Archive for January 2015

So – the ‘selling’ of childminder agencies has begun ……..   3 comments

…… of course we all knew this would happen and so it was not a surprise when I opened my copy of Nursery World this week and saw a full page advert placed by 4Children ‘singing the praises’ of childminder agencies.

I have attached a copy of the advert as you can not access the adverts online from Nursery World. So if not seen yet, take a look.

4Children agency advert

I personally object strongly to the wording in the title of this advert because it claims ‘Childminder agencies offer families quality, affordable, flexible childcare’,

To me that is just propaganda because how can anyone know if this is true?
Childminder agencies are in their infancy, only a couple are up and running, and none of them have been inspected by Ofsted yet on the services they provide. No one knows yet if they are flexible or affordable or of high quality.

I do not doubt that those setting up childminder agencies hope that they will be able to offer quality, affordable, flexible childcare, and it may be that in a few months or years that this claim can be substantiated.

However, at the moment we just don’t know – it takes time (quite a lot of time) to be able to provide evidence of these things, and until that evidence is available, the advert is making claims that are unproven.

It worries me that some parents will assume this advert is factually correct and not even be aware that there is another option – that of independent Ofsted registered childminders, with facts, figures and evidence available about their quality their affordability and their flexibility.

It worries me that prospective childminders will assume that the only route to becoming a childminder is the agency route.

Further, on reading the rest of the advert, it reads as if only agency childminders can access support and training, or be quality assured, or offer holiday or illness cover. Of course it was not worded as such, but they used ‘clever wording’ to suggest this.

As we know,(but readers of the advert may not know) it is not true – nearly all Ofsted registered childminders access training and support – and if they don’t their Ofsted grade will reflect this. Whereas agency childminders will only be judged on what their agencies provides – not what they as childminder settings access.

Many Ofsted registered childminders have arrangements with colleagues to provide holiday cover and illness cover, and usually with childminder colleagues who know the children well and provide similar home based environments.It is known that back up for agency childminders may be in a school nursery or a day nursery as some agencies are part of a school based enterprise. Parents may not want their child placed in that type of environment or with adults who don’t know the child well.

Also reading the advert, it seems that the agency childminders may be required to just provide the hours that no one else wants to cover, and some may be required to work on non domestic settings – such as the after school club – which to me is not childminding at all.

However, my biggest issue with this advert is that it is paid for by 4Children, who receive government funding both directly and indirectly for the childminder agency initiative, which is fine on one hand. However, on the other hand at a meeting with the ex Minister Ms. Truss in March 2014, myself and others attending (including 4Children) were told that the government would ensure that independent Ofsted registered childminders would be promoted alongside childminding agencies to ensure parents and childminders were aware of all the options.

In my opinion by placing this advert 4Children have prevented this equal promotion of childminder agencies and independent Ofsted registered childminders from happening.

It is disappointing, that 4Children have chosen to place this advert, without including information about Ofsted registered childminders, or even making other organisations that represent childminders aware that they were going to place the advert and thus giving them opportunity to consider placing their own advert promoting independent Ofsted registered childminders.

I feel very strongly that it is unfair that an organisation such as 4Children can use funding to promote childminder agencies, while I and my childminding colleagues can not even consider this type of high profile marketing of our services.

I have written a letter to Nursery World, and I hope that they will, through their editorial comment or articles, ensure that parents and prospective childminders are given full information about all the options.

I have also been in contact with my membership organisations to bring the issue to their attention and I have been assured that they are ‘on the case’

Posted January 27, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

PLEASE, please, please …… will researchers look at the ‘bigger picture’   2 comments

As a registered childminder I am getting more and more concerned about the reports that keep coming out, saying that school is best, or attendance at pre school achieves x, y and z outcomes.

Another of these reports came to my attention last week – this one by Penny Roy and Shula Chiat with the title ‘Preschool attendance boosts language in disadvantaged children’

If you have not read it, this is the link Roy annd Chiat report

The problem is – not that I disagree with the findings, because I know from first had experience that regular attendance at a pre school group does boost language development in children – the problem is that the researchers – (and not just these researchers) only collect data from a very narrow perspective, and do not look at the ‘bigger picture’ – this means that people and in particular government jump to conclusions about what is right and best for young children.

You see I think researchers sometimes do not look at the right criteria and ask the right questions.

Take speech and language which is the focus of this research – I can not see any evidence of involving registered childminders in this research, I can not see any data that looks at any difference between parents who talk to their children and those who don’t, or data around parents who access parent and toddler groups and those who don’t.

My findings from my unscientific personal research are, it is not attending pre school that makes the difference – it is having adults who talk to you and with you, who sing to you and with you, who show an interest in the things that interest you, play with you, read to you that makes the difference. It is the whole social experience of mixing with other children and adults (but that could be Grandma and your cousin, or another child attending the same childminder, or going to a parent and toddler group- not just attending pre school)

I also worry, that well meaning researchers are looking at high quality provision for three year olds and assuming that doing the same for two years olds will be just as effective.

In fact in my opinion most two years would be better in small group settings with specialist provision for two year olds, or home based settings such as registered childminders.

I also think a lot more could be done to support parents to improve language development in their children – with support around attending parent and toddler sessions, maybe support materials such as ideas sheets, books, nursery rhyme CD’s and so on. In my opinion it is not poverty that limits children’s opportunity to develop language skills, it is lack of knowledge and experience of the adults in their lives. In some families we now have third generations of parents who had poor parenting themselves, we need to stop this cycle and give parents the skills needed. Sending children to pre school or even to a registered childminder will not address the core issue – yes it will help but it will not tackle the root cause.

This of course is going to take a change of policy from – the belief that only school or preschool can improve the outcomes for children – to a more joined up policy that looks at root causes, long and short term solutions – and indeed all available options

However as a starting point – PLEASE will someone do some research that looks at the outcomes of children who attend a registered childminding setting and those who stay at home with their parents, who are disadvantaged but still have good language development – and unpick the whys and hows.

Any research that only focusses on a narrow remit will only come up with the answers that match that remit.

By suggesting that attendance at a pre school is the ONLY way to improve language development for disadvantage children – a disservice is being done to families who do are disadvantaged in some ways but still do their best with their children and their children thrive; and also does a disservice to all other settings who can and do achieve excellent outcomes for the children in their care.

I do agree that it is regular opportunities that make a difference – but this can be achieved at a childminder setting and with parents supported at home, – as well of course in a pre school setting.

However, it should also be remembered that even 15 or 20 hours a week in a pre school setting (especially if term time only) is only a fraction of a child’s waking hours each week, and so if parents were supported and talked to their child – far more could be achieved.

SO as the title of this blog says PLEASE, please, please will researchers look at the bigger picture and not ‘overlook’ vital evidence and in doing so suggest there is only one way to achieve what we all want – better outcomes for children

And the irony is – the ‘bigger picture’ may provide more answers and more affordable and accessible options for both parents and government budgets.

Posted January 22, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Centre Forum report thinks baseline assessment is a good idea …………..   2 comments

……… WELL I DISAGREE
(Please note these are my personal views and not those of any organisation mentioned in this blog or whom I am associated with)

We have a new report out from the centre forum which is all about schools accountability and how to measure their success.

If you have not read the report here it is http://www.centreforum.org/assets/pubs/progress-matters.pdf

And in my humble opinion that is where there are going wrong, we are talking about children, not a production line

I admit I have not even read the whole report – I have just skimmed it and a few words ‘jumped off the page’ and I formed my opinion very quickly – it is just my personal opinion but I wonder how many people agree with me?

I would be interested in reading your opinions.

I have already read the opinion of the Pre – school Learning Alliance (which you can read here – Alliance view on Centre Forums report ) and I will read other organisations views as they are published

However for now – my opinion – in what is going to be a very short blog!

Things that ‘jumped of the page’

The authors are not experts in the Early Years field – which might explain why they do not really understand why these tests on 4 year olds starting school are not good for the children; and why it is not just a case of ‘addressing the concerns’

Why there is a need to measure schools success by assessing children starting reception – you see there already is a very good measure in place – and NO it is not the End of Foundation Stage Profile; NO it is not the phonics test; NO it is not the SATS that children are made to sit, and for many is a very stressful experience.

It is the number of children who leave school – after at least 12 years of formal education unable to read or write in some cases, without functioning skills to get a job or look after themselves in other cases.

Despite decades of tests, measures, new schemes, overhaul of the curriculum, readjusting of final exams, the focus of Ofsted inspections – or anything else governments past and present have implemented, …… they have failed the children of this country.

They blame parents, they blame early years settings, they blame teachers BUT in my opinion they need to look to themselves – yes all of them no matter what colour their party.

You see they demand that those who care and educate the children of this country have more and more qualifications, jump through more and more hoops to evidence that they know what they are doing; – when they themselves – those who dictate, decide, pass laws about what is ‘best’ and ‘right’ for the children of this country – DO NOT HAVE ANY QUALIFICATIONS and often NO COMMON SENSE including that of LISTENING TO THOSE WHO DO KNOW, DO HAVE COMMON SENSE AND ARE QUALIFIED.

Maybe government and those who write reports such as this one from Centre Forum (and I am not picking on Centre Forum, they are plenty of other reports) should stop and think ……

…… WHAT IS THE MEASURE OF THEIR SUCCESS

……. WHO ARE THEY ACCOUNTABLE TO

……..ARE THEY MAKING A DIFFERENCE TO THE WELL BEING AND OUTCOMES OF THE CHILDREN

and if they are in any doubt – they should look at society, they should look at report after report about mental health, family breakdown, repeat offenders and many other things

And they should look at the functional skills of those leaving school – that is their measure, that is the indicator of their success

Not baseline assessments, which serve no practical purpose and are completely worthless, not tests designed to show narrow indicators of so called success (such as the phonics tests)

Just a suggestion ….. government and report writers – why not listen to those who know about such things; and why not trust early years practitioners and teachers to do the job they are paid to do, using their skills, knowledge and passion to support each child to reach their full potential as a human being, not as a robot who ticks boxes but who can’t think, dream, be creative – and often not even be happy or have a sense of purpose.

I could say a lot more, but is there any point?

Those who agree with me, already agree and will be nodding in agreement or busy writing their own blog, articles or letters to the media

Those who disagree won’t be reading this (or the words of wisdom from others) they will just be thinking about their own fame, glory, and career ladder, the next report or change of policy (and most likely at the moment thinking about the general election and what they should say / do to win votes) – they do not understand the needs of children, or the passion of those like me to do ‘the right thing’ and go to unreasonable lengths for the children of this country.

So it is unlikely that this blog will have any impact on if baseline testing is introduced or not – but I feel better having had my say

And should you agree with – and have not already done so – please consider signing the Early Education petition against Baseline Assessment

Early Education petition against Baseline Assessment

Post Script
Will be adding here articles and blogs as I come across them. Please feel free to send me links

Cathy Nutbrown view Cathy Nutbrown’s view on Baseline Testing

TACTYC view http://tactyc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/TACTYC-Baseline-position-paper-1.pdf

Pacey’s view Pacey view on baseline testig

Too Much Too Soon view Too Much Too Soon view on baseline testig

NUT view (via Too Much Too Soon) http://www.toomuchtoosoon.org/uploads/2/0/3/8/20381265/nut-resp-primary-assess-acc-under-nc-sept-13_kdr.pdf

Colin Richards view Colin Richard’s view on baseline testing

An old blog worth re reading
I wrote this blog in Feb 2014 about baseline assessment – if you have not read before take a look, if you have it might be worth rereading again Feb 2014 blog about Baseline Assessment

Posted January 21, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues