hat, I am not a very social person – and I don’t like going to go to the pub, or to concerts, or to watch TV, or to play team games. I like to walk, to do puzzles, to read (but mainly by quickly scanning things) to cook cakes, and occasionally to knit, and if at all possible hidden from the sight of others by the wide rim on my private ‘me’ hat.

Second Hat – Wife
I have been wearing the hat belonging to wife of Garry for over 38 years now (and for 2 years before that I wore the girlfriend of Garry hat) – so actually I have only had 15 of my 55 years without a  Garry influenced hat being there. The hat has not always been comfortable to wear because as I have matured, I have changed – and I now wear lots of other hats that at times do not coordinate with the wife hat.

Wearing my wife hat is  my second favourite hat, I am happy in that role, and feel secure and loved, if at times constrained by expectations based on times when I wore less hats.

I have no intentions of throwing away my well worn wife hat – but every now and then it needs a little patching to ensure it still fits, and is fit for purpose.

When wearing my wife hat  – I lack confidence, I look for reassurance and direction, and can be misunderstood as I struggle to make my opinion / views known  and understood

Third Hat – Mother
My mother hat is also now well worn being 36 years old, it is also very patched and has changed shape / design a few times over the years. It has large pockets that once held nappy pins, and story books, and teddies, but these days holds my mobile phone for instant access to me by my now grown up daughters. My mother hat also has an ever ready supply of words or comfort, reassurance and advice, which is drawn from my head full of life experiences but are hidden from public  view under the hat.

When wearing my mother hat, I am fairly confident, I try to be fair, just and reasonable, I try not to judge or to impose my ideas – I try to always have my mother hat on – or at least close to hand

I am pretty sure that I will never lose my mother hat, but I have noted a change in my mother hat recently as it has got older and more patched – nowadays it is required less often in practical terms and although is still fully functioning as a hat, it is quite delicate, and at times the thin threads snap.

Fourth Hat – Granny
Where as my mother hat is well worn and patched, my Granny hat has a remarkable way of expanding to accommodate more and more things to meet the needs of the grandchildren. It has a mobile phone pocket which those grandchildren able to talk phone me on – with requests for help and information to share; it also has pockets for stories both in books and in head; and for teddies; and room for sweets and cakes and extra pocket money for holidays. However mainly my Granny hat is filled with LOVE – lots of it.

I love my Granny hat and having opportunity to wear it, and when I have my Granny hat on, I feel very special and a lucky granny to have so many lovely grandchildren – all 10 of them are so special in their own individual way

Fifth Hat – Volunteer
Volunteering has always been part of my life (well since I became a mother) and so over the years I have sort of added to the size of my volunteering hat – and now it is huge and of many colours – with a different colour for each organisation that I volunteer for – but all joined together like patchwork to make one big hat with lots of joined together pieces – that are both individual and collective.

Wearing my volunteer hat makes me feel both confident and at the same time unsure of myself – it is a very complex hat to wear. I like to lead some things and yet I like direction and reassurance – which I seek from those whose organisations I volunteer for.

Mainly my volunteer hat meets my need to be supportive and helpful – and to give something back. Some struggle to understand why I have such a large volunteer hat – but actually I need it – it is what makes me who I am – as in the public persona- which is very different from the private persona.

Sixth Hat – Friend and Colleague hat                                                           
I love this hat!

I only have a few very close friends – and those friends know who they are. I can go long periods of time without talking to them – but if they need my support, I will drop everything to help them in whatever way I can  emotionally, physically, practically – if I can help I will. The other thing about my close friends is they do the same for me – usually their role is to listen when I am stressed and finding things too much to cope with. So my Friends hat is one that I share with others – and it fits me and my friends.

I have a very similar hat as my colleagues hat – it is mainly a supportive hat and it does not cover my ears, so I am always able to listen, it is soft and cuddly, has hugs and love all over it – and in a pocket some tissues. Surrounding the hat is a ring of confidence and hope, that can be shared with anyone who wants or needs it.

Seventh  Hat (actually also  Eighth, Ninth and Tenth hats) – Chair of Committees
As a volunteer – I seem to be collecting these chair hats! The hats are similar in many ways – but also unique.

When wearing a chair of committee hat – I somehow manage to come across as confident and knowledgeable, even though I am often in a state of panic or stress. These hats are held on with double sided sticky tape so that I can’t take it off when out of my comfort zone, but needing to ‘see something through’ . However with a bit of effort, I can pull them off on occasion – to put on one of my other hats.

I do have a bit of an issue with taking off my hats – and can sometimes wear a hat (or more than one hat at the same time) for too long – which is  not good for me personally  and sometimes not good for the organisation that I volunteer for.

I do enjoy being able to help others and to ensure things get done – but admit that I am not superwoman, and without the support of other committee members and the paid staff of the organisation that I represent in these committee’s – I would fall to bits and drown under the workload – and the personal stress.

Eleventh Hat – Childminder                                                               This hat is remarkable and has two sides – each a different colour and texture. The smaller blue side is smooth and is very compliant, wanting to tick boxes, to get it right, to be praised and acknowledge as ‘doing a good job’. My persona under this hat is fast disappearing, and maybe the time has come to recover this side of the hat with some yellow material and a big embroidered smile.

The much bigger red side is rough and refuses to tick boxes just because others expect boxes ticked, that says ‘NO’ not doing that because not in best interests of children, that says to anyone who will listen – this is madness, where is the common sense? The persona under this side of the childminder hat is confident, knows what is right and what is not and is prepared to practice ‘Principled non compliance’. In fact this side of the hat is in danger of becoming an accessory to the campaigning hat.

Twelfth  Hat – Campaigner                                                                  This is quite a new hat – being just under 3 years old. It is not a hat that I enjoy wearing, because it takes me way out of my comfort zone and is so different from the other hats that I wear – but actually I don’t have a lot of choice in wearing this hat – it sort of just arrived and found its way to my head – and despite efforts to change it for a less noticeable hat, or a smaller hat – and on a couple of occasions attempts to shove it in the bin – it remains securely fixed to my head – in fact it is never taken off and remains there under the other hats – which is why sometimes I find this hat taking over things and my campaigning persona of having strong opinions, and ethos, and values, and common sense, and sense of what is in the best interests of children and what is not, is so strong it just stamps on my other hats and persona’s. This is why sometimes I find myself being outspoken in situations where I never thought I would be – and as time goes on this is happening more and more – the more campaigning I do, the stronger the influence of that hat becomes on the rest of my hats.

I do find this a little worrying – am I being controlled by a hat that I did not actually buy or make – but that now is changing who I am?

Do I want to be known as a campaigner with a well worn soap box – or do I want to be known for one of my other hats persona?

Is it possible to stop the campaigning hat from taking over? Will the campaigning hat ever come off and leave the other hats that are more suited to my natural persona to become the main hat?

Indeed is it possible  to wear so many different hats?

Thirteenth  hat – Student                                                                                                                                                                        
This is a very new hat – and I am not sure that it is a very good fit!

It clashes with lots of the other hats in design and purpose – and the campaigning hat is not really giving the student hat much of a chance to prove itself useful.

Add to that the fact that the student hat has a bit of an issue with managing words – spoken, read and written – and time is going to be needed to see if this hat will stretch, adapt and fit – and put the campaigning hat in its place!

Fourteenth hat – Tutor / public speaker hat
There are actually two hats the one I wear when delivering courses to close colleagues – this hat is comfortable and fits well. The persona under this tutor hat copes, and just speaks from the heart.

However the public speaker hat . keynote speaker hat, is very new and slightly itchy! It may need a little working on, stretching it and expanding it a bit more – but once on and in public – it does seem to show potential as a hat that I may wear more often


So to answer the questions in the title of this blog 

How many hats?  At least 14 – but there are others – such as the daughter hat, the sibling hat (both of which are not worn very much at the moment but are still there just waiting for time to put them on), and of course the foster carer hat – which again is new and ‘settling in’

Is it possible to have too many hats? Mmmmm MAYBE – but I can’t see any of the hats going out of fashion or use, just yet.


Posted December 18, 2014 by psw260259 in Random Things!

A day in London for the launch of NEYTCO (National Early Years Trainers and Consultants   2 comments

Monday 15th December had been in my diary for quite a long while as an important date and the launch of NEYTCO on that day was something that I fully intended to attend.

When the event was first mentioned, I thought that I would need cover for my childminded children, and so had my childminding colleague on standby – however as it turned out I did not have any childminded children booked in for 15th December, and so I was free to attend without having to ensure alternative care was in place for my minded children (or feel any guilt at disrupting plans of  parents or my colleague at this busy time of year)

For a change I did not have to catch the just after 6am train and had the luxury of catching the later train – direct to London Marylebone  which left Kidderminster at 8.09 am and arrived (slightly late) at about 10.44 am.

The journey was uneventful apart from doing a few tweets about the forthcoming event and texting a couple of people that I hoped to speak to at the event.

OH AND – a text to me!

My friend and colleague Bea Heath who is a director of the Independent Childminders Social Enterprise (ICM-SE) and a board member of NEYTCO text to say her morning meeting had been cancelled and was I free to join her for lunch?

As it happens I was, because despite my attempts to use my time in London wisely none of my friends or colleagues were able to meet with me that morning.

If you have not heard of ICM-SE take a look at their website Link to ICM-SE website

I am a member of ICM-SE and they are one of the organisations that I work closely with – however as I say, Bea is now also a personal friend. I have found that over the last couple of years, several of my professional relationships with those I engaged with have turned into personal relationships as well – which is great, but not really that surprising as I have found that many of those who I engage with professionally, share a very similar ethos to myself – and share my passion for ensuring that the children of this country are provided with the best possible life experiences and opportunities – and when they are not – do something about it, by representing the voice of the child (and their family) – and of course the voice of those professionals who provide the hands on childcare and indirect support for those children.

Indeed it was this shared passion and commitment that first  connected me to Laura Henry – who is the person behind the idea of NEYTCO – and Laura is now another person who I consider a friend. I will come back to Laura and the NEYTCO launch in a little while – but as is my way, I shall continue with my recall of my day in London.

As I was not in any hurry, I stopped at Marylebone for coffee (and cake) before heading off on the underground. The underground still terrifies me and I still get lost on occasion – but I am getting much better not only of coping but also of getting off at the right station. I decide that my best route was to get on at Marylebone and stay on the Bakerloo line until I get to the Embankment (mainly because it is the changes of line within the underground system that usually throws me). So I arrive at the Embankment and set off for a leisurely walk towards Portcullis House (the modern bit of the House of Commons) not because it is time for the NEYTCO  launch but because I know where that building is  and will be able to use it as a reference point to find the hotel where Bea wants to meet me. I pause and look around several times during the walk – especially when I pass Whitehall and the gardens with the statues.

I decide to go in a couple of shops – including the House of Commons gift shop – some lovely things are for sale  including a pop up book of London that I think my foster child would like – but I resist temptation – one because of the price and two because I don’t want to carry it around all day (Glad I didn’t give into temptation, as I have ordered a copy online and saved £3 – plus I did not have to carry it around all day).

By now I need to find a ladies loo – and this is where my ‘getting better’ knowledge of London came in – I now know where there are some loo’s – both those to avoid and those that acceptable in the area near the House of Commons. As I have time, I cross the river and head towards the London Eye (been on it once – never again as don’t like heights and don’t like going round – even if as slow as the London Eye) but I digress – the loo’s in the building there are acceptable – clean and free.

As I come out of the building, I get another text from Bea – telling me she has arrived and is sat by the Christmas tree in the Marriott Hotel . Off I set – and I can’t find it! Turns out it is set back and difficult to see from the road (despite the signs)

I eventually find my way to the ‘front door’ – and I realise that it is a rather grand building – complete with doormen (I should mention here that usually if I am getting a quick lunch before a meeting – I tend to go to McDonald’s! Not because I particularly like McDonald’s but because I know a) I can afford it, b) they sell stuff I can eat as I am VERY fussy).

If you want to take a look – here is the Link To Marriott hotel website

So the Marriott is a bit of a culture shock for me – but there is no time to think, or chicken out of going – as Bea is already inside and waiting for me. And there she was – as promised by the Christmas Tree. (Funnily enough last time I was in London – I met a friend by a Christmas Tree – goodness knows how I will cope when it is not the season for Christmas Trees!) We hug warmly – and exchange greetings, then Bea says – I hope you don’t mind but I have booked a table for lunch here – and its my treat. I object and I am over ruled by Bea who reminds me that we are friends and that I always help her whenever I can with advice, looking at documents and so on – so she will treat me. END OF!

Of course being me – I freak out (quietly and within my head – because as friends and regular readers know – I don’t’do’ posh)

We are shown to ‘our table’ by a window overlooking the Thames – and on the other side of the river Portcullis House, where we shall be heading after lunch. It is a beautiful venue – and posh. We order some water and are left to look at the menu – and the ipad type thing  which has all the drinks available on it. Luckily Bea puts me at ease and we chat freely about our families, about childminding, about childminding agencies, about my campaigning, about NEYTCO, and about mutual friends and colleagues – and more.

We are given a complementary starter to sample – it is delicious! Yorkshire Pudding with melted cheese inside. We order our mains, move on to dessert – and before we know it we need to pay and get a move on as time has just disappeared. During lunch another colleague and friend – Sue Allingham has text to say she has arrived and is already in Portcullis House.

There is just about time to visit the very nice Ladies Restroom (note Restroom not loo) before we cross the river and enter Portcullis House. I am pleased that my bag passes through security without any issues. We are directed upstairs and make our way to the large room where the NEYTCO launch is being held.

Personal recall of NEYTCO Launch 

We join a short line to get our name badges and to sign in – straight away I realise that I recognise / know many who are already in the room – but that there are also others that I don’t recognise. I spot Liz Roberts from Nursery World and Neil Henty from EYE magazine, and James Hempstall – then I realise that behind me is a lady whose name I recognise – from the Ofsted Big Conversation emails – and the NEYTCO ones – Kate Peach. We say hello – it is good to put a face to a name.

I then put a face to another name – Catriona Nason who has worked so hard to get this up and running with Laura – we have emailed lots – and even spoken once on the phone – so we have a short chat – short because Catriona has lots to do, and lots of people want to talk her.

I can see Neil Leitch over the other side of the room – and Sue Alligham, Simona McKenzie,  Nancy Stewart . Bea stops to talk to a chap called Neil (that’s THREE Neil’s in the space of seconds!) Bea introduces me to this Neil – I forgot his surname as soon as it is said, but I think he may be on the NEYTCO board – with Bea, the other two Neil’s and others.

We go over to where Neil Leitch and Nancy Stewart are chatting – Nancy smiles and says hello to me – as we have met several times. Neil hugs and air kisses both myself and Bea – we all know each other well.

After that things become a bit of a blur for a while – so many people coming up and saying hello. I know I will forget some – and to be honest I can’t remember who I spoke to before the official launch presentations and who I spoke to afterwards. So I will mention as many names as I can – after my recall of the official presentations ………. apart from one person, who I will mention now  – Laura Henry.

Laura comes over to me – looking stunning in a lovely blue dress – and with a huge smile on her face. We hug – she says something on the lines of ‘So pleased you could make it’ I say something on the lines of ‘ So glad I could come’ – and congratulate her achieving her dream and her goal. Then she is gone – being the perfect hostess chatting to everyone, checking everything is going smoothly. (As I noted so was Catriona and Sarka Juric (who takes care of a lot of the operational side of things), and the apprentices from London Early Years Foundation)

We were all asked to come closer for the presentations – so we did – I ended up stood next to Liz Roberts, behind Neil Henty and Neil Leitch, and just to the side was Beatrice Merrick – and just to the other side Nancy Stewart. I felt humbled by their presence but in good company.

A lady called  Ali Hendry Ballard  from The Garnett Foundation (who I don’t know) started the proceedings off – telling us about why we were there, how NEYTCO came about and what NEYTCO hopes to achieve.

If you want to know more about Ali / the Garnett Foundation   Link to Garnett foundation

If you have not sure what NEYTCO is all about a good place to start is their website Link to NEYTCO website

As with all good presentations / launches there were several inspiration speakers;

Catriona Nason – Daycare Doctor

Catriona is the chair of NEYTCO – and a co founder with Laura Henry

CLINK FOR LINK to the Daycare Doctor Website


Dr Jools Page –  Director MA in Early Childhood Education (UK & Malta) – The University of Sheffield

Jools is the academic representative on the NEYTCO board

For further information about Jools  – CLINK HERE


Swati Popat Vats –  President Podar Education Network, India

Swati is the lead person for NEYTCO in India

For those interested here is a link to an article about Swati and her work Link to article

and here is the link to  Jumbo Kids in India


Neil Leitch  – Chief Executive Officer of Pre school Learning Alliance 

Neil is the voluntary sector representative on the NEYTCO Board

Link to Pre school Learning Alliance website


Laura Henry – Laura Henry Consultancy

Laura is the Chief Executive Officer for NEYTCO

Link to Laura Henry Consultancy website


As always I am not going to repeat word for word what the speakers said, but I will give my personal overview.

All the speakers were passionate about why they do the things they do (and why we were all in the room together); all made us laugh; and  several mentioned LOVE – which I was personally very pleased about as I think it is not mentioned enough and some people are a little scared of the word – and don’t realise that love has many meanings.

However in my opinion love is essential in the early years sector to ensure that children are at the heart of everything we do – not making money, or personal fame, or career ladder climbing (although those things sometimes happen as a result of being so passionate about the well being of children). Those who know me well, know that it is my passion and my ethos – and yes my love, that drives me to do what I do – including writing this blog and all the volunteering that I do, and the campaigning that I do – not to mention the day job as a registered childminder.

I recently delivered my first ever keynote speech on funded two year olds in a childminder setting – and it was called ‘What has LOVE got to do with it’. So you will see that love aspect of working with children (both hands on and indirect) is very important to me.

I digress – again – but it is important to me that people understand why the early years sector is slightly different to other sectors within education – and very different to many other professionals, who are driven more by money, fame and career ladders. I am not suggesting that all within the early years sector are driven by passion for what they do – but a huge number are.

All the speakers were very clear about why an organisation is needed for trainers and consultants – and how we can all support each other through NEYTCO. Personally I think it is important that NEYTCO is a community interest company, that it has  Board Members, and that it involves volunteers – as this will help ensure the right people with the right ethos are involved.

Swati has to have a special mention – as her passion – which was very evident in her speech – had driven her to travel from India to London to attend – which makes my journey and effort seem rather insignificant!


Once the official speeches were over and heartfelt appreciation expressed, the serious business of networking commenced – along with drinks and nibbles – personally I did not have any nibbles (still full from lunch) but I really appreciated the cold fruit juice – thirsty work this networking, all that chatting, exchanging opinions and information  – and laughing! Over the next hour, I had 3 glasses of apple juice.

As promised – here is the list of people that I recall talking to – as I say – I know I will have missed some, I know I will have not spelt everyone’s name correctly – so bear with me – and if I did talk to you – but you are not mentioned – or I have spelt your name wrong –  a) please forgive me,  b) why not use the comments to put me right!

Nancy Stewart

Neil Leitch

Neil Henty (Briefly)

Beatrice Merrick

Lois Notts

Sandra Brouet

Jacqui Burke

Kate Peach

Nathan Archer

Simona McKenzie

Sue Allingham

Jenny Barber

Jane Evans

Kathy Brodie

Kathy Hammond

Sue Overton

A chap whose name I can’t remember but who might be called  Lloyd, (we chatted about business models and cost of current EY policies in future)

Catriona Nason

Laura Henry

June O’Sullivan

Bea Heath

James Hempstall (briefly, as in ‘hello’)

Liz Roberts (more of a nod of acknowledgement)

Tracey Seed

Those whose names I have now forgotten (sorry folks, not intentional – just poor memory)

I know there were others in the room that I hoped to speak to – but did not manage to – so apologies – I just ran out of time.


If anyone is wondering why I had been invited to the launch – and it was a invite only event – take a look at the NEYTCO website ON THIS PAGE – I am listed as Lead person for the West Midlands area which is a voluntary role.

I had several interesting chats with others who are lead people or co lead people about how we will network and share information – including one with Lois Notts, who I met for the first time, and who is lead person for East Midlands area.

Time had once again just disappeared and people were starting to make their farewells before dashing for trains. Hugs abounded as old friends said goodbye  and handshakes and nice to have met you comments made, as  new friends parted.

I (and those leaving at the same time) looked for Laura but could not see her, but as we made our way to the restroom – we saw her on the stairs and said our goodbyes and thanks.

Myself and a couple of others made our way to the restroom – passing within inches of Nick Clegg (who was in conversation with others – so I did not interrupt – shame though as a few things I wanted to say to him)

My colleagues followed me – saying ‘Do you know where you are going Penny?  Well yes I did – as this was my third visit  to Portcullis House and each time I had used the rather nice restroom facilities.

I parted company with my colleagues at Westminster underground station – then retraced my steps to the Embankment, onto the Bakerloo line and to Marylebone – where I was very pleased to note, I just had time to buy a drink and make the 18.15 train back to Kidderminster.

I arrived home very tired, but so very pleased – and honoured to have attended the NEYTCO launch.

Huge congratulations to everyone involve – a truly fantastic event – and the start of what promises to be a new era in support for the early years sector through NEYTCO

If any trainers or consultants are reading this – who are not already members – please take a look at the NEYTCO website – and if you are West Midlands based, do get in touch with myself – Penny Webb, or the West Midlands Co leads, Anita Sonia and Anne Gladstone – our contact details are on the NEYTCO website.


Posted December 17, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Richmond and Kingston Agency Consultation   Leave a comment

First, my apologies for not writing this blog a lot sooner

On 17th November 2014 there was an article in Nursery World about concerns about a proposal by the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and London Borough of Richmond upon Thames to establish a childminder agency under community interest company (CIC) Achieving for Children. If you have not read it – or want a reminder you can read it by clicking on the link

Nursery World Article 17th Nov

However, the article was not really news to me, as I had been approach to take a look at the consultation responses by some concerned childminders who live in the Richmond and Kingston areas. I had also sent my views to Bea Heath.


This is my feedback on the consultation

Feedback on AFC Childminder Agency Consultation

I have been asked to take a look at the consultation responses, by some concerned childminders in the Richmond / Kingston area.
I am a registered childminder myself, although I do not live in the Richmond / Kingston area.
I declare my interest as I am personally not in favour of childminder agencies, however I pride myself on remaining impartial when looking at consultation responses.
This is the link to the consultation documents

Question One
Who respondents were and areas they came from
Total of 84 childminders which is just 13% of childminders in the area this survey covered.
This is a low response, and should not be taken to accurately represent the views of the childminders in the area.

Questions should be asked about why there was such a low response
Did the fact that it was a childminder agency consultation put people off from responding – either because they want nothing to do with childminder agencies – or because they felt in light of other government consultations that was a waste of time

It seems unlikely that any childminder who was interested in joining an agency would turn down the opportunity to have their say and ensure that an agency was set up, and offered the services they wanted.
It is noted that comment has been made about the timing of the consultation, and the general negativity about childminder agencies – but again if people were interested in finding out more, and in ensuring that their views were considered, they would have made more effort to respond.

My personal conclusion is that a second consultation should be provided, and now that agencies are starting to be set up, that further information is provided to the areas childminders to ensure they can express an informed opinion
Equally just 35 parents responded, which is just 29% of respondents to this survey. It does not say how many parents live in the combined areas of Richmond and Kingston – but it will be far in excess of 35.
Again it needs to be asked why more parents did not respond. And it also needs to asked, if only 35 parents responded – how many parents would actually want to use the services of a childminder agency.
Further consultation and indeed market research needs to be carried out, otherwise there is a high possibility that based on the response to this survey a childminder agency would not be sustainable.
Just taking the total number of respondents (and before examining the response) 84 childminders with say 3 places each available (so 256 places) – against 35 parents with say 2 children each (70 children). Acknowledging that these figures are speculative and not based on any research – if the response rate is taken to represent the ‘interest’ in childminder agencies – it does not bode well for success.

Question Two
Views of parents
A high % of parent respondents did say they would consider using the services of a childminder agency. The key word here is CONSIDER – this does not mean parents would use the services of a childminder agency.
The question asked is far too wide – it does not give details of services or costs to parents. It is only natural that parents would say that they would consider using the services of a childminder agency – in reality it means that as part of their market research into availability and cost of childcare – they would consider all options – and this would include group settings, family members, and independent Ofsted registered childminders.

However even applying these ‘common sense’ responses that ensure that all options are considered, 1/3 of respondents did not think they would use the services of a childminder agency, in fact 20% (or 1/5th) were sure they would not use the services of a childminder agency
Question Three
The responses make for interesting reading when looking at the 4 most popular services that parents might want –
Personalised childcare search – so they just want a short list of suitable childcare options
Ad hoc care and holiday care – so they don’t want care for their child week in and week out – just on an as and when basis. A very valid point from parents – but not a very sustainable stream of work (and therefore income) for childminders.
And finally access to a playgroup – yes a very valid point – but there are already a number of options for childminders to access stay and play groups. So maybe those parents that expressed a need for this service were not aware that already available, and they just have to ask any childminder if they attend start and play groups – and if they don’t to ask if it would be possible for them to start doing so.
Access to a stay and play group – is hardly going to get parents to use an agency childminder over an independent childminder – it is just something they would like their child to have access to.

Question Four
This question is very limited as it does not give costs to parents, just asks if they would be prepared to pay. How can anyone comment without even an idea of the approximate cost?
However even without an idea of cost 43% said they would be prepared to pay – but due to the very low number of respondents, that is just 15 parents. Can 15 parents represent a true indicator of if parents in the area would pay or not?

Of more interest is the number who either said no (12 parents) they would not be prepared to pay, or that they did not know (8 parents) – fair enough when they do not know the costs involved. Together that is 57% of parent respondents who did not express that they were willing to pay for services of a childminder agency. Again number of respondents was too low to consider it an effective sample of parents in the area – but if it proved to be then again questions need asking about sustainability of the childminders agency – and if parents do not want to pay – if the costs would have to be covered entirely by the childminders.
Question Five
This question is again about fees that parents might pay, and if they would be interested in a structured fee depending on services used.43% said yes, but 37% said no. If you add the ‘don’t knows’ then over half (57%) did not express an interest in a structured fee based on services used.
This added to the responses to question four, suggest that parents do not want to pay for services – and would like all services provided if they are going to pay.

Further consultation and market research is needed with parents, because it may be that they want the best possible services for the least possible cost to themselves – or even for free.
The results of this consultation do not suggest that parents are willing to pay for the services of childminder agency – and the number of responses is too low to base any positive assumptions that parents would pay.
Question Six
Questions to childminders – remember that 84 childminders responded (more than the number of parents, but only representing 13% of the areas childminders)
This question asks if childminders would be interested in joining a childminder agency
1/5 say they would be interested – but as there is no information about cost to do so, this can at best be seen as speculative – in other words the childminders may be interested but they need to know more about services and costs. The % interested could go up or down.
Of more interest is the number who are not interested (43%) which if put together with the ‘don’t knows’ 80% did not express an interest in joining a childminder agency.
Although the % responding was very low and so cannot be taken as representative of the areas childminders views – if it was representative 80% is a huge number and again would raise questions about sustainability. Once actual cost are known this figure could go up or down, but if parents do not want (in general) to pay towards the costs, then the costs to childminders will be quite high – and even more so if it turns into reality that only 20% of the areas childminders want to join a childminder agency, as the total costs of the childminder agency would have to be covered (paid for) by a relatively low number of childminders.

Question Seven
This one is about the services childminders might want from a childminder agency – the most interesting aspect is that the services that would be of interest are the ones that cost the most to provide – so training and quality assurance visits. The other two things mention documentation packs and childminder drop ins – are also fairy expensive to provide – and certainly in terms of time when setting up an agency infrastructure.

Question Eight
This is about the structured fee option,38% are interested, 60% either are not interested or not sure (and 2 % did not answer). As with the question to parents – costs were not given and so childminders were responding to an unknown,

It is clear that further market research / consultation will be needed once an idea of costs is known

This would give a much clearer picture, and as a result more childminders may engage with consultation once more facts are known.

Question Nine
This is about the services a childminder might consider offering. It is noted that 39% did not want to offer any of services suggested.

As with the similar question asked of parents – the key words are ’would consider’, those that responded that they would consider offering some services were not saying that they would – just they might.
Being realistic, childminders would considering offering services as in doing so they may fill hard fill gaps in the hours they offer, due to part time children.
However the numbers interested were very low – considering it was only an expression of interest – not a signing on the dotted line.
Caution needs to be taken on basing any business plans on such a low % of respondents and a low expression of interest from those respondents.

And this is my conclusion

As an outsider looking in, I struggle to understand why it is considered viable to move forward with setting up an agency based on the responses to this consultation.
The only aspect that was positive enough (and indeed the one highlighted in the consultation conclusion) is the number of parents who expressed interest in using the services of a childminder agency. However as has already been mentioned this is based on a response of just 35 parents.

I can only hope that by saying they are going to move forward that they mean they are going to do some more market research and consultation.
As this is a local authority based model, I have to also express concerns about the feasibility of providing both agency services and statutory duty services without there being a conflict of interest – however as the consultation did not look at this aspect it is impossible for myself to comment, without any information.


Your Thoughts?


Posted December 2, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues