Archive for the ‘Changes to regulation of childminders campaign’ Category

Friday 5th October – DfE visit to Penny’s Place   10 comments


The information provided here about the DfE visit is for sharing – in fact the DfE and myself would like it to be shared – because one of the problems is information is not reaching many childminders.

However as I do not want personal comment to get muddled with the information provided –  I respectfully ask that this information   is shared either by providing a link to this page on my blog – or that the entire page here is copied – and I am credited as the source.

I also ask that if shared via forums / social media  that people do not use that information post to add personal comment because people get confused and think personal comments are linked to the information. Of course if people want to start a separate post where people can comment that is fine.

So for example

Post ‘ Information from DfE’ – giving link to my blog or information copied and pasted – only comments should be on the lines of thank / found useful/ still confused

Separate post  ‘ Comments about information from DfE ‘ – views / comments freely expressed.

Hopefully then people reading the information post – will not mix up information with personal comments / information that has not come from the DfE via me.

Of course others may have provided information from the DfE and that is nothing to do with me – this request just applies to the information that I am providing.

Thank you for your understanding.

OK – Now to get on with feedback from the DfE visit

I am going to start with a little description of the day – as I think it important that you, the reader, understand the why’s and wherefore’s about this visit.

So why was DfE visiting Penny’s Place?                                                                 First because I had written to them asking if they / the minister would like to visit my setting , and secondly because I currently care for 5 under fives – on my own under the new exception process.

The DfE person                                                                                                                            I think it is important that I dispel some of myths surrounding ‘government officials not having a clue about children or childcare’  – based on what I observed and discussion.

Jane –  person visiting me -was knowledgeable about young children and has hands on experience – actually I didn’t have to be told this I could see it for myself. She not only joined in with play but also helped with the routines of the day, such as serving lunch, tidying up, clearing away and washing up.

The children took to her straight away – they wanted to know what was in her bag (which she discussed with them), to try on her necklace (which she allowed them to do), she answered their many questions, looked at photo’s with them, showed an interest in what they were doing.

She told me that she, and a lot of DfE colleagues do try to meet with as many people as they can within the time restrictions of their work load Plus as she pointed out DfE employees are often also parents and so have children in childcare settings – and therefore have personal experience of issues involved.

Finally, Jane is not based in London, she is based ‘up north’ – and so lives and works in ‘the real world’

Outline of the day                                                                                                                   Once Jane had  arrived at 10:22, we walked from the station  to  a nearby Tesco – having to walk along a busy road, cross the road three times without a crossing and once with a crossing. We brought our items (her lunch and a few other bits) then retraced our steps and returned to the car park. We had snack time, free play, lunch and then nap time. During the visit there was multiple potty use – including a poo, and discussion on willies! And after nap time more free play- which I admit was not  supervised to my normal standard  as I was engaged in discussion with Jane – and wanted to make sure I got all my points across (not saying I was neglecting the children as I was constantly interrupting the conversation to meet the children’s needs).

At every opportunity I explained about the difficulties of looking after five children.

At the end of the visit we took two of the children home and then dropped our visitor back at the station at approx 16:40.

Discussions that took place today                                                                                  I feel very honored that I was able to share ideas and information with Jane, she was very open and I felt, honest. She listened, asked questions and made lots of notes.

She also made it clear which information could be shared and which information was given to help me understand processes and operational limits.

Therefore I will not be telling you everything word for word as I can’t  but I will be telling everything that I can.

Elizabeth Truss                                                                                                                       Jane pointed out that the new minister has only been in post for a few weeks – and it is a little early for any ‘official statement’ – but that she expected the minister to make a statement in the next few weeks / months.

However she did not know just what the minister would say or when.

What she does know is that Ms. Truss has requested a lot of information to be gathered and summaries of this information to  presented to her – including our feedback through the questions provided. As I say Jane does not know what direction the minister will go in – but she does know that decisions have not been made yet and that a number of different options are being explored. Jane does  have opportunity to discuss things in person with the minister and her personal view is that Ms. Truss is not rushing into anything and that she does want ‘to get it right’ for the children, the parents and the childcare providers.

Music to my ears – and hopefully reassuring to many that our new Early Years minster is taking the time needed to explore different options before announcing her proposals about the future regulation of early years settings.

Jane also said that from feedback from, and discussions with childminders, membership organisations and others,  that it is unlikely that some of our worse fears will become part of government policy – and that we should wait for further information before assuming the worse possible scenario will be implemented.

Through out the visit Jane stressed several points;

  • Nothing was decided yet
  • Ms. Truss is asking for information to inform her decisions – she is considering all aspects to ensure she makes the best possible decision – remembering that she has ‘criteria’ to meet covering many different areas (parents, childcare providers, government budgets and so on).
  • The minster herself would be the one to announce her proposals – she, I , media, membership organisations – and you – will have to wait for that announcement


I asked some specific questions – Jane wants to make it clear that her answers are her professional view – NOT the views of the minister.

Q Will the Dutch model be implemented?

A There are some aspects that may be considered  but it should be noted that the Minster has asked for for further information and will fully consider all aspects of the Dutch model – and other models

Q Is there a reason why it can not be recorded by Ofsted on their system when a cm applies an exception?

A I don’t know – I would have thought it could be done – but without asking Ofsted I can’t say – but I will ask the Ofsted the question – they may have already considered this – and have a good reason for not doing so.


Q Is complete deregulation being considered?

A NO – as far as I know – it never was on the cards


Q Are higher ratio’s being considered?

A Yes – but the views of  the early years sector have been listened to – and we understand why increasing ratio’s may not lead to lower childcare fees for parents. This issue is still being discussed, and we understand from concerns expressed and feedback received the worries that it would not always be in the children’s best interests and that some professional judgments may be based more on the money side of things. I am not saying that higher ratio’s have been dismissed just that we are listening to the concerns being expressed.


Q  Ms Truss has suggested that I might be a suitable person to run an agency, would this be possible?

A In theory yes – of course you would have to meet all the expectations of the government and deliver certain core services – and as yet these are unknown – but yes in theory you could.


Q So a bit like the children’s center  system – where different people / groups run them

A Could be. And certainly it is a popular model within government circles


Q Why does it appear that DfE only consult through NCMA?

We don’t – but it is very hard for us to engage with lots of  individual childminders. NCMA provide a route through which we can gather views of childminders. ( Jane asked me if there were any other routes through which DfE could communicate with individuals – I made some suggestions)


Bearing in mind the timing of next general election – will this government have time to make changes to the law covering childcare?

Yes they have – if they choose to do so – remember nothing is decided yet. However if the government decides to make changes – the next opportunity is in 2014 when the Education Bill (under which of course Early Years comes) – will updated / changed. Please remember that even then – the fine detail will not be known or decided – and any change to law requires public consultation.


Q I have personally been telling people that any changes would not be implemented until  2016 when EYFS 2012 is due to end.

I don’t know the actual timing that the minster is considering  – however these things take a very long time from initial proposal to implementation – so as a personal guess – the timing could well fit with the end of EYFS 2012 – but the details about this are not  known yet.


Q Looking at the feedback that I have received – it seems that many people are expressing frustration at local authority imposed paperwork / judgments on quality and practice – especially as this now seems to not be inline with EYFS 12 guidelines of  practitioners deciding on practice  and documentation to meet the needs of their setting.

We are very aware of this – and are looking into it. This government and in particular the Early Years Minister want to reduce the burden of ‘must do’s’ for everyone from LA’s to practitioners.


Q A similar question – but a personal one. Why do I have to do a level 3 safeguarding course and childminders in another area just a few miles down the road – only have to do a level 1?

Jane  Who says you have to?

Me – The local authority

Jane What does it say in EYFS?

Me – (showing her in EYFS) ‘Taking account of any advice from the LSCB or local authority on appropriate training’

Jane I will make the minster aware of this


Why is there such a wide variation in requirements to provide the free entitlement for 2, 3 and 4 year olds – and in fact why in some areas is it not even a possibility?

A This is already  being looked into as it is unfair to childminders and more importantly to parents and children who may want to access funding through a childminders but are unable to.


As you can see we had open and frank discussion – Jane was listening, was already very aware of many of the things I wanted to discuss – BUT as she kept saying – her job is not to make the decisions – it is to find out things for the minster (and this is why visiting me). Therefore she could not give me any fine details – as she does not know yet – no one does – not even the minister because information is still being collected and the feedback from those who responded to the Childcare commission, feedback from membership organisations and of course feedback from the recent meetings to discuss the additional questions – is still being collated and analysed.


I hope you find this feedback useful and reassuring – I certainly felt the day was well worth the effort and I am very grateful to Jane for taking the time to visit me – and for providing the opportunity for childminders to take part in the individual organised meetings to answer the additional questions from the DfE.

My personal opinion is – The government is listening, they are aware of many of the  issues and whatever decision is finally made – whether we personally like / agree with it or not – will have been made based on consideration of everyone’s needs and research into many different options.

With this in mind – I feel that my personal ‘worse scenario’ which is that I feel that I had to give up childminding is not likely to happen


the one thing that Jane said that has given me hope that my personal ‘worse case scenario won’t happen is;

In response to my statement ‘ I would rather resign that have to pay to be part of an agency and be told how to run my business’ – was ….

…..’you won’t have to’ – read into that whatever you want – did she mean won’t have to – resign? –   be part of an agency? –  pay? – indeed did she mean something i have not thought of?  – but I consider  that simple ‘you won’t have to’ as a very positive statement.