Meeting with Claire and Keyan from Save the Children   Leave a comment

Today – Thursday 3rd November 2016, I met with Claire and Keyan from Save the Children to discuss their latest report ‘Untapped Potential’ and the blog I wrote about that report,

If you have not read my blog yet – you can do so by clicking on the link.

https://pennysplacechildminding.com/2016/11/01/7692/

The meeting was only for about an hour but to be honest it was surprising that a meeting was arranged at all , because I gave very little notice of my availability.  However – Claire and Keyan fitted in with me and we met at Euston Station  due to my other commitments for the day.

Readers of my blog will know that I have met with Claire before, and that she has sent me copies of Save the Children’s last two reports, via email, so I could write a blog about my opinion. Both with no strings attached and no hidden agenda – Claire genuinely wanted my opinion and gave me freedom to write whatever I wanted to.

On both occasions she thanked me for my honesty in my blogs (well to be fair that is what you get in my blogs – my honest opinion – I would not have it any other way).

However, ahead of the meeting Claire had told me she was moving on – still within Save the Children but within the school section. Hence the reason for Keyan coming to meet me – Keyan is to be my new contact and will be working with me in the future – him in his paid role with Save the Children, and me in my volunteer role. Being a volunteer is essential to me – I have no intention of charging to attend meetings like these, or being sponsored by anyone. I just want to express my opinion and also act as a bridge between organisations like Save the Children and my colleagues.

So to get to the content of the meeting

First I was introduced to Keyan and given hard copies of the last two reports (Claire tells me I can get extra copies if needed for colleagues). Then while Claire was getting drinks for all of us, Keyan and I got on with introductions, finding out a little bit about each other. Keyan is a policy sort of man but is new to early years and only been with Save the Children for about 4 months. He admits he has a lot to learn and that it is all a bit confusing at the moment. However he mentioned the support of colleagues including Claire whose new office is just across the corridor, and Jerome who wrote ‘Untapped Potential’ and who is a research sort of person.

I expressed my opinion about the limits of research especially small scale, and large  scale that is now outdated. Claire came back with the drinks and we got down to the serious side of our meeting

Claire wanted to know what I thought about the media coverage of the report – I told her that I was not impressed with the media coverage and disappointed that other more positive aspects of the report had not been mentioned,

I also told her of the negative impact on my colleagues and the despair of  yet more negative press, and feeling of depression that early years (and in particular the PVI sector) is yet again the bottom of the pile and ‘not good enough’. I mentioned that moral in the sector was at an all time low (although plenty of passion still there) due to the funding issues, the qualifications confusion and constantly changing goal posts, and the academic push for children to be rushed through their childhood and required to achieve things earlier and earlier. I told Claire and Keyan that the sector feels no one is listening or taking their concerns seriously. I mentioned that some people had been in touch with me and that I had some questions to ask on their behalf. Claire said she was happy to hear those questions and would either answer herself today or get back to me with the answers.

To me Claire and Keyon seemed genuine in their desire to work not only with me but with the early years sector as a whole. But then Claire said something that made take a deep breath – and I will be honest I have thought about this and not sure it sits well with myself and my ethos.

 

So what did Claire say that made me pause and reflect?

She said ‘ To get media attention we needed to be negative and question the government’s policy’ We said a lot more about lack of government funding and lots of other things  BUT we had to use something that would get attention’

I explained that the whole early years teacher bit had got the report attention, but at what cost to the early years sector? Colleagues are not happy, so would it not be better to work with the early years sector? Claire said just asking for more money would never get us anywhere – we needed to target government policy and shortfalls.

Those who know me well, will now know why this does not sit comfortably with me because I always say it as it is – I never have a hidden agenda. However, maybe I am rather naïve and too honest?  Maybe that is why I am not rich or famous? (not that I want to be either)

I do tend to believe that Claire and Keyan do think this is a good way to draw attention to the plight of the Early Years sector – but I would not do it this way.

I then asked some of the questions I had been asked to raised

Q. Why the sudden interest in early years children in England?

A. Actually Save the Children started out working with children in poverty in England almost a 100 years ago, and this remains part of their manifesto. They do a lot of work ‘behind the scenes’ such as parenting programmes and things like helping parents buy things they need such a fridge, or a bed for their child. Claire said a lot of this is not in the public eye.

I suggested that it should be.

Claire said she would send me some stuff about their work. I will share this when I get it.

Q. Where does their funding for their early years work come from. Are they funded by Government or others, and do they use money donated for other projects such as Syrian refugees?

A (Claire smiled a little) Most definitely NO to all those questions. They do get some corporate funding such as from Fisher Price but this goes into a general pot not just the early years work. They also get funding from some others – but this is all stated clearly in their annual reports which are available to anyone.

I admitted that annual reports bore me – however Claire said she would send me the link for the annual report for those that are interested.

Q. Are they linked to some sort of product – say for early years literacy and language – that they will generate an income from

A. NO – but we do work in partnership with others

Q Would it not be better to work with early years settings?

A This is what you have asked Penny – and yes we do want to work with more people like you. We already work with organisations but want to work with those on the ground floor.

Claire then asked me if I knew anyone that might be interested in meeting with them or in having email communication. I mentioned a couple of names but did warn Claire and Keyan that people were quite likely to be angry and / or upset with them at the moment – but Claire said that was fine, she welcomed all comment.

So colleagues this is your opportunity – Do you want to meet with Save the Children in person or via email? Do you want to communicate through me? If you do let me know – I will pass on your details – or if you prefer comment on this blog.

 

Further discussion then took place about what Save the Children need to do (in my opinion)

  • Sell themselves to the EY sector (ie give information about what they do)
  • Promote the things the PVI sector do well (value the experience and knowledge)
  • Push forward the play agenda not the academic agenda
  • Promote the home learning with parents and grandparents
  • Include childminders and other home based settings in their reports
  • Work directly with the EY sector
  • Work more with me – after all my opinion is free
  • Try to ensure people find out about the things from their reports that do not make the headlines – maybe produce their own media release

 

To finish we talked about how to help people out of poverty, and that benefits, or places in grammar schools, or even EY funding was not the answer. We talked about changing the language used that there was no such thing as free childcare, and that in any case did not reach those that really needed it due to barriers including government criteria. Actually Claire agreed with me that a subsidy for all would be better – so say £2 per hour from Government and the rest from parents. We discussed the failing of the tax credit systems (old and new) and those slipping through the systems.

By then it was time to part.

We parted on good terms with promises from me and them to continue to work together.

As I have said I am not sure about their methods – they do not sit well with me, nor am I happy about the distress caused to colleagues BUT I do think they do want to improve outcomes for children, so really it is up to all of us to work more closely with Save the Children, not just in expressing our disappointment but also in providing information and opinion.

 

Over to you colleagues …..

Posted November 3, 2016 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

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