Archive for the ‘Conferences that I have attended’ Category

Seizing the day to improve the nurture of our youngest children – in celebration of the 25th anniversary of UNCRC   3 comments

When I found out about this 1001 Critical Days and Foundation Years  joint information and research seminar, I was very excited and decided despite the short notice that I would try to attend mainly because I had very recently revisited this document, after attending the Early Education seminar and listening to the excellent presentation by Professor Chris Pascal and Professor Tony Bertram .

Amazingly everything fell into place and arrangements were put into place for my childminded children and my foster child. So on Thursday 20th November, early in the morning I was on my way to London, as the event was being held in the Boothroyd Room, House of Commons (actually in the modern bit called Portcullis House).

As I was to get into London very early, I had arranged to meet a friend, that I do not see that often for coffee, and we had a lovely catch up and some discussion around things that concern us both.

By lunch time I had navigated my way across London and despite the cold stood on the bank of the Thames, near the London Eye, eating my lunch. I then made my way to Portcullis House – I was a bit nervous as the last time I visited this building my bag ‘failed’ the security check – but no problems this time – my bag ‘passed’.

I was directed upstairs and sat waiting for one of my Save Childhood Movement colleagues – Marie from ‘Mother’s at Home Matter’. Marie arrived shortly after me and introduced me to her colleagues, we chatted for a while and were joined by others – including Penelope Leach. I had met Penelope Leach once before – at another conference – and not surprisingly she did not remember. However we all chatted until it was time to go into the large room.

It was set up in a similar fashion to the rooms in the House of Commons with rows of chairs at the back, and chairs at tables with mikes in front of them in a horseshoe shape at the front. I took a seat in one of the first rows of the seats at the back – as did Marie and her colleagues.

I noticed a few faces that I recognised but also many that I didn’t (turns out that was a good reason for this – many of them were from health professions)

We were all given a huge plastic bag containing our ‘pack’ – I stuffed mine in my bag – as pointless me trying to read and listen – or listen and note take; however I have of course since opened the pack and can you it contained a thick book called ‘Growing Up in the UK – Ensuring a healthy future for our children’  The date on it is May 2013, but I admit I had not seen or read it – maybe because it is produced by the BMA Board of Science. Anyway I have still not read it, or even dipped into it – I did open it and could see the writing was very small, that there are lots of graphs and research and recommendations – so not really my sort of bedtime reading – but I know I will dip in to it over the next few weeks just to get an overview – so I will know what it is about, and therefore when to refer to it, either as part of my university course or my campaigning.

The pack also contained Penelope Leach’s document ‘Babies are people – All people have rights, so what about babies rights?’ I have skim read this document – I do not agree with everything that she says / writes (in this document or elsewhere) – but this document  is mainly in line with many of my thoughts about the rights of babies and their parents to be the best people to protect their babies rights. However it also raises a lot of questions – and in fact these questions are within the actual text – things like ‘Do all parents have enough knowledge of child development to decide what is best for their baby?’ and ‘Do parents have the right to do what they like with their baby – without reference to the baby?’ (Which I take to mean not responding to what the baby is telling them through cries and body language). I will be returning to this document as I think will be useful in many areas of my professional life and to my CPD, and will raise questions that I will need to reflect on, and decide if I agree or not.

Another document in the pack was a document from the University of Northampton  School of Education, called ‘Transforming Lives + Inspiring Change’ – which really is a ‘sales brochure’ for the university – and so how their training of future educators will transform lives and inspire change. I do understand why this particular document was included – as they were mentioned a couple of times and there are links between some of the speakers and the university. However, I wonder what the relevance was in including it in the pack – considering those attending?

There were a few leaflets promoting forthcoming events – oh to have the time and financial means to attend them all.

And there was a booklet about the 1001 Critical Days manifesto – which was interesting as it is cross party and has the backing of many organisations. I had of course already printed this and looked at it before going to the seminar. If you have not read it yet here is the link -

But that is not all that was in the pack – there was a copy of the UNCRC – useful to have, and some information about PIPUK – which stands for Parent Infant Partnership – United Kingdom. If you want to know more click on the link

Link to PIPUK website

Another leaflet was about Best beginning – I admit not known to me – if not known to you take a look at their website

HERE for the LINK for Best Beginnings

I have only had a quick look but notice there is a lot of information – including some for professionals. I will go back and have a more in-depth look later

And that more or less is the end of the details about the contents of the pack given out.

Please note that this is personal recall without the aid of written notes or handouts from presentations

We were expecting Frank Field  to do the introduction, but he was delayed on other matters – so instead Tim Loughton MP did them- telling how exciting it was for us all – not only because of the excellent speakers lined up, but also because of the cross party support and the cross professional support and attendance with health and education starting to come together, to express concerns and to work on solutions – all with the aim of improving outcome and increasing opportunities for children – covering the 1001 critical days – from conception to two years of age.

Our first speaker was Dame Tessa Dowell MP –  I knew her name and had signed petitions about children’s rights and putting child development at the heart of post 2015 policies not just in this country but in other countries. The petition is now closed, and was a success as this is now being discussed within the UN.

Dame Jowell spoke with passion and determination, she spoke about Sure Start centres, in which she had played a major role in setting up. She spoke about the  role they had in the past and the changing roles over the years – and the loss of opportunities for them to be centres of support for children and their families – but also of hope that things were starting to be re considered. She spoke about the families and children in the areas that she is MP for and what is being done – and what could be done. However the thing I liked most was she questioned why education was ruled by politicians who are not experts within the field of education – and that a better system was needed – cross party maybe? I am sure the same can be said for health.

I have since read that Dame Tessa Jowell is standing down as an MP as from the 2015 elections – I understand her position but it will be a loss to lose someone on ‘the inside’ who was prepared to challenge the historic way of doing things within Government. However, I hear she might be standing as London Mayor and maybe – at least at a local level she will be able to bring about change?

Our second speaker was Sir Al Aynsley – Green – I had not heard him speak in person before – although I had heard snippets on the TV before.

I liked what Sir Al Aynsley Green had to say (well most of it) because it was clear he was passionate about children’s well being – and he had a photo up of a lovely young baby who  turned out to be his granddaughter. Sir Al spoke from the heart and he also  questioned things that are happening now and have happened in the past. He spoke about how things are done in other countries, about children’s rights about the role of their parents.

Also Sir Aynsley – Green said (of the government) – ‘No more reports’ ‘We know what needs doing – we do not need another report’ I can’t remember but I think he said something on the lines of ‘What we need now is some action’

There was of course lots of other things that Sir Al said but as I don’t take notes I don’t want quote him as saying things unless I am sure.

The next speaker was Dr.Gabriella Conti – I found it very difficult to understand Gabrielle’s presentation – I remember the bits about monkeys and attachment – and how the parenting experience passes on to the next generation, ie if a child does not receive good parenting experiences – it is likely that they will be unable to provide good parenting to their own children. This is something that I had worked out for myself, before listening to this presentation.

Gabrielle also showed lots of graphs – and I struggled with these as well as they all looked similar – and the text was quite small. However, I did get the overall impression that Gabrielle was interested  in testing children to ensure they were ‘doing well’ and in the economic benefits of childcare and so on – not surprising considering her background in economics.  I would like to know more – because to me nurturing and attachments are fundamental to well being, and although will (do) lead to children developing to their full potential (whatever that might be) and will have a positive impact on the economics  of a country in the long run.  However in the short term it means investment in services and support for children and families.

All the things that I had heard at the Early Education seminar – were mentioned – health, living wage, support for parents, less stress and so on – but money is needed to kick start this and to start to turn things around.

As I have said, I found it very hard to listen to and to understand what Gabrielle was saying, but I have found this You Tube clip of Gabrielle talking about her work, which you might find useful

After that there was a question and answer session, there were some interesting questions – and some interesting information – such as some training that is going to be rolled out to health professionals. There were some comments about changes over the years – not all for the good, for example new mums being sent home after only a few hours after giving birth;  comments about the lack of men in the room – although there were some; and some self defensive comments from those who felt their profession was being blamed – which was silly because over the years, none of us have got it right – and many of us have followed Government policy in the belief that they had it right. It is only in recent years that people have really started to question the constant ill informed Government policy – and have the confidence to stand up and say something about it

Talking about saying something, I did have opportunity to speak to the room during the next – and last part of the day – which was the interactive and action centred contributions – led by Sir Al Aynsley- Green. The idea was that we would state something that needed ‘sorting’ and give an action plan to enable this to happen.

Everyone also had to write their ideas on a piece of paper (if they spoke to the room or not) and hand it in on leaving (and all would be typed up and shared later)

So my contribution was to enable parents and practitioners to be enabled to support each other and to help themselves through making information easily accessible. I said the much of this information was not rocket science and could be easily implemented – if only people knew about it’

My colleague Marie said something on the lines of  ‘ important to see children’s services and children’s wellbeing in the context of family life and the care they receive at home, whether from parents, foster parents, or other carers.      It’s vital to support and value parenting, as only then can children be supported’.

It was very encouraging to note that nearly everyone in the room handed in a piece of paper with their ideas on (and having someone at the door to collect them, ensured they were handed in) – I may well use this idea myself at events / training.

I then said my goodbyes, navigated my way back to Marylebone station and sat having a coffee and doing a few emails from my phone, while waiting for the train home.

In summary was it worth the long day and expense of going to London and taking a day of work?

Yes it was, the time having coffee with my friend was a bonus, and worth travelling across London to ‘make it doable’ and the seminar was interesting and informative.

But the best bit was being in a room full of people from health, education – and MP’s who were all enthusiastic about working together and making a difference to the well being of our youngest children – I did feel like we had indeed ‘seized the day’ and that we are all on the brink of bringing about change through our determination and faith that we can make a difference and that we should not just stand by and let ill informed policy get in the way of children’s well being and futures.

In fact I sense that many were wanting to join their soap boxes to mine – and that is just what we need everyone on their soap box and speaking up for the children of this country.



Early Education AGM and Seminar 2014   Leave a comment

I very nearly did not go to this years Early Education AGM  and in fact I had sent in my apologies. I was gutted because I had asked in my feedback the year before if the AGM could be held outside London sometimes – and this year it was held in Birmingham (almost on my doorstep)

The reason I thought I could not go was because it clashed with one of my university course conference days.

However a chance discussion with one of my uni tutors made me re think my decision – and I am so glad that I did.

So on Saturday 8th November 2014, I found myself on the train to Birmingham – a little nervous as I was going to Snows Hill station for the first time, and I was not sure of where I would come out in relation to the venue – or in relation to a nearby coffee shop – because as usual I would be very early – and planned to meet a colleague who was going, and to read the paper connected to the seminar by  Professor Tony Bertram and Professor Chris Pascal.

I had printed it out- all 78 pages, because I find it really hard to read on a computer screen.

On the train journey I had a message from Michelle Rogers who I was going to meet, saying that at last minute she was unable to attend – and please could I pass on a message to Early Education to give her apologies – very important as Michelle was standing as a Trustee this year.

So I arrive at Snows Hill and make my way to the exit – with map in hand I find my way to the venue – literally a 2 – 3 min walk – and to my delight on the short walk I passed a coffee shop. Reassured about where the AGM was being held, I retraced my steps to the coffee shop, ordered coffee and cake and settled down to read the paper by CREC, which is an Early Years Literature Review.

If you are interested in reading it, Early Education with kind permission by Tony and Chris have made the paper available FREE to everyone on their website.

Link to download the Early Years Literature Review

While on the website please take a look at the other stuff on there. (And if you are one of my student peers studying at university – take a look at the membership options for university and have a word with your tutors!) However even if your university is not a member of Early Education, there is a special student membership – with many benefits – although not all the benefits of individual membership.

I am an individual member and I think it provides value for money, click on link to go to the right page on the Early Education website Early Education individual membership

I became engrossed in reading the paper – some things I was nodding my head to, and saying to myself – quite right, these things are very important. Other things  I was questioning in my head and making a mental note to mention at the seminar if I had opportunity.

I managed to scan read about half the document in the time available – in my case that means skipping title pages, index pages, and some other stuff that I may (or may not) return to later. I have recently discovered that I am highly likely to be dyslexic and to have dyspraxia (initial assessments done – 3rd, 3hr one to go), and this puts my reading into context – I find it really hard, (as in physically draining) and very time consuming, and the test have shown that I am a slow reader. So my guess is that over time I have developed ‘coping strategies’ – one of which is ‘scan reading’ and coming to a fairly quick personal overview.

So my quick personal overview of the bit of Tony’s and Chris’s paper that I had read – was ‘This is good. So many points that I agree with’ in particular the aspects in relation to the first 1001 days (which is pregnancy and up to two) – and as a result I was looking forward to the seminar even more.

Coffee and cake finished, I set off for the short walk to venue – I find it so reassuring to know how to get to venues and hate arriving late and then unable to find the door in (as was the case with Early Education national conference in Edinburgh). However, no such problems on this occasion. I find the door, go in and can see the signing in desk in front of me.

I signed in, and gave Michelle’s apologies – so they are not waiting for her to arrive. I note that there are not many name badges available and wonder why given the excellent central location and the guest speakers. Even the price for the day (including lunch) was in my opinion very reasonable. However, I then think about my own decisions around which event to attend – and recall several others that I could have gone to, so maybe that was the reason – Early Education members had had to make difficult decisions about which event to attend?

After a visit to the restroom and hanging up my coat (so pleased about this small point – but nothing worse than having to drag your coat around all day – especially if the coat is wet), I wonder into the refreshment area and pour myself a coffee and take a packet of biscuits. I then go over to look at the publications – like many membership organisations Early Education produced a range of excellent publications – and I have several already. If you are not familiar with Early Educations publications – click on this link   Link to Early Education publications on website ( the eagle eyed among you will have already spotted them on the page with the download to Tony and Chris’s paper)

I say ‘Hello’ to a lady that I vaguely recognise and so glance at her name badge – Julie it says – ah the very person that my colleague Michelle had asked me to pass the message to. So I explain to Julie about Michelle being unable to attend and give some personal info as well – Julie appears quite relieved to have the message – and it soon becomes clear why – she speaks to a couple of other people and says, ‘Penny’s message answers our question’. Apparently all is now sorted!

I move away from the publications and find a table, I am joined by a lady from ‘Cosy’ who are displaying some of their resources – and giving out catalogues and posters (I love their posters – especially the ‘stick’ one)

If you are not familiar with Cosy’s resources take a look at their website        Link to Cosy website

We have a lovely chat about play and appropriate environments for children – not just those in the early years. Of course after a while the Cosy lady needs to go and speak to other people.

By now the refreshment area is starting to fill up – and I notice a few people I know and a few other faces that I recognise from other Early Education events – including my colleague Kathryn Solly.

Beatrice Merrick (Early Education CE) comes over for a chat, and we pick up on our discussions from the national conference and emails since then. I find it reassuring that not only are childminders very welcome to join Early Education as members but that staff and volunteers show a real interest in childminding and in how we can all work together in the best interests of children. At first glance it might appear that the historic membership of Early Education (which is maintained Nursery Schools) would not be ideal for productive or supportive partnership working relationships with childminders – but I have found that we do  have a huge amount of similarities in our thoughts about practice that is in the best interests of children – as well of course a few areas of differences . Personally, I think these differences are a good thing as this means there are a range of settings that are not all identical and which therefore – between them – can support the unique – and diverse – needs of children.

Once Beatrice has moved onto talk to other delegates (and to Julie about getting started), I go over to have a word with Kathryn – and as it happens only a quick word as we are encouraged to make our way into the main hall. Kathryn sits by me and we exchange family news (mainly about grandchildren and children) and have an informative chat about dairy intolerance and allergies, as this occurs in both of our families.

I notice James Hempsall is in the room. James is taking a lead role in the funded two year old scheme. I have met James on a couple of occasions and are on first name terms. Information about James involvement in the Two year old project can be found here        Link to Hempsall’s Achieving Two Year Olds

The seminar starts – and after welcomes and introductions, Chris and Tony get down to the job in hand – talking about their literature review. As always, I am not going to repeat word for word what they said – you can read their report thanks to it being on the Early Education website – and you can access more information about their work from the          CREC website.

However, I will give an overview of the things that stood out for me – first the importance of the first 1001 days and getting it right – including;  housing, healthy diet, removing stress, parenting skills – in general happiness and well being of children being the MOST important aspects to make a difference to children. Early education can and does make a difference but can not close the gap enough. The figure given were shocking about poverty, and about the ‘hidden children’ – the ones we do not even know where they are because they are constantly moving accommodation or don’t even have accommodation. The facts about the most disadvantaged were surprising – White – boys – living in poverty; and having the most complex barriers to overcome.

As I sat there reflecting I thought about the children I know, and about my own family members – both close and extended, and about the children that I have looked after over the last 30 years – and I could relate to these facts – and to the fact that things are getting worse – yes some good work is being done and some improvements in some areas seen – but overall things are not significantly improving and in many areas things are getting worse.

The fact about the genetic impact on future generations through the effect of stress and poor diet and poor housing – from grandmother – to mother in the creation of mothers eggs in the womb – and therefore to the grandchild of that grandmother was something that I had not really thought much about – but it made prefect sense to me. As did the fact that many parents today did not receive good parenting experiences themselves – and we now have two or in some cases three generations where parenting experiences have progressively deteriorated.

I also reflected on the whole first 1001  days – and thought to myself – many of my colleagues in this room do not care for children within this time frame – but my colleagues from the childminding sector and day nursery sector often do. I thought about the children currently in my care – 3 of them fall into this category (as do my 3 youngest grandchildren). I thought about the funded two year olds – and couldn’t help thinking that although I know from personal experience the funding does make a difference – that maybe more support for parents in parenting, and with housing and diet – and indeed a ‘living wage’ and less pressure to put their very young children into childcare, could have more impact – make more of a difference to more children. Certainly it needs a lot more thinking about – but does fit in with my campaign thoughts around Too Much, Too Soon – and the whole back to work Government drive – and the idea behind the Save Childhood Movement (which is not just about education)

I remember looking about the document about the 1001 Critical  Days when it first came out – and resolved to re look at it – as my scan and quick personal summary clearly needed some refreshing and extending.

(When I got home I did do this and downloaded the report – and if you want to have a second look, or maybe a first look)

As as Postscript to this bit about the 1001 Critical Days – and my increased knowledge from re looking at the document – I was delighted this week when an email popped into my inbox from another organisation that I am a member of  – AIMH (if interested follow     THIS LINK ) The email informed me that there were still places available at an event in London on Thursday 20th November. I made enquires, sorted out childcare arrangements for my childminded children – and my foster child (amazed all fell into place) and booked a place. Why my excitement?

WELL – This is the event

Seizing the day to improve the nurture of our youngest children – 20th November 2014, 2.00pm-4.00pm

1001 Critical Days and Foundation Years Information and Research joint seminar in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of UNCRC. Speakers are: Professor Sir Al Aynsley Green, Professor Emeritus of Child Health at University College London and former first Children’s Commissioner for England and Dr Gabriella Conti, Assistant Professor, Department of Applied Health Research, University College London

Hopefully all clear now  why I wanted to attend?

So as is often the case – one thing leads to another – but back to the Early Education AGM and Seminar

At the end of Tony’s and Chris’s presentation, we had a little time for small group discussion – James Hempsall joined Kathryn and myself and we shared our thoughts. When feedback was asked for – I had a few things to say both from my reading in the coffee shop – and from listening to the presentation. So up went my hand – actually, I wish my hand and my mouth were not so keen – because my brain struggles to find the right words (and on this occasion it was worse than usual because I had the results from my pre assessment for dyslexia in my head – and instead of giving me confidence that actually despite my difficulties with words that usually I do OK in expressing my thoughts – my confidence had taken a major shaking, and I was physically shaking and starting to get the all too familiar spasms in my back –  and I was thinking I hope I don’t say the ‘wrong word’ or mispronounce the ‘right word’). I have to say I was surprised at the impact on my confidence – however my hand in the air and my mouth in cooperation with my ever ready ‘soap box’ were having non of that ‘I can’t do it attitude’  and continued to attract attention to me – and of course Tony / Chris noticed and there was nothing for it, but to say what I wanted to, with what I call ‘little words’.

I asked Tony and Chris about the data used in their research – because as far as I am aware there is very little research about the impact of childminders – both in relation to when children only attend a childminding setting (as did the children who left my setting to go to full time school in September) or when there was shared care between one or more settings – as is the case for some of children in my care this term. Tony agreed but did say there had been some research but only in relation to childminders and healthy diets (and that he had been impressed by the childminders knowledge and practice), the SEED research was also mentioned – as childminders are involved in this. I am aware of the SEED research but at the moment reserving judgement because I don’t think the research is focussed on the right things or conducted in the right way. However it would be very silly of me to jump to conclusions before the results of the research are published. So time will tell.

I also raised the issue about the paper mentioning that nursery schools were in a prime position to lead the practice of other settings in their local area – I objected to this, and suggested that it would be better to say ‘work in partnership with’, because although no doubt as a childminder I could learn from my nursery school colleagues (and indeed my PVI colleagues) nursery schools could also learn from me. Surely it was a case of learning from each other, and providing a choice of settings and practice, in order to meet the needs of all children. Tony and Chris agreed I had a point.

My final point was in relation to the Governments drive to have a graduate led early years workforce – and that despite my own thoughts that experience was as important (in fact in my opinion you need knowledge, understanding and an ability to implement) I had enrolled on the top up degree to gain my degree – but that it was costing me £6,000 – which is a huge amount to anyone in the early years sector – but especially to childminders as this amount often equated to a WHOLE years income once business expenses had been deducted.

There was general agreement in the room about my points – and indeed a colleague made the point about sufficient funding for the sector – including gaining qualifications.

A few more points were raise – some of which were around the closure and threat of closure to many maintained nursery schools (it appears that like within the childminding sector,  the Government are doing nothing / very little to ensure survival of either sector)

By now we were running late for lunch and so we had to end there. However, before I went to get my lunch – I went to have a chat with Tony and Chris – as it turned out – mainly to Tony as my colleague Kathryn was having a chat with Chris.

I mentioned to Tony that I was one of the people he had mentioned at the beginning of his presentation, who is an advocate for children and not afraid to speak up for the children when Government policy is not in the best interest of children (actually, despite my well worn soap box – I am always scared and a nervous wreak whenever I do object to Government policy- as it is not my natural persona – but I can not standby and say nothing). Helen Moylett, passed me as I said this to Tony, and put her hand on my shoulder – and said something on the lines of ‘She is’

Tony and I chatted for a bit longer, and Tony asked for my email address (and for good measure I gave him my blog details as well) Tony promised to stay in touch and especially if he or Chris needed some input from a childminders perspective.

And as another postscript – as it happens Tony has already been in touch via email

There was a lovely selection of sandwiches and fruit (plus some crisps) for lunch – and I put a few on my plate – I was starving (well not in the real sense of the word – but ready for lunch). As usual though I talked too much and only ate a little bit – I chatted to several people including Ros who I had met in Edinburgh, and a lady from Birmingham branch of Early Education (who I am a ashamed to say I have forgotten her name – but it may have been Margaret), however I do remember the conversations with both of them – which were about Ofsted inspections, labels on boxes, signing with children and other communication methods. Excellent sharing of knowledge and information.

As I had talked so much – I was still hungry (and had not had a drink) when we were asked to go back into the hall for the AGM part of the day, so I grabbed a satsuma and a banana from the fruit bowl and joined the others on the hall.

Again I am not going to repeat word for word what was said – and members will get the official minutes in due course. My personal overview is there was a lot of talk about funding – lack of it last year – and hopes for some in the next year; talk about the new website (which in my opinion is so much better than the old one); talk about publications and the associates training programme; and most importantly thanks to the retiring Trustees and welcome to the new Trustees – including my colleague Michelle Rogers. It was a huge shame that some delegates were so delayed in their travels that they did not arrive until almost the end of the day – and this included one of the retiring Trustee’s – however she did get her well deserved round of applause and like all the retiring Trustee’s a small token of appreciation.

We discussed Early Educations Position Paper which is available on the Early Education website                   and I made a suggestion that Early Education add Childminder qualifications to the things that they plan to campaign about, because in my view if childminders are to be given the same professional status as other early years practitioners there should be the same requirement for minimum qualification – provided phased in. It was agreed that this could be added to the things to be campaigned about.

We said thanks to Julian Grenier  who was standing down as Chair of Trustees, and learnt that a replacement for Helen Moylett in her role as President of the association had been found – but that we would give our thanks to Helen when she officially stood down.

Julian gave the closing speech and I was very pleased to note that Julian mentioned childminders several times – and working in partnership.

Before leaving the room I had a chat with Helen Moylett and Nancy Stewart – Helen mentioned that she had read my blog about going to university, which surprises me that people like Helen might read my blogs on ocassion, without any prompting from myself to do so. Both Helen and Nancy said really nice things about my ability to articulate the things I wanted to say – even with only using ‘little words’ – which helped boost my confidence a little.

Glancing at my phone, I could see that I had a little bit of time before catching my train – so I was grateful to see that coffee was still available, so I poured a cup and sat down for a last minute chat with colleagues (mainly listen on my part) before heading off to catch the train.

My head was full of things I wanted to find out more about and to reflect on – but by the time I was half way home – I had to refocus my thoughts to the next few hours when I would be joining my husband, my foster child and one of my ten grandchildren at a firework display.



Posted November 15, 2014 by psw260259 in Conferences that I have attended

Early Years 2014 ‘How Children Learn’ conference 19th September 2014   1 comment

I have attended the previous two years conferences put on by Early Years Educator magazine – in 2012 and 2013 , and have found them to be very informative and provide excellent opportunities for networking with colleagues from across all early years sectors both in this country and from overseas.

If you have not read my blogs about the previous conferences, you can do so by clicking on the links

2012 Conference PART ONE

2012 Conference PART TWO

2012 Conference PART THREE

2012 Conference PART FOUR

2013 Conference PART ONE

2013 Conference PART TWO

2013 Conference PART THREE


In 2013, I had suggested in my feedback that may be people found two day conferences a bit expensive, especially if the had to add travel and / or overnight costs. It appears that the conference organisers did consider my suggestion, as the 2014 conference was indeed a one day event. However, like many in the early years sector, budget cuts and reduced income had had an impact on me – and when I first looked at the cost to book onto the 2014 conference, I had reluctantly decided that I could not afford to go – because as well as conference fee and travel, I would have to take a day off unpaid.

So that was that!

But it wasn’t (clearly not as I am now writing a blog about attending!)

As many will know, I am now a foster carer, and during discussion about my fostering CPD – it was agreed that my fostering agency would pay for me to attend – I was delighted, as now I could go and only had to cover the cost of travel and the cost of losing a days pay – which was manageable.

In the end the fostering agency on my recommendation, decided to send another foster carer and two members of staff to the conference.

Therefore on Friday 19th September, I found myself sat in the reception area with a fostering colleague and two members of fostering staff, having a coffee and looking at the agenda for the day.


I was quite excited, because as well as the Keynote Speech, workshops and other guest speakers, I had arranged to make personal contact with a number of people, and indeed before having my coffee I had already spoken briefly to Neil Henty, editor of EYE.

The Conference

We had a welcome address from Matt Govett who is the managing director of MA Education (who now publish a huge range of early years publications – many of which I personally subscribe to)

Then it was Judith’s opening remarks which really focussed on the speakers and workshops that had been organised, plus the usual ‘domestic’s’.

Then it was the Keynote speech by Nancy Stewart  on Attachments in Early Years I was really looking forward to this as attachments are so important in my work both with the children I childmind and the children I foster.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I never go into a great deal of information about workshops and conferences  that attend I attend, because I believe that the information provided is the ownership of the author and that many speakers use the information for other workshops and conferences – and in doing so earn their living that way.

However I do give a personal overview, and highlight a few of the things that I noted, and if possible provide links to website and so on.

I found myself nodding in agreement with Nancy about many aspects of her speech – but the one thing that has stuck in my mind more than anything else – was when we asked to shut our eyes while some music was played. When we were told to open our eyes we had been transported (via the images on the screen) to another planet, where we did not know anyone, where we did not speak the language, and where we did not know where to find food, shelter or comfort.A very powerful message when related to the children who attend our settings – especially the youngest children and in particular the two year olds, who are able to do more than an under two, but still are dependent on adults, to meet most of their needs.

The other thing to stick in my mind was the clips about the different types of attachment (and the explanation of the different terminology sometimes used but that has the same meaning), The percentages quoted about the number of children who don’t have secure attachments was staggering – but actually not really a surprise when you consider modern life, changes to family structures and the extreme stress many families have to deal with, day in and day out.

Next up, was a presentation by Kate Wall  on Involving and engaging children with SEN. I had not heard Kate speak before but she is a woman who thinks like me – and questions what the Government are trying to achieve. Kate told us that she has tried to retire but that has proved impossible and she is ‘still going’ and currently undertakes research, gives presentations and writes.

Kate took us through the new code of practice for SEND which covers the age range 0 – 25 and is a hefty document – almost 300 pages long. Luckily there is a separate download available that covers Early Years.  Basically Kate’s message was although there are some changes to terminology and paperwork requirement – early years settings good practice remains good practice, and that if the child was at the centre of that practice, and parents were including in working in partnership – then the child’s needs would be met.

My notes taken on the day are very brief (as they always are) but I had written a few words which really linked the first two speakers points together (at least in my head). I had written;

Listen – really listen and not just to verbal language

Always be there to support – essential to be ‘available’

Make suggestions – but tell how to do things

Have empathy – put yourself in the children’s shoes

Ensure accept children for who they are – not who adults want them to be

The last one – which I have put in bold sums up a lot of what I think is wrong with our education policy – as it seems to me that the Government would like children to be ‘little robots’ – all achieving the same ‘goals’ with no individual characteristics. If only the Government would let children be children, yes children need support, yes children need encouragement, yes children should reach their full potential – but they should reach that potential in their own good time, following their own chosen path. We are not robots, we can not all be the same, and we should celebrate each and every child’s uniqueness and specialness

By now it was time for a break – and I had chance to have a quick chat with Judith Stevens and Nancy Stewart about the morning so far and current Government policy, and the disappointing numbers attending the conference and why that might be. I also made sure I had a very quick word with Kate – telling we thought on the same lines.

I also said hello to Sue – who I engage with via Early Education, and social media, and we had a chat (together with another colleague) about the new early years qualifications, and the requirement for Maths and English GCSE’s.

Before we knew it, break was over and it was time to go to our workshops – I went to the one led by Harriet Price on The Child at the Heart of Learning , as did my friend Sue, and my fostering colleague.

Harriet introduced herself – and then we introduced ourselves – in the room were people from local authorities, from colleges and from early years settings – so a good mix.

Harriet ask us all an interesting question – if we were delivering the workshop – what would we talk about?

Sue, my fostering colleague and myself – knew what we would talk about and why – we also knew what we would not include (all those tick list assessments and tracking to goals). It was interesting hearing other groups feedback.

At this point my fostering colleague started coughing and had to leave the room – someone from another table near the door went to help, but when neither returned to the room after a few minutes, I went to see if I could help – so I missed part of the workshop.

Harriet spoke a lot about David Whitebread – who happens to be one of my Save Childhood Movement colleagues – and who I had arranged to meet at lunchtime. Anyway, I digress  –  Harriet told us about David’s paper on the Five Types of Play – which if you are interested in finding out more, you can read about it by clicking on the link below

Importance of Play

We watched some film clips from Siren Films on Physical Play  which highlighted this type of play but  also showed how links to other types of play.

This is a link to a sales ad for Siren Films – but it does show a little of the film Sales Ad for Siren Films


The other activity we had was to look at some information sheets that Harriet had produced for use in her setting  – to be honest not my cup of tea, as I find that sort of thing puts children in boxes, and restricts both children’s and adults creativity. However I can see how with an inexperienced or young staff team this sort of thing would be a helpful first step in supporting the adults to think for themselves.

There were other workshops on offer, but of course I could only attend one.

Lunch was next on the agenda – I spotted David Whitebread having lunch and went up to say hello to him – he very kindly asked me to join him for lunch, which I did (after explaining to Sue that I would be doing so – and dumping my large handbag near her for safe keeping)

David and I had a little chat about Save Childhood Movement and my role within the Early Years Education Group, but after just a few minutes we were joined by Harriet Price – who knows David well, and Nancy Stewart. The discussion then turned to discussing my experiences with my foster child – and how I was using play resources to support the child is filling the gaps in his experiences and knowledge, Other subjects discussed included setting up of a school by a university – and the importance of getting the early years bit right; the involvement of childminders in projects / children’s centre’s / schools.

Judith Stevens then join us at the table and two discussions were going on at once – I was invited to join Nancy and Judith in a discussion about the ‘little people’ in our lives, grandchildren and so on.

I felt honoured to have been invited to join Judith, Nancy, Harriet and David – and also just a tad guilty at having abandon my friend Sue – and indeed my colleagues from the fostering agency.

Time then to resume the conference presentations, David Whitebread was next to speak on the subject of Self regulation, I was really looking forward to this, as it is an area that I am interested in – as well as an area that I think is often overlooked or not thought enough about.

David started by saying he was up against time as he had 2 or 3 hours worth of information to fit in to a 40 min presentation

David’s opening group exercise did not impress me – it was some Maths questions for those in the room – and worse mental maths! Of course there was a serious reason for this exercise – which was about how we reached our answers, how we used previous skills and experiences, how if we found it difficult we used coping methods and found ways around our difficulties – all on our own – and in doing so we were demonstrating self regulation – none of us screamed, or walked out of the room – we coped, we found ways to deal with it – including the ‘I have tried, but I just can’t do it – but the answer is going to be something near this number’

David then had so much to fit into his presentation that he had to miss bits, and rush bits, but even so he had me hooked! I already knew a fair bit about self regulation but David opened my eyes to much more.

If you are interested in reading some of David’s work and starting or continuing you own journey of understanding of self regulation click on the link


or this one

Early Development of Self Regulation


The last speaker of the day was Di Chivers on Creating and Thinking critically, as it happens I had read an article by Di in EYE magazine recently and had been impressed with how she had captured the story behind the children’s play. Di’s presentation was based around these stories and the children’s critical thinking. Although Di’s presentation was interesting and filled with lovely photo’s, and I fully  understood what she was saying about children’s thinking and the adult role; I think the fact that I had already read the article, the fact that it was the last session of the day, …… and the fact that I was already thinking about the next part of the day when I knew I had limited time to dash across Birmingham and catch a train (or rather two trains) to Kettering for another conference on Saturday – meant that I was not fully focussed on what Di was saying.

I have since goggled Di’s name and found about a bit more, to make up for my lack of attention on the day

About Di Chivers


As soon as I had listen to Judith’s closing remarks, filled in my evaluation sheet (including comment about including the home environment and involving childminders more – and a note that I MIGHT be interested in presenting a workshop or presentation if there is a conference next year) – I was out of door, dashing across Birmingham to New Street – where I caught my train – just in time.





Posted October 2, 2014 by psw260259 in Conferences that I have attended

Northamptonshire Childminding Association AGM and Conference 2014   4 comments

Before anyone thinks – oh Penny you must have moved from Worcestershire – I haven’t.


A while ago, I posted a link to a blog by my colleague June O’Sullivan in my Facebook group  ‘One Voice’ – as I have been doing for the last year or two.

I know people find June’s blog informative and useful, but on this particular occasion, a lady called Linda Jennings from Northamptonshire Childminding Association (NCA) made contact and said ‘Thanks so much for the link to June’s blog – as a result we have now booked her to give the Keynote Speech at our childminding conference in September.

Excellent I thought – and then I responded to Linda and said – ‘Although I have met June, and worked in partnership with her (and many others) on the ratio campaign, and through the Ofsted Big Conversation Link to OBC website I have never heard her do a presentation before – it is almost worth trying to attend – apart from the fact that I am not a Northamptonshire childminder.


Linda said – ‘Well if you are free on the day, you are welcome to join us’

A few weeks went by, and I was able to confirm that I was indeed free – and asked Linda if it was still ok if I attended.

Well it was – and somehow it went from a general ‘I will be attending’ to a ‘You are our guest of honour’ – and it even says so on our invitations and on our website – oh and you will be taking part in our debate at the end of the conference’

WOW – That was a first for me – being invited to be a guest of honour – and no, the ladies from NCA did not want me to book and pay for a place – I was to be their guest.

Wind forward the clock a few months, and I found myself on a train to Kettering – a bit of an unusual journey as I had attended a conference in Birmingham on Friday 19th September  – and was travelling direct from there without going home inbetween.

Once at Kettering I made my way by taxi to the hotel, and as well as unpacking, I text Linda to say I had arrived.

As arranged Linda collected me later from the hotel (once she and the committee members had finished taking stuff to the conference venue) and I joined her and some of the other NCA committee members for a meal . And very nice it was too – good company and lovely food.

Thank you ladies for making me feel so welcome, and despite your tiredness from having been childminding  all day, and then moving stuff for the conference – you were all in good spirit and the conversation flowed – mainly professional discussion but with a few laughs as well.

Linda kindly took me back to the hotel – and arranged to pick me up from the hotel at 7:45am

Therefore I was up early, had breakfast and was ready in good time.

Linda arrived spot on time  – despite having hardly having any sleep due to last minute things to do – including a trip to a supermarket in the middle of the night

On arrival, I was introduced to the staff team – one of whom  – Elaine  – I had communicated with several times via email  about the ratio campaign and childminding agencies. In Northamptonshire they have a unusual set up – not unique but quite unusual, AS NCA employ the childminding staff team  If you want to read more – take a look at their website Link to NCA Website



NCA committee members                                                                                                            NCA staff team (and Linda Jennings)

Then – it was all hands to the deck – I offered to help because it is not in my character, to sit around watching others working hard. So I helped set up the books that they had for sale. Due to a very generous donation of books (they just had to pay for delivery) – they had hundreds and hundreds of good quality books to sell – at a bargain price of 20p each!!!!

It was at this point that I wished I had travelled by car – because if I had I would have loaded the car up with books. But I hadn’t and so after careful consideration I bought 15 smallish books which I hoped would fit in my overnight bag.

The delegates at the conference could hardly believe their eyes and soon were buying loads of books – well if you could buy 20 quality books for £4 – wouldn’t you?

Also doing a good trade was the table selling off the Toy Library equipment – like many areas Northamptonshire used to have a Toy Library for their Network Childminders – but no longer have a Network as such – and so all the resources were being sold off to Northamptonshire Childminders for bargain prices – I wished that I was a) a Northamptonshire Childminder and b) not travelling by train.

I have to congratulate NCA on their organisation – with the support of the staff team – they had managed to arrange and set up a superb conference with a huge range of exhibitors – some selling things and some providing information – I have been to some major conferences that have not attracted such a good range of exhibitors. I had a quick walk round the exhibits before the start of the conference but did not have time to browse.

By now June O’Sullivan had arrived and we were all being asked to take our seats.

After introductions, the AGM  part of the proceedings started – all the necessary paperwork was in the professional looking packs given to every delegate, so everyone could follow the proceedings with ease. Linda Jennings as Chair, did a ‘grand job’ of ensuring everything went smoothly – the votes were taken – and soon  the AGM part was over – with just an appeal for anyone interested in joining the committee to speak to Linda or another committee member during the day – as there was room for a couple more committee members.

Linda Jennings leading the AGM part of the day


June O’Sullivan was introduced – and I swivelled in my chair so I could face June.

June was speaking about two year olds, the work of LEYF , and childminders. I was pleased that June mentioned me by name a  few times and also mentioned the ratio campaign.

June O’Sullivan presenting her talk on Two Year Olds

I have no intention of repeated word for word June’s presentation but here are a few of the key points that I picked up from June

  • June is very supportive of childminders – due in part to using a childminder when her own children were little – and her past employment of working with childminders. June had a few stories to tell from when the childminders she supported used to meet around her kitchen table.
  • June understands childminders and the skills they have, and the enabling environment that a home based setting can offer.
  • June understands about two year olds – but not just about two year olds – also about their parents and the staff who work with the children
  • June questions everything, is reflective and actions things that need challenging or changing. One of the things she mentioned was that she is currently reflecting on why LEYF nurseries compile Learning Journeies – is it the best way to record? Who are LJ’s intended to benefit?
  • June is a very good speaker – certainly everyone I spoke to on the day (and since) was very impressed.

If you want to know more about June O’Sullivan, or her blog or the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) Please click here


After June’s speech it was time for refreshments and opportunity to network and browse the stalls. I did those things and also had a quick chat with June before she had to rush off, and I also spoke to a few of the childminders – it was good to get feedback about my blog from the childminders.

Next it was workshops – again NCA had done a fantastic job of lining up FIVE excellent workshops (which werte repeated in the afternoon, so every delegate was able to attend two workshops during the day)

I had chosen to attend ‘Behaviour – beyond the basics’  in the morning. Due to my vast experience as a parent, grandparent, childminder, trainer – and more recently foster carer (and all the workshops / courses attended over many years) I do already have a very good understanding of behaviour related issues – however as I always find on courses and workshops – I pick up new info – and in this workshop it was the benefit of using old fashion hand clapping games – and some new verses to ‘Wind the Bobbin’

Lunch was next – but unfortunately I did not get any lunch – shame as it was a hot buffet lunch, and I had ordered Lasagne


You see I took the opportunity to look at all the displays and things for sale – and I got carried away chatting to people. In particular to the two ladies from Pen Green, who to my surprise had heard of me and read some of my blogs. We discussed the current Government education policy, we discussed childminders access to further qualifications, and we discussed peer support (plus one or two other things – that come under ‘personal’)

Straight after lunch, it was time for the afternoon workshops – this time I had chose to do ‘What children’s bodies need’ – a interesting workshop about movement. The not so good aspect for me (as I had missed lunch) was that it was a hands on workshop and delegates were expected to MOVE. I did take part in a couple of the movement experiences – but also sat out of a couple.

After a welcome short refreshment break it was time for the DEBATE – I knew that I was to take part in the debate – but still it was a bit of a shock to hear Elaine saying ‘Do you want to add anything Penny?’ Well as the topics being discussed were childminder agencies, and Sir Michael Wilshaw’s comments, and two year olds – I did have one or two things to say!

Myself – Penny Webb – Taking part in the debate

The NCA members also had a discussion about the support they would like locally, about a few localised issues – and about the questions that June had raised that morning.


There were presentations made to NCA members who had received an Outstanding grade from Ofsted, and to those who were due long service awards – so those who had been childminding for certain numbers of years – a lovely gesture I thought.

Also in this final official part of the day was the raffle – and boy what a lot of lovely prizes – including those donated by local businesses. Hats off to NCA – I know many committee’s (including those that I chair) struggle to get raffle prizes donated.

There was of course a fair bit of tidying up to do once the delegates had gone home (with their free goody bag and free Play Doctor resource bag, and all the books and other goodies that they had brought or won in the raffle). I did what I could to help – but this was limited as I did not know what needed taking where, so I did end up standing around with my pile of things, while everyone else summoned up a bit more energy to get the job done

Finally goodbyes were being said, I was given my own special goody bag, hugs and handshakes were exchanged, and I was taken by Linda back to the train station – but not before I had taken off my boots and put on my sandals – as my feet were killing me!

I had to sit around and wait for trains at every station en route home and was tired and hungry. Then when I finally got to Birmingham – and only one train journey left before home – all trains to my home station were cancelled! After a long wait a train finally came through and got me part way home. Mr. Penny’s Place picked me up from that point and drove me home – very tired and regretting at that moment in time for loading my overnight bag with those 15 small bargain 20p books because at the end of the journey home, I am sure they weighed at least twice as much as when I put them in the bag!


A huge thank you to NCA for inviting me and making me feel so welcome – and an extra special thank you to Linda Jennings for providing transport to and from hotel / train station.

All photographs supplied by NCA




Posted October 1, 2014 by psw260259 in Conferences that I have attended

Early Education conference – Saturday 10th May – The main event and more of my rambling   4 comments

Continuing my recall …..

…….. After very little sleep (about an hour) I am up early and getting cross with the hotels internet connection! I wanted to use the time to deal with emails, and social media connected communications. At the moment, I am getting huge amounts of emails every day – sometimes several hundred – and even after deleting the ‘junk’ ones there are still a lot that need a response.

As a childminder this means that I need to find time outside my hands on childminding to do some of these tasks – and as an aside – I have started to write this part of my recall about the Early Education conference at 6am on Monday 12th May – and after I have tidied the house, and transformed it into a setting, unpacked from the weekend, put the washing on, done my ironing and many other tasks that need doing as a result of being away at the weekend. – one of the ‘problems’ of being a childminder is, if you have been away at the weekend, you can not just get up. shut your front door, go to work, and deal with everything after work – or even the next weekend ; you actually have to do everything to ensure your home is ready to be a childcare setting before the children arrive – in my case today – a  later start than usual as the first child is due at 7:30 am.

So having got that aside out of the way, I will continue my recall – I won’t finish recording it before first child arrives but will complete  later on today – either at lunch time when Mr.Penny’s Place is in the setting, and so able to support me with the care of the children, or after the last child has left – and in my case today that means after 18:30 tonight.

So after the frustrations of the internet connection, and breakfast in the hotel where I managed to eat some weetabix (and Mr.Penny’s Place managed to eat my cooked breakfast as well as his own), We set off to find the City Chambers – Mr.Penny’s Place was not going to the conference but had a day of sight seeing ahead of him and so it made sense to walk together to the conference venue and to say our goodbyes there.

The City Chambers were quite easy to find – set back from the street with a courtyard in front – and covered in scaffolding and some attractive screen printed netting (much nicer than the usual brightly coloured cargo type netting you usually see). However although more attractive, the netting did of course mean the visual impact of this building was not that good.

I was greeted by bagpipes playing and a friendly person asking me if I had come for the Early Education conference – and when I said yes – directed me inside where another friendly person directed me up the grand staircase. I have to say this welcome was much appreciated as it meant all those nerves about ‘Am I in the right place’ ‘Where do I go’ ‘Who do I ask’ vanished – so thank you, whoever thought of that welcoming idea..

Upstairs I was officially welcomed by yet more friendly people, given my name badge and my conference pack – and directed to the main conference room – and told where refreshments and toilets could be found.

In the conference hall, I spotted Sarah from Early Education’s London office, and I smiled but did not speak to her as she was busy setting up the IT stuff. I found a chair, and marvelled at the magnificent room that I was in – take a look HERE if you want to see some images. The main conference  room was the one with the dome in the ceiling.

I then wandered off to find the refreshments, and to have a look at the displays and trade stands – a benefit of arriving early is that you can have a good look before everyone else gets there.

Those who know me well – may now be expecting me to list all the things that I brought – however I did not order or buy one single thing – don’t get me wrong – I saw lots of things that I liked – but travelling by train does limit instant purchases that need to be transported back – and budget restraints mean that ordering to be delivered later was not really an option either. The budget restraints were of course self imposed but the cost of attending the conference was quite high – time I had added travel costs, hotel costs, conference costs – and a day off on Friday – which was unpaid. So no purchases allowed – and for once I stuck to my self imposed condition of attending.

After I had finished my coffee, I went back to the main room and took my seat, passing Helen Moylett on the way – who greeted me – but who I ignored because I did not see her until she had gone past me (in fact I heard her rather than saw her). Sorry Helen.; I spotted the ladies from the nursery that I had spoken to the night before, and exchanged smiles with them as they were sat on the opposite side of the room to me; several other people that I recognised said Hello, before taking their seats.

People started taking seats next to me and in front of me – and we chatted – I realised that I knew some of the names from my social media links – and also realised that some of them had read my blogs. It was rather nice to find this out – and also for people to say ‘I have seen you before – were you at last years conference / the AGM’ – and nice to be able to say ‘yes’.

By ‘Living We Learn’

Before we knew it is was time for the conference to start and Julian Grenier who is Chair of Early Years Education Trustees, opened the conference. Julian welcomed us all, and went through the house keeping for the day – and used the word ‘muster’ in relation to if there was a fire – that we should ‘muster’ over the road.

Julian also mentioned that he was going to take some photo’s and post them on Twitter – and that various people were going to do live updates about the conference – if you use Twitter and want to take a look, this is Early Educations Twitter name @earlyed_uk . (As an aside at lunch time tweets from those in the room and not in the room where displayed on the screen – and when I checked my emails I found out that I had been mentioned a couple of times and so I replied. If you want to check out my tweets, my Twitter name is @PSW26259)

The keynote speech was from Rosemary Roberts on ‘ Growing companionable well being’. For more information about Rosemary CLICK HERE

I had not personally heard Rosemary talk before and so I was keen to hear this speech. I found out that Rosemary has a OBE and that she a founder director of Parents Early Education Partnership (PEEP) which of course I did know about. If you have not heard of PEEP or have heard of it but want to find out a bit more CLICK HERE

As regular readers will know I do not provide word for word feedback about speakers – after all the speakers earn their living from doing these talks and so it would not be right if I gave away the content of their talk for free in my blog.

So my personal overview of Rosemary’s talk. First I could sense the passion about and the commitment to, her field of work, which for me is always a good starting point.

Rosemary spoke about well being – a term which we all use but which has different meanings. For me ‘well being’ is about being able to cope with life and all its positive and negative aspects. Rosemary’s talk agreed with this but also looked at well being through a different lens – and expanded on her own theory based on her personal research. She spoke about 4 interconnecting constructs Agency, Belonging & Boundaries, Communication and Physical – which if you think about do cover the aspects of life that could impact on a child or an adult.

Interestingly (and certainly ringing the truth bells for me –  from my own current personal lack of high levels of well being being caused by a flawed Ofsted inspection and navigation of the equally flawed complaints process) Rosemary spoke about the need for practitioner well being to support the development of child well being. I enjoyed Rosemary’s talk – and it certainly has made me think about the impact of my well being – or rather lack of well being may have on the children I care for.

It was now time for coffee – and as I stood up I realised I had a bit of a problem! In that the lack of eating was now impacting on my well being – and yes I was starting to go hypo – so I was shaking and I was sweating. Luckily coffee and biscuits were not far away, and so I avoided the worse case scenario.

I did manage to have a discussion with someone who is a colleague of one of my Save Childhood Movement colleagues, which was very interesting, and which hopefully continue at some point in the future.

When I returned to the conference hall, it was clear that I was still having a few blood glucose issues and so I found my glucose tablets and ate some. It is a problem for diabetics if for some reason they are unable to eat normally, that they will experience blood glucose levels issues.  I am sure that Ofsted – who are the cause of my stress have no idea of the impact on my well being – but there are causing a lot of stress related issues.

The next speaker was Pattie Santelices – another speaker that I had not heard speak before. So in the usual format you can read about Pattie and her role as Principal Officer of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Team with City of Edinburgh Council HERE

Pattie’s talk was based on ‘Why relationships matter’ – and of course I was ‘hooked’ even before Pattie started her talk – as I firmly believe in the importance of relationships. A lot of Pattie’s talk reinforced the message given in Rosemary’s talk and just looked at things from a slightly different perspective. However what I liked about Pattie’s talk was the opportunity to discuss various point with the person sat next to me. I think it would be fair to say that my colleague in the chair next to me – holds similar views to myself – but I find it really useful to discuss these things and to realise that many hold these similar views – including those from different areas of the early years sector.

The final session before lunch was led by Christine McCormick who is Headteacher of Cameron House Nursery School, I did have a quick look but I could not find a website for the nursery – this does not mean there isn’t one – it just means that I did not find it.

I was drawn to Chris’s softy spoken, but clear voice – and her belief that the training they had put  in place for involving parents and school staff was very effective and in part because it was the same training for both staff and parents – however – and sorry Chris if you are reading this – it was the nervous young father sat on the chair at the front that grabbed my attention. Chris had introduced him at the beginning, and kept looking and gesturing with her hands in the direction of the young father through out her talk – and finally he had opportunity to speak. I was drawn to the sparkle in his eye when he spoke about his children, I was impressed with his desire and actions to include his partner in the training – and how he cascaded it all to her, I welcomed his open and honest comments – in a nutshell – I liked him

However, all to quickly it was lunch time.

Lunch was a cold buffet of sandwiches and a few other things – chopped up fruit – plus fruit juice. Which was fine by me as it met my dietary needs and my personal likes about food.

During lunch, I engaged in conversation with a small group of professionals – some of whom I had met before – and some who I had not met. We discussed the mornings session – and that old favourite hot potato – Ofsted I told my inspection story …. and my colleagues were shocked at my experience.

I also had a conversation with the young father who had spoken in the pre lunch session – he is amazing and an inspiration to us all. And he really should think about becoming a trainer – so he can lead sessions for other parents and work in partnership with other professionals

Time was whizzing past – the summons to ‘muster’ back in the main hall went round and we all returned to our seats.

Beatrice Merrick welcomed us back and did a summing up and a ‘whats coming up next’ . Beatrice also mentioned that it is her first conference as at last years conference in York she was not the CE – she also mentioned that Edinburgh is her home town – but that it had all been agreed to well before she took over. However she was glad that we all had opportunity to explore her home town.

The afternoon session was slightly different to the morning session as it was focussed on more fun aspects of communication


Virginia Radcliffe was first to speak, Virginia is the Chief Executive of Lickityspit Child Centred Theatre Company – and yes you can access information by Clicking HERE. Virginia explained how the company started, how it has grown, and how they hope to develop – there were lots of video clips showing the plays and the intertaction with children – and children taking part – with the simplest of materials / props I was struck my the children’s faces, their engagement and their involvement. Virginia had lots of extra info about the plays and things the children had said or done. It certainly made me think about my own setting which is very child led and we do do role play . simple acting and so on – but we could do more – a lot more.

As an aside – on Sunday – inspired by the red berets used by Lickityspit – and the tam o’shanter hats in the shops in Edinburgh – I brought two child sized ones for my setting – maybe I will write a blog one day about what the child used them for.

The last speaker of the day was Eric Brennan, who is a Edinburgh based story teller  – this is Eric’s Facebook page HERE

Eric did a very good job of gaining audience participation through words and actions – and he managed to get across a few valid points about language and the use of props. In my opinion – an excellent way to round off a conference.

Helen Moylett led the closing session – she did the usual thanks and told those in the room that next years conference would be in PLYMOUTH

I hope to be there – maybe I will see you there?

Part three of this blog will follow as soon as possible and will focus on the evening of the 10th May and also the 11th May – including the guided walk round the Patrick Geddes gardens.



Posted May 12, 2014 by psw260259 in Conferences that I have attended

Westminster Education Forum – Tuesday 11th March 2014   6 comments

This was my first attendance at one of the forum meetings – and so a new experience.

Before I start my recall, I want to comment on the timing and accessibility these events as I think a lot of people would be unable to attend due to the starting time and the location of the venue.

Registration is from 8:30 and the event ends at 1pm – I can understand the need to finish before lunchtime because then costs go up as organisers feel they have to provide lunch. However a 9am actual start in central London,  means that many people – myself included, can not make the event as it means travelling down the evening before because there are no trains that early from many stations that will get you into London in time. In my case I can get a a train just after 6am and be into Euston or Marylebone for about 8:30am – but then have to travel across London in rush hour which means that it all takes much longer, and that’s without any train delays. The other option would mean driving to a main station then catching a train from there – not always possible, and often pushes costs up because of car parking fees.

I do appreciate that it is easier for London based speakers to  only have to give up a morning of time, however I think that for equality of access that some consideration needs to be given to enabling those who are not London based and who would like to attend such things. Some things to consider;

Include webinars, including ability to view after the event

Hold regional events sometimes – with Birmingham being a good compromise as only 1.5 hours from London and good transport links from other areas. To me it would make more sense for 20 (ish) people to travel out of London, than for 100 or 200 people to travel into London, and even if only offered once or twice a year it would be a step forward.

Hold some events in the afternoon as then people could get off peak trains both to and from the event

The good news is the Westminster Education Forum do offer a concessionary rate but if you are an individual on a low income even that concessionary rate at £80 plus VAT (so £96) is a lot to pay (especially considered together with travel costs ). I think that more consideration needs to be given to making the cost more affordable – and maybe the ideas above will help do that.

Now for my personal feedback – please note that this recall is from memory, as I found it hard to balance a notebook on my lap and to write notes – all with one hand – as I currently have a frozen left shoulder.

In due course the transcripts from the day will be available to attendees – and so at that point – if I need to amend my personal notes, I will do so.

The area of London that the venue was in – was  what I would call ‘posh’  and certainly for someone more used to  my home area, walking past the Ritz and standing in Mayfair were a bit of culture shock. Then the venue itself was – well impressive  – but very welcoming, and very comfortable.

Even before the morning started, the networking was under way. By chance I was sat near a solicitor who is bringing together people from the maintained nursery sector. I listened in to the conversation between this lady and the people behind us, who were from Maintained Nursery Schools, about their concerns and the legal challenges that they might be able to make. I gave the lady my contact details, and mentioned my involvement with Early Education and Save Childhood Movement – and the ratio issue. I hope she gets in touch as I can’t find her details on the attendees list

The Opening Address was given by The Earl of Listowel who is the Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary group on Sure Start Centres.  In my opinion a good person to have opening the event, and chairing the first session – because as we all know this group has asked Ms. Truss foe some more information about Sure Starts centres as they did not think enough evidence or detail had been given to support her plans  –  and this confirms my personal view of Truss – she is rather vague with details.

The Earl made reference to the ratio campaign and the success in getting support from Nick Clegg. My name was not mentioned – which is fine – but I did allow myself a little smile of self congratulation.

We were introduced to the first of the panel speakers – Gillian Paull  Senior Associate of Frontier Economics

I should make people aware the speakers all only had either 10 minutes or 5 minutes for their presentations – so none of the presentations were in depth – however everyone who attended – speakers and attendees are able to submit extra documents to be sent out with the transcripts from the day.

Gillian talked about the cost of Government support and the impact on getting parents – particularly mothers back into work – and said that in her opinion there often was not a huge impact and very little return for the money invested. Although tax credits have been available since 1999 there is very little evidence as to the impact this has made.

She also questioned the claims made recently that childcare costs are too high – and that parents are paying more in childcare than they are in mortgage payments. Gillian expressed some words of caution and said that average figures were not a true reflection because a few paying more than average amounts would alter the average figures dramatically. She also quoted some figures that suggested that only 21% of parents say they can’t afford childcare and that 79% said childcare costs were not a problem.

Personal view – If someone asked me if I thought food costs were too high – I would say – yes they were – because of course I would prefer to pay less – but this does not mean that I think food suppliers are ‘ripping me off’ or that I can not afford to pay the cost. Food is a bit like childcare – it is something that needs paying for and without it (food or childcare) other things are not possible. As with all surveys and consultations a lot depends on the questions asked, the options for responses AND what the person doing the survey is trying to prove, and therefore how they choose to use the data,

Gillian mentioned that there is currently research going on to try and find out the impact and cost of childcare. I will add the links once the transcripts are issued but for now this is one of them (that I remembered – because I already knew about it, and indeed have commented elsewhere on this blog) This is the LINK to the SEED project.

One thing that was of particular interest to me – is the switch of focus / reason for Government investment funding for childcare and education.

Personal view – I had picked this up myself over the last year or two – and particularly in the recent IPPR report ‘Childmind the gap’ (I title that I personally think gives the wrong message) that the Government were now not really bothered about high quality childcare (although they continue to say they are ) and are just trying to get childcare on the cheap – and not at their cost – so that parents are ‘supported’ into work – personally I think it is more like ‘forced into work’ with personal life choices removed and all considerations of what is best for the child binned.

Gillian did of course have other information but for me the most important points are about the claims that Childcare costs are too high – and about the impact of Government subsidises for childcare and education – plus the change in focus on quality childcare to support children and increase outcomes,  to the new focus on getting parents (read mothers mainly) into work.

The next speaker was Anand Shukla CEO of the Family and Childcare Trust

Anand agreed with some of Gillian’s presentation and disagreed with other bits – which will of course be to do with their different roles and responsibilities with the companies that work for. (personally I would love to know what the speakers  own personal thoughts are). Anand had his own comments to make about the cost of childcare, and the reasons for Government funding.

There was some overlap in Gillian’s and Anand’s presentations – and to be honest because I was not taking notes – I can not be sure who said what – so including here as relevant, but please note may have been said by Gillian or Anand – or both!

Universal credit may rise to 80% and will be available for those who work less than 16 hours and who meet the other criteria. However some question as to what this will achieve as people unlikely to change their work habits – they may use to pay for more expensive (higher quality?) childcare or to move from informal to formal childcare BUT this investment in unlikely to get more people into work as those who work part time often don’t pay tax and claim other benefits – which they would lose if worked more hours.

There is also an issue of every time the personal tax allowance is made higher, more people don’t have to pay tax and therefore cannot access the tax free childcare element – so if they work a few more hours but personal allowances have risen they lose out more than they gain.

The Labour party  pledge to increase funded hours to 25 hours – is only for those who are working – so some children who need support for various reasons not connected to their parent (s) working will not get any benefit from this increase in funded hours – it is purely a ‘get parents (mothers) into work ploy’. However as still only for 38 weeks means that parents using this support to return to work will still have to meet the full cost of childcare for the other weeks – which for some may not be an option  financially.

Also speaking in this session Jack Hatch – Executive Head, St.Bede CE Primary Academy, Greater Manchester

Jack is a believer in high quality – and says you get what you pay for (I wish the Government understood that), he has set up childcare on site and has some PVI settings and childminders working in partnership. He came across as a very down to earth man – and said if people wanted to do something similar to him – it was possible BUT it was a lot of hard work – not something that one person could do alone, you need a good team behind you. He said that people should be realistic and except to make a operating loss for the first year or two, but if could manage this it would all settle down eventually. Those were the bits I liked. What I did not like was the structured approach to out of school care with activities being planned – however this is just how it came across and possibly was ‘teacher talk’ and what he meant was experiences – I have looked at their website but although says opening times it does not really give the sort of information that I was interested in.

NB I have since had some local information passed on to me,  and St.Bede’s are involved in the pilot childminding agencies. I further understand that although local childminders are not interested in an agency, a couple of parents have expressed an interest in the agency

Next speaker was from the Department of Education – Richard Vaughan who is the Deputy Director, Early Years Curriculum and Teaching

Richard got of to a good start as he said he was aware of the sectors concerns and debate about the Early Years Minister Ms.Truss. He spoke about several issues, but the one that I was interested in was Childminding Agencies. Richard spoke about the Governments aims behind setting up agencies and what they would achieve – more childminders, higher quality, cost savings – all the stuff we have heard before – but still no details about HOW all this would be achieved.

AND nothing about childminders who wanted to remain independent – only that they could do so, if they wanted to.

I felt disappointed and let down by the Government AGAIN – on the agenda it said;

How will the introduction of childminder agencies impact childcare costs for children, and will costs increase for individual childminders opting not to join an agency?

Key questions that were  not answered.

We then deviated from the agenda a little and instead of the question and answer session  – we moved on to the presentations about Sure Start Children Centres – purpose, funding and quality.

I was looking forward to this debate as one of the speakers was Professor Peter Moss who I have heard speak a few times – and who always challenges opinion and poses questions to think about

Peter spoke about involvement in Children’s Centres and about how they could do so much more, about the dangers of targeted support, about the time it takes to see the sort of impact on children and communities – and how with constantly changing Government targets, and funding and aims, that the long term aspirations for Children’s Centres have not been achieved, opportunities lost – and now  Children’s Centres are  at risk in some areas of closure or restricted services. Peter spoke with passion, knowledge and understanding – and was the only speaker to receive enthusiastic (rather than polite)  applause.

Other speakers also spoke about the benefits of Sure Start centres , and what was happening in their areas.

Next on the agenda was a question and answer session – and I had quite a few questions – so up went my hand.

I did get chosen to put my questions – but the guidance was to be brief

So my question to Richard Vaughan – in my most polite words (not word perfect but my recall of what I said)

‘The Early Years Minster is not answering the questions of myself and my colleagues – and the question we most want answered is ‘ Why can’t agency childminders still be registered and inspected by Ofsted?’

I mentioned that I personally was not against support agencies, or paying for training and support – but it was the issue of some childminders not being inspected by Ofsted that would  create a two tier system within childminding, create divide among childminders, divide among childminders and other early year settings and would decrease our professional status.

I also said if our questions were answered, we may be able to understand the Ministers rationale and therefore would be able to make informed personal decisions about childminding agencies.

Mr. Vaughan reply was on the lines of – I needed to write to the DfE and may to Ms. Truss herself!!!!!

I was so cross that I broke protocol and spoke without the mike!

Wait for the mike came the call from the back of the room where the sound people were recording everything – so I waited

Then I said – ‘I have met the Minister in person and will be meeting with her in two weeks time, that myself and my colleagues have written thousands of letters to Truss, the DfE, the Prime Minister, our MP’s and to some of Lords – and still our questions were not being answered.

I also mentioned that in the past I had worked for a LA as a childminding network coordinator, and my remit had been to work in partnership with Children’s Centres but that my remit was changed and Children Centre could not provide rooms for drop ins or training – not because they didn’t want to but because of all the other things they had to do (which also changed all the time)

Mr. Vaughan replied that agencies were not his lead responsibility (excuse me but as you came to talk about them – a bit of background research might have been a good idea) and so he could not provide the answers to my questions – but he would speak to me in the coffee break – he didn’t to this.

However the woman sat in the row in front of me, turned round and said – I would like to talk to you in the break – and she did.

It turned out that she is one of the directors of Tinies nanny agency – a very successful nanny agency with about 40,000 nannies registered with them. Her name is Lindsey – and I like her. She told me that Truss had wanted Tinies to be involved in the childminding agencies pilots — but they had declined. She told me that she had been invited to go and talk with Truss in the the very near future – and in my opinion it does not take a lot to work out why.

I asked Lyndsey why she did not want to become a childminding agency. She replied ‘ I do not see it as a sound business opportunity – what could I offer childminders that they can not do for themselves or access elsewhere for free or a very low cost? Therefore if I can’t think of anything that I can offer childminders, they won’t join, it won’t be a business success. As I say – I like her – common sense approach. But there was a lot more to Lindsey than just common sense, she had done her research.

She went on to explain that she could not see why parents would want to pay to join a childminding agency either – and in her opinion childminding agencies were all about saving the Government money – not about quality childcare. She said nannies had a reason to join Tinies as they got something out of it – and quality was supported – as judged against a nanny who did not belong to a agency or a membership organisation. However for childminders it would be a backward step and quality of an agency childminder – when judged against a independent Ofsted registered childminder, would be lower and less accountable, and with less opportunity for parents to make comparisons or check against benchmarking.

By now, coffee time was ending – Liz Bayram from Pacey arrived and we had a quick word – before we all returned to our seats – and as we did so a woman came and spoke to me – she was from a London LA and asked if I was rushing for a train at the end – as I wasn’t she asked if she could  have a word with me at the end of the forum – I agreed.

The chairperson for the afternoon session was Baroness Jones of Whitchurch who is the Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

Another good choice in my opinion, and someone who I had heard of in connection to the Children and Families Bill

The first speaker in the after coffee session was Dee Gasson who is Principle Officer, Early Years, Ofsted,

I sat upright and gave Dee my full attention, as she was to talk about Regulating the new childminder agencies

Dee gave an overview about childminding agencies – and how the agency would be inspected not the individual childminders, how it would be the agencies grade and report on the Ofsted website – and how all the childminders in the agency would have the agency grade (so nothing new for me – but maybe it was new  for others in the room). She explained that not Ofsted’s job to set the ‘rules’ about childminding agencies, that is the responsibility of the DfE – however will be Ofsted’s job to regulate and inspect  childminding agencies. She spoke about the challenges in doing this – due to the different models that the Government want to encourage – and the different sizes of agencies from small local ones to huge national ones.

Dee also said that Ofsted would be evaluating the consultation on regulating childminding agencies and the pilots in April and that the results would be published in May.

Ofsted are also gathering the views of parents and carrying out pilot inspections of the pilot agencies over the next few weeks – and in fact have already done one.

My concern about the pilot inspections is that none of pilots  are fully operational – most of them are only piloting one or two aspects – all of the childminders who are involved are still getting support from others – not just the agency, are none of the pilots are charging for their services at the moment – pilot inspections will therefore be limited and based more on on paperwork and ‘in theory’ discussions.

The same with parent views – parents can only respond to questions set – not their real life experiences – so again very limited.

I have to say I was very disappointed with the content of Dee’s presentation – as I am none the wiser as to how Ofsted will regulated the childminding agencies from September – and I wonder how many of the people in the room went away any better inform – especially the 20+ people from LA’s?

Liz Bayram from Pacey was next to speak – Liz spoke clearly and with knowledge – the key points were about; childminding agencies – making very clear about Pacey’s concerns around individual inspections and quality; and about the potential restrictions on people entering the early years sector, and those currently in the early years sector wishing to gain higher qualifications in the future. I thought it was a good speech and I recall several mentions of  ‘We don’t think so’

Katie O’Donovan – Head of Communications and Partnership at Mumsnet gave a very informative speech – complete with slides of graphs showing the views of parents about their childminder now and their views about childminding agencies. I do hope Katie is sharing this with the DfE and Ms. Truss because the Mumsnet survey showed parents are overwhelmingly against childminding agencies and very much in favour of individual Ofsted inspections, reports and grades. So I have to ask – who is in favour of these childminding agencies – and if parents, childminders, organisations that represent childminders, all think that individual Ofsted inspections are vital – why are the Government carrying on making it legal within the Children and Families Bill for some childminders not to have an individual Ofsted inspection?

Ben Thomas – National Officer, Education and Children Services Group, UNISON  – spoke about the QTS issue with the new qualifications, about the low pay in the sector, and the constant changes. Ben also spoke about the issues around the requirement for Maths and English GCSE – and how they are different depending on your age! If you are under 19, you don’t need them to start – but you do need them to use your qualification – so can’t get a job with that qualification unless past your GCSE in Maths and English while doing the qualification. However if you are over 19 – you have to have the qualification before you start

Ben does not think that the new qualifications will drive up quality – and mentioned the fees of around £4,000 for new qualifications

Rob Wye CEO  CACHE – spoke about the new qualifications and how CACHE have put in some ‘extra’ bits’ to address the concerns of the sector, but that there were still issues to be addressed. Rob mentioned that working with Pacey about a qualification for childminders.

Elizabeth White who is the EYFS Improvement Manage, Learning and Improvement, for Leeds City Council spoke about their childminders – over 900 of them and the support their provide – and also the impact of budget cuts, and her concerns for the future around quality and support.

During the question and answer session I asked Dee Gasson two questions;

One  – How would people know which agency a childminder was in – if they wanted to make a complaint? I don’t think Dee understood the question because she said that parents using a agency childminder would have the details about how to complain. In fact my question was more about how other childminders, other professionals or members of the public would know. I am pleased to say that Liz Bayram did pick up on my meaning and said that in her opinion their would be a lot of confusion around making complaints and that Ofsted / DfE needed to consider this.

Two – As my personal experience with my recent inspection has shown, inspector do not always follow the ‘robust systems’ that Ofsted have in place – so could she explain how Ofsted would be able to ensure the quality of the agencies and their judgements. My question was not even answered.

Another person in the audience, from a LA,  asked a very important question around the early years funding and childminding agencies – If  a lot of  childminders joined an agency in one area, and that agency was graded as ‘requires improvement – how would a LA be able to cope with a sudden loss of huge numbers of funded places? No was able to answer this.

Before I finish my recall about the Westminster Education Forum – I want to mention two people  in particular – I can’t recall their names – but it will be in the transcripts – I want to mention them  because they raised questions in both of the question and answer sessions about the well being of children and their attachment needs, and the role and support of parents, in caring for their children – without the focus of getting them into work.  Well done to you both – and once I have your names I will be contacting you.

Finally – remember the lady who asked if we could meet at the end of the forum?

Well we did meet – she works for a LA in London and we exchanged email addresses We had a lovely long chat about childminding , agencies and related stuff. She said she is going to tell her colleagues about me and my campaigning – I hope she does.

I do apologise for these brief notes and my focus on childminder agencies, however as explained with my frozen shoulder it was difficult to make notes – plus I was in a lot of pain all day, plus with current very low haemoglobin levels brain function is not as good as it usually is – especially my recall of things (normal excellent – less so at the moment). However once the transcripts are made available – I will use them to make any amendments needed / fill in more detail.

Posted March 13, 2014 by psw260259 in Conferences that I have attended

Worcestershire Pre -school learning Alliance AGM and Conference   1 comment

First an apology for the delay in writing this blog – things have been hectic – what with the Ofsted Big Conversation meeting which was straight after the AGM and conference, a extended family crisis – and then 3 days of various conferences – and then a week off for a much needed holiday – I just have not had time to write this before – still as they say better late than never.

So the Worcestershire Pre – school Learning Alliance, AGM and conference took place on 14th September at Perdiswell Young People’s Center – and was in fact the inaugural AGM as unfortunately the previous sub committee had folded  several years ago – after a very successful presence in Worcestershire and some high profile services and success stories.

As a volunteer – past and present for the Alliance –  I have been involved with the regeneration of the Worcestershire sub committee ever since it was first suggested, and have been on the small steering committee with two other volunteers – Carolyn Blackburn and Linda O’Rourke – plus two members of staff – Jo Randall and Raj Babber.

Many thanks have to go to Raj who organised the venue, the goody bags, the flowers for speakers, the bookings (including phoning round settings) and was there on the day to book people in, time keep and ensure the day was a huge success. THANK YOU RAJ

Although number of members attending were quite low, there were a lot of non members in the room who had come to find out more about the Alliance and what it offered – which was part of the reason for opening the event to non members. We even had one person who had turned up in the morning for the Ofsted Big Conversation meeting – having got the times mixed up – who stayed and joined in with the whole day.

It was lovely to see LA staff and Pre- school learning Alliance staff attending – and a huge representation from Bright Stars Childminding Group (which I happen to be chair of and who, as a group, are Alliance members)

AGM part of the day

Jo Randall took us through the ‘official’ part of the day – which was quite short, as being an inaugural AGM, there were no reports to read from the previous years activities.

Jo read out the financial statement – which was very healthy, as funds had been held in trust for Worcestershire since the last sub committee folded, and so – let’s just say – we should be able to provide an excellent range of support services and training for Alliance members in Worcestershire over the coming year.

The actual elections then took place and I am very pleased to have been voted in as the chair of the Alliance Worcestershire sub committee, Linda was also voted on and will take an officers position. Carolyn was unable to be voted in due to the fact that negotiations are taking place about a student rate for those who are undertaking further education. Carolyn is a full time student and once a student membership is in place Carolyn will be co-opted onto the sub committee. but in the mean time will continue to be an active supporter of the Worcestershire sub committee (There is a student rate for those studying with the Alliance – but not for those studying at college or university)

Personal comment – not part of the AGM, but mentioned at the end of the day

This does of course mean that we have room on the committee for more members to join us – and would like to co-opt some willing people, who are able to give a little time to provide support and advice to the committee. We would particularly like to involve those who work in an early years setting so that we can ensure that whatever we do over the coming year is what members want / need.

We are aware that everyone is very busy these days and that there are huge demands on people’s time – and so we do not expect sub committee members to attend every meeting or be ‘hands on’ with all the sub committee activities. A lot of our communication will be via emails (and  maybe occasional phone calls) as this is cost and time effective. Therefore all we ask is that committee members give a commitment to attend the AGM next year and to attend at least one committee meeting in person over the year.

If you are interested – please contact me – Penny Webb – email:- – or phone:- 01562 824132

Conference part of the day

We were very honoured to have Neil Leitch CEO of the Pre -School Learning Alliance as our keynote speaker. Neil spoke with passion about the young children in our care and how we all need to ensure the children access high quality care and education. He also spoke with a element of dismay, and anger about the current governments policies and proposals – and the fact that the government is not listening to the experts within early years – including the practitioners who actually do the hands on job – day in, day out, week after week, or referring to the huge amount of research available about how children learn, or even learning from our colleagues in other countries.

Neil spoke about the recent letter in the Telegraph that he had signed (and so had I) along with 120+ leading experts in early years about inappropriate curriculum’s, school starting age – and a general ‘Too Much, Too Soon’ culture. He noted with regret that so far the government had not responded appropriately to the concerns expressed – and instead had just insulted those who had signed the letter.

We were treated to a ‘Neil Joke’ – which actually was quite funny (however I promised not to share it here or via other social media – no doubt others will here the joke at other events)

After a comfort break and a welcome cup of coffee / tea – it was time for the first workshops

I was co tutoring one of the workshops with Barbara Skilton  called;

Professional Watching and Listening – how something so simple can change the world for a child!

Without giving away the content – we did cover a variety of situations and feelings of those involved child, practitioner, parent – and got onto the subject of paint colours in settings and the impact this has on children. Very relevant as two of the participants mentioned that the school setting that they work in was going to re decorate soon and had chosen colours that were not ideal  – so they were going to provide some feedback to the school about this issue.

The other workshop was run by Lesley Senter and called;

Positive approaches to supporting communication 

Of course I was not in this workshop but I could hear the laughter through the partition wall – and I saw the ‘snakes’ that had been created – even Neil Leitch had made one (although he hid it in his bag – well at least until the end of the day, when he showed us all his wonderful creation)

The next part of the day was very important – lunch and the all important networking.

However it was at this point that I received a phone call with serious and distressing news from home – and to be honest I nearly ‘lost it’ – however the support and advice that I received from my colleagues from Bright Stars Childminding Group, from LA colleagues and from Alliance staff – was outstanding, and I was able to ‘pull myself together’ and continue with the day – secure in the knowledge that if I needed to suddenly leave to deal with the situation at home, that colleagues would step in and cover for me.

After lunch, we all went to our afternoon workshops

One workshop was – How adults use gestures and body language with colleagues and children – with Lesley Senter. As with the morning session – I personally have no  idea what this session included – but I do know that there was more laughter involved. I think I need to book onto one of Lesley’s workshops in the future, just to see what I missed!

The workshop that I did attend was -Sign Language with Linda O’Rourke and Shelia Jones, this was excellent and we all learned to sign a couple of songs. Shelia and Linda explained everything so well and included lots of information about associated signs to the ones used in the songs – and they modeled all the signs so we could copy them – BUT they did test our knowledge as well! My only problem was that my fingers refused to co-operate! (but looking round the room – I was not the only one having problems with uncooperative fingers) Shelia and Linda reassured us that the more we practiced – the more flexible and co-operative our fingers would become.

Closing session

We all gathered together – but before the closing speech we had an important task to do! A little bird had suggested in the signing workshop that we learnt ‘Happy Birthday’ as one person attending was celebrating a birthday – so we did learn it – and preform our first ‘live performance’ by singing and signing ‘Happy Birthday to a very surprised Carolyn.

As the new chair – it was my job to close the day and to mention some of the ideas that the steering group had come up with – and that the new sub committee hoped to take forward;

A newsletter with local and national information and stories

Training events on childcare subjects

Social events with fun workshops based on members hobbies and interests

Open committee meetings that – subject to space- any Worcestershire member could attend and provide input to

AND – Well whatever members wanted – so a questionnaire to find out what members would like.

Raj then presented the flowers to the volunteers and workshop leaders- and some wine for Neil – the flowers were beautiful and in the Alliance corporate colours.

Everyone attending – both members and non members took home a FANTASTIC goody bag containing a copy of the Alliance book ‘Patterns of Care’, a owl puppet and various other quality items too numerous to mention (oh ok – I admit it – I can’t remember without going to look – but I know several people have mentioned how delighted they were with their goody bag)

So the Worcestershire AGM and Conference closed – but although a few people did leave to go home, most stayed for the Ofsted Big Conversation Meeting – feedback on which is also on this blog.