Archive for the ‘My thoughts on current childcare issues’ Category

Networking, Sharing, Making Connections – 2   Leave a comment

                        Membership Organisations: Our Past, Present and Future

                          Learning together across the Early Years … and beyond


 Following the success of my first public event ‘Networking, Sharing and Making Connections’ in 2016, where we explored our shared journey within Early Years linking to the theories of the Pioneers, this Event will continue our story, through Early Years Membership Organisations which have supported the development of the whole sector and in particular those individuals who have been active members and volunteers.

I am delighted to invite EVERYONE who is interested to join myself and colleagues at this next event.

“It does not matter which membership organisation you have been involved with or if you have never been a member of any membership organisation. This event will be of interest because of the influence Membership Organisations have had on Government Policy and the Professional Standards we all now work to”

There will be several “themes” running through the day , with opportunity to share your own ‘story and journey’ and information.

All with the child at the centre of our thoughts and actions

  • History of membership organisations
  • Safeguarding the children through safeguarding ourselves
  • Well-being of adults and children
  • Learning from success and mistakes in the past to shape our future
  • Working in partnership to support better outcomes for all
  • Links to theories and research
  • Building connections and networks
  • Continuing our shared story


  • Sue Allingham – Out of the Box Consultancy and Trustee for Early Education
  • Tricia Wellings – MBK Training
  • Kathryn Solly – Kathryn Solly Consulting and Member of Early Education
  • Catriona Nason – NEyTCO CEO
  • Rob Fox – Early Years Practitioner and Student
  • Sally McGeown – Registered Childminder and former volunteer for Pacey
  • Mick McGeown – Registered Childminder and former volunteer for Pacey
  • Esther Grey – Retired Ofsted Compliance Inspector
  • Beth Thomas – Early Years Researcher
  • Penny Webb – Retired Childminder, Advocate and Campaigner
  • Sue Griffin – Former staff NCMA (now Pacey) , former Chair Pre-School Playgroup Association (now Pre-School Learning Alliance), Author and trainer
  • Ann Goodard – Founder Member NCMA (now Pacey)
  • Neil Leitch – CEO Pre-school Learning Alliance
  • Jemma Mortlock – Managing Director Early Start Childcare and Education

And opening speech and welcome recorded by Laura Henry from Laura Henry Consultancy who sadly cannot join us on the day.

Please note, as this is a non-profit making event and all speakers are volunteers and paying their own expenses, the programme is subject to change due to potential other as yet unknown commitments.

Fees                                                                                                                                                £40.00 (includes refreshments and a two-course lunch)

To book your place, please email Penny:

Venue website

Please visit the NEYTCO website for up to date information

 OR the dedicated Facebook page for the event

Posted December 20, 2017 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

‘Bold Beginnings’ for 2018 – there is hope if you look hard enough   2 comments

2017 has been a very difficult year for me personally and in general for the early years sector.  So as 2017 draws to a close, I am taking the time to reflect on the past year and to think about what hope (if any) there is for me personally and for the things that I am passionate about – mainly the well-being of children and young people.

On a personal front my health has deteriorated and despite my mainly positive disposition, even I struggle to cope with the news that my physical mobility is not likely to rapidly improve – there is hope of a long slow recovery with tiny, baby progress steps but on some days especially those when just to stagger from chair to bathroom takes a huge amount of effort, I cry with frustration and despair. The constant pain gets me down and on the days when I have to increase the opioids that I am prescribed, I feel like I am going backwards not forwards despite my efforts to maintain my daily, set exercises and to try to achieve ‘mind over matter’ and thus well-being, by engaging in the sort of hobbies that you can do from an armchair and can pick up and put down as needs must.

It would be easy for me to stop trying, to give up, to accept this is the way things will be in the future. To understand that shouting, crying, protesting, demanding someone takes responsibility and does ‘something’ about this terrible situation is not going to make a difference.

I sometimes ask myself why this is happening to me when all I have ever wanted is to improve outcomes for children and young people, to support families and generally live up to my childhood nickname of ‘Goody Two Shoes’. I have never wanted to be rich, or famous, I just want to be able to help others – and to be able to give and receive love.


There is still a lot to look forward to, for example I have just been informed that because I was too ill to go to the Royal Garden Party last year in recognition of the British Empire Medal I received for my voluntary work for membership organisations, and my support for children and families, I will be getting an invite to go this year.

I have a large loving family, who all in their unique individual ways are supporting me through their love and actions, especially my husband Garry who has had his life changed due to the impact of my health on our finances, our family activities and so on. I have 10 (soon to be 11) grandchildren who bring me such joy, and give me a reason on my darkest days to look to the future – mine and theirs.

Yes, if I look hard enough I have hope that things will improve in 2018 and that it is worth continuing to make an effort.


2017 has challenging to say the least for the early years sector, the whole so called ‘free’ entitlement to 30 hours childcare or is it education? Government keep changing the terminology to try and make it fit their agenda and policies. The sector came together to object to the word ‘free’ saying it cost each setting to provide the funded hours over and above the amount paid by the Government. The term the sector prefers- ‘funded’ says that it is only partly paid for by Government. Even with more appropriate wording, there was still a shortfall and throughout the 30 hr pilots, settings were coming up with ideas about how to make the books balance. The government did finally agree that settings could charge for extra’s such as food and outings but this caused a divide within the sector with some saying this would have a negative impact on the very families and children the policy was supposed to help, because the poorest families would not be able to afford to pay for these extra’s and therefore would not be able to take up employment or education.

The sector also came together under the umbrella of Champange Nurseries on Lemonade funding, with lots of people freely giving their time to speak on behalf of the sector through their Facebook group and social media.

There were other financial pressures such pensions and minimum wage all of which put a huge strain on a lot of settings. Many just could not sustain the financial loss and others the continued worry and stress. Yet more struggled to think of ways to meet the requirements of EYFS, Ofsted and other expectations without subjecting the children to an over formal curriculum or in more simple terms ‘Too Much, Too Soon’.

Schools also faced financial pressure with budget cuts, and cuts to support services; they had pressure to take part in implementing SATS and Baseline Assessments both of which in my opinion are nothing to do with the children, but all about national data and creating a ‘stick’ with which to ‘beat’ teachers under the ‘accountability’ umbrella. Is it any wonder that so many young teachers are resigning, and older ones taking early retirement for health reasons?

The whole education system from Early Years to University is under pressure and at crisis point.


In the last couple of weeks we have had the Ofsted report ‘Bold Beginnings’ – which I will be honest and say I have not read cover to cover, if you have not yet ‘braved it’, you can do so by clicking on the link

Maybe like me you would prefer to read one of the many blogs and responses written by organisations and individuals such as this one by TACTYC

or this one by June O’Sullivan

There are many more, a quick internet search will bring them up. I did read quite a few and decided that I could not face reading the actual report to protect my own well-being (being ill and not usual my campaigning self).

However, the thought that Ofsted think the children need a more formal curriculum, that EYFS needs changing (especially when settings are already struggling to comply with some of the aims / goals in EYFS for numeracy and literacy) fills me with dread – and it seems from the blogs and articles that I have read, many others are despairing – such as the members of the Facebook Group ‘Keeping Early Years Unique’.

According to Nursery World, Ofsted Chief Inspector was surprised at the sectors response to ‘Bold Beginnings’ – REALLY? Has she not been listen AT ALL to all the campaigners such as myself who are not only just against ‘Too Much, Too Soon’ but have research paper after research paper, and a lot of observations by experienced early years practitioners and teachers proving that a play based approach works best and sets the foundations for all future learning.

And then we had the statement from Justine Greening about plans to increase social mobility mainly but not entirely through increasing the number of school nursery places, with the focus being on early numeracy and literacy

At a risk of repeating myself (which in effect I am)

It would be easy for the early years sector to stop trying, to give up, to accept this is the way things will be in the future. To understand that shouting, crying, protesting, demanding someone takes responsibility and does ‘something’ about this terrible situation is not going to make a difference.

How can we as a sector give up, how can we implement policy which we know impacts on children’s well-being, especially their mental well-being; that we know actually hinders the foundations of learning from being put in place; that we know in the long term will have a huge financial cost to society as we have to pick up the pieces of damaged lives. I mean how can we ‘hand on heart’ do this to the children?


However, as my blog title suggests if we look hard enough we can find hope, and so to complete this blog I will gives just a few of examples of where I think these glimmers of hope are coming from.

ONE                                                                                                        The mere fact that so many organisations and individuals have publically spoken out against Bold Beginnings gives me some hope that the sector will, to some extent at least, practice Principled Non Compliance’ that is they will refused to implement anything which they believe will harm the children’s well-being (a bit like the doctors oath ‘Do no harm’).

In addition more and more people are joining together under the umbrella of organisations such as Save Childhood Movement

We need more settings, individuals including parents to actively support Save Childhood Movement because if we come together, we have a stronger voice and the Government are more likely to take notice, especially if ten’s of thousands settings do practice Principle Non Compliance with the support of the parents using their setting.

If we want inspiration we only need to look to Scotland and the work done by UPSTART SCOTLAND

TWO                                                                                                      Connected to number one but slightly different, in this country we have a strong history of involvement in membership organisations such as Early Education, Tactyc, Pre-school Learning Alliance, Pacey, Day Nurseries Association. I strongly believe that the associations need to not only continue their very valuable work, but they need to work together a lot more, sharing resources, skills and expertise and most importantly by being able to enter discussions with Government with the support of their combined membership on the matters that concern us all. There has been some encouraging signs of this partnership working in the form of letters signed by the CEO’s of all or most of them – but there is room for more.

In addition membership organisations have a track record of supporting the professional development of their members through training, and also through their volunteer structures whereby everyday people (such as myself) gain confidence, knowledge, people skills and so much more by volunteering. Sadly in recent years less and less people are volunteering and as a result people are no longer ‘coming up the ranks’ so to speak. In my opinion this collapse of the volunteer structure needs to be halted and organisations need to look at different ways to encourage the involvement of their members – maybe something like an apprenticeship, unpaid but fully support. This could be an area where more partnership working could take place to save resources and share expertise.

For my part in this as someone who has benefitted greatly from being a volunteer for not one but many organisations, I am organising a networking event on 12th May 2018 with the aim of looking at the impact of membership organisations in the past and considering their future role. Everyone is welcome, you do not need to be a member of any organisation (and there certainly will not be a ‘them and us’ feeling to the day, we will all be coming together to network, share and make connections). Plans are still being finalised, more speakers being added and the programme developed – but so far it is looking good. Details can be found by following this link to the NEYTCO website

THREE                                                                                                    My final example is from a visit to one of my granddaughter’s nursery. I know from what I read on social media and articles that there are many settings that do offer a play based curriculum, those who know that if we get it right in the Early Years that children will flourish and do well academically.

I have said many times that different settings meet different children’s needs, children are all unique, parents needs to support family life and work commitments are all different – and these needs change over the years. One size most defiantly does not fit all. It is not a case of one type of setting being better than another, it does not matter what a building is called – it is what happens in that building and more importantly outside that building that matters, along with the relationships between the adults and the children.

My granddaughter Annabelle goes to school nursery to access her 30 hours, she attends every day Monday – Friday, 9am – 3pm, and sometimes also accesses the before and after school provision. Annabelle is the second youngest in nursery having an August birthday, and has been attending since September. So the invitation to join staff and children for a hot chocolate and to look at the children’s WOW moments marked the end of her first term.

I had some idea of what I would see because 2 afternoons a week, I collect Annabelle, and had seen written on the whiteboard outside the classroom the things she had been doing – mainly things outside with lots of cooking and singing, and stories. However, I admit I thought it might be a bit more formal than it was – not that I am complaining because the event was perfect in my eyes.

Annabelle’s mummy and I arrived at the start time of the open session (meaning not all the parents arrived at the same time, or left at the same time). We were welcomed in and Annabelle was called from where she was played in the ‘Winter Wonderland’ (one of those cube dens with associated accessories – soft toys, dressing up and things the children had taken in) to show us the things in her bag (things she had made) and around the nursery. Annabelle was pleased to see us and showed us the full blown stable set up, complete with straw which by this time of the day was all over the floor, a manager which Annabelle said did not contain Jesus, but ‘just a baby’, there were more dressing up things, a pretend fire and related books. It was clearly well used.

We had hot chocolate and could have sampled biscuits if we wanted to. We looked at the frozen small world scene set up in a tuff tray – various vehicles with pretend snow and ice; at the small world nativity scene and more.

What caught my eye were all the photo’s recording the children’s play and development. Photos of children who were 3 and the two who are already 4; A birthday chart, again with photo’s showing each child smiling and holding up a card with their birthday date, displayed in monthly sections (which is how I know Annabelle is the second youngest). There were lots of photo displays of the children in Forest School, In the mud pit area, and picking apples and pumpkins in the local community; A hair dressers area with photos of the children sporting lovely hair styles – and a revolving display on the whiteboard showing the children engaged in play.

YES there were a few aims such as ‘know our forest school rules’ and YES there were some word card with outcomes such as ‘taking turns’ ‘pulling / pushing’ ‘carrying’ and so on; YES there were strings of letters and numbers hanging across the ceilings/walls; Yes there were labels on boxes – but all low key not the main focus at all.

By now Annabelle wanted to play with her friends, and so I leant against a wall (as I was struggling by this stage) and observed.

I saw staff tuning into the children, listening, and when invited getting on the floor to join in; I saw children playing together, talking, laughing and a few minor disagreements / getting over excited, which the children mainly resolved themselves and when they didn’t there was a gentle reminder from staff; I saw staff chatting to parents; children sat watching themselves on the whiteboard – calling out the name of the child currently shown; I saw staff taking children by the hand to go to do something, especially those children whose parents were not currently in the classroom; I saw Annabelle and several other children and a staff member in the home area (almost a separate room to one side with plenty of space for role play) and if you have been counting that makes 4 completely different role play areas; I saw a staff member in the large adjoining kitchen sorting things out from the refreshments.

I saw happy, well adjusted, thriving children – and the proof? Parents could take children home after they had seen all they wanted to see, and several did BUT Annabelle wanted to stay at nursery and that was fine with staff – so stay she did, to play some more until it was normal home time and Mummy collected her.

I am sure some readers will be thinking but this is nursery, Penny – yes a good one with the focus on play but what will it be like in reception and all those things that Ofsted spoke about in Bold Beginnings wrote about should be implemented?

Well of course I cannot sure, but indications are good. Being an August baby Annabelle will start school in September 2018 , and so her Mummy and Daddy have looked round several local schools including the one her nursery is part of. One of the schools only spoke to parents about academic learning; one had a mixture of academics and play, and the one her nursery is attached to spoke about emotional well-being, about continuing to learn through play and hands on learning. I know from reading the outside whiteboard that nursery do a lot of things with reception children including, singing, circle games, picnics, and outside play, so II fully expect this play focus to remain.

In addition when I attended a fundraising coffee morning I saw Year 6 children serving cakes, chatting to parents, and the Head Girl asked me (without adult prompting) if I would like her to carry the cakes I had purchased to my table – very thoughtful as I was walking with a crutch. I have also seen nursery, reception and Year One children at the Harvest Festival in the church – lots of singing with actions and laughter.

I have very few doubts that Annabelle will thrive at the school – assuming she gets a place there.

So there is hope that our children can be protected from the interfering of Government though the work of Early Years practitioners and teachers; there is hope that we can all come together to campaign as one – all the individuals, all the membership organisations and all those who carry out research and who have knowledge built through experience.

BUT ……..

To get Government to listen and take notice there needs to be many, many more who will practice Principled Non Compliance, and refused to implement policies they know will impact negatively on our children. A few thousand vocal voices can be ignored, a few thousand principled practitioners can be replaced with those who will comply.

We need parents on board; parents who will choose schools who understand how children learn; parents who will support campaign efforts by signing petitions, by writing to the heads of the schools their children attend, and to their MP.

There is hope, I just hope we gather enough support before it is too late and the academics of the early years from Government policy are implement and we have Too Much, Too Soon and damage our children’s well –being and ability to flourish. There is plenty of time after the age of 7 for academics and formal learning.


And in my opinion, as well as all the objection to Government policy, we should have one main campaigning aim – TO TAKE EDUCATION OUT OF POLITICS. Other countries have done so with great success. Again in my opinion we need some sort of Board of experts – those who have education degrees AND hands on experience. We need early years policy to be the backbone of all we do educationally because if we get it right in the early years, children will flourish and thrive academically once they encounter formal education (ideally after the age of 7)

So who is with me on this?

Who is prepared to join together with others to practice Principled Non Compliance?

Who is prepared to campaign to take education out of politics?





Posted December 17, 2017 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Safeguarding Every Child – Let’s Start With The Adults   Leave a comment

Please note, this blog, like all my blogs is my personal recall, and my personal opinion. Other people will have different reflections, and different opinions. I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts.


On Friday 3rd November 2017, I attended the second national Early Years Safeguarding and Protecting Every Child conference.

Details of the conference including speaker details can be found by clicking on the link

Normally I would provide quite a comprehensive recall of any training or conferences without giving too much of the content away (because I don’t feel it is fair to give away other people’s work, as that is how they earn their living)

On this occasion I am going to say less than usual – you will still be able to read the pre-amble about my experiences leading up to the actual event, and my opinion about the event and the speakers, but only the briefest overview of the content.

This is because Laura Henry is going to make the content of the conference available via the live recordings made on the day, plus various links and further information.

You will be able to pay to view; or get for free as part of your membership of Laura’s Early Years Club. If you are not a member of the Early Years Club if you follow the link below, you will find out everything you need to know, including the price.

If you are already a member of Laura’s Early Years Club, you should have been sent detail’s about how to access to recordings, links and other information.

Those who attended will have been sent all the information already, I do hope that like me people will not share this content freely, as the speakers and Laura all need to earn an income, and if we give away information that is not ours to give, there will be consequence ; for example the price of future conferences may increase; or people like Laura will stop ‘going the extra mile’ and stop providing free resources to attendees.

The Pre-amble                                                                                                         Readers may wish to skip reading this bit, maybe because not interested in my experience pre attendance at the conference; maybe because do not have much time, but as I reflected on this trip to enable adults to safeguard and protect every child, we must safeguard ourselves first , otherwise we will be battling with our own trauma, possible conflict of interests and poor well-being, and therefore be unable to safeguard the children, in the widest sense of the word.

And by ‘widest sense of the word’, I mean everything –all areas that may impact on a child’s well-being – including curriculum, your observations, response and reactions which should all be carried out professionally to protect the child holistically. So yes, by ‘widest sense of the word’ for safeguarding children covers everything.

My pre –amble starts much earlier in the year. Laura Henry has a wide network of close friends and colleagues whom she discusses things with, takes advice from / gives advice to, and shares with. I am honoured to be one of those she trusts. At last year’s conference I lead a workshop on the needs of foster children and others who have experienced trauma, but this year due to serious ill health which at one point left me unable to walk or control my body functions, I was unable to give a commitment to help in any way, or indeed confirm if I would be able to attend. Laura very kindly reserved a place for me with no strings attached and would not listen to my concerns about her doing this. She said you may be well enough and if you are, the place is yours, I would like to do this for you’ And so it was, the place was reserved and even though I did not confirm that it was possible I could attend until a few weeks before the conference, Laura kept her word, and gave reassurance that it would be fine if I had to pull out at the last minute.

The week before the conference was a testing time of mixed emotions; on one hand I was feeling very ill as I had reduced some of the morphine based pain killers, and had suffered a setback pain management wise, but I had to follow through because the level of zomorph that I was on, was above the acceptable level for long term use; and on the other hand I was trying to put in measures to ensure my well-being while travelling to London, and attending the conference. I wonder how many of us turn up to work with young children while not 100% well and without ensuring measures are put in place for our well-being. I also wonder if many of us consider the many ‘what if?’ questions around the impact on the children, if we start to feel worse, or can’t do all the tasks we would normally do, to the best of our ability?

Are we actually safeguarding the children if we work with them, when our own knowledge about ourselves is that we are ‘not right’?

To safeguard myself on my trip, I sent in details about my dietary needs, arranged to travel first class so had more room (luckily managed to get the tickets at a bargain price), arranged for support walking between hotel and conference venue – as well as making sure train station, hotel and conference venue were all very close by. I also made arrangements to meet with friends / colleagues outside of the conference so I was not alone for any extended period of time. My family were supportive, but also worried that I was pushing myself too hard . To be honest I was worried that it would all be too much for me, but I wanted to try, to test the water so to speak if I was ready to pick up the pieces of my early years work.

So on Thursday lunchtime, I was ready with my large solid body suitcase, which has 4 wheels and was chosen so that it could double as a walking aid, alongside the one crutch that I was taking with me. Garry (my husband) came out of work in his lunch break to pick me up and take me to our local train station, to catch the train to Birmingham. We hugged and kissed, and I promised to send a text as I reached each stage of my journey – another part of my plan to ensure my well-being. I’m not sure who was more nervous as we parted – myself or Garry.

I was actually very pleased with myself how I managed the first stage of my journey. I got on and off the train, found the lift and made my way out of Snowshill station, I text Garry, and headed off, on the walk that I have done many times before, between Snowshill and New Street stations. However, although I had expected the walk to be difficult and to take longer than usual, I had totally underestimated both aspects.

I had to stop twice to rest, and arrived at New Street with only a few minutes to get down to the platform. I admit that at this point I felt like crying and going home, but I didn’t, instead I asked the first member of station staff that I saw for help. At first he directed me to the travel assistance desk, but when I explained I did not have time, he personally helped me on to the train, carrying my luggage and contacting train staff to say I was on my way. The train staff checked my booking record and directed the helpful man to the carriage in which my seat was booked, where he put my suitcase in baggage place and my backpack on my seat. He also phoned ahead to Euston to ensure one of his colleagues would be there to help me off the train and out of the station. I wish I had taken his name so that I could send in a compliment, but I didn’t as I was exhausted at this point.

During the journey I reflected on my experience and how in safeguarding terms this related to our work with the children and ensuring the best outcomes for their well-being.

These are my conclusions;

  • If as an adult you over stretch yourself you cannot really look after the children to the best of your ability?
  • Do not assume you can do it all on your own, seek support when needed. I knew about travel assist but I did not pre book it – what I wonder would have happened if I had not come across that man or he had not been so helpful?

Lots to reflect on for me, and hopefully by telling you my story, for you the reader as well. Ok, missing a train is not a life or death situation, but being so exhausted and maybe going into a hypo (I am diabetic) could have had serious impact on my well-being. I can think of many scenarios where not pre booking help or assistance or not seeking support of colleagues could have a negative impact on adults and children.

The rest of my journey to London went smoothly, being in First Class I had ample refreshments served to my table. I could get used to it. However despite there being toilets close by I did not use them because I was not sure me and my crutch would cope with a moving train.

Once at Euston a man was indeed waiting for me, he came on the train and got my suitcase and backpack, he helped me off the train and onto his passenger support truck thing and gave me a ride to the lift that takes you to the First Class lounge – in fact he took me and my bags in the lift and into the lounge, explained to the lady on the desk that I was First Class so that I did not need to find my ticket or sign in. Which was as well because by then I was desperate to use the bathroom facilities (and yes bathroom is the right word as you can shower there if you want to)

More reflections about importance of being able to use the toilets not only in terms of accessibility but also in terms of how frequently you need to ensure you can access them (vital when working with children)

After a rather nice piece of fruit cake and some lemonade – and of course texting Garry that I was safe in London – I headed off to find my hotel. I knew it was very close by but I headed in the wrong direction and came across some steps, however a helpful fellow traveller helped me down the steps, and I soon found the hotel.

I checked in and was very grateful that I was given a ground floor room, and even more grateful when I saw the walk in shower in that room.

I did not do much in the evening, I text a few people, checked arrangements for the next couple of days, took all my tablets and insulin, made a hot water bottle (brought with me as helps with the pain), and completely out of character for me, put the TV on to watch in bed.

I slept on and off, remade the hot water bottle, and made a hot lemon drink as fighting off a cold., slept on and off a bit more until time to get up, shower, breakfast and be in reception ready for when Kim was to arrive to escort me to the venue.

Kim was there on time beaming a warm welcoming smile, we chatted about my health, her settings and of course the conference we were attending on the walk to the venue. It was not far, but took a while due to my very slow pace. I found the changing surfaces under my feet difficult to cope with and was glad I was holding onto Kim’s arm.

The Conference                                                                                                                                     From the minute we entered the conference venue I was made to feel very welcome by everyone, I spoke to people I know well but had not seen in person for a year or more, including Alice Lewis, Wendy Baker, Jane Evans, Tracy Seed, Juliette Davies and others, and of course Laura. I spoke to people that I had communicated with via social media but not in person before. One such person was Joana Smith who like me had been awarded a BEM in the Queen’s 2016 Birthday Honours. I saw many other people that I recognised in the room, but by now I had been guided to my seat and provided with refreshments, which I was grateful for because once again I was shattered.

You could feel the buzz of excitement and anticipation in the room which grew as Laura took to the stage to start the conference.

As I have already mentioned you are able to gain access to all the presentations, video links and further information, and I strongly recommend that you do so, to aid your own CPD. If at all possible I would also recommend that you look at the materials with colleagues in staff teams or networks as there is so much to discuss and reflect on.

I am not going to dwell on the content very much, or even focus on each speaker in turn, but I will bullet point my reflections and ‘wow’ moments.

  • Leroy Logan is an ex Met Police Officer with what I consider to be a very realistic view on modern day policing and the impact on those whose crime is impacted on by the trauma they have experienced. Leroy is not one for making excuses for negative behaviour but he is convinced that people, especially young people are not supported effectively to turn things around and to thus stop the cycle of behaviour they are caught up in. He also believes that social media can cause a lot of young people to be targeted by those who will use peer pressure to get them to break the law, and then end up in prison. I personally think he is right, we need to look more at the root causes and stop the cycle before it starts. Being a young person is hard for many, but some do not have a supportive network , and have experienced early and often on going trauma, making the whole teenage period every more difficult.
  • Mine Conkbayir is someone I have connected with fairly recently on Facebook and I have been impressed with what she has to say. Due to this connection I was familiar with some of the experiences she shared at the conference. However this did not lessen the impact of what she was saying, in fact the emotion invested and displayed by Mine made it very powerful indeed. One of the things Mine said stuck with me (and I tweeted it from the conference room). “The welfare of every child is my business, your business, everyone’s business’. In my opinion we all need to take this message on much more fully because children are still slipping through the net and we are still having Serious Case Review (SCR) far too often, and far too often lack of getting involved, lack of sharing information still continues within all professions and all communities.

As an aside to this, after the conference Laura asked me if she should change the name of her safeguarding facebook group and the title of her safeguarding conferences. She later posted her suggestion, my suggestion and a suggestion from Rachel who is one of the facebook groups admins (and an expert on safeguarding issues / training) in her facebook group for members to vote on.

My suggestion was ‘Safeguarding and protecting every child, everywhere’ I felt the words early years should be dropped because people were lulled into thinking their only responsibility was with early years children, when in fact every child no matter what their age should be our concern and our responsibility. I also wanted the word ‘everywhere’ included because there is still a lack of understanding that we must make every child our concern, no matter where we come into contact with a child – it is not just the children who attend our settings and who we are paid to look after. However, it is not my place to say what Laura should do regarding the name of her group and the conferences, but it was a honour to have been asked to make a suggestion.

Dr. Stuart Shanker.   I have followed the work of Dr. Shanker for a few years now having come to know his work through my involvement with Save Childhood Movement, so I was familiar with his work on self regulation. I found myself nodding in agreement to the answers he was giving to the questions put to him in the recorded question and answer session. One thing I thought was worth tweeting and mentioning here was his phrase’ How can we know this, and not do anything about it?’ In my opinion this applies to so many things to do with children and young people, we do have a lot of knowledge and experiences and yet we are still not getting people with the power to change things, to listen. We know it will cost a lot of money to implement all the changes needed, but in the long run it will save huge amounts of money year on year. Some things are not expensive they are free / low cost – such as outside play And in any case what gives governments the right to decide that projects x, y and z are more important than the well- being of children and young people?

Hibo Wardere was someone new to me, I had not heard about her work or heard her speak before. Hibo talked about FGM –something she had experienced as a six year old. She told her story with honesty and a passion to change things. I was so wrapped up in what she was saying that I forgot to tweet about the first part of her presentation, I even forgot to make notes. FGM is not something I tend to talk about, but I should, we all should. One thing that really struck home with me was that those carrying out FGM or supporting those that do, all believe that they are doing so in the best interests of the children (the victims are usually young girls, rather than older girls ), as they believe the girls will have a better future. In fact they don’t even think there is any child abuse in Somalia (where Hibo was born), so there is a huge amount of work to be done. Hibo spoke about her campaigning work in this country and oversea, she is without a doubt a very strong lady and inspirational.

Tracy Seed provided an ‘extra’ that was not on the agenda. Some music was played and the delegates were encourage to move around the room – I could not take a full part (my risk assessment said I would be a risk to myself and to others) but I did stand and sort of swayed in time to the music, and at different times, different delegates stood and swayed with me, so I did feel included –another thing early years are good at.

Jane Evans I have heard Jane speak a number of times, including at last years conference, and I love her work. However it was not her presentation that had me tweeting from the conference, it was the stir that had been caused on The Vine show when Jane had popped out of the conference to do an interview about touching children through tickling them. Jane had been accused as a spoil sport, as someone wanting to stop innocent fun. I can assure readers this is not the case at all, Jane fully understands the importance of sharing fun moments between adults and children. However she also understands that for some children tickling is not a good idea and that permission should always be sought before this type of physical contact –the same as a child should never be made to hug or kiss anyone. In my opinion it is all about safeguarding, children must understand it is their body and no one has the right to touch it without the child’s permission. Even with my grandchildren I always ask if they would like to give or receive a hug – or be tickled.

I know I have not told you about Jane’s presentation, but hopefully you will be able to access the recording made at the conference

Panel Members – Ann Marie Christian, Jemma Mortlock, Sarah Goff These 3 ladies all spoke about themselves and their work, but by this stage I was beginning to falter and I did not make notes. Now that I have come to write this blog my memory has let me down. Sorry Ann Marie, Jemma and Sarah this is not a reflection on you or your stories, it is a reflection on me and how ill I have been / still am. I knew it was a big ask of myself to attend the conference, but to be honest I managed better than I thought I would. I will listen to the recordings and I am sure my readers will too.

Of course there were other highlights to the conference, namely the networking, the comfort breaks and lunch – all were excellent, though there was a hiccup with my lunch! Juliette had done as she had promised and had ordered me a plain ham salad with no dressing, and a plain fruit salad. However, the venue had not communicated with staff and so despite me asking 3 different members of staff no one knew anything about the ‘special’ lunch order. It took Laura to speak to someone, who spoke to someone else who finally after consulting her phone and emails from Juliette, said ‘oh yes, we did have a special order’ disappeared and a couple of minutes came back with my lunch which had clearly been prepared but left in the kitchen. Lessons for all of us about the importance of communication and ensuring everyone that needs the information is aware who the person with these requirements is – and even more so when involves a child or young person. For me, it all come back to safeguarding – safeguarding well-being, and needing to be more proactive to ensure needs are met – in this case all the preparation and information sharing had happened but it nearly did not fall into place because of one small, vital bit of information that was not shared, as in who it was who had the requirement.

Throughout the conference colleagues were supportive of me, ensuring doors were held open, obstacles were removed, drinks served and so on. It reaffirmed by belief that early years people are in general very empathic and helpful.

The conference came to an end, farewells were said as delegates left. I hung around whiles others helped pack up. Then all of those who had made presentations / helped in anyway were invited to join Laura for drinks. My small part had been to be a table leader. Wendy Baker very kindly helped to make the short walk to the bar. The bar was crowded and I found it difficult to join in the conversation (made more difficult as Laura’s group were seat at a high table and I was provided with a low chair as I could not get up on the stools). I stayed for a short while until snacks arrived, mainly because I was tired but also because I was meeting with Sally and Mick to go out for a light dinner. Kim saw me back to hotel and we parted with hugs, it had certainly been a fantastic day for me, made possible by Laura, Kim and all colleagues who had supported me.

Mick and Sally have been friends of mine for many years now, and Sally (who is an ex nurse) keeps a close eye on my well-being whenever I am in London or we are at the same event. They travelled into London, to spend time with me, have something to eat and check I was ok. We chatted easily over pizza (which I did not eat much of due to the gluten in it) and then they walked me back to my hotel. I took all my meds and retired to bed tired but happy that I had made the effort to go to London and attend the conference.

As usual I did not sleep well but had lots to reflect on, including the key points for me from the conference. For me all the presentations seemed to boil down to the need to ensure our own well-being as adults so that we can in turn ensure the well–being of the children and young people.

In the morning before heading home I had arranged to meet some early years people that I had never met before. Joining me for breakfast in the hotel , was Rob, we chatted about Rob’s role in early years and his views on early years for about an hour and could have easily chatted for much longer. Rob helped me with my baggage and walked me from my hotel to a café where I was to meet Sid and his partner J. Sid was waiting for us, he greeted us, and after I had thanked Rob and hugged him, Rob went on his way.

Sid took me through the café to where J was waiting. Sid works in early years but J is involved in the music industry. We chatted easily about our lives and experiences and like with Rob, I could have chatted for much longer. However, I had a train to catch and to do that I had to make my way to the Travel Assist desk, as I had pre booked support for the journey home. With the help of Sid and J, who carried my bags and gave me an arm to hold, I made in the nick of time. I was taken by the truck, and helped to get myself and my baggage onto the train.

Between London and Birmingham, the train was delayed and we arrived at New Street around 20 mins late. I was worried that support would not be available, but I did not need to worry, I was helped off the train and although there was not a truck, my bags were carried and I was helped all the way to the Metro stop. The metro took me part way, and did save two of the steepest parts of my journey, however there was still a fair distance for me to walk and by the time I reached Snowshill, I was once again exhausted and felt like crying. I was so tired, I failed to get my suitcase through the ticket barrier and had to be freed from the barriers grip. This had a blessing though as I was able to explain my situation and my delay to the man who rescued me from the ticket barrier. He sent me to platform one to wait , but no waiting was required as the man was there waiting for me. I was helped onto the train, and when I arrived in Kidderminster there was another man there to help me, and shortly after getting off the train Garry arrived to drive me home.

This trip to London for the second national early years safeguarding and protecting every child has highlighted several issues to me.

  • Travelling to London, is a bit too much for me at the moment, I need to recover a bit more before venturing on such a trip in the future.
  • I am still part of the early years community despite being ill for so long
  • My gut feelings are still in line with the leading thinkers.
  • I have a future connected to early years – it is just a case of working out my direction of travel

But more than that to protect every child – everywhere, we need to start with the adults and ensure their well-being and to safeguard them in every sense of the word.

Far too often I have seen parents,, foster carers, social workers, teachers, health professional and childcare practitioners taking on too much, having very little choice but to carry on because they care about the children. Their stress levels are huge and some are already at breaking point.

  • As Mine said, and I truly believe ‘The welfare of every child is my business, your business, everyone’s business’
  • As Stuart said “ How can we know this and do nothing about it?

Far too often I have seen parents,, foster carers, social workers, teachers, health professional and childcare practitioners taking on too much, having very little choice but to carry on because they care about the children. Their stress levels are huge and some are already at breaking point.

I have also seen professional who have not dealt with their own trauma, who still have ongoing traumatic experiences, struggling to hold everything together for the sake of the children, but sadly being unable to overcome these barriers.

It is not right to expect so much for so little, from so many. If we are to safeguard every child, we need to safeguard the adults first

Posted November 14, 2017 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

The 30 Hours Debate – A Grandmother’s View   3 comments

As a retired childminder, and having being involved with the early years sector for over 30 years, as well as being a campaigner and advocate for children, families and early years settings – especially registered childminders; I fully understand the concerns around the Governments plans to provide 30 hours childcare to parents who meet certain criteria.

The Government are claiming it is ‘FREE’ but it is not as early years settings are having to find ways to cover the underfunding because the amount provided by Government is just not sufficient.

And I fully agree with these concerns – not only is the amount paid by Government often lower than the early years settings normal hourly rate that they change parents for non-funded hours, there are additional costs to settings in administration and ‘jumping through the funding hoops’.

Why should early years settings subsidise the Governments ill though out election promise?

Why should staff working in early years settings, despite qualifications and often years of experience earn a pittance for the highly skilled job that they do?

So yes, I fully understand the concerns around the level of funding, and agree it is not ‘free’

Part of the problem is, in my opinion that the Government have lost sight of why funding is needed and instead of focussing on those children who need it most, and ensuring that an ‘income poor’ family is not a disadvantage in terms of accessing high quality childcare, they have instead decided to impose criteria that means those who are ‘income poor’, are restricted in the help that they can get; while those who are in most people’s eyes ‘doing OK’ get financial help that they not only don’t need, but that really will not make a significant difference to them – or their children.

I really do not understand why those earning good salaries have to work less hours than those earning the minimum wage due to the Government requirement that is based on salary not actual hours worked. This seems to discriminate against those who often work long hours for very little in terms of take home pay, as they will have to work at least 16 hours at minimum wage rate, to claim the funding, while those who earn much higher salaries may only need to work 1 hour a week to qualify for the additional 15 hours of funding for working parents.

No one expects the Government to have a bottomless pot of money, and everyone realises that providing any funding for childcare is very expensive – but surely if the money available was used wisely to support those that need it most, not only would that money go further, it would help reduce the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. In the long term this would be beneficial to society as a whole, as those children supported in their early years reach their full potential will then as adults be able to support themselves and their families and contribute through their taxes to the country’s economy.

I hope that any early years colleagues reading this blog will realise that I agree with them and understand the difficult position that this Government has placed them in. I also understand that they need to remain sustainable and that many of them are worried that they might have to close their businesses – and as a result are desperately trying to find ways in which they can generate additional income.

I have read about, and been involved in discussions around early years settings thinking about charging for ‘additional services’, and also in restricting the hours that parents can use the funding.

And this is where my concerns as a Grandmother come in because I can see that once again it will be those who are ‘income poor’ who will be the ones who this impacts most on. And for me that means my family – my daughters and my grandchildren – not all of them because like all families, my daughters have taken different personal journeys – and so have different lifestyles, incomes and more importantly in this situation different age children, with some being over CSA and some under.

When I resigned as a registered Childminder at the end of March 2016, I planned to semi retire and to do more ‘me’ things such as campaigning and advocacy (as well be fulfil my role as a foster carer).

However, things did not go to plan as two of my daughters were struggling to pay for childcare, and even to find childcare to suit their work hours. So of course I stepped in, and started providing ‘Granny Daycare’ – completely free at the point of delivery. Some weeks I am only needed two days a week, sometimes 5 days a week depending on the days my daughters are working.

Although I love my grandchildren, and will do everything I can to help – it is not quite the same to volunteer to babysit when it suits me, as it is to be reliable, and available at the times and on the days my daughters require childcare. I find it restricts what I can do, and to do things such as going to London to attend events takes a huge amount of organising as on those days one of my daughters has to swap shifts so that they can look after their own child and the child of their sister. And it does not always fall into place.

However – there was light at the end of the tunnel because it was only going to be short term due to the 30 hours coming in – with one granddaughter being able to access from September 17 and the other from January 18.

So you may be wondering what my issue is as a Grandmother – surely the 30 hours is a good thing?

Well, it may not be!

As yet we do not know exactly how things will work out, as like many early years settings those in our area have yet to confirm details of what the terms of them providing the 30 hours will be. This is due to the rate paid by Government only recently being  known, the conditions set by Local Authorities not yet finalised – and so budgeting and working out if, and what ‘additional services’ need to be paid for are still ‘work in progress’

I am in general against ‘additional services’ charges because I think it will create all sorts of issues, and lead to a two tier system with some being able to afford these charges, and some unable to. Even things like lunch could become a big issue with some parents not being able to afford to pay extra for lunch, or some children having a packed lunch from home while others have a cooked lunch provided at cost by the setting. We could even end up with some children having ‘a value lunch’ provided by the setting, while others have the ‘extras lunch’ also provided by the setting.

But my biggest concern is that by having additional services charge and / or restricting when the funded hours can be accessed will mean that some parents may not be able to access the funding in full, if at all – and as a result not only will the parents and children be disadvantaged – so will Grandparents.

Let me explain by using my daughters circumstances as an example, however if should be remembered that in general Grandparents do provide a lot of free childcare, and often a taxi service ferrying grandchildren to childcare and other activities, and so I won’t be the only Grandparent that this will impact on.

One daughter currently sends her child to nursery two days a week, and I provide the other two days. Nursery days are set, while my days can change. My daughter requires at least 10 hours a day childcare, which luckily, the nursery does offer 10 hours per day – but on the days she needs to work longer or travel further – Granny provides support and if a nursery day will take or collect the child to / from nursery.

The plan was that when my granddaughter could access the funding that I would only be required occasionally for extra hours or if the child was too ill to go to nursery. My daughter planned to use her funding over 3 days at 10 hours per day, then pay for the fourth day – meaning her childcare bill would be halved – and Granny could get on with her semi-retirement. Everyone would win.

However, it now appears that this plan is not going to work.

Let’s say the nursey offer the funding as morning sessions and afternoon sessions of 3 hours each, 5 days a week – something I have heard suggested as a solution to the underfunding – because the nursery could charge for the hours before and after the funded sessions and for the lunch period and the lunch itself.

Because my daughter works 4 days she would lose out because the maximum hours she could use would be 4 x 6 – so 24 hours instead of 30 hours. Of course she could send her child for the fifth day just for the funded hours – but the whole point of working 4 days was to spend time with her daughter.

She could of course ask to stretch the funding over more weeks so that she does not lose the additional 6 hours – but it won’t make much difference when looking at the year as a whole.

If she is charged for the other 4 hours that she requires each day and for lunch she could have a bill of £20 or more per day. If she uses the 24 hours over the 4 days and pays for the additional hours this would cost her at least £80 per week – and at the moment she is paying £70 for the two days (to include meals) – so she would be £10 per week worse off !!! Of course she could continue to use Granny Daycare for two days until her child goes to school, and if she did, she would save £30 a week, which is significant and not much different to the saving she would make if able to use 10 hours funding for each of 3 days.

However the big difference is, as Granny I would not be able to close Granny Daycare, but would have to give a commitment to provide Granny Daycare until the child goes to school.

So because the Government are underfunding the 30 hours, my daughter won’t be able to use all the 30 hours and she will have a choice of paying more to use 24 hours than she does now paying in full for two days, or she is going to have to rely on Granny Daycare for at least another year- which she does not want to do, because she knows it restricts what I can do – and as she says ‘Mum, you have done your share of childcare, you should now have time to yourself’

My other daughter is in a slightly better position but will still lose out. She works shifts on a rota basis, including weekends. Weekends are fine as her husband provides childcare and costs are kept down. Currently I provide childcare via Granny Daycare for any weekdays that she works.

Really my daughter needs flexible childcare as her days are different each week, but with the 30 hours she will have to book set days – which means booking Monday – Friday every week. On the weeks she works Monday – Friday she will have a small additional charge for the extra hours in the morning of around £5 per day – so £20 per week (she is able to collect the child at 3pm) – not too bad for the benefit of not having to rely on Granny. But when she only works two or three days a week she will have to choose between sending her daughter 5 days and hardly seeing her due to weekend working, or not using all the funded hours those weeks by not sending her child. This of course assumes that the setting is able to offer the hours she requires.

Both daughters will (as will all parents) have to pay in full fees in holiday periods – even if stretch the funded hours over more weeks, and from what I have read this is another area where settings are thinking of ‘recovering’ some of underfunding – by charging a higher rate in holidays and for younger children who do not access funding. This of course means if either of my daughters have another child, the cost of childcare for the youngest child will be higher than currently charged for the under 3 year olds.

There are many parents with situations like my daughters – and bear a thought for those who are supply teachers, or bank staff, or have a zero hour contract, or work X number of hours per month that requires total flexibility – it is going to be a nightmare to try and meet Government criteria for number of hours worked. Although I know it is possible to submit regular claims / updates, this will involve a lot of extra paperwork, chasing up and trying to get the hours required in a childcare setting – and as we all know, errors can be made that then result in either parent losing out or funding being wasted.

It seems to me that not only is this an ill thought out election promise, the 30 hours is not going to help parents who really need the help, or support childcare settings to be sustainable – or enable Grandparents such as myself to actually have any time to themselves or even be able to choose when they look after their grandchildren.

And as a result ‘income poor’ families will remain so, and those with much higher salaries will benefit in such a small way (in terms of their income) that the Government may as well just burn the money or scrap the idea, and enable childcare settings to run their business in the way they traditionally have done, sustainably while offering a flexible service that parents require.

As with all things ‘One size does not fit all’ and certainly the 30 hour offer does not appear to really benefit anyone.

Safeguarding and Protecting Every Child – Conference Feedback   1 comment

The Preamble (Skip if you want to – but you might find it interesting!)

This conference was a landmark one because it was the FIRST national Early Years Safeguarding and Child Protection Conference. It was held on Friday 4th November and was the not only the brain child of my friend and colleague Laura Henry, it was also the result of a lot of planning, hard work, commitment and time on her part.

Laura had mentioned to me much earlier in the year (well before it was generally public knowledge) that she wanted me to be a speaker for one of the workshops. I agreed – and from then on started to panic!

By September requests for my presentation to be emailed over, were made by Juliette (Laura’s admin person) and suddenly it was all very real – I knew that the website information was available, I knew that people were booking, but I had been hiding behind the ‘it is not until November’ shield and had convinced myself that I had loads of time.

So presentation was written and sent – and I went back to having my head in the sand about my workshop but also to being very busy with general life, article writing, foster care, grandchildren and so on.

Roll onto Wednesday 2nd November – should have been graduation day for me – but it didn’t happen due to other people messing things up. I was very upset, very emotional and not at all in the mood for facing my own personal fears about going to London and speaking at a national conference – oh, or meeting with colleagues from Save the Children (which was planned for during my London Trip).

However, I am not the sort of person to let people down, so I packed my bags and put on my best smile, and on Thursday 3rd November was en route to London via various trains and a total of 4 hours travelling. On this occasion my destination was Euston – which is not my normal arrival station. However I have used it before and have a fairly good idea of where things are. First was the meeting with Save the Children colleagues (blog available if interested) and then I headed off on the underground to Canary Wharf. I have been to Canary Wharf once before but it was quite a while ago and once I got there I realised that I was not going in the same direction as last time and did not really know which direction to go in!

So I wandered about a bit and looked at several maps and my printed directions. It all looked straight forward – but I was lost! I crossed a road thinking it was in the general right direction – and lucky for me a very nice Police Officer (with a dog) stopped me and asked if I needed any help because he had noticed me walking up and down a few times. Once I had explained, he kindly walked me a little way towards where I needed to go, and then pointed and gave me very good directions. I am glad he did because I am not sure I would have found the hotel if he had not.

I checked into the hotel that had been paid for by Laura as part of my expenses for attending – and was soon in my hotel room on the 4th floor. I was on a bit of a mission because I wanted to write a blog about my meeting with Save the Children and get it published before I went out to dinner in the evening – and I did succeed. I also was busy via text – to Laura, to home and to a colleague- Rachel Buckler who was staying in the same hotel.

By 18.30, I am changed and ready to go downstairs for prearranged drinks with Laura and Rachel. We were joined by others connected to the conference and we all enjoyed a pre-dinner drink and some networking before walking the short distance to the dinner venue – but via the long route!

Once at the venue we meet up with John Carnochan whose name I had heard of but who I had never met before. Over dinner I was to have several conversation with John and I discovered I really liked what he had to say both personally and professionally, but I am jumping the gun a bit!

Others joined us for dinner – Dr Eunice Lumsden, Debbie Alcock, Ann Marie Christian and Laura’s admin Juliette – plus of course Laura, Rachel and myself. We were sat at a window table overlooking the Docklands – all those high impressive buildings, the 02 arena and the Thames; I had to pinch myself a few times – what was I, Penny Webb doing in such a place with those experts? I never think of myself as an expert or of being worthy of being involved in these sorts of things – self-doubt of course and all as a result of my own life experiences.

The life experience bit was reassuring in a way – because it links so closely to the reasons why this conference was happening – and why I was involved. Despite my lack of confidence – others do seem to think that I am knowledgeable and should be involved. I guess I will never really change – I will always be nervous, I will always have self-doubt, – but one thing is certain, I will continue to be driven by my passion to do whatever I can to make a difference.

Over dinner I did a lot of listening, and a bit of talking. I found the dinner table conversations to be fascinating – so many personal stories, so much experience, so much knowledge – and to my surprise I could contribute, I could add my own stories and my own experiences – and people were interested. John was interested in my stories connected to fostering, Eunice was interested in my journey to gaining my degree and my work within early years; Rachel, Anne Marie and Debbie were interested in what I thought about things. Maybe I should have more faith – lots of people tell me I should, some even tell me off for not ‘selling’ myself enough (or at all). I have a lot to be thankful to Laura for – because her support, and her encouragement have opened a lot of doors for me – including starting my blog, being a speaker at the conference – and for lots of introductions to the people I now engage with.

There were a few issues with the dinner as the venue was unable to meet my dietary requirements – despite having forewarning. The service in general was pretty rubbish with delays and people not having things like spoons to eat soup or forks to eat mains, or even all being served at the same time. I know Laura will have raised this as an issue and I hope the bill reflected this – as Laura paid as part of the ‘package’ for speakers. However, it has to be said the poor service did not have an impact on networking between us.

We returned back to the hotel – this time via the short route (which really was VERY short), and were joined by Jennie Johnson, a colleague known to many of us via the Ofsted Big Conversation and of course her MBE awarded by the Queen in the 2016 Birthday Honours. We chatted for a while before people (including me) started heading off to bed – although I believe some stayed chatting into the early hours.


The Main Event (welcome to those who skipped the preamble)

I was up early – well before 5am, something to do with nerves and not wanting to be late. I showered, had a coffee, checked emails, and text Laura who was also up at silly O’Clock. By 6am, I am downstairs having another coffee and some mini pastries (as full breakfast not available until a bit later). By 6.50, I have checked out and I am ready as promised to travel with Laura and Juliette to the venue for the conference and to help set up. Only thing is when the taxi driver arrived, I was ready and so was Juliette – but Laura was still having her breakfast! I wish I had thought to take a photo (but guess Laura is glad I didn’t) as it was quite funny to see Laura clutching drink and food in her hand while rushing out to get in the taxi. Even the taxi driver was concerned about Laura and her hot drink on the go. Still we arrived at the venue without any drink spillage, and entered the very impressive venue. Juliette and I checked in and were handed our conference badges- but there was a problem – Laura could not check in because there is not a badge for her!!!

The badge issue was quickly sorted and we headed to the lifts and to the 32nd floor – due to my fear of heights, my dislike of closed in spaces, and my difficulties with fast moving anything – this was not something that I enjoyed. We got out of the lift and walked the short distance to the conference space – which I discovered after a quick ‘get your barring’s’ walk round – was HUGE. I also discovered that there were huge windows to one side of all of the rooms being used taking advantage of views across the docklands. I am sure everyone who attended would have not failed to notice this – in fact I know they didn’t because of the number of photo’s on social media. However for me it was a bit of a problem because of course I don’t like heights.

Anyway there was no time for looking out of windows at this point because there was work to do – and the reason why we had arrived just after 7am. I got stuck into helping sort out the Goody Bags by putting the last minute things into the bags. I should have also helped arrange them on the tables in alphabetical order – but as usual my inability to do this, without going through the alphabet song in my head for every bag meant I was far too slow – so I let others do this! Throughout this time other people were arriving to help – many of whom I knew, so hugs were exchanged. Speakers were also arriving – and so workshop rooms were found, the main conference room found – and of course the restrooms and cloakroom. Laura had arranged for breakfast to be provided for all delegates (as many will have had an early start) but she also arranged for those helping to have breakfast earlier during the set up time. I say Laura arranged – what I meant was Laura thought of it and Juliette made the arrangements.

Once the Goody Bags were finished – I went to see the room that I would be using – it looked great – but – yes you have guessed right – one whole wall was a window! I did venture towards the window and took a photo, but regretted it because I felt sick, and my legs were wobbling. I checked the equipment (with the help of Juliette and an IT man from the venue) a few issues were resolved, and I was shown how to use the Walkie Talkie should I need to call for help during my workshop.

Luckily by now delegates were arriving in their droves, so I was busy saying hello to people, giving directions to new arrivals and it has to be said spending a fair amount of time in the breakfast area because this was the one space without a window!

Time was already going quickly, and before I knew it, we were being asked to take our seats for the conference to start.

As usual, I will not be giving a word for word account of Keynotes or the workshops because that is not fair to the speakers or to those who paid to attend. However, I will be giving my personal overview – and where possible links to information about the speakers, so that readers can find out more if they want to.

We were welcomed by the Chair of the conference Dr. Julian Grenier. I have met Julian on several occasions, including on the trip to Keilhau in Germany to ‘re discover Froebel’. For those of you who do not know Julian this is the link to his Linkiedn profile which tells you a bit about him, and gives links to his posts etc.

Julian’s job for the day was to ensure everything kept to time, to give a brief recap of the events – and to introduce the speakers – the first of which was Laura. Many people call Laura ‘Lovely Laura’ because she is such a lovely person – but also because she always looks so smart – and today she was wearing a lovely orange dress and her ‘trademark’ red shoes.

Laura welcome us, and explained why she had organised this this conference – and why it had taken 4 years to get from first idea to today’s event.

KEYNOTE ONE – John Carnochan

Those paying attention to my ramblings will know John was one of my dinner companions – and that I had found I liked what he had to say. However by the end of John’s keynote, I more than liked what he had to say – I loved it – and I noted he even included a few words that I had mentioned over dinner.

John is from Scotland and was an active Police Officer for about 40 years – he is not an early year’s trained person. However, during his work with the Crime Reduction Unit, he realised that everything can be traced back to a child’s early years’ experience.

This next bit is taken from the information on the conference website – so not my words

A child who is the victim of any adverse childhood experience will be significantly disadvantaged throughout their life. Knowing and understanding the circumstances that impact negatively on children’s well-being provides an opportunity to increase protective factors and reduce risk factors.

Primary prevention through the development of safe, stable and nurturing relationships between children and their caregivers must become a key component of national strategy and be placed at the heart of all our collaborative efforts.

 I totally agree with John – and I also believe although early years education, and the quality of early years settings is important – it is not the only factor that needs to be considered.

For those of you who like me have heard of the name John Carnochan – but don’t know much about him – the following link gives some information

John spoke with passion and conviction that all though he may not always be ‘spot on’ he is going in the right direction – and making a difference.

One of the things that I have remembered from John’s speech is a recall from him about a conference that he attended – where a group of young people who are in the looked after system or are care leavers all stood up holding their paper hearts. Their message was simple – we want to be loved – we want to live as normal family life as possible with our foster families – we do not want ‘services’ provided, we want to be loved.

So very powerful – and I personally think this message of wanting to be loved applies to all children and young people. It is the most important aspect – even those who live in poverty can (and do) achieve good well-being and achieve their personal outcomes (which please note are not the same as Government imposed outcomes)

I could say a lot more about John’s keynote – but I will say no more – other than if you have opportunity to hear him speak – I recommend that you do so.

Next on the programme of events were the morning workshops – which included mine – and also Debbie Alcock of Influential Childcare Training on the subject Disqualification; and Susan Taylor of Tailormade Training Solutions on the subject of Working with Children Subject to Child Protection Plans. Of course I could not attend either Debbie’s or Susan’s workshops as I was busy doing mine.

For those who want to find out more here is a link to Debbie’s Linkedin Profile

and one for Susan


My workshop was – even if I say so myself was a success. It was about

Looked After Children/Transitions and Safeguarding.

This is the description (that I wrote) from the conference website

Safeguarding children is vital and all adults have a duty to safeguard all children. However, as shown through serious case reviews (SCR), not only do adults sometimes fail to work together and to share information to safeguard children; many also do not look at the bigger picture or consider safeguarding in the widest sense. Lack of knowledge, understanding and in some cases even common sense, can lead to children being expected to undertake academic tasks, daily routines, and even play experiences that they are not yet ready for due to gaps in their development, their emotional well-being and resilience levels – and most importantly their ability to trust adults who have, in generic terms, let them down in the past. This workshop will explore how we can support all children, but in particular those who are in the Looked After system, and those who experience difficult home lives.


I am not going to say any more about it – other than to say if people would like me to do a similar presentation for them (it would be similar but not the same) then please do get in touch.

The reason I know it was a success is because people asked questions and I could see most were paying full attention (rather than looking out of the window), and several came up and spoke to me about how the workshop had already made them reflect and start to think about various things that I had spoken about.

OH and that ‘window wall’ – I did not cope well! I felt sick, my legs were wobbly, I did my best not to look out of it or stand near it – but it still had an impact. I ended up stood as far from the window as possible – and leaning against a table – in fact two tables that were in a ‘L’ shape. However, the point is I did cope – and although I did not move about as much as usual I don’t think it affected my presentation too much (well I hope it didn’t)

After morning workshops there was a refreshment break, I grabbed a coffee and had a quick look at the stalls, but time was short due to the number of people who spoke to me at the end of my workshop (and I am not complaining, as I love feedback)


We took our seats in the main room, and Julian did a quick recap before introducing up to Eunice Lumsden – who of course was another of my dinner companions the night before – and as it happened Eunice was also sat next to me in the front row of the main room in our reserved seats, so I had spoken to her briefly several times while waiting for the conference to start.

I loved the title of Eunice’s keynote –

What has the Early Years got to do with it? EVERYTHING!

I totally agree – and so of course did John in his keynote earlier.

This is the blurb from the conference website about Eunice’s keynote

Children are more likely to experience a range of traumatic experiences in the Early Years, including child abuse and the consequences of living in environments where domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse are prevalent, also when they suffer accidents, that’s why it’s important to always take them on a good and safe stroller from baby stroller center. These experiences can impact across the life course and the cost to the individual and society can be immense.

This presentation challenges us to think about the rights of our youngest children to a professionalised Early Years workforce that understands their role in all areas of early childhood trauma. A workforce that proactively creates safe, nurturing environments and that promotes aspiration and life chances for all children.

As always just a few words from me about Eunice’s keynote – the thing that stuck out to me was that Eunice although supporting professional development and degree level workforce, she was also saying that we need practitioners at all levels and that all should be valued. She said that level 2’s should be the best they can, same for level 3’s and so on. I thought back to my conversation with Eunice over dinner about the route I had taken and my late (in terms of career development) gaining of my degree.

I was also interested in Eunice’s experiences as a social worker and how this helped inform her about the importance of early years.

For those of you who would like to read more about Eunice – this is the link to some information from the University of Northampton


Julian then did another quick recap before we all headed off for lunch, networking and opportunity to look at the stalls.

There was a huge array of lunch available but unfortunately none of the mains were suitable. Laura made sure that I did get something to eat – and I was directed to the chef who rose to the occasion and provided a plain pan fried chicken breast and some vegetables. Desserts were also plentiful, and met my dietary needs. I ate my lunch with Wendy Baker and Carmen Powell – both of whom I had engaged with on Social Media but never met before – thank you ladies it was really good to chat in person and share our thoughts about the conference and early years in general.

Straight after lunch we were treated to Keynote THREE – this one was by Professor Dame Donna Kinnair – Head of Nursing, RCN and on the subject of ‘Lessons learnt from Serious Case Reviews’

I loved the way Donna started her keynote – it was with – Well Laura has asked me to speak about this – and the quick answer is ‘not a lot’ !

Donna’s point was we have learnt what happened, and have some thoughts about why these things happen, but we really have not learnt that much because of our culture to blame people. This she says is not helpful as none of those blamed – family members or professional woke up with the intention for those things to happen, and each person is different and would do things differently – so how can lessons be learned?

Of course – things are learned – what works (and how come no one talks about the things that work) and these include all those things we know are good practice and support well being and improved outcomes. Donna drew on her work as a health visitor and working in the communities. I shall say no more about Donna’s keynote – other than it was fascinating and made me reflect in a different way about the Serious Case Reviews.

If you would like to find out more about Donna and her work, here is a link to her Linkedin profile – actually it does not say a lot but it is a starting point

It was then time for afternoon workshops – I was going to sit in on one, but admit that by now I was starting to flag – and so I sat in the refreshment area (which if you remember did not have a window) and had some more coffee and some cake.

The afternoon workshop presenters were

Rachel Buckler of Safeguarding Training Ltd on the subject of Leading and Managing Safe Practice in Early Years. Here is a link to information about Rachel

Ann Marie Christian who is a Specialist Education Safeguarding Consultant on the subject of Safer Recruitment in the Early Years. Click on link for information about Ann Marie


Andrew Ellery of AE Social Care & Education Limited on the subject of Effective referrals – Maximising response. A bit more information about Andrew via link


The final Keynote (number FOUR) was by Jane Evans. I have met Jane before and engaged via social media, so I knew we were going to have a great keynote – and we did!

This is what it says on the conference website about Jane

Jane Evans is widely known for her TEDxBristol talk on childhood anxiety, ‘Taming and Tending Your Meerkat Brain’. She began her career with children and families over two decades ago working in pre-schools and as a childminder, family support and parenting worker, and as a foster carer. Jane is now a renowned TV, radio and social media parenting and childhood trauma expert.

Jane combines her vast experience of working with families with complex needs with her knowledge of the latest neuroscience and attachment research. She regularly speaks to, and trains, others to understand and use this in their direct work with children and families. Jane is a sought-after parenting and anxiety coach and an acclaimed author of four books for children, which support complex needs.

And about her keynote

A child’s brain and body is created and constructed by daily experiences of nurturing and self-soothing. When this is absent, erratic, aggressive or detached it causes stress and fear in the developing child, which increases their vulnerability in daily life. It is important to understand this when we look at protecting children and increasing their physical and emotional safety.


I am going to add very little about Jane’s keynote – it was filled with facts, passion and a good deal of moving about and being expressive. Jane is a big one for advocating ‘grounding’ for adults and children – by physically moving your feet and connecting with the ground – it is excellent advice as are all the other things she says. I recommend you watch her TedXtalk

For some more information about Jane click on the link

There was a short panel session – which was good but time was against us. Julian brought the conference to a close, and Laura had a few words to say as well, and received a well-deserved round of heartfelt applause.

There was just time for me to write my reflection words on one of the pre cut butterflies and hang it on the tree, before saying my goodbyes, collecting my things from the cloakroom and heading off in the rush hour with Rachel as my travelling companion – well at least as far as Euston. I always think I am a bit of a novice at the whole tube thing, but when with someone like Rachel who uses the tube less than I do – I realise that actually I know quite a lot now about tubes!

I had time for a drink with Rachel at Euston, before she had to catch her train. I had another hour to wait and a slow journey home – but arrived home before midnight tired but motivated by all the inspirational speakers – and quite pleased with my own small part in it.

Huge thanks to Laura for organizing it all, to Juliette for all the support she gave, to all the speakers and those with stalls – and to everyone who attended.

Already looking forward to the next one – maybe see you there?















Posted November 11, 2016 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So to get to the content of the meeting

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I suggested that it should be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

By then it was time to part.

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

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


Over to you colleagues ….. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Save the Children report – ‘Untapped Potential’   1 comment

Save The Children have released their latest report today (1st November 2016) called ‘Untapped Potential – How England’s nursery lottery is failing too many children’ and is written by Jerome Finnegan

If you have not read it yet, you can request a copy  via this  link (under notes to editors)

 This follows on from the Save the Children previous report ‘The Lost Boys’ which was written by Claire Read. If you have not read my blog about The Lost Boys’ report you can do so by clicking on this link

It is worth mentioning that whilst I have met Claire Read (and she did have some input to this latest report) I have never met Jerome Finnegan, and so I have no idea what his personal or professional thought processes are, and therefore I am going to be unpicking this report from my personal understanding of what is written rather than with the benefit of having had any personal discussion with Jerome.

As always my blog will be full of personal opinion which some may agree with and some may disagree with. My opinion is based on my personal experiences and my personal values and principles about what young children need to flouish, as well as my view about research which I always take with a pinch of salt, because I know research can support any view if you cherry pick it enough, or read in a way that you want it to read. Not saying I am right – just saying this is my opinion.


So to start at the beginning

This report looks at what high quality childcare looks like in terms of qualified staff, and outcomes for children at various stages of life. It is examines partnership with parents and the use of songs and games to build the foundations of learning. As well as looking at the challenges and putting forward some ideas for investing in the childcare workforce so every child has the best start.


The Executive Summary gives lots of facts and figures about ‘good level of development’ achieved by children both before starting an early years setting and on starting school. To be honest it is all rather confusing to try and make sense of from the executive summary – but a quick scan of the rest of the document shows all will become clearer once you read the full report as there are some charts that show this information.

The executive summary also talks about the role of high quality staff and the difference this makes – some of it really is not very convincing to me but maybe that is because of my personal view on such things – as I have already said, we will all read research and reports differently and in line with what we want to read!

As an example the report states, children who attend a high quality early years setting are 3 months ahead in literacy and language skills than those who attend a low quality early years setting – and 8 months ahead of those who do not attend any early years

In my opinion this could be worded differently and say

‘attending any early years setting results in children being between 5 and 8 months ahead in language and literacy, than those who do not attend any early years setting’.

I think though this is a more realistic view and shows it is not the quality of the early years setting that makes the biggest difference, it is if a child attends an early years setting or not. The difference between low and high quality settings is of the less significance – just 3 months in development of language and literacy levels.


However, I also think there is not enough in depth research that shows all angles – for example children who are cared for by grandparents, or are only children, or have siblings, if English is their first language / when they started to learn English, if they were premature or suffered ill health / had operations in their early years – and so much more. To be fair, Save the Children have tried to consider some of these aspects but I still feel the research is not sufficient to draw any conclusive evidence.


There is the usual reference to the difference highly qualified staff – that is those with degrees and in particular Early Years Teacher (EYT) status, being the biggest indicator of quality in a childcare setting. There are facts and figures that suggest that it is the EYT’s that make the biggest difference. The report suggests that because there are less EYT’s within the Private, Voluntary, and independent (PVI) sector, it is why they have poorer outcomes than other settings. There is also a suggestion that lower requirements from Ofsted for staff qualifications in the PVI sector also leads to poorer outcomes.

I am not so sure about this because data about children is really difficult to unpick, as there are so many variants. Indeed I heard about some of these things when I attended the Early Education conference in October – yes attending an early years setting does improve outcomes, and yes a high quality setting does in general support better outcomes BUT there are other factors involved that have just as much impact on children’s outcomes – and can have a longer lasting effect. From my personal experience and the data I have from children who attended my childminding setting over a 30 year period, all those children achieved an excellent level of development, and I am not a EYT, and indeed I did not gain my degree until in the last months of my childminding career. So I have to question the conclusions reached about the impact of EYT’s – of course they will make a difference in many cases, but I do not think it is the only reason. As I keep saying we will read into research what we want to read – and will question it from our own perspective. I guess one of the advantages I have now I don’t run a setting, and I am also not employed by any one (so no boxes to tick) that I do not have a personal (or hidden) agenda. I just express my personal opinion – and I am not really bothered if people agree or not with my opinion, as we are all entitled to our own opinion.

Getting back to the executive summary there is one point I totally agree with in the executive summary. It is the suggestion that the Government need to invest in the childcare workforce and to ensure sustainability; to provide incentives to settings to invest in staff development; and to provide funding to ensure children in the most disadvantaged areas can access a good early years setting.

Actually this is not quite how it is described in the report – as it talks about EYT’s and nursery places (which always annoys me as this does not indicate the inclusion of childminders ) – why say nursery? Why not say early year’s provision or setting? By talking about the need for a EYT in every setting this does not value the very knowledgeable and experienced staff already working in the early years sector, who are often doing an outstanding job with very little recognition via pay or funding.

However before I get too ‘het up under the collar’ with my personal view – maybe I should move on from the executive summary to the main content of the report, as I may read things that I agree with, and things that demonstrate it is not all about EYT’s.

The introduction starts with saying that almost a quarter of a million children started school in 2014 / 15 without having reached ‘a good level of early development’, which means many children struggle with their early language skills, which then have an impact on all other areas of development.

Actually I do believe this is true and I have personally met children who do struggle with their early language skills. However, I disagree with the suggestion that it is low quality early years settings or lack employment of an ETY that is the reason behind this. I speak from personal experience based on my own childhood, that of my own children and all the other children I have looked after. How on earth did I, or my parents or my children develop our language skills? For my parents there was no early years provision before they started school, for myself there was some but it was not available to all, just to those who could afford a private nursery school, and for my children the most accessible early years provision was playgroups run mainly by mothers who did not have formal qualifications.

And yet most children started school not only with a good level of language development – but also ‘ready for school’ in that they had the skills required for reception classes of the time.

So I have to question what is really behind all this poor language development, what in fact has changed. And more importantly what can be done to ensure all children develop not just good language skills but ‘ a good level of development’

I would suggest that maybe it is to do with modern lifestyles, declining parenting skills due to lack of time to parent and constant worry of many just to survive. I would further suggest that constantly changing (higher) expectations of what ‘a good level of development’ is, means changing goalposts – even though children cannot be rushed through childhood and their development.

But that is just a personal opinion based on my experience, I am sure others will think differently.

My apologies for my side tracking from the content of the report – but I find it easier to comment as I come across things, rather than leaving my opinion for a conclusion at the end.

Reading on, I notice the rather depressing facts about disadvantaged children struggling more than other children. It states that half of disadvantaged children will fail to reach the government set level of development. I can’t help feeling this is more to do with higher targets set – and lack of valuing non-academic skills. From my understanding it is only academic levels of achievement that the Government is worried about, where as in my opinion academic skills are only part of the bigger picture. I agree more needs to done to support those who are classed as disadvantage – but we need to start with children’s very early development – pre-birth in fact and also their home lives.


By the way the report also says that children who are not classed as disadvantaged – also do not all reach the government set ‘good level of development’. In fact 1/3 of these children fail to reach the targets set. Surely this is a more worrying figure? Why are these children who have more advantages in life, and who are more likely to attend an early years setting (according to data in the report) not all flourishing? I would suggest that this also has to do with higher expectations – but also with the Government agenda of ‘one size fits all’ and ‘Too much, Too soon’. However, people will say that I would personally think that because of my personal views and my campaigning. It would be interesting to know what others think.

The introduction mentions the role of parents, and I am sure this will be picked up later on in the report – and therefore in this blog.

Finally to end the bit about the introduction – I agree we need to act now, and I agree the Government needs to invest in the early years sector, but I don’t agree with how this can be achieved.

However, I totally agree with Save the Children, about the bit highlighted in a box at the end of the introduction, which is about the 3 key drivers of low educational outcomes for the poorest children.

  • The quality of services that support children and their families, with children being the most crucial
  • The home learning environment(acknowledging the crucial role of parents in early childhood development)
  • Poverty and material deprivation


After the introduction there is a bit about childcare and education in England, which I don’t feel I need to comment on, as most of my readers are knowledgeable about this. However, if you are personally not aware, you can read about it on page 3 of the main report.

The next couple of pages contain some of those charts I mentioned, which I am not going to talk about as I have already expressed my views about some of these.

The EPPE research gets a mention, as you would expect – this research is now rather outdated as so much has changed since it was first carried out in terms of provision available through early years settings and the increase in the number of early years practitioners with qualifications – not to mention Government funding which enables more children to access an early years setting, and modern lifestyles. So although the research is still valid, it is only up to a certain point and should not be used to justify current education policy.


There is one point I want to pick up on though from this section – and that is a highlighted box at the bottom of page 6,. Where Diane who is an ETY talks about her work with parents. I am not knocking this work at all – it is very important BUT it is not just YET’s who do this – many other early years practitioners do this as well – in fact it is a requirement of Ofsted to work in partnership with parents and to support home learning. In addition the majority of childminders have always excelled at this, it is one of their strengths. Certainly going back in the mists of time, I used to be commissioned by Social Services to care for children who were struggling at home and to work to support the parent as well. This scheme was extremely successful – it is a shame that this is now generally not available because support could be given to parents, and to support home learning from when a child is born. Maybe this needs looking at and re-establishing as many children and families could be supported and therefore the ‘gap’ narrowed.


You see in my opinion ‘one size’ does not fit all – for some children 2 year old funding is too late, for some children a childminder could provide the most effective support, and for some a group setting would be right.

There is an interesting comment about research shows in England degree level qualifications were an important indicator of quality – but in other countries other factors were more important. I question if this because of the focus in this country of academic qualifications and therefore no real research into the other factors. Why should qualifications be the most important aspect in this country but not in others? Again ‘one size’ does not fit all, and in my opinion in this country we do not look at the bigger picture and do not value all the aspects that go into early years care and education.

Next I want to pick up the section about ‘Songs, Games and Partnership with parents’ In my opinion this is the one of the most important aspects of this report – all the things which support early language development. It might surprise you to know that recent conversations with colleagues have led me to believe that not only do children not know a wide range of song, rhymes and tradition ‘ring games’ or even know how to play games like snap or lotto – these are also becoming squeezed out of the early years settings in some cases. This is an area that could be supported both in settings and at home, and it is a shame that there are very few Children’s Centres left that offer a full range of services because the parent sessions could have been extended and included a lot more of these type of early language activities.

The report does mention the importance of interactions between adults and children, I totally agree, and personally think you do not need to be a EYT or have a degree to interact with children, to talk to them, to sing with them, to read to them, to listen to them, to show an interest to them – and more. This is a low cost way that more children could be supported, and so I am grateful it is included in this report from Save the Children.

Much of the rest of the report is about too many children missing out, and the need for more EYT’s – especially in deprived areas. I will not comment on this because I think the focus is wrong – we should be looking at everything and not just recommending one key aspect. It is not that I don’t value EYT’s because I do – it is just that there is so much more to consider.


To be fair to Save the Children they do also mention the need for continuous professional development of all early years practitioners, and this is something I fully support. A degree is ‘nice’ to have but it does not necessarily improve knowledge or understanding. I know as I have only just completed my degree – it taught me how to argue a point, how to include other people’s views (but I never did get the hang of referencing), it made me reflect a bit more on wider issues – but in my case due to the many years of experience I have in the early years sector – it did not improve my knowledge or my understanding. Of course for other people, especially those who gain a degree before working in the sector, it would be a different story. That is my point really, we need to value all skills – those gained by studying and those gained through experience – again ‘one size does not fit all’. So for me CPD is essential for everyone, you never know everything, you are always learning, but with CPD you can focus on what you want to learn and what you need to learn for your own pathway. Much the same as it should be for the children.

This blog is now rather long, and so I am not going to write any more – other than to say, I am not so frustrated now by this report, because having read it all (but not written about it all) I can see the report contains many things I do agree with.

I hope that a ‘common Sense’ approach is taken by those who read this report and that the bigger picture is looked at.

Hopefully this blog will have whetted your appetite and you will be motivated to read the whole report.



Posted November 1, 2016 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues