Study of Early Education and Development (SEED): Study of the quality of childminder provision in England   4 comments

Produced in September 2015, we now have the report about the SEED research. I will be the  first to admit that I have not been very positive about this research since it was first announced in 2013, and indeed was not over impressed when the interim report came out in 2014.

If you have not read my previous blog you can do so here

And if you want to read the full report you can access it HERE

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the SEED project, I was looking forward to reading the final report because there was the possibility that it would provide some worthwhile data and information to support high quality childminding and to help change the low professional status that childminders are often still held in.

So I clicked on the link, and started reading. First thing I noticed was that far more childminders had taken part in the full research – 99 to be precise (an improvement on the 20 in the interim report), however as acknowledged in the report this is a very low % of the total number of childminders registered with Ofsted and therefore any conclusions would have to be questioned if represent  typical childminding practice.

Even so, despite the low % number taking part, I remained optimistic – but not for long. I read that the main quality measure was FCCERS R and SSTEW. My optimism dropped through the floor as I have experience of ECCERS (in all its versions) and find it to be very narrow and prescriptive. I know people who have put in place things just to push up their average score – so for example number and type of books or even soft toys, or made their sand tray movable even if these things ae not ‘best’ for  their setting or based on the needs or interests of the children.

I have also known others (and in particular childminders) ‘marked down’ because they do not have everything out and ready to use, every day and all day long. (In fact it is mentioned in the report that some childminders scored lower because although they had resources they were not out all day) Another area where childminders generally score lower is in the provision of child sized furniture and displays – it is hardly surprising is it? These are family homes not classrooms or purpose built buildings, or even community buildings with storage rooms and a big floor space (even though have to set up every day).

So I was very disappointed with the fact that FCCERS R (Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale-Revised)  was being used.

With SSTEW (Sustained Shared Thinking and Emotional Wellbeing Scale ) I have no personal experience, so I can’t really comment, other than the fact that the things being judged do seem more appropriate – as follows

Domain A – Social and emotional wellbeing, with two sub-scales:

  1. Building trust, confidence and independence
  2. Social and emotional well-being;

Domain B – Cognitive development, with three subscales:

  1. Supporting and extending language and communication,
  2. Supporting learning and critical thinking and 5. Assessing learning and language

I scrolled through the data about years of experience, if worked with an assistant, or co minder, and was struck by the number of childminders and assistants with 10 or more years’ experience in childcare, if not in childminding. I wondered if this is representative of childminders and assistants in general. Certainly the report thinks ithe number of years experience is an important aspect in the quality of provision provided.

I then looked at level of qualifications and amount of training undertaken. I found this interesting because there is not a statutory requirement for childminders to have a formal qualification, that they are the ‘Cinderella’s’ of the childcare profession. Clearly from this small percentage sampling that is not the case – and maybe as a profession, we and our membership organisation should do something about highlighting the the level of qualifications?

Next I looked at the data from the scores of the assessment levels – but I did not linger long, one because of my personal lack of professional respect for ECCER R but also because a glance at the figures quickly demonstrated that the results were as I expected – varied and difficult to draw conclusions from.

I would argue that as childminders who have their own ethos and work from family homes, with varying ratios and age ranges that there are just too many variables to consider. Childminder settings (even if work with assistants or co minders) are unique and no two will be the same, and indeed even the same childminder setting will be different at different times due to number of children attending and the needs and interests of those children – which in my opinion is how it should be.

At about this point I realise that there was no point in trying to grasp all the points being made mainly because the points being made were ‘wishy washy’ to say the least. Therefore I just scan the text and tables until I got to the summary and key messages.

If I was hoping that those doing the research and compiling the report had managed to ‘pull a rabbit out of the hat’ – I was too be disappointed.

Rarely have I seen such a weak conclusion with neither  positive or negative points being made – in other words there was not really a real conclusion made – just a summary of data.

So I moved on to the key messages – surely the whole point of this research would be justified here?

I was wrong – see for yourself . (pg 49 of the report)

Some key messages to be drawn from these findings are that:

  1. Keeping child: adult ratio low can help to reduce the likelihood of poor quality care amongst childminders
  2. Professional development can improve the quality of care provided by childminders
  3. Efforts should be made to encourage childminders to stay in the profession where they provide reasonably good quality as high quality is associated with more years of experience.

It say just before these key messages;

Nonetheless, this study has provided strong evidence identifying a number of aspects of childminding that are associated with higher quality early education that can be influenced by policy


In my opinion words such as ‘can’ and ‘associated with’ are very convincing.

As it happens I do agree with points 1 and 2 above, but I would be using more convincing words, and suggesting that more  data was needed (so a bigger sample of childminders so as to be more representative of the sector)

However point three left me speechless – surely things like training, CPD, peer support and so on are more effective in improving quality rather than just the passage of time? I am sure that they do mean improved quality is associated with training and so on, but that is not how it reads.

Maybe it is just me, and others will find more positive data and information, and therefore feel this research and report were worth the time, effort and cost.

Posted September 11, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

4 responses to “Study of Early Education and Development (SEED): Study of the quality of childminder provision in England

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  1. I thought FCCERS was supposed to be used for childminders, as ECCERS is for group settings? I’m not too familiar with either, I just think that using a tool developed for group settings is not likely to work in home settings. I also don’t think that in their original form these are optimised and validated for England? Again, I don’t think the US version is 100% appropriate.

    • Sorry for the delay in approving this.

      You are quite right about FCCERS being the most appropriate for childminders, and about the American version

      However, I do have t admit to a typo because it was FCCERS – R that was used, I had typed Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale-Revised, in brackets by the abbreviation, but had put an E instead of a F at the beginning of that abbreviation, so my apologies.

      I do though stand by my comments about ECCERS in general, and I am very familiar with most versions including FCCERS, and I believe even FCCERS is not an appropriate tool and is too prescriptive, and not able to be adaptable to take into consideration the many individual features and limitations of family homes.

      My big question is ‘What does quality look like?’ …… but maybe that is another blog?

      • I agree with that. I have a small house, not a mini-nursery and I don’t think the experience the children have with me is worse.
        And yes please, do write about what quality looks like – I love your blog, so thought provoking
        Thank you

  2. “Efforts should be made to encourage childminders to stay in the profession where they provide reasonably good quality as high quality is associated with more years of experience”. I’ve said this elsewhere so sorry for any repetition but this is utter nonsense. I’ve know CMs achieve good or outstanding grades in their first inspection and other CMs who have been practising for a decade or more who have never achieved this. And I think you already know how I feel about ECCERS, FCCERS & FCCERS-R although I do love listening to people struggling to say FCCERS without sounding rude haha

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