Archive for August 2016

West Midlands Ofsted Big Conversation continues on 17th September 2016   Leave a comment

I have been involved with the West Midlands Ofsted Big Conversation (OBC) since day one, and although for the last year I have had to take a back seat and hand over to others to do the organising and attending of meetings – I have been keeping a close eye on developments.

For those of you who have never heard of OBC or maybe have heard of it but don’t know the history of how it started. you might be interested in reading these blogs

Feedback of first ever OBC meeting 14th September 2013

Blog with personal comment about meeting on 29th April 2014

I have also attended a Regional Chairs meeting in London during my time as the Wst Midlands regional chair, but as I have said all of that came to end last year when I was really quite poorly. I handed over responsibility to Tricia Wellings to keep things ticking over – but in fact she did far more than that and has recruited new committee members (including a new chair Nazma Meah) and increased interest from most of the LA areas that make up the West Midlands, as well as producing guidelines to work to.

The latest minutes of the steering group are available on the OBC website can be read HERE

So now we are up to date with the next open meeting for everyone with an interest in networking with colleagues, getting up to date information direct from Ofsted, and opportunity to ask questions, organised for Saturday 17th September 2016

Full details including how to book can by found HERE

I am attending and I hope to meet with many colleagues from the West Midlands area to continue the conversation with Ofsted.

(Those wondering why I am attending when I no longer have a setting; it is because as a campaigner, a volunteer and an advocate of children and the settings they attend – particularly childminder settings – I need to ‘in the loop’ and as fully informed as possible)

Posted August 28, 2016 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Childcare Expo -30th Sept & 1st Oct 2016   1 comment

Last year I was invited to attend the VIP breakfast summit at the Midlands Childcare Expo for the the first time. It was touch and if I could attend as at that time I was not very well, and not able to drive, or concentrate for very long. In the end I did attend as my very good friend Carol offered to drive me there and to look after my granddaughter while I was busy in the breakfast summit. I think it is an indication of how unwell I was that I did not write a blog at the time.

Rather than try to recall last years event – I am going to focus on this years event, but link to last years event here and there – as I have been invited to attend the VIP breakfast summit again.

After I had accepted this years invite, I was asked if I would like to do an interview to help promote the event but also to let people know about me and my thoughts on some of the current issues.

If you have not already read my thoughts you can do so by clicking  HERE

Some of you may be wondering what a Breakfast Summit is – well in simple terms it is a meeting over breakfast! Therefore the downside is you have to get up early to be there in time, but the upside is you get breakfast for free. Last year the choice and quantity of the breakfast was amazing. This year I am hoping to get there a bit earlier than last year as not only do you then get more time to eat breakfast – you also get more time for networking with the other early years people who have been invited to attend.

Last year there was a good mixture of people attending representing many areas of the early years sector, some were known to me and I had met in person before, some were names I knew but had not met before, and some were unknown to me. I do not know who will be attending this year, but I am guessing that like me, some of those who attended last year will be attending again this year. This will be good because last year we came up with an action plan, so we will need to review that, we will also need to look at issues that are continuing – such as the funding for the 30 hours, and look at new issues – especially those brought about since the new government ministers were appointed.

I am looking forward to the summit and very much hope that together as a group of dedicated and passionate early years people we will be able to come up with some ideas to move forward and to support early years settings and the children who attend those settings.

However, it is not just the Breakfast Summit that I am looking forward to, because of cause Childcare Expo is a major event in its own right – and has been going for a lot longer than the summit. Actually as a registered childminder I attended fairly regularly as I liked the seminars, and the fact that it was less busy than other educational shows which meant I could see things better, had less queuing, and could ask questions if I needed to. This year I will not be buying things (well maybe one or two things for the grandchildren) but I will be attending a couple of the seminars and I will be taking opportunity to network with colleagues and exhibitors.

If you have not booked to attend yet – take a look at the Expo website by clicking  HERE , and if you do book to go – and would like to meet up with me on Friday 30th September, let me know and we will arrange a time for a cuppa and a chat.

Posted August 24, 2016 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

I am so excited – Thank You Ofsted!   1 comment

I am sure regular readers will think I have lost the plot because why am I so excited about anything to do with Ofsted?

Yes, I have a track record of working in partnership with Ofsted – but I am not known for thanking them very often and even when I do, I often have both positive and negative comments and my personal thoughts about what could be inproved.

So what am I so excited about?

Well it is the latest Safeguarding document – the guidance for inspectors. Click on link if you have not seen it yet.

Link to Safeguarding document issued 23rd August 2016

I am sure many of you have read it – and being the ‘good’ practitioners that you are – you will have have read the whole thing and made notes about what you need to do now that you have read it.

You may have also read the thoughts of other people to get a balanced view and to help you get your head round things – such as this one written by my colleague Tricia.

Tricia Wellings of MBK thoughts on new Safeguarding doc

However, although I have read Tricia’s blog and in general agree with her – I admit I have only scan read the actual Ofsted document.

Ah – I can hear the doubters saying – So you are not really excited about this document Penny?

I can assure you I am excited but from a slightly different angle.

As most readers will know I no longer run a childminding setting and in fact I am no longer directly involved with any setting – but I am still a campaigner, a volunteer and an advocate for children and early years settings (especially registered childminders).

I admit that my in depth reading stopped at the bottom of page 4 – and in particular at point 8 – my interest continued until half way down page 6 and the end of point 11.

The section that grabbed my attention is called ‘Definition of Safeguarding’

To save you all rushing to find that section I have copied and pasted below so you can read it (please be sure to read in relation to the whole document as per link above) Please note my bold

  1. In relation to children and young people, safeguarding and promoting their welfare is defined in ‘Working together to safeguard children’ as:
  • protecting children from maltreatment
  • preventing impairment of children’s health or development
  • ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
  • taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.
  1. There is a different legislative and policy base for responding to adults’ safeguarding needs. However, most of the principles and procedures that apply are the same as those for safeguarding children and young people.
  2. Safeguarding action may be needed to protect children and learners from:
  • neglect
  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • emotional abuse
  • bullying, including online bullying and prejudice-based bullying
  • racist, disability and homophobic or transphobic abuse
  • gender-based violence/violence against women and girls
  • radicalisation and/or extremist behaviour
  • child sexual exploitation and trafficking
  • the impact of new technologies on sexual behaviour, for example ‘sexting’ and accessing pornography
  • teenage relationship abuse
  • substance misuse
  • issues that may be specific to a local area or population, for example gang activity and youth violence
  • domestic violence
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • fabricated or induced illness
  • poor parenting, particularly in relation to babies and young children
  • other issues not listed here but that pose a risk to children, young people and vulnerable adults.
  1. Safeguarding is not just about protecting children, learners and vulnerable adults from deliberate harm, neglect and failure to act. It relates to broader aspects of care and education, including:
  • children’s and learners’ health and safety and well-being, including their mental health
  • meeting the needs of children who have special educational needs and/or disabilities
  • the use of reasonable force
  • meeting the needs of children and learners with medical conditions
  • providing first aid
  • educational visits
  • intimate care and emotional well-being
  • online safety and associated issues
  • appropriate arrangements to ensure children’s and learners’ security, taking into account the local context.

I am sure you will agree that all the points are very important – but from a campaigners point of view (as in being against what current policy is doing to our children through lack of play, Too Much Too Soon, formalised academic learning, and constant testing) I hope you can see why I am excited.

Government in general are not listening – but here in this Ofsted document is all the justification we need – we are doing what we are doing (or plan to do) to safeguard the children – as per the Ofsted document!

Of course I am not silly and I know we will still have to argue our case with inspectors, but what if we prepare and have the research evidence and our own observation evidence to back us up? What if we ask inspectors to justify their assessment (and grade) with research and data? What if we all come together and say we are not going to do the things that in our opinion do not safeguard the children in the widest sense of the word, and in our opinion and from the research and data available we are by refusing to implement a inappropriate curriculum, we are safeguarding the children.

It would be interesting to see what would happen if a parent challenged Ofsted if they insisted that we went against our principles and just ‘did as we were told’ (which by the way would not make us reflective practitioners.

We need to remember that Ofsted have also said ‘There is no one way to achieve the very best for young children. Many different approaches to teaching exist.’  and ‘Parents, the first teachers any child encounters, will recognise this overarching view of teaching. Every word, choice and interaction made by a parent, either in their child’s presence or while engaging directly with them, plays a significant part in their child’s learning’

Both of above quotes  from this DOCUMENT

In my opinion the statement about parents and the overarching (holistic)  view applies to early years settings as well – and all children under CSA.

I, and many others do of course want to extend CSA to 7 – and lots of work is being done on that- but in the ‘here and now’ while we work on getting government to listen to our reasons (and more importantly to understand) let’s use this Ofsted document to back us up in WHY we need to  safeguard the children from inappropriate policy and practice


I will be speaking more about safeguarding in the widest sense and be including the impact on  looked after children at the conference being organised by Laura Henry

Link to conference


Posted August 24, 2016 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

30 hour funding pilots – Sharing infomation   3 comments

Recently I had a private message from a childminder called Debbie, who had received an email from her local authority about the 30 hours pilot in her area.

Debbie was a bit concerned as the email contained information that seemed a little odd and not fully inclusive because there was a link to certain local companies and to access the 30 hours at least one parent had to work for one of these companies (and meet the funding criteria).

When I first read Debbie’s message, I was also concerned and agreed with Debbie that it did not appear to be inclusive which raised concerns if it was all above board.

What surprised me was that despite considering myself to be fairly well informed about the 30 hours pilots, I was totally unaware of this link to companies. (But as I had been away on holiday with limited internet for 2 weeks I thought that perhaps I had missed some information)

Anyway I told Debbie that I would ask my extended professional network a few questions and see what I could find out.

Both Pacey and the Pre-school Learning Alliance responded to my request for support and information within a few hours of me asking the question. I am very grateful to both organisations for the response which enabled me to message Debbie on the journey home from my holiday to give reassurance that it was all above board – and to promise to give more detail once I got home.

In a nutshell, although neither organisation had direct knowledge of this particular pilot (and were grateful to me for sharing an overview of the  information that Debbie had received) both organisations were able to confirm that within the remit of the pilots that LA’s were able to test out various models – and to be innovative. Both organisations also sent me the following link which gives a bit more detail of this pilot

Employer linked 20 hour pilot

Personally I found the reasons for the links to employers to be interesting, as all linked to impact on the workplace/ work hours and nothing to do with benefits to the individual child. However, I recognise that the additional 15 hour funding is all about getting more parents into work, as per the government agenda.

Pacey were able to add some additional information that Staffordshire – the LA in question are very keen to work with childminders.

Reassurance now given to Debbie – and anyone else in Staffordshire reading this blog, I though ‘job done’ BUT then being me I reflected a bit more.

Neither myself, nor Pacey or the Pre-school Learning Alliance had any specific information about this particular pilot – and I thought ‘What do we know about the other pilots?’ – the answer (in my case) is ‘Not a lot’

Of course the situation in York is well known due to the media coverage when the settings in York decided to get together and refuse to take part in the pilot because the level of funding was too low. We also now all know that for the pilot period at least, the level of funding has been increased.

But what about the other pilots?

Some people will have some information if they are involved with a particular pilot but on the whole most of us know very little.

In my opinion this is not really satisfactory – and if all we get is the highlights and the information that government wants us to hear about, we will not have opportunity to come together to express our opinion, to debate or to share professional information about possible impact on the models in question in our own areas or on our settings. I think this is important because it will not be a case of one pilot will be successful and another not workable – it will be more likely to be a bit of a mix and match of different ideas to tailor the final ‘package’ to LA areas and the settings in those areas.

Personally I think it is short sighted not to share with all, because settings want this work for parents and for their settings and so to be fully informed about all the pilots on an ongoing basis would be beneficial to all – including to government.

So here is an idea – up to you the reader if you want to go with my idea or not – but if we all share the information we can (within the bounds of confidentiality of course) we could all be better informed and therefore all able to reflect, debate and offer opinion – both positive and negative.

Over to you …… leave a comment on here or contact me by email, direct message on Twitter or private message on Facebook – or comment via the Facebook post or Tweet.

Posted August 14, 2016 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues