Bye, Bye Mr. and Mrs. Penny’s Place – another one bites the dust   14 comments

Nursery World have produced an article about the number of early years practitioners who are leaving the early years  profession

LINK TO ARTICLE

Although this article does not specifically mention the childminder sector, it is a known fact that childminders numbers have been decreasing for a number years, and that many have cited the increased pressure from Ofsted, increased paperwork and increased formalisation of early childhood as the reasons (not to mention low pay, sustainability, impact on family members and family homes)

So overall it seems that the governments plans for a motivated, highly qualified and/ or experienced early years workforce are falling apart. Government say that they are recruiting more teachers, and that people are still choosing to work in early years  BUT these will be less experienced people, and without that experience we will not have so many ‘good’ leaders, because no matter how qualified someone is, they need experience within the sector and a very good understanding on which to base their professional ethos, principles and practice on.

TO ADD TO THE NUMBERS LEAVING THE PROFESSION – TODAY I AM STARTING TO IMPLEMENT MY EXIT PLAN

So that will be one more childminder less ( and from what my colleagues tell me, many more are  already on their exit plan or are considering their plan).

Of course I can not speak on behalf of all my colleagues about why they are leaving but I can tell you why I am leaving.

As with most things it is not a straight forward black and white reason, but rather a number of things which have come together, and which together have made me decide that I will be resigning as a childminder at Easter 2016.

I will try to explain why I have made this decision a lot sooner than I thought I would, as to be honest when I re-registered as a childminder in April 2010, I thought I would remain a childminder until retirement. (Retirement according to the government is still around 9 years away)

So  why the end of the of March 2016, just before Easter, Penny?

That question is easy to answer. It is because I take continuity of care very seriously and want to ensure the funded 2 year old in my care, finishes his 2 year old funding with me, and has a smooth transition into pre school which is where his mum wants him to move onto at 3 years of age. His mum has already enquired about his place in the pre school and visited that setting.

The only other child in my care now, is one of my granddaughters, and together with my daughter, we are implementing a gradual transition to my colleague Carol’s  childminding setting for Annabelle.  Starting with just a few hours, we will increase these hours slowly over the next few months. Actually I will continue to care for Annabelle some days each week, but I will be doing this as Granny not as her childminder from Easter.

But didn’t you use to be very busy and at capacity with your childminding Penny, in fact didn’t you use to have a Continuity of Care (COC) exception in place?

Yes, this is true, for about 2 years I did have a COC in place to support parents with changes to work and study days. However it was hard work and not something that I would want to do again. When those children went to school in Sept 14, I  kept to normal ratios despite requests for changes to hours, until my husband Garry was made redundant in May 15, and became my full time assistant. Even so I still did not take on more children, I was just able to be more flexible if parents needed to change days or book extra days; it also enabled me to attend conferences and meetings, as I could swap days with the new parents who on the whole were  very flexible.

So in a nutshell I kept the numbers of children to within normal ratios, unless to meet mine or parents needs, in which case Garry helped as my assistant.

OK, so why do you no longer have those new children,  is it your current poor health,?

Yes and No

Some of the children left through planned transitions, due to parents wishes to move them to nursery, and as by this time I was beginning to plan my exit I did not replace them. However a couple of part time children  whose parents had less flexibility did decide to move their children when my health declined further  in August 15., and so I supported them with doing this.

So that  just left Annabelle my granddaughter, and the funded 2 year old. As already mentioned mum of the funded 2 year old wants him to stay here until he is 3.

My health has not been brilliant, but I have not been doing things on my own, Garry is here a lot of the time and apart from the 15 hours that the funded child does – I only have Annabelle the rest of time – and as you all know Ofsted do not ‘count’ grandchildren. Therefore everything has been fine, with the children’s needs fully met by Garry and myself.

Well, Is it because you now have more foster children?

No, not really – fostering and childminding work really well together, and I am not resigning from childminding because of the fostering. It is true that the fostering income will support us once the childminding income stops and to be honest I have some concerns about having all our income from one source.  However it will be nice to have our home back for family use only.

Surely then it must be linked to your campaigning around Too Much Too Soon , and  Better without Baseline.

Yes, the bottom line is I do not like the way things are moving within education and particularly within early education. I fear for the future of our children, and worry about the pressure being put on children and practitioners for more and more inappropriate academic based early education. I also can not support in any shape or form this tick box culture and one size fits all vision of success.

For almost two years  I have been practising ‘Principled Non Compliance’ and refusing to implement practice or record keeping that I consider inappropriate.  This is fine and it means that I have stuck to my principles and my ethos, BUT with the constant changes to Ofsted requirements and the demands placed on settings to tick the very boxes that I hate, I know that fairly soon, I will get to the point where my Principled Non Compliance will break the rules and regulations of the future – and I am not prepared to break the law or implement practice that I do not approve of.

I only have to witness the conflict that some of my teacher colleagues are going through at the moment, when their ethos is being challenged through the requirements to implement the baseline assessment chosen by heads, or implementation of the ‘best one available’ even though they would rather not do any.

It is hard I know for many early years professionals – not just teachers – as to speak out, could mean losing your job,or being down graded, or losing friends who think baseline assessment systems picked by the government are fine (and other things). It takes a brave person to stand by their principles and ethos, and stick their neck on the line to say ‘This is not what I believe in’

I have been sticking my head out a lot during the last few years, it is a coincidence but rather apt that my profile picture on some social media that is linked to ‘One Voice’ is of a giraffe. Over the last few years, I have made many friends, and increased the number of professional colleagues , but at the same time there are a few who see me as a threat to them professionally and / or personally – which is fine. I understand that not everyone will agree with me, and I value differences and actually enjoy professional debate. However I do not like the fact that some are prepared to bully me, to target me personally, to threaten me;  and usually behind a screen of ‘respectability’,  or through a third person.

I will actually be continuing with my campaigning and my volunteering – I still have an opinion, and I still think I have a role to play in speaking up for the children, and putting into words the things that many of my colleagues want to say – but  either don’t have the confidence or the means to state what they think.

However, once I have resigned as a childminder, I will be able to campaign and volunteer without the fear that someone will put in another malicious complaint to Ofsted, or that I will have to justify my practice to an inspector who does not recognise high quality practice when he / she sees it.

And this brings us the last reason

Yes, Ofsted inspections – it is true that I have never fully recovered from my flawed inspection in February 2014. Despite the fact that it was an inspection brought about by the malicious complaint,  I was looking forward to having an inspectors professional opinion about my Principled Non Compliance practice, and was prepared to accept a lower grade if I did not ‘tick all the boxes’.

BUT I was not prepared for an inspector who claimed to have seen things she did not see, to not observe my practise outside but claim she did, to claim that my safeguarding knowledge was wrong (did challenge that point but took up a lot of the inspection) , to have a report that was factually wrong – and not have the wording corrected.

And for the inspector to continue to restate these claims throughout the complaints procedure.

Yes, I am not over it, honesty to me is central to my personal and professional ethos. So to me the grade I was given (good) means nothing as it was not based on honest, professional judgement of my practice –  it was based on lies.

As people will know I have continued to work with Ofsted to try to improve the inspection and complaints procedures – and progress has been made, but I think that because the government are determined to implement regulations and therefore inspection requirements based on meeting targets and tracking development by criteria, that Ofsted will have to implement new inspection criteria based on these things, and as stated I am not prepared to tick those boxes.

Looking to the future

Penny’s Place will cease to exists after Easter 2016, the wind down has already started with resources being passed onto colleagues, given to our foster agency, to my Local Home Start and Kemp charity shop. There is a lot more that needs ‘to go’.  Most will be given away rather than sold, as it is part of my ethos to help others, and although I need to be able to pay my bills, I am not driven by money – never have been, never will be.

Mr. Penny’s Place as he is fondly known,  will follow Mrs. Penny’s Place out of childminding and revert back to being Garry and Penny Webb.

My blog – Penny’s Place Childminding  will need a revamp and maybe renaming – but I am not going to disappear and will still express my opinion through a blog.

As already mentioned I will continue my volunteering and campaigning, and may have a bit more time to attend more events, and work in partnership with more people across all sectors.

I hope to continue writing articles, and maybe one day I will write a book.

I may become a registered Nanny, or a childminding assistant, or volunteer in a pre school, or for a children’s charity

I may provide more training ( paid and for free) as I think my way of looking at things, of reflecting, of explaining based on my many years of early years experience, is still valid and will continue to be so.

One thing is sure though, I will continue to be true to my ethos and principles – especially honesty, and I will continue to express my personal  opinion.

Some will be pleased about that, some won’t be that happy;

I can’t expect everyone to agree with me, I can’t make people agree with me, so those.who do not agree with me, will have to agree to disagree. Those who don’t like what I have to say have a choice – they don’t have to read my opinion , but if they do read it, they can always comment on my blog to express their opinion, as I believe in freedom of speech in expressing opinion.

So just another 5 months of being a childminder – I have not resigned yet but I am now counting down the days

Posted October 23, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

14 responses to “Bye, Bye Mr. and Mrs. Penny’s Place – another one bites the dust

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  1. My Dear Penny,

    I have followed you and your blog for a couple of years. I am a British trained nursery/infant teacher (3-7s) who has lived in the U.S. since I qualified in 1972. A country that doesn’t respect or acknowledge that training! I have cared for babies in my own home, whilst educating my own sons, and nannied children in their homes. I too am passionate about my work.

    I know play has been the mainstay of your work – I’m with you on that. You mention further training: Are you familiar with the work of the Hungarian pediatrician Emmi Pikler? Her respectful care of the under-3s is remarkable. pikler.co.uk is a valuable page and The Pikler Collection on FB. I run a tiny mum and baby group using this philosophy – my two lovely grandchildren and their mum are the mainstay! My space at a local democratic school is free, so my class is free.

    I have greatly admired your determination. I feel certain that your health will improve once you are free of the administrative burdens of your programme.

    I look forward to continuing to read your writing in whatever form.

    Wishing you good health and happiness in your next endeavour.

    With appreciation,

    Helen Rubin

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Thank you so much for your comments Helen, they mean a lot to me. I am currently doing a bit of research and Emmi Pikler is on my list, so thank you for the links.

      I am looking forward to being free of all the rules and regulations and to being able to freely follow my ethos, and get back to the reason why I first became a childminder – to support children’s development through play without target and checklists.

      I very much hope that we stay in touch via my blog or whatever means I communicate my thoughts in future

      Best Wishes
      Penny

  2. It sounds like you’re making the right decision Penny. With only one part time, non-family child in your care, it sounds like your business is really suffering and it is time to move on to something more lucrative. Times must be tough with Gary having been made redundant. You have always been a good childminder and will certainly leave with many memories of your time as a childminder.

    • Thank you for your comment, however I don’t think you have read the blog properly. My business is not suffering, I have reduced children on purpose, working towards my exit so that I do not disrupt the care of the children. Yes Garry was made redundant but he was already a foster carer,he was never without work. As to moving on to something more lucrative, I have never been bothered about money and never will, I don’t do things for the money, I do things because I am passionate about making a difference to children.

      However you are right I have always been a good childminder, and I do have lots of very happy memories.

  3. Hi Penny, I am a Childminder with 26 years experience, an Hons Degree in Early Years and I too made the decision to leave… My final day is December 23rd this year.. I too have struggled with Ofsted after a Malicious complaint was made against me. I was lucky in that the inspector I had finally was a decent human being, however I had to fight Ofsted as the Inspector who originally came with the complaint didn’t complete the inspection fully and was booked to come back, she then went off sick and I went 8 weeks (with me chasing them the whole time) before another inspector came and picked up the pieces… I do not like the way that Early Years is heading… I am Outstanding and have been for years and I managed to up hold that despite the malicious complaint… but it changes things.. it changed me, a family who were with me for 18 months, left happily and then 3 months after leaving put in a complaint saying I physically abused her child …. Of course it was all untrue, I had all the paperwork to prove other wise… including documents that showed she happily left her child with me for extra hours etc even in the notice period.. It really takes its toll on you, your family and all those around you.. and the fight with Ofsted is exhausting… Penny your blog has inspired debate and conversation and I will be sad to see you leave …. GOOD LUCK

    • Thank you for commenting, and good luck to you in the future.

      So many are telling me that they have already left or are planning on leaving – all good or outstanding childminders, and most with many years of experience.

      Many tell me that it is not about the children anymore, and that like you and me they are worried about the way things are going

      It would be interesting to know just how many are planning on resigning in the next 12 months.

  4. Hi Penny, sad to hear that you are stepping down as a CM. However, you have to do what is right by you and your family. You have shown bravery and courage, selflessly sharing your views on Early Years, education and parenting over the years. I wish you and your family all the best in the future. x

    • Thank you Laura
      Like you, I stand by my principles. It is so important to speak up for the children, those in your family, those you engage with through work and volunteering, and those you don’t know personally. All children are very important individuals who deserve to experience stress free childhood with opportunities to learn though play at their own pace following their own agenda and not an agenda of criteria list and targets set by the government.

      We will of course stay in touch …

  5. I love your blog Penny and the fact that you fight our corner. I’ve only been childminding 2 years and feel I’ve come into it at such a bad time.

    Good luck in whatever role you choose next 🙂

  6. Thank you Clare, I am so happy that you and others enjoy reading my blog. It is one of the ways that I know I have already made a differences by inspiring debate and reflection., and one way that I will be a let to continue to make a difference.

  7. Dearest Penny,

    I have always marvelled at your courage, determination and straight talking, the childminding sector loses a wonderful childminder but I am glad you will still be campaigning and being a strong and proactive voice and force to be reckoned with in early years!

    Pleased you are thinking of your own needs for once, you do need to take care of your own health and wellbeing – you are always so concerned about everyone else’s and not your own. You need some Penny-time.

    Your friendship on a personal and professional level have certainly made a difference in my own life, and I thank you. You will always have a pillow and a hug in London as you go about your meetings/conferences.

    See you soon,
    Jen (‘Trouble’ twin)

    • Thank you so much Jen, your friendship means a lot to me.

      I am so pleased that there will be a bed at your home for me, as your very kind offer of free bed and breakfast (along with other London based colleague Wendy, and near London colleagues Sally and Brita) really make a difference to me as otherwise I could not afford to attend meetings and conferences that require overnight stays.

  8. Penny, your blog has been my “go to” place when I’ve been struggling with issues affecting the early years sector because I could always be certain of sound and reasoned explanations and insights. I will continue to ‘follow’ you in whatever capacity you choose and I want to thank you for representing the career I have chosen so admirably. I hope you realise what a wonderful role model you are.

  9. Pingback: Decline in the number of Registered Childminders | Penny's Place Childminding

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