Archive for February 2015

Pre school Learning Alliance Early Years Agenda event with Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minster and an admittance that I was wrong!   4 comments

Some time ago I accepted an invitation to attend the above event – full title ‘Working Together to deliver the early years agenda’  in London on 19th February 2015

I need to make it very clear that the views expressed in this blog are my personal views and not those of the Pre school Learning Alliance or any colleague that attended the event.

I have to admit that I do not ‘do’ politics – I have no idea if I am left, right, middle, blue, red, yellow, green – and to be frank I don’t give a hoot, because I personally think that all political parties, are as bad as each other and make promises they don’t keep, do not look at the bigger picture and have no idea how the policies they introduce impact on the everyday life for the average man, woman and child of this country. Add to that the fact that most politician’s (most but not all) do not have any qualification or experience in the things that they advise on, make laws about, and introduce policies and procedures about; therefore it is fair to say my personal respect for those that make up Government (and opposition) is pretty low.

However, having said that – I did have a small hope that Mr. Clegg (DPM) had at least a awareness of the needs of the childcare sector – as it was his voice (not my voice as the person who started the ratio debate going with the first petition, or the voice of the Pre school Learning Alliance and all their members and all the parents who support the successful Rewind Ratio’s campaign)-  It was the lone voice of MR. Clegg –  who halted the increase in ratio proposals by saying ‘I am not going to support this’

And so I was quite looking forward to attending this event – and I had a few questions that I hoped to ask Mr. Clegg during the question and answer session.

If you are hoping for a straight forward, factual account of the event – I suggest you read the article by Nursery World by

CLICKING HERE

However, if you are looking for  personal opinion, reflection and linking to personal experience and knowledge – read on!

As usual I shall be writing this blog as a story of my day – from start to finish, so here goes ….

As readers will know I was in Chester area until Wednesday 18th Feb, house sitting for one of my daughters, so I returned home late Wednesday afternoon; and went into ‘superwoman’ mode, unpacking, washing, sorting things ready for my trip to London, accidentally ripping up my printed ticket, (yes I did – then I had to find the email and reprint it) I looked up the address of the venue – thought – oh no – a posh place, tried on my smarter clothes – most too big (which is a good thing, but not when needing to find something suitable at short notice and no time to go shopping), found something to wear that would ‘do’.

Then I went to bed, and  tossed and turned all night (always do when stressed about things – and going to London stresses me)

I was up at 4am and on the internet checking out the information my husband had given me about a landslide between Banbury and Leamington Spa;  and very bad news for me – the bus put on by the train company would add at least 30 mins to the journey – which would make it very tight time wise.

I checked to see if there was any alternative – there was but it would cost me an extra £88 – just for the one way trip there – and I could not afford that. So no option – I would have to cross everything and hope I got there in time.

I was of course even more stressed – left it too late to have breakfast, and dashed out of the door with just a glass of apple juice in me – and due to the stress / lack of sleep –  looking and feeling terrible

On the train I emailed and text a few people and decided that despite the fact that would cost about £20, the best option would be to get a taxi from Marylebone to the venue (once I got there)

Train to Warwick, bus to Banbury – not too bad

Run around Banbury station to find information and then right platform – get on train – phew – thinking might make it on time

Arrive Marylebone more or less on time but slight delay in pulling into station – rush to loo, out to taxi rank – in taxi by 9:11 am, start to relax – think going to be OK – text friends to say should be there.

Traffic terrible – by 9.40 taxi driver apologising he has never seen it so bad – still not even near to venue. Taxi driver asks where I am going – and says ‘Oh no, you might be late’ then ‘ I am going to try another back route’ Which he did (and gave me the benefit of his opinion of all things early years – and in fact life. To be honest he spoke a lot of common sense) He stops by some steps – right he says not time to go round to front entrance – run up those steps, along the road – should be on your left.

So I did as I was told – and yes there it was the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

No time to pause, I go in and check in – surprised no one looked at ticket in my hand or asked for the photo ID that I had been told to bring. Was given a visitors badge and directed through the gate.

Follow the directions and into a very grand building (If interested clink on link for some images Photos of Foreign and Commonwealth Office )

Hand my coat into the clockroom, grab my name badge, say hello to Sophie who had sent various emails about the event, and go up the grand staircase as quickly as I can – as it is very nearly 10am and the doors about to shut.

I see my colleagues Jen, Michelle and Simona – say a quick hello. Speak briefly to Neil Leitch – he said  something on the lines – ‘glad you made it’. Speak briefly to Estella and Kathleen both Alliance staff, and then I quickly got a coffee and sit down a few moments before the event officially started.

Sophie Ross (Chair of the Trustees), Neil Leitch (CE Pre school Learning Alliance) and Nick Clegg (Deputy Prime Minster) enter the room and take up their places at the table at the from of the room.

Sophie welcomes us all and does the ‘house keeping’ bit about fires and exits, she introduces the two speakers.

Neil Leitch is first to speak – he speaks about the ratio campaign and Mr. Clegg’s role in that and about Mr. Clegg being ‘a friend’ of the sector; but he also speaks about the difference of opinion, and challenges that face the early years sector and the government.

Neil says he wants to talk about 2 key issues – Funding and baseline testing – so he does – and he makes his points very well, with facts, figures and research – and quotes from government past and present.

With the baseline testing Neil showed a picture of one of the assessments – children needed to point to the hexagon shaped leaf – that was hanging on a tree with lots of different shaped leaves. Neil said his own grandchild had not been able to do this – and questioned if he or the child’s parents should be concerned – and said why should they when the child was developing as expected – it was the test that was the concern not  his grandchild – and further why should a child of 4 need to know that?

(In my head I was thinking of all the children I have had in my care – some might have been able to do that – it they had an interest in shapes and shape names, but many would not have been able to).

What shocked me, was that Mr. Clegg appeared surprised that this was one of the assessment questions – and said he needed to ‘check it out’. As these assessment systems are now available – has Mr. Clegg looked at any of them? Surely knowing that baseline testing is a major concern of the early years sector – and that he was going to be addressing a room full of early years people – he should have done some ‘homework’ about these assessment systems – or been advised by one of his team about them. I would have thought he would have wanted to reassure everyone by showing examples of how these assessments were appropriate.

It concerns me that once the questions in these assessments are known, that children will be taught by rote the ‘answer’ – so that all children in the future will be able to identify a hexagon shaped leaf – but that they won’t know what a hexagon shaped block looks likes, feels like, or can be used with other shapes in block play or construction play, and so on. In other words they will just be taught to ‘pass the assessment’

Mr. Leitch said some other very important things – and I may well mention some of these later on, in relation to Mr. Clegg’s comments and my own thoughts, however, for now that is all I want to say about Neil’s speech, but if you want to read an overview,  you can do so  HERE

Neil Leitch received a very well deserved round of heartfelt applause

Nick Clegg then spoke about his vision as leader of the Liberal Democrats – he was clear in why both Labour and Conservatives were ‘wrong’  in their approach, he spoke about the funding for the so called free entitlement funded by the government, and what had been put in place to support parents with childcare, – and future plans, and he spoke about baseline testing, and he referred to research and facts and figures. All delivered as if a party political broadcast, designed to try and win the vote of those in the room.

If you want to read Nick Clegg’s full speech – you can http://www.libdems.org.uk/nick-clegg-speech-to-the-pre-school-learning-alliance

And if he had walked away then –  in my opinion –  as he sounded as if he really did believe in every word he had said, it would have been a case of – OK he just needs more information, we just need to ensure he understands the impact on early years settings and the children in their care.

For example I personally want to challenge him on these issues

Research based evidence – Mr. Clegg thinks there is research that demonstrates that ALL children (no matter what their age or circumstances) benefit from high quality education. I do not question that for many children this is the case – BUT the research is not as comprehensive as it needs to be. Actually there is very little research about two year olds in group settings, or homebased settings such as registered childminding, or children who experience different combinations of childcare. There is also (as far as I know), no large scale research based on children staying at home with parents across all economic, and geographical areas) . In short there is still a lot we do not have any evidence about, and so it is dangerous to make wide ranging remarks

A QTS teacher in every setting – First where is the evidence that a QTS teacher is the factor that makes the difference? I wonder how many settings have a outstanding grade that do not employ a QTS teacher or even a graduate? Has anyone any evidence that relates children’s progress at 7, 11 or 16 or 18 to where they spent their early years? Speaking as a registered childminder, I know nearly every child who attended my setting, went into school with all the skills they needed (teachers comment on this), all did well in school, and those who are now adults – many went to university. So as I am not a QTS teacher or a graduate – why did these children do so well?

However my biggest concern is Mr. Clegg’s wish to have a QTS in every early years setting  – what is the hidden message here for childminders? Are we not considered ‘settings’? Is Mr.Clegg thinking that childminders won’t need to be QTS, because in the future there won’t be any registered childminders? At the moment although many childminders are qualified to level 3 and above – there is NO requirement for childminders to have even a level 3,  so  is he thinking that childminders will somehow make this jump from no requirement to a QTS requirement? Or is he thinking that in the future all childminders will belong to a childminding agency and that one of their staff will be a QTS teacher? (Although of course at the moment, there is also no requirement for childminding agency staff to be qualified either – it is up to each agency to decide what level of qualification their staff need).

Very mixed messages if you ask me, and a very concerning picture of the value that Government actually hold registered childminders in.

And of course there is the funding issue  and the time issue – for all early years settings. Neil Leitch spoke about the hidden costs – and this is one of them.

I am not sure that Mr. Clegg has any idea that MOST early years practitioners have to self fund their qualifications – and study part time – in their own time, not paid study leave. And as an example to try to gain my degree (top up year) I am studying in my own time and have paid out well over £7,000 in fees, books and so on , My early years colleagues will not be surprised but may be Mr. Clegg will be (not that I am expecting him to read this) but that is almost A WHOLE YEARS INCOME for me, once I have covered the running costs of my setting.

2 yr olds in school Mr. Clegg made it very clear that it is not about 2 yr olds sitting at desks learning by rote – but he clearly has no idea about the social and emotional needs of 2 year olds. And I couldn’t help thinking about images I have seen of films promoted by government of so called ‘good practice’ – where the needs of 2 yr olds have not been met at all. And this links back to Neil’s comments about the removal of the need for school settings to register or be inspected by Ofsted as a early years settings – but just as part of the school inspection. If government think schools are as good, if not better than PVI early years settings – why not arrange for everyone to be inspected by Ofsted as an early years settings?  The data would be available to show very clearly via the inspection based evidence if schools do meet the needs of two year olds or three year olds or four year olds. You can not compare one inspection framework with another reliably. Of course the government are making changes to the inspection frameworks – but these comparisons will still be impossible. I can’t help questioning – why bother making it legal for schools not to register as early years settings if the plan is eventually to have a common framework? Just bad planing or another hidden agenda?

Mr. Clegg did say a lot more but as I say it was like a party political broadcast and frankly listened to by me with a great deal of disbelief (as I do with all such ‘let me tell you how good we are’ speeches)

What happened next though – blew everything else out of window – I was shocked and saddened by what I saw and heard – and it was at this point that Mr. Clegg stopped being a ‘friend to the sector’ in my eyes; at this point when I stopped thinking that he had some understanding of the needs of early years settings and children and families. It was at this point that I admitted to myself that I was wrong about Mr. Clegg

For in the question and answer session – I think the real Mr. Clegg showed himself

I have no intention of publicly speaking in great detail about Mr. Clegg’s behaviour – but in my opinion he showed no respect at all for the early years sector, and a blinkered ‘not listening to you, because I know best’ attitude.

A few examples are;

First Mr. Clegg made it clear that he wanted to lead the Question and Answer session – and not enable the Pre school Learning Alliance to lead it. So, as I am sure Mr. Clegg is aware of who the reporters were – why did he select them to ask questions – when the whole purpose of the meeting was for those invited to ask the questions

Why did he answer questions about subjects that were not related to the Early Years Agenda from the press – especially as the time slot for questions was so short?

Why when people asked the press not to ask non related questions – did Mr. Clegg chose to say that it was Ok – and then allow the press to ask another question that was not connected in anyway – and answer it?

There were lots of people in the room with their hands up who wanted to ask questions – including me – and Mr.Clegg did not even look in our direction.

Whenever anyone challenged him, Mr. Clegg became defensive, for example he said he had visited lots of childcare settings to ask for opinions. I would like to see the evidence of this – were they settings that supported the Lim Dem views? Were they given opportunity to ask the questions they wanted to or were they given closed questions to respond to? How were their responses recorded – all of them or just the ones that did support the Lim Dems views? How many settings? What type of settings? and so on.

Mr Clegg claimed that the level of Government funding was based on the latest figures of fees charged by childcare settings – but as we all know a average figure is not accurate enough as it depends on who you ask. Also the fee charged by settings is the fee they feel they can charge – not the fee they need to charge to remain sustainable. Take my setting – I need to charge £4 an hour to remain sustainable., but parents in my area can’t afford that, so I charge a fee of £30 for a 10 hour day – just £3 an hour. So I am not even sustainable because I can not charge more, and the funding rate for 3 and 4 year olds in my area is also under the £4 mark, so again I am not sustainable. In short after my business expenses I do not even earn the minimum wage – and I can not continue to subsidise my setting in the long term  from my family budget – in other words my own pocket.

The figure Mr. Clegg needs to have in mind is the figure for settings to cover ALL their costs, and to invest in things like staff training, not the figure based on what able to charge and not including all those ‘hidden costs’ for things done in staff own time and at own cost.

Drive to get mum’s into work  – this question saw Mr. Clegg ‘kick off’ (no other term for it really) he was rude, he was condensing to the person who asked the question. He said it was not his place to interfere in parents decisions – it was his place to support those who want to work (and reeled of all the things he was doing). Which in my opinion just goes to show his lack of understanding. It may be a surprise to Mr. Clegg but it is the Government lack of funding / tax breaks or anything else that means that many parents who would prefer to look after their child themselves do not have a choice. It is the reason why many parents have to work long shifts or have more than one job that then means  they have very little family time, and are constantly stressed. It is the reason why so many grandparents provide childcare – it is cheaper and families want their children care for by family members at home.

I could say a lot more about Mr. Cleggs reaction and responses – but I won’t – he was not listening, he did not want to work in partnership (although he said he did). If he did he would not of jumped down the throats of those asking sensible questions,or providing information;  he would not have got defensive – he would have said – let me get back to you, or let’s set up a working group, or I will discuss this further with the Pre school Learning Alliance

And by then it was time for him to leave – so he did – and so did all his followers including a lot of the press.

Sort of put it all into perspective really – They were not interested in us – none of them. Clegg used it as an opportunity to try to gain a few more votes and the press used it as an opportunity to ask Clegg questions.

Meanwhile those like me who were there to work in partnership to deliver the early years agenda felt used, not valued, not listened to – and I am sure I was not the only one thinking WHY……Why have I given up a day of my time, paid for my own travel, to be treated like that?

I am not say that it would be ‘easy peasy’ to sort all the issues out and reduce Government deficits – but a good starting point would be to ask those who understand the early years sector for their opinion and knowledge about what is needed and how to achieve it. After all the early years sector have a long track record of achieving amazing results with very little money. All I have ever asked for from a personal perspective is that the Government listen – sadly Mr. Clegg was not listening.

There was time for some important networking with Alliance staff and trustees and of course colleagues (how nice it would have been to talk to the press or members of the Lim Dem party (if not Mr. Clegg himself) Surely another half hour of their time was not too much to ask?

However, for me the networking time, and the very welcome second coffee – was very useful time, and I spoke to a number of colleagues, staff and trustees. So the day was not wasted in that aspect.

It was also not wasted in the aspect of seeing and hearing Mr. Clegg myself – because if I had not gone, I would have just read the nice politely worded press releases and articles – and would not of realise that Mr. Clegg is not the person I thought he was or that the Lib Dems are not the party for me. Disappointing really – but at least I have been able to make up my own mind based on the evidence presented on the day.

All to soon we were being asked to clear the room, so farewells were made.

My colleague Jen, and her staff member Michelle asked me to join them for lunch – which I did. We spent an enjoyable few hours chatting about professional matters and sharing information over our lunch. Many thanks to Jen for paying for lunch – as my costs for the day had exceeded my budget with having to pay for the taxi as an extra.

I am sure Clegg has no idea how much attending such events costs individuals who can not claim back expenses (yes I know it is tax deductible as a business expense, but if you don’t earn enough to pay tax, it does not make any difference) – my costs for the day were £113. 65 – or over half a weeks pay. (And that was without losing a days pay as I was on AL). And I know I was not the only person at the event who would have self funded to attend.

Anyway my time in London was nearly over, I said a fond farewell to Jen and Michelle, and headed off on the underground back to Marylebone. There was over an hour wait for my train, then I had to repeat the train, bus, train journey home – finally arriving home at about 9pm (14 and a half hours after I had left that morning). I know some of my colleagues had equally long days due to their journey times / distances covered.

For me it was worth the effort and expense – I hope my colleagues think so as well.

And should Mr. Clegg or any other politician REALLY want to work in partnership – I will be very happy to attend meetings, join working parties, respond to consultations – just ask

Posted February 20, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

What I think Nicky Morgan is really saying ……………..   Leave a comment

…………….. Of course just my opinion but having had email communication with a few colleagues, I know I am not the only one thinking on these lines.

I wonder what you the reader thinks about her words which I am sure are supposed to reassure and stop people (teachers in particular) from placing their voting X in a non conservative box.

So what am I referring too?

This

If you have not listen to it before – please do so before you read what I have to say.

I do not want to influence people with my views before they have had time to think about their own views.

However, I do want to challenge the message we are being told, and to reflect about what the hidden message is.

I should note that this is not a anti Nicky Morgan blog – it is a anti ‘Government speeches’ – and come to that anti government ‘talk’ blog for all things stated verbally or in writing,

This is because over the last 3 years since I was dragged into Government matters by Ms. Truss and the things she was saying and writing – the one thing I have learnt about government is – NEVER take what they say at ‘face value’. My experience is that they will claim (later on) that they never said x.y or z – and that they are ‘sorry’ you thought they did.

So in my limited experience it is ALWAYS worth thinking ‘What are they REALLY saying?’ And ‘where is their get out of this mess card’

So hopefully you have now listen to the things Nicky Morgan has to say – and have your own opinion.

So here is my opinion – not a sentence by sentence unpicking – just my overview

  • We are going to continue to interfere, to make changes – we will just give you A BIT more notice
  • We will expect Ofsted to not change their inspection frameworks – but they can still change their guidance documents as and when they feel like it.
  • We still want you to implement all our ideas – despite your collective knowledge that not in best interests of children

So am I being harsh? Am I being ‘over sensitive’ ? Have I misunderstood – and is Nicky Morgan actually being supportive to teachers?

And a further question – this is directed at teachers particularly about their workload – but  – What is the message to those of us who work in the Early Years Sector and who have the same issues about workload?

This Government (and others before them) have a terrible track record of  not listening, of having ‘closed questions’ consultations, of changing their minds, of implementing policy and practice that no one wants or can see any reason for having, of saying one thing but really meaning another, of having a get out clause  ……..

……. is it not time we started to listen more carefully to what is really being said, and challenging more?

The tide is turning – schools, early years settings, parents, academics are now ‘tuning in’ to the real message being given, a few are challenging – but for the Government to actually make changes to what they think and do – will take a major challenge to their beliefs – and dare I suggest that in the run up to the general election we have opportunity to make our voice not only heard but acted on.

After all most of us would be happy if the government listened to us all, and stopped doing what they think is right, and put the child first – not saving money in the short term.

If by now you think I have misunderstood the message that Nicky Morgan is giving – listen again, then please let me know what you think Nicky Morgan is really saying.

You can agree, you can disagree

This will support my understanding, and the reflection of others – so please comment

Posted February 18, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

A visit to Chester Zoo- and some deep reflecting from me!   10 comments

Today (17/2/15) was my last full day in Chester area before heading home on 18/2/15- and so foster child and myself decided we would spend the day at Chester Zoo.

We arrived early, just after the zoo opened, and went straight to the Elephant enclosure. I was struck with how the keepers had tried to recreate a elephant friendly environment from what really is a very unnatural environment for elephants. There was a water fall and a small pond (but big enough for elephants to get in); there were tree branches and things that could be picked up; boulders and tree trucks (all be it without branches and leaves); and I noted the keepers had put hay in ‘hiding places’ around the enclosure (so not just ‘dumped’ in one place) and that the elephants were actively seeking out the hay.

So not a natural habitat but as close as could be provided, based on what elephants need.
I did not see plastic blocks for lifting, or concrete trees painted to look real, just natural things as far as possible.

Then I read the information signs – and found out that a whole family of related elephants lived at the zoo – grandmother, daughter, grandchildren – all living together and all supporting each other, as it would be in their natural environment and family culture.

As my foster child and myself navigated our way round the zoo, I found myself reflecting more and more about the environments that I was seeing, and my work with young children as a childminder, and as a foster carer.

We went past the kitchen where they were preparing the meals for the monkeys – different meals for different tastes and dietary needs, all based on research and knowledge based experience of looking after the monkeys.

In the monkey house we saw family groups, with younger monkey’s learning the ropes from older monkey’s.

I did not see groups of young monkeys sat around being shown how to do things – either useful like peeling a banana or not so useful things like how to post things into a slot to get a reward.

And so it went on – we read signs that explained that we needed to respect the animals rights – so we should not bang on the glass of the fish tanks, we should not feed any of the animals, we should not use our camera’s in the bats area, we should not mimic the monkey’s sounds or actions.

In short we should respect the animals and their needs – no ifs or buts – and for some things such as feeding the animals, if we did not respect the animals needs we would be told to leave the zoo.

And in my opinion – this is how it should be.

However, it has not always been the case that there has been this understanding of animals and their needs. Mankind has in the past assumed they knew best, they could do what they like, both in terms killing animals, spoiling and even destroying natural environments, and how they looked after animals they captured.

It has taken a very long time for mankind to realise they were wrong, and even longer to do something about it.

As I went round the zoo, I read about lots of endangered animals, and even some species that are extinct in the wild and only have small numbers within zoo’s I read about efforts to introduce breeding programmes so that eventually some of these animals could be re established in the wild.

Of course – all is not perfect, and some will say, a lot more can be done – and some will even say that zoo’s should not be allowed.

However things have improved – and animals are well looked after, and there are various animal welfare organisations that ensure that the animal welfare laws are complied with. Research continues and as more is found out this is shared and acted on.

So during my reflection I think about my childminding practice – and my conclusion is that I demonstrate a similar understanding about the needs of the children in my care, as the keepers at Chester Zoo do about their animals.

BUT there is a huge difference between the care of the animals at Chester Zoo and the care of the children of this country.

And that big difference is those who make the rules and laws.

The Government of this country are decades behind those who are responsible for the care of animals –
the understanding shown by the Government of this country for the children they are responsible for making laws and rules about is based on a ‘we know what is best’ attitude, similar to that of those who used to capture animals or keep them in unsuitable environments.

We are fast approaching the ‘almost too late’ stage. We risk making childhood extinct, we risk our society changing so fast and so far from what our natural environment needs to be, that it will be lost for ever.

A little extreme? – I don’t think so

I did not see any of those animals where youngsters need to be with their parents, or in family groups for years (similar to human children) separated and grouped together to be taught how to do things – and certainly not forced into environments that were not designed to meet their needs.

Whereas in this country, our Government think that the children of this country can be fast tracked and taught everything they need to know to be an adult in a much shorter time frame, without any regard to the environment that is needed for them to learn in, or much regard for the things they need to learn.

Just imagine if at the zoo, I had seen fish in cages with rope swings? elephants in a dark cave with nothing to lift? monkeys in a pond? – I am sure people will be saying how silly, how far fetched.

But to me children expected to sit still, children being in environments without space, without things to lift and swing on, without all those natural resources (such as sticks, sand, mud and water at hand to do whatever they are driven to do in way of exploring) – is just as unnatural and just as likely to lead to the same outcome as putting fish with rope swings or elephant in dark caves.

Can we, should we, support this changing childhood? Should we just do as we are told and not protest and refuse to implement things that we know are not in the best interests of children?

Like the animal rights people, and organisation that protect animal rights – we need to shout very loud our protests; we need to inform Government through our evidence based practice that childhood can not be rushed and that children need enabling environments to not only thrive but survive.

A bit like the animals from our recent past that did not have the right care and environments, in the short term children we survive BUT as they reach adulthood the damage done to them will become apparent, they will not be able to cope and will need more and more support, as will society as a whole.

Think of those bears who used to be dressed in jackets and made to perform tricks – not natural, not right, and in the long term leads to very angry, confused bears who may harm others, and who will not have the skills to become adults bears or parent bears.

To me we are doing similar to our children – and if we continue, we will have very angry, confused children who are unable to be parents – and indeed unable to work due to lack of the skills needed; the self confidence, motivation, the thinking skills (including the keep self safe skills), the desire to succeed – and as a society in time we will become extinct, or self destruct.

Of course all is not lost – there is hope

My reflection goes full circle and considers my foster child (who is enjoying his day out without a clue that my head is doing all this reflection) – the Government do know what to do when children have not had the best start to life; – and have learnt from experience – children who cannot stay with their birth family are usually no longer placed in children’s homes, they are placed in family homes with foster carers like me – and play is used to help the children unpick their pasts, bridge gaps in their development, and especially their social and emotional development.

It is just shocking that even though the Government know this they are continuing to implement policy that is not in the best interests of children and their families.

I think if I had a bear as a pet, and I kept that bear dressed in a jacket and taught it tricks – I would be locked up, and quite rightly as a bear needs space, tress, maybe a cave or other place to rest, it needs to be able to develop skills over a number of years so it can feed itself and care for itself. It does not need to be able to skip with a hoop or balance a ball on its nose. Like the children of this country the bear needs to be able to think and to solve problems. A bear who can skip with a hoop, but unable to catch a fish, is as unlikely to be able to cope in adulthood as a child who can recite its times tables, but not be creative. or think or dream.

So why are we encourage by our Government to implement policy and practice that does not meet the needs of children?

Why are we not all protesting very loudly about this? Why are the rights of animals to environments and lives that meet their needs, seen as more important than the rights of our children to a childhood and an environment that meets their needs?

On our way to the exit, we stopped by the elephants again, and I watched a 2 yr old elephant playing with, and near its mother, and I thought ‘What a lucky elephant you are’

Posted February 17, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

More information sharing – or rather lack of information sharing between early years professionals   Leave a comment

Back in 2014, I carried out a very small scale research project with some of my childminding colleagues about the 2 year old progress check and working in partnership with Health visitors.

I must apologise for not feeding back sooner – however I did read all the responses and record the findings.

I had a total 37 responses; some from childminders from verbal discussions with parents of the children they look after, but mainly from parents (some of whom were also childminders). Participants were from various geographical areas – with small clusters from each area as would be expected from a questionnaire sent out to childminders to fill in or ask parents of minded children to fill in. The geographical areas covered though were diverse, and so a ‘snapshot’ of the two year old check across the county.

It proved very difficult to group the responses, or produce graphs, because they were so varied – in fact the most significant finding was that there was no rhyme or reason as to when, how or what format the two year old check was carried out – and certainly not a coordinated nationwide system.

Therefore, I am just going to describe the findings in a general overview. Personally, I think a larger scale research study should be carried out, as I find it worrying that it is indicated from my small scale research that it is another postcode lottery as to when and what sort of 2 year old check is offered.

The second most significant finding was that a lot of health visitors were unaware that if the child attended a childcare setting that there should be a 2 year old check completed by the childcare setting.
Health visitors did not usually ask to see the childcare setting and when they did they were often only glance at. Although one health visitor did look at the childcare setting completed 2 year check – and declare it was wonderful and every parent should ‘buy one’!

Often there was no coordination between health visitor and childcare setting so reports were sometimes completed months apart.
So health visitors sometimes did the check when the child was just 2, and the childcare setting had not done one (and it was commented by some that if they had of been told that a visit had been booked by the health visitor they would have ensured their 2 year old progress check was completed.)

Childcare settings sometimes did their check early, but the health visitor carried out the check when the child was nearly 3 (and in one case when over 3) so there was no worthwhile comparison to be made or sharing of information and professional opinion.

Some checks were done in the family home, some in the local children’s centre and one was done at a play and stay session with several children and their parent attending in the same time frame – so again no consistency

Advice given about access to the early years entitlement for nursery education also varied from no information to comprehensive information. Some health visitors only mentioned school nurseries while others explain about the range of childcare settings. Some gave no information at all.

Another issue identified by participants was that often the health visitor had not seen the child before, and so the child was not ‘their normal self’ during the assessment, some (especially those parents who are also childminders) expressed concerns that their child’s progress was documented from one very short assessment. Some commented that the health visitor did not identify their child’s strengths or weaknesses correctly.

In my opinion things need improving, and there needs to be more consistency in when the 2 year old assessment takes place, and to be coordinated more locally between childcare setting and health visitors.

I know those reading this will be saying, that my research was not very ethical, and very ‘woolly’ – and I would agree. However, it was only ever meant to be a ‘snapshot’ of the views of a small selection of people.

Of course due to the time taken for me to publish my findings, things may have already improved, as childcare settings and health visitors become more familiar with the 2 year old check.

However, a conversation with a colleague this week (week ended 15/2/15) demonstrates that things are still not as we all would hope they would be.

So – respecting confidentiality, I am going to recall my conversation with my colleague to provide evidence that the system for 2 year old progress checks is still not implemented as a coordinated approach, and that therefore opportunities are being lost.

The childminder provides information to all parents about the 2 year old check, as part of the initial paperwork and via verbal discussion. As the child approaches 2 (or when starts, if already 2) explaining that normally will do the check at 2.5 years BUT if the health visitor wants to do the check earlier, if the parents provide details of the date, the childminder will ensure the setting check is completed in time to be shared with the health visitor.

The childminder keeps extensive records of the child’s development – observations, photo’s, tracking to Development Matters, next steps, individual planning – and all of this is shared with the parents on a regular basis.

Once the child is 2 the childminder starts the process of gathering information specifically to inform the 2 year old progress check – and tells the parent.

Recently the childminder had been doing this for a child in her care. She handed the parents their child’s Learning Journey folder to take home over the Christmas period, and mentioned to parents that once they had looked at the folder and commented on the form provided about their views about the child’s development and experiences at home, the 2 year old progress check would be completed.

January passed and despite reminders the folder was not returned

In early February the childminder reminded the parent again, stressing the importance due to needing to have the check completed in time for the health visitors appointment for their progress check.

The parent then said
‘ Oh, I forgot to tell you the child’s health visitor did this check in November’!!!!!!!

So ……
Parent forgot to tell childminder of the date
Health Visitor forgot to mention to parent that needed to give date to childminder / ensure had a copy of the childminders 2 year progress check
Parent forgot to tell childminder that the health visitor check had taken place
The childminder was not shown or given a copy of the health visitors progress check report

Result
One very fed up and disillusioned childminder
One child assessed without the benefit of the extensive information gathered by the childminder
One system that is still not working as well as it could
Opportunities to work in partnership lost

In my opinion in terms of safeguarding children this is an example of how not working in partnership with EVERYONE who comes into contact with the child – could potential have serious consequences

What if the childminder had a significant concern about this child’s development? How would the health visitor know?

What if someone had a concern about the child’s well being and reported it to the safeguarding board? Would anyone even know that this child attended a childminding setting, and therefore contact that childminder for information about the child?

If the 2 year old check is not going to be carried out consistently, or involve all professionals who work with the child, then it should not be ‘sold’ as doing so – BECAUSE – If a box is ticked to say the 2 year old progress check has been completed- assumptions will be made that it was done in partnership with health visitors, parents and childcare professional (where involved) – and if this is not the case, the box should not be ticked.

In conclusion then, my small scale research and my colleague’s recent experience indicate that at very least there are areas of the country where the 2 year old progress check is not meeting the criteria or expectations of partnership working, and therefore of sharing of information about the child to gather the ‘bigger picture’ And at worse that there is no consistency across the whole country and yet again it is a postcode lottery as to the experience a family has of the 2 year old progress check.

In my opinion simply NOT GOOD ENOUGH

Posted February 15, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Some very good questions- Why do I blog? What is the purpose of my blog? Do I need to make it more academic?   4 comments

As regular readers of my blog know, 2014 was a roller coaster year and if not already done so, readers can read about it HERE

However what that blog did not really explore was my actual blogging, resuming my university studies, or the discovery at almost 56, that I am dyslexic.

Just this week (week ending 15/2/15) all of the things mentioned above, suddenly all came together and have made me reflect on my blogging. So in my style – here is the story about last week and the questions in this blogs title that I have been asking myself.

Since starting university I have been keen to share my blogs with my peers on my course, but despite putting several links on Blackboard (which is the online learning environment for the university) including some that were specifically related to the modules that myself and my peers are undertaking, hardly anyone looked at them – and no one left any comments or more disappointingly for myself, engaged in any professional debate about my opinions or about the content.

Last week, I asked a direct question about if anyone did read them, and if I should actually post the links if no one was interested.

A few people did get back to me – mainly to say they did not read because a) they did not have time, b) they were not sure how would fit into the course work.

It was suggested by a peer, that maybe if there was a separate space on Blackboard for my blogs, that it would be easier for my peers to locate them.

Luckily tutors were in agreement and a separate space for my blogs was set up.

After consideration I decided not to re post blogs that are already on Blackboard, but to put links to two of the blogs that I wrote last week about working in partnership – especially as one of the was a direct link to some of the required reading for one of my modules.

So I posted this one First partnership blog

And this one Second partnership blog

A couple of peers did respond – one to say thank you and that found interesting, and another who asked questions and made suggestions – for which I am very grateful as has led to my reflection – and after stumbling across a chapter in a book that I was reading as part of my research for my dissertation (independent study) – led to the answer for the questions asked and the suggestions made.

My peer asked if I could include a few more references and link the things I write about to theory as academic support for others – such as when I say not including names to make the link to ethics. My peer was concerned about not knowing when my writing was my personal opinion, or from my practice – or was actually the words of others from books and so on.

At first I said I would try – but I reflected and said I was not sure a) because I do find academic writing so very hard, it might take away my enjoyment of writing blogs, and as a result I might avoid writing them; b) That maybe my blogs were just to share my opinion and experiences with others (I am thinking of when I write about the conferences that I have attended); c) That my regular readers who are not all studying at level 6, may not read my blogs if I started writing in an academic format.

And that was it really – apart from the fact that I also questioned why anyone needed to reference other people’s work just to validate their own work.

NB. I did not use these actual words or the ones below, as I have had time to reflect a bit more about my own views on this – but the main idea / principle is the same

My own thinking is, yes research based evidence is great and should be used and referenced as gives a much broader picture than one persons observations. However great care needs to be taken to ensure that the research that using is in fact related to your subject matter – and not taken out of context or ‘cherry picked’ so that appears to validate your work / words – when in fact it does not. In my opinion, politicians of all colours are very good at taking things out of context and in suggesting that research undertaken for one reason / criteria, also applies to another reason / criteria. As an example take the EPPE research
http://www.ioe.ac.uk/RB_pre-school_to_end_of_KS1%281%29.pdf

EPPE is based on 3 and 4 year olds following them until end of key stage one, but is now being used in relation to two year olds – and you do not need to be an academic to know that the needs of two years olds are TOTALLY different to the needs of 3 and 4 year olds.

The EPPE research is an excellent long term study and is very useful- however is does not cover all childcare settings – in particular registered childminders. Yes it does included a comparison between children who have not had any or very little pre school experience but it does not include children who attended a registered childminding setting – and so there is no data or comparison about the children who attended childminder settings.

In my opinion claims that – even for 3 and 4 year olds – that outcomes are better if attend pre school are not founded, because you can not claim that a childminder setting provides the same outcomes as a group setting but nor can you say that a group setting is better than a childminder setting.

I would also suggest that the experience of children who do not go to any setting are so varied that using a small sample of ‘home children’ is not sufficient – numbers of children should have been equal in the home children and the group attendance children – and the research should have included childminders.

IT IS ALSO VITAL THAT EVERYONE ALWAYS REMEMBERS THAT ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL – AND SO NO MATTER HOW GOOD / COMPREHENSIVE / INCLUSIVE ANY RESEARCH IS – THE CHILD’s INDIVIDUAL NEEDS MUST BE CONSIDERED AND AT THE CENTRE OF ANY PLAN OR ACTION FOR THAT CHILD

However, it is an excellent piece of research – provided that people do not ‘extend’the findings beyond the research criteria, and therefore limits.

Anyway, as I often do I have gone off in another direction – but in this case I think a very worthwhile and useful in explaining my opinion.

However, now back to the reasons why I am writing this blog – the questions in the title

As alluded to at the beginning of this blog, this morning I was reading a book as part of my research for my dissertation which is all about heutagogy and pedagogy called’ Experiences in self determined learning by L.M Blaschke, C Kenyon and S.Hase (Afraid I have no idea how to reference it – as it is a self published book by Amazon – so here is the ISBN number 9781502785305 from the back of the book-a bit confusing as 2 different ISBN numbers inside the book)

Chapter 11 – which is written by Robert Schuetz – is all about blogs – and although I did not expect to find the answers to my question this morning, reading this chapter has helped clarify my own thoughts.

Schuetz says ‘ There is little doubt that sharing thoughts in writing creates opportunities for deeper learning and understanding’

So reason one for why I blog

I do find writing my blog supports my own reflection and extends my learning.

Schuest also says ‘Shouldn’t each educational stakeholder strive to leave a legacy of his or her learning?

So that is reason two

I do want to leave a record – and not only of my own learning but also my thoughts and opinions – and my practice as a registered childminder.

Schuest then quotes Tom Whitby (2014) Can be accessed from http://www.edutopia.org who mentions a number of benefits from writing blogs – I am just highlighting those that I feel are relevant to me;

Open doors to dialogue and discussion about any topic of interest to the learner
Reason three – I do write about lots of different things – all related to children and childcare, but many topics. And many doors that I never dreamed would be opened, have opened and I now engage in daily dialogue and discussion with some of the leading names in early years field

Give the learner a voice, and also counteract isolation
Reason four – certainly since I started writing my blog I have found my voice and grown from shy, never say a word in public person to someone who dares to challenge government ministers – to their face. Plus as a childminder it can be very isolated and my blog has made me connections with thousands of other people

Improve writing skill and creative expression
Reason five – despite the extreme difficulties that I still have with words, my writing has improved – and I think my creative expression has improved as well

Allow 24 / 7 learning opportunities supporting a variety of styles
Reason 6 – as friends and close colleagues know – my life is extremely complicated and very busy – so access to my blog at any time of the day or night is essential. And my style is my own – no rules or format set by others – I just do it my way.

And finally Schuetz says ‘Comments and conversation widen one’s perspective as a blog post becomes a source for other learns. This reciprocal learning effect is an important reason why publishing a blog can become so personally enriching, whilst simultaneously supportive to a community of learners.
Which is reason 7 – and actually just confirms what I thought and what I tried to explain (all be it not very well) in my reply on the university online environment called Blackboard.

In conclusion then – I blog for my own benefit, I blog to share my learning with others (who may follow the links and sort referencing for themselves), I blog to express personal opinion, I blog to share my experiences with those who may not have the same experiences, and those who have, I blog to encourage and support discussion and debate

and the final and most important reason – I blog because I enjoy it.

Therefore, I have decided I am not going to change my blogs, and in particular I am not going to make them less enjoyable to write by adding references or academic reasoning.

I do usually say if my opinion, I do usually say if my personal experience or if sharing (with permission and within the boundaries of confidentiality) the experiences of others.

People may quote me (and one person has written their dissertation on me and my opinions around the ratio issue)either from these blogs or where quoted in publications such as Nursery World or indeed from the article that I write for example for Early Years Educator magazine or Child Care Journal.

My opinion is my opinion, my observations from my practice are my own observations, and my ethos and practice is based on my ethos and practice – and usually not on anything that I have read – because as with the chapter that I have read about the benefit of blogging – I already knew this and the chapter has just confirm my opinion. And by the way the book I am referring to was written in 2014, as was the bit by Tom Whitby – So did they ‘know’ this first, did I ‘know’ it first (as I started blogging in 2012) – or did we all reach the same conclusion from our own practice and observations?

In others words did the chapter I read validate my own work / knowledge – or did the authors just share my opinion – and just because the three of us all think the same – does it make it ‘right’?

Clearly it makes it ‘right’ for all three of us because we all think the same – but I suspect (no I know) that others will have a different opinion or experience and therefore Schuetz, Whitby and WEBB will be ‘wrong’

Oh and if interested I did publish my own ‘Theory’ back in 2012 – this is the link to those who are interested Ethos – and The Webb theory – Scroll to near the end of the blog – however you may also want to read about my ethos

Anyone want to discuss, debate, agree, disagree …..

…… over to all of you – those of you who read my blog.

Posted February 14, 2015 by psw260259 in My university studies

You could be forgiven for thinking that being an independent Ofsted registered childminder is no longer an option   3 comments

Why am I saying this?

After all we all know that childminder agencies are optional, and childminders can remain independent Ofsted registered childminders. We are told that it is still possible to go through the registration process without joining an agency.

In fact only today (8.2.15) Sam Gyimah said so on the BBC South programme today (May be available on IPlayer)

The reason I am saying it, because it seems this Government is very keen to promote childminder agencies and not independent Ofsted registered childminders

First we had the 4Children advert in Nursery World that I have already commented on

Blog about 4Children agencies ad

In a nut shell, 4Children are funded by the government directly and indirectly and should provide information about both options – and should not actively promote a private childminding agency, any more than they should promote an individual Ofsted registered childminder like me.

Nursery World have said they are responding to the concerns raised by myself and others.

Then, colleagues drew my attention to the information given to those registering and wanting to get a DBS

A childminder enquiring about getting a DBS was given information about how to do so via an agency but not directly via Ofsted. (Sorry I don’t have permission to post the actual content – but I have seen it, so hope readers trust me that this is true)

I think this is outrageous – I don’t have an issue with people being given information about agencies or services they can provide BUT information about being an independent Ofsted registered childminders MUST also be given by those who are supposed to be impartial.

Although not connected to childminding agencies, this is another way that independent Ofsted registered childminders are being ‘side lined’. At my local authority PVI meeting this week, it became apparent why parents of two year olds are not contacting me about funded two year old places.

I ask at the meeting how parents would know I offer the places, as I have noticed that no one is making enquires any more. It seems that the children’s centres no longer have a list of providers who offer the 2 year old funding – and certainly one of my local children’s centre had no idea that I even offer 2 yr old funding – never mind that I currently have availability.

I asked what happens when a parent comes to the children’s centre and asks about the 2 yr old funding. I was told that they help the parents by downloading the form, and with filling it in – very kind and helpful I am sure, but is it any wonder that of the 4 settings in my area at that meeting – only the children’s centre reported an increase in the number of funded two yr olds attending?

It may have been a one off, but when my daughter went to her children’s centre to ask about funded two year old places for her daughter, she was told ‘ We have places, come and have a look’. She was not told about the option of using a childminder, or come to that a pre school or day nursery.

Of course not all children’s centre are like this and some do work in partnership with local childminders, but it seems total unfair that if your children’s centre works in partnership or not is a postcode lottery – and that as a government funded scheme that children’s centres are not made to give information about all settings that provide the funded places. After all a parent could have a long walk to the nearest children’s centre, but have a childminder just around the corner ( or a pre school or nursery)

So independent childminders are really up against it – from all directions. It is even hard to do free advertising – such as big banners outside the setting, that some pre schools and day nurseries can do, because that is not appropriate or even worth it if your childminding setting is in a cul de sac or a down a rural lane, or in a block of flats.

Personally I am not looking for ‘special treatment’ or promotion for independent Ofsted registered childminders, I just want a level playing field, and for parents to be aware of all childcare options.

And I expect those who want to become childminders to have information about all options – registration through an agency, and independent Ofsted registration

Posted February 8, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Inter professional working – When, where and how is this taking place?   1 comment

Last night (6/2/15), I wrote a blog about a scenario based on a real story, where partnership working between a parent, a nursery setting and a childminder was not working. A really sad story because at the centre of it was a child – not the scenario child ‘Beth’ but the real child that my scenario was based on.

This morning (7/2/15) I have been doing some tasks as part of my degree studies, and as part of this I had to read a paper on ‘Multiagency working in the early years: confidence, competence and context’ by Jane Payler and Jan Georgeson.

This is the link if you are interested

Link to Payler and Georgeson paper

I have actually met Jane Payler once – at a conference where she was speaking (wearing her TACTYC chair hat), she came over to speak to me because she recognised me but could not place me. We had a lovely chat, and as a result, I remembered that at the moment in time, I had not got round to joining TACTYC (now rectified – and I am now a member)

To read more about TACTYC click on the link
TACTYC Website

So as I say a lovely person and I did agree with most of her presentation at that conference

To read about it for yourself click on the following link to the blog I wrote about it.

Blog about when I met Jane Payler at the Alliance conference

Anyway so my comments that are to follow about the paper written by Jane Payler and Jan Georgeson (who I have not met) are not personal comments about the people, just comment about inter professional working – which I note from the paper is abbreviated to ‘IP’

My first comment has to be from a personal perspective; this report was written in 2013, at a time when childminders should have been perceived as childcare professionals, as quality early years settings – and yet despite involving 52 childcare settings, not one of them was a childminder setting.

WHY?

Is it because historically childminders are regarded as ‘baby sitters’? I am not sure because within the paper is mentions the low status of pre schools and even day nurseries

The sector has a long history of relatively low levels of qualification, which influences both other professionals perceptions of the knowledge and skills of early years staff, and early years staff’s perception of themselves in relation to professionals from other agencies Osgood (2010) cited by Payler & Georgeson (2013: p.381)

and

Examples of such aspects include confidence and competence, especially given the historic view of early years staff as poorly qualified ‘mum’s army’, in filling where national policy has failed Payler & Georgeson (2013: p.382)

(Please excuse my efforts to get my head round referencing – it is a skill I need to learn, so practising here in my blog. Hopefully my dyslexia support tutor or my academic tutor will help me get to grips with it all)

A clue as to why childminders have not been included is mentioned further on, when they described who took part

The survey was completed by 52 early years practitioners who were either undergoing or had recently completed training for Early Years Professional Status’ Payler and Georgeson (2013 P.386)

So, I now understand a little bit more about why childminders were not involved – but not fully as I know some childminding colleagues do have EYP status.

However, in my opinion childminders should have been included, as all the issues that are highlighted in this report, impact on childminders as well – in fact even more, as childminders have (in general) less professional status than all the other types of early years settings.

Putting the fact that childminders are not included aside, I want to look at the main points raised in the paper as I found it very interesting that it is not just childminders who struggle with inter professional working.

Please note because I find it so hard and time consuming to reference things in the required way for university, for the rest of this blog I am just going to reference ‘my way’ (if at all) and hope that in future it will become easier for me.

My general overview having read the whole paper is that the higher your perceived professional status, the more chance you have of other professionals working with you – and more specifically of visiting your setting to have meetings, to see the child or their parent.

It appears that Children’s Centre’s have the highest status and are seen as having the most positive inter professional engagement – and positive gains (P. 381)

It appears that early years practitioners struggle to articulate their skills, knowledge and practice among high status colleagues (P.381)

And further that some are sacrificing their personal identity in order pursue joint rather than personal goals – because competing and conflicting motives can mean that working in partnership does not succeed. (And this could be seen in my blog about partnership working, where both parent and childminder gave way to the perceived ‘expert’, and did it the nursery way – rather than working together in agreement)

From reading the article, a ‘pecking order’ is described with Children’s Centres being at the top and pre schools / nurseries at the bottom (and if childminders had been included, I think they would have been below the pre schools and nurseries.

This causes concern, that children get different access to extended services (so inter professional working) depending on the type of childcare setting they attend. This is not fair or right, because all children should have equal access to services.

As an example in the report it mentions specialists visiting Children’s Centre’s to deliver services directly, but that pre schools and some day nurseries only got things indirectly such as reports, or ideas to implement, information via parents (P. 387)

I can personal confirm this, because through my volunteer role with the Pre school Learning Alliance, I know pre schools struggle to get support from other professionals – not because they don’t want to, but because of budget cuts and having to prioritise their workload. However this demonstrates a professional lack of understanding about both children’s needs and parents / settings abilities to visit Children’s Centres to access support – or the impact of other children in the family or setting.

As a childminder it is almost impossible to get a specialist professional to visit my setting to provide support myself or the children. It does happen occasionally – but very occasionally and usually as support for myself rather than direct support for the child.

So why are some children able to access more support, just based on the professional status of the setting that they attend. Maybe it is because by going to Children’s Centre the specialist professionals can see (and therefore support) more children?

In my opinion this is not really valid or justifiable. For me to take a child to a session at the Children’s Centre I would have to close my setting to other children / ask the parent to take time of work to take their child (even if parent not required to attend – unless they wanted to), the child would also be in an unfamiliar environment and so may be withdrawn, and unwilling to engage – where as if a child attends a nursery in a Children Centre – the setting does not have to close, and the the child can be seen in familiar surroundings, with or with out the parent being present.

Maybe it is because it is thought that the practitioners in pre schools and day nurseries lack the knowledge to engage professionally (ie due to their low status)?

Again in my opinion, this is not justified. Often those working in Children’s Centres have the same level of qualification and experience as the leaders and managers of other early years settings – and some times a lot less experience.

In my personal case, this is true – when I worked for the Local Authority I had a high professional status, as a childminder – I have a much lower professional status – at least among those who do not know my background. Furthermore, I have colleagues who have degrees, who are unable to demonstrate a high level of professional knowledge, because they are good at academic writing, but not at the practice side of things. Whereas I am rubbish at academic writing but I am informed by others that I am knowledgeable about early years in general and children’s development in particular.

As the saying goes – ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’

In terms of inter professional working – in my opinion this is just what is happening – settings are judged by some unwritten but widely known ‘pecking order’; practitioners are judged by the setting they work in and its status; high professional regard is given to those with paper qualifications (as in the paper being discussed, where having or working towards EYP status was a requirement) but even this is limited if you have paper qualifications but work in a setting with less professional status.

And of course – all early years settings and the practitioners who work in them – in the governments view, have less professional status than schools and teachers, which is why we are seeing a drive towards earlier, and earlier school starting age, support services being available in schools, schools leading early years settings and childminder agencies being set up within school enterprises, and local pre schools being ‘brought out’ and took in house by schools, or forced off school premises by out pricing them with huge rent increases.

The status of early years professionals is being attacked from all sides – and in my opinion, we will could end up with schools – just schools, as even Children’s Centres will just become part and parcel of the school services, and a ‘one size fits all’ approach to early years.

I hope I am wrong, but as part of the collective ‘childminders’ – who by default has the lowest professional status, and who is being constantly undermined by Government – I fear the ‘writing is on the wall’

HOWEVER – THERE IS MORE, THAT I HAVE TO SAY ON INTER PROFESSIONAL WORKING WHICH IS MORE POSITIVE

I am referring to my own professional status within the Early Years field, as I find myself engaging with professionals from all early years sectors and the wider early years field.

So how has this happened – after all I am a childminder, I don’t have a degree (although doing my best to gain one), I have not written any books or appeared on TV, so why am I able to engage with all these experts / CE’s of organisations / writers and academics?

It has taken me a while to work out – I think I now understand (but I may be wrong)
A) I found a ‘soap box’ on which to stand and to shout very loudly about why I think the Government are failing our children, with their policies, procedures and expectations.
B) Those who engage with me, value the fact that I have my feet firmly on the ground as a ‘hands on’ practitioner
C) My honesty, ethos and principles are valued, and are relied on
D) I communicate openly and freely with everyone – expert / CE / practitioner – and I say it as it is – in plain English
E) I have been able to demonstrate my passion and my commitment – without expecting anything in return

So if I can do this and make my voice not only heard but respected as a professional, think what we – the early years practitioners could do, if we joined together and made our combined voice heard.

Maybe if we did this inter professional working would become embedded – for all, and we would all become valued professionals.

Posted February 7, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues