Celia Smith’s Personal Story and memories as part of Networking, Sharing and Making Connections – 2   1 comment

Pre Amble

As promised in the initial feedback from Networking, Sharing, Making Connections – 2, this is the first of several blogs that will record the stories and memories of those who spoke at the event and those who took the time to meet with me prior to the event , or to send information via email.

Celia was one of the people who went to considerable trouble to communicate with me, so her story could be included. Celia was unable to attend as despite still be very active, travelling to Birmingham and attending was a bit too much to undertake.

So I have never met Celia, I wish I had because she is a hero of mine, having been one of the people who set up the National Childminding Association (NCMA). Celia has a remarkable memory, as you will see in her recall of those now distance days. As a registered childminder from 1984 – 2004 and then again from 2010 – 2016, I have a lot to be grateful to Celia and her colleagues because NCMA was my choice of professional organisation and I valued having support and ‘tools of my trade’ such as insurance, accounting system, a member magazine and more.

Further to that NCMA provided me with opportunities to volunteer at a local level, including being a co founder of a local support group in my first registration, and then another during my second registration. This led to opportunities to undertake tutor training, to become an assessor and to use these skills directly for NCMA but also within a local college , and as an independent trainer. These skills and experiences gained through my involvement with NCMA (and my involvement with Pre School Playgroups Association – as in those days I was involved with both – and in fact I am still involved with the renamed current organisations of PACEY and Pre-School Learning Alliance)  also led to my employment with my Local Authority (and indeed with NCMA) as a Network Coordinator.

Without my volunteering and involvement I would not be who I am – and I would not have been honoured with a British Empire Medal because it was PACEY (formally NCMA) who put my name forward for consideration.

Celia would not have known the impact she and her fellow members who founded NCMA would have had on people like me in the future, but I for one am very grateful that Celia and colleagues took the time and effort to form NCMA.

And I am sure many other childminders past and present, will be as grateful as I am that Celia was a Founder member and indeed was NCMA’s first General Secretary in those early pioneering days.



Celia Smith recalls her  memories of NCMA’s early days

The year 1977 was a busy and exciting one for the fledgling NCMA – and for me too!

In January the BBC produced a series of 19 short TV programmes for childminders – ‘Other People’s Children’. These acted as a real catalyst for bringing childminders together into ‘viewing groups’. It was a short step from there to wanting to link with childminders further afield.

Then, in March, Denise Hevey – a parent of a minded child – wrote to The Guardian, to invite contact from childminders, parents and childminding advisers to pursue the idea of trying to set up a national body to work towards improving the status and public image of childminding. Nine people responded, and we made a bold start one Saturday in April in Denise’s house in Southampton, forming what we called the ‘Holding Committee’.

In May, at the invitation of the ‘Other People’s Children’ team (including Sue Owen), Marion McNutt (a childminder from Wandsworth) and I (then working as a childminding adviser in Wandsworth) appeared on the final programme of the TV series and put across the idea of a national childminding association. There was a great response to this, so the ‘Holding Committee’ of nine felt confident in going ahead.

Then, what excitement when in July the Equal Opportunities Commission gave us a grant of £2,000 to cover essential costs – it seemed a fortune! The DHSS then weighed in with a grant of £750 to help with the costs of an inaugural meeting. A huge planning committee of about 35 keen people (mostly childminders) met several times to plan this important meeting. The big day was Saturday 12 December, and some 300 people travelled to Birmingham Town Hall from all over Britain to hear some big-name speakers, and to form a committee and adopt a draft constitution. One memory I have of this meeting is when a childminder raised a point of order, and asked that as this was to be an organisation for childminders, would all non-childminders present please be seated in the gallery. This request was immediately complied with. NCMA was definitely on its way! One of my clearest memories of that day is feeling completely exhausted after it was all over, and not being able to find a pub open in the center of Birmingham!

The months after that are rather a misty haze. I had recently left my job in Wandsworth and agreed to do what I could in the way of administration to help keep the fledgling organization afloat. Well, of course the speed at which the association grew was unbelievable, and the list of tasks grew longer and longer. A newsletter was seen as a priority and funding from the Bernard van Leer Foundation was secured. Denise Hevey produced the first few issues of the newsletter, ‘WHO MINDS?’. One issue was put together from her hospital bed if memory serves me right. NCMA soon became a ‘family affair’ and my husband Keith designed the first logo, which was in use for many years. And I have memories of Patsy Hutchinson doing the ‘pasting up’ of a later issue on my dining room table!

Soon it became essential to set up a proper office, and I was asked to find one. Number 13, London Road, Bromley became the Association’s first home, where absolutely everything happened in one large, rather dilapidated room. We moved no less than five times in Bromley during the next ten years. There was never enough money to do all the things we wanted to do, never enough people to do it, never enough space, we were running to catch up all the time. To start with I was ‘Jill of All Trades’ (official job title Co-ordinator) and life became more and more hectic as things developed. Eventually we had enough funds to employ a few more staff, including Jane who shared the job with me, Eddie, our Finance Officer, and Elaine, my very efficient PA. Irene and Veronica were wonderfully hard working, willing to turn their hands to anything. Both went on to be long serving members of staff. We took on a 17-year old, Sarah, with funding from one of the government subsidised schemes, and she too became very competent, eventually returning to NCMA as head of Human Resources. Sheila was a great support to us all, and was responsible for finding our ‘big’ office in Bromley, in a disused Primary School. We were a wonderful happy family in those far off days.

During the early 1980s I read a book by an American educationalist, Jerome Bruner, entitled ‘Under Five in Britain’. One section of the book was concerned with the isolation of childminders, and promoted the setting up of ‘networks’ across the country to allow childminders to support each other, and to develop training activities. These ideas seemed to be exactly in line with NCMA’s aims and so I wrote them up into a proposal with a view to obtaining funding at some point in the future. Then, NCMA had some luck: the government announced the Under Fives Initiative, offering money for new projects which would improve the quantity and quality of child care. So, I blew the dust of my proposal, refined it with the help of the National Executive Committee, and sent it off to the DHSS. They liked it, and decided to fund three schemes, and so came about the three support schemes for childminders in Stafford, Trafford and Southwark – a pattern for the future.

And then a big job fell to me – I had to choose and arrange for the organisation’s first computer system. I was quite ignorant of computers in those days, let alone having much of an idea about what they could do. So the first thing was to talk to everyone and try to come to some agreement about what we would like such a system to do. Membership records was an obvious candidate, and accounts. Could they be linked? What else? What would it cost? How would we be trained? After consultation we then looked for possible systems and people who could advise us, and ended up with quite a limited system – not too well coordinated I seem to remember. And of course, having made our decision, and plumped for a particular system, we were immediately thinking of other things we should have included, but couldn’t just be added on.

Of course the childminders involved in those early days were just amazing. They were willing to travel the country to attend committee meetings, usually in London on Saturdays. We had to find cheap, or preferably free, accommodation, and a packed agenda allowed for just a quick sandwich break at lunchtime. I do recall the first Chair, Ann Goddard, going the ‘extra mile’ as they say. She suffered from back trouble, but travelled up from Somerset just the same, and was sometimes to be seen chairing the meeting lying flat on her back on a table, as this was the only way in which to get comfortable. What a star!

The wonderful Dorothy Day was our first President, and she was so important to me. Very supportive, and always willing to talk through any difficulties I was having. And she had the most terrific sense of humour. Next came Willem van der Eyken, well known in the under-fives field for his research and publications. He too was most supportive to the organisation, and to me, and in fact gave me my next job when I decided to move on from NCMA in 1987.

I must mention IFDCO – the International Family Day Care Organisation. My memories of going to IFDCO conferences in Holland, Uppsala, Sydney and San Francisco are such happy ones. We had so much fun, and so enjoyed learning how things worked in other countries. And I made wonderful friends, such as Malene Karlsson and many others. Not long after I left NCMA I was asked by the DHSS to visit some Resource & Referral Centres in the USA, and I was actually in San Francisco on the occasion of the big 1987 earthquake. Exciting times.

NCMA was an undoubted massive success – by 1987 there were 23,000 members, numerous publications, training materials produced in co-operation with the Open University, subcommittees working on various aspects of childminding, research reports coming out and, perhaps most important of all, childminding was getting the recognition it deserved and a much improved public image.

But my chief memory of those early days in NCMA is the tremendous enthusiasm, dedication and hard work of a very large number of people – mainly childminders. It is to those early pioneers like Ann Goddard and Toni Rawson, that the present hugely successful NCMA (now PACEY) owes a great debt of thanks.

Celia Smith

March 2018


















Posted October 14, 2018 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

One response to “Celia Smith’s Personal Story and memories as part of Networking, Sharing and Making Connections – 2

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  1. Wow what inspiring lady Celia Smith is. Her story should definitely be published maybe PACEY should do an article. I think a lot of Childminder would be interested in the history. I certainly was. So good to read all your recent blogs Penny so sorry to hear about your health difficulties I wish you well and hope your health improves so you can continue to educate us all and keep us informed and help our reflective processes with your thought provoking blogs.
    Thank you Celia Smith and thank you Penny

    Ann Ross a very grateful childminder
    at Your Child Matters Childminding Service

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