Archive for the ‘Pre School Learning Alliance’ Category

So what does the Pre school Learning Alliance have to offer? (and some feedback from Worcestershire)   4 comments

This blog contains feedback from the second Worcestershire Pre school Learning Alliance Sub Committee ‘Meet and Greet’ but actually is not just about Worcestershire – it is about the Pre school Learning Alliance in general – and what is have to offer all members- including childminder members


Last night – Wednesday 2nd July 2014 – the Preschool Learning Alliance sub committee held their second  ‘Meet and Greet’ event.

You can read about the first ‘Meet and Greet’ event HERE


At the request of the attendees of the first ‘Meet and Greet’ event – this one was planned as a networking and information sharing event – and was very informal with no set agenda and just a ‘free flow’ discussion.

In Attendance were;

Myself  Penny Webb –  Chair of the sub committee

Linda O’Rourke – Treasurer of the sub committee

Raj Babber – Development Manager for Pre school Learning Alliance

One Group setting member

2 childminders who are not currently members of the Alliance

3 childminders – who are members of the Alliance through their Childminding Group membership – but not members in their own right.

So a small group – but a very significant move forward for the sub committee as the childminders in the room were attending to find out more about what the Alliance has to offer – and in particular what the Alliance has to offer childminders.

As Chair, I did the introductions – Linda and Raj then said a little bit about themselves and what their roles are. It is important to note that Raj is a paid member of  Alliance staff who support the sub committee, and Linda and myself are volunteers.

After an explanation / reminder about the purpose of the event – and a welcome cup of tea / coffee, we got down to the serious business of ………….. ……..CHATTING.

Comment was made about where were the member settings – it was explained that because the Worcester sub committee and been dormant for so long (was only re established in Sept 13) contact details for member groups are a little out of date as no one has been keeping on top of maintaining these records – this is particularly a problem with committee run group setting as the committee is constantly changing and so is the name of the person who receives the emails / post.

So a plea to any Worcestershire setting read this – If you are a member of the Alliance – please do get in touch so we can check our records.

And please can you pass on the message to those you network with.

In fact if any Alliance member in any part of the country  is reading this and are not getting their copy of ‘Under 5’ the member magazine – there is a good chance that your contact details are out of date – so please do get in touch.


The childminders in the room that are not members through a childminding group said that they did not even realise that the Alliance offers childminder membership and insurance, and they thought that many of their colleagues did not realise either.

Raj made some notes about this as clearly the information – which is available is not being  accessed as well as it could.

There were a lot of discussion around what the Alliance does offer all members – and  as such is available to childminder members.

The group member (and myself as a childminder member) said that the FREE training provided by Educare was brilliant – and on its own well worth the membership fee. A key point was that all staff / assistants in the same setting can access the training again for FREE

If you are interested in finding out more about the training provided by the Alliance through Educare CLICK HERE Childminder colleagues will note that there is a free one on setting up your childminding business – worth prospective childminders joining – just for that and the other essential training – especially as Local Authority support / training is  being reduced / removed.

It should be noted that there is other training available at a specially negotiated price.

So what else do members get?

WELL …..

A member magazine

The support of a regional office and staff such as Raj

A voice  nationally- can attend and vote at the National AGM

A voice locally – as can ask for training that you need to be put on, and you pass on your opinion through the sub committee

Through the Alliance Chief Executive Neil Leitch – a  nationally respected voice in early years sector. Just check out how often he is quoted in Early Years Magazines – and in those that extend beyond the Early Years sector representing the views, concerns and wishes of members.

Insurance if you require it – and at a good price to members

The opportunity to make your training needs known – and for that training to be put on at a time that suits you (with in reason of course)

Which leads us back nicely to the discussions going on at the Worcestershire sub committee ‘Meet and Greet’

In Worcestershire we are in a very fortunate position as we have what might be called ‘a healthy budget’,  due to the fact that Worcestershire funds have not only be held safely over the dormant years but have also been added to via the allocation each year of part of members membership money. To explain – each member pay a membership fee annually – and a portion of that is used to support  services provided in the members own area – mainly through the sub committees.

So as mentioned Worcester sub committee has access to a healthy budget ………..however the sub committee can not just spend it as they think fit – they have to spend it on services that members want. Therefore a bit of a chicken and egg situation – Worcestershire has the funds available, we can provide training / workshops, social events, networking events and so  but we need to know what members want first.

In fact the only event that we can /have to put on without members expressing an interest is the AGM (and as a ‘heads up’ this is going to be Saturday 4th Oct 2014 – more details later)

All we need is an expression of interest from TWO members (that is members with a personal membership number – so the 3 childminders present who belong to an Alliance member Childminding Group – count as one member because one membership number)

And last night we had an expressed interest in some training – the group member present asked for some training on the changes to SEN as from September 2014 when becomes SEND.

The childminders from the childminding group also would like this training – so there we are – we have an interest from two members (and as an aside – I would also like this training and have my own membership number – so technically 3 members – although for obvious reasons I don’t get counted – and neither does Linda – otherwise between us we could say – we have two membership numbers between us …. and we want ……)

Raj is therefore going to arrange the training for Worcestershire members – for Free (please note non members will be very welcome to attend – but we will have to make a small charge – simply because with this training every participant will be given the associated Alliance book resource FREE – so we do need to cover at least part of the book cost  for non members, by charging a small fee. However if people become members they will get this training and the training over the coming year for free – in my opinion – well worth considering joining.

After discussion with those present last night – we aim to put on the training in  2 – 4 different areas of Worcestershire – and we will provide at least cake with the drinks – if not something a little more substantial, as many – including the trainer and the sub committee volunteers will have to dash straight from their ‘day jobs’ and so not have time to eat. These things are very important – and so will be covered and nourishment of some sort provided.

I hope that readers can see that by attending the Meet and Greet those present have been able to have direct input and have ensured their own training needs are met. The SEND training  will be put on as soon as possible so the members can benefit and hopefully  have the information in time for the start of the new term


As a subcommittee we aim to put on 4 events with training in the next academic year – starting with the AGM – and then 3 other training events – to meet members needs – so why not come along to the AGM on Saturday 4th October to have your say and to share the training programme for Worcestershire Alliance sub committee?

The AGM will be at Perdiswell, in Worcester – all booked – including lunch and refreshments. The event will run from 9am – 1pm  and will be FREE to members Details will be coming out to members soon – and will be posted on this blog in due course.

Non Members will be welcome and will be able to attend for FREE  as well – subject to availability of places as of course members will have priority.


Getting back to the feedback from the Meet and Greet …… there was more!!!

It is surprising what you can fit into about 1.5 hours  – so we also discussed changes to the EYFS 14 and after the meeting all attendees were emailed information on this. We discussed Childminder Agencies – and all the concerns that those present have. We discussed the telephone discussion that I had had with Gill Jones who is Deputy Director for  Ofsted Early Years – and the work that Gill is doing with Nick Hudson in reviewing the whole Early Years inspection process. And we chatted in general about things connected to early years.

And there was MORE – all attendees took home a FREE goody bag and all had a prize from the FREE raffle – something which will be a feature of all Worcestershire events – for as long as we can.


Speaking from a personal perspective – I found the Meet and Greet event to be very useful, and certainly I have some ideas about how to get the information ‘out there’ about the Alliance and indeed the Worcestershire sub committee – for example;  leaflets giving facts and contact details;  trying to get myself / Raj invited to local childminding groups to talk about the Alliance and the Worcestershire sub committee, and to offer the same to group settings and so chat face to face.



I am going to leave the  almost final comment to the long standing Alliance group member who attended. I will call her ‘A’ as I have not asked permission to mention her by name – but everyone who was there will know who she was.

‘A’ said some thing on the lines of  – ‘really we have come full circle , and we are all going to have to be do what we can to support ourselves and each other, the Alliance locally used to do such wonderful things  that I was personally part of;  and we can do the same again –  if we all do what we can’

I agree we can and here in Worcestershire  – as an  Alliance sub committee, myself and Linda – supported by Raj – are waiting for members to come forward and say how we can support them – and for new members to come forward, pay their membership fee – and to let us know how we can support them as well.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Alliance take a look at their website – and  good pages to start with  are the pages that give details of membership

Group settings CLICK HERE



You can contact me on

Raj can be contacted via the West Division regional office Tel:  0121 643 0063




Posted July 3, 2014 by psw260259 in Pre School Learning Alliance

The Pre – school Learning Alliance – Early Years Agenda: Interim Report   1 comment

The Pre -school Learning Alliance have been in the news over the last few days due to the publication of their Interim Report into the Early Years Agenda

If you have not seen it yet you can download it here Early Years Agenda:Interim Report

I admit that I have been a bit slow off the mark in writing my own personal review of this report – however since I received my personal copy at the Pre school Learning Alliance AGM on Friday 6th June – my life has been hectic to say the the least – and it was not until the evening of 14th June while in my caravan for a weekend a way – that I actually found the time to read the report in full – from cover to cover.


And so – a bit delayed but here are my personal thoughts on the Early Years Agenda: Interim Report. I am not going to go through it page by page or word by word as I do sometimes with other reports – instead I am going to dip in and out of the report, picking up on the things that stood out to me – and so this review will be a rather unusual!

As I am rather pushed for time at the moment – I have decided to provide my feedback on the Interim Report in stages – so this is Part One. More to follow as and when I have time – but hopefully in the meantime people will access the full report themselves and have a read.

I am going to start near the end of the report – on page 53, because the information on this page puts the report into context.

It explains that this report is the first of a number of in depth pieces of research that the Alliance is going to commission. Other areas to be covered will be

  • The true cost of delivering free entitlement places
  • Pay and conditions in the early years sector
  • Parent views on the current childcare sector and proposed government changes

All of this research – once completed will be used to underpin the Alliances ‘Early years manifesto for government’. This will be a realistic plan of action with these three key principles

  • The needs of the child must always be at the centre of all decision making
  • Policy should be based on an extensive body of evidence, not the personal views of government ministers (or other policy drivers, such as Ofsted.
  • Consulting with the early years sector should be the first step of policy development, not the last.

And in my personal opinion – quite so – I could not have put it better myself – those three key principles are what is sadly missing at the moment, and we are all now beginning to have to ‘put up with’ (can’t bring myself to say accept) the consequences of these three principles not guiding our current government.


I am now going to flick back to the beginning of the report for another crucial piece of information – on page 5 it says that this interim report is based on a survey (both online and via paper copies) conducted by the Alliance – to which 1270 people responded.

Flicking back to the end of the report on page 59, there is a break down of the providers type who responded – these are shown in % figures, and so with the aid of my calculator – I have tried to give approximate numbers of respondents – although of course I have had to round the figures and have chosen to round down, rather than up. So – there were;

304 nurseries

673 pre schools / playgroups

127 childminders

25 children’s centres

12 baby and toddler groups

114 other respondents

As those of you with calculators will work out a few numbers have been lost in the rounding down process – but it does give a clear picture of the number and type of respondents.


The questions in the survey were based on;


Schools (and out of hours care)

Childminder Agencies


and an area called ‘general’

I strongly recommend that you do click on the link at the beginning of this blog and read the report yourselves as there is a lot of background information that I am not going to reproduce here – but that is very interesting  – and useful.

However, for those of you with limited time, and those of you who would like a ‘heads up’ before deciding if should read or not – here are my personal thoughts;

Starting with the area of Funding;

Three and Four Year Old Funding

73% of respondents felt that the amount paid by the government for 3 & 4 yr old places was NOT adequate to cover the cost of providing those places. I find it interesting that 8% did not know if the amount was adequate – and think this must have something to do with the fact that settings are unsure of the true cost due to volunteers contributions, and staff and managers doing things in their own time.

Also interesting is the fact the those that did give actual figures – suggest that there is a average shortfall of 91p per hour per child. So if a child is accessing the full 15 hours of funding – there is a shortfall per child of  £13.65 per week, per child – or over £500 per academic year per child. For small settings it will be hard to absorb those costs – and for some larger settings – say with 24 places – the shortfall is an eye watering amount of  over £12,000 per academic year.

Of course for some settings the shortfall is not so large – but in these financially challenging times, any shortfall is difficult to cover.

Two Year Old Funding

In relation to funding for two years olds the responses indicate that many still feel funding is not adequate – but not as many for the 3 & 4 year old funding, and the average shortfall is less, at 60p per hour per child. Even so using the same example setting with 24 funded places this equates to a massive shortfall over the academic year of around £8,000.


The report gives a lot of background information in relation to the funding which is worth reading if unfamiliar with this.

One point that I agree with and have already mentioned is the ‘goodwill’ of those who work in early years settings, with many doing huge numbers of unpaid hours, or buying things to support the setting that never get claimed for because they get forgotten about, or were not pre approved expenses or the receipt was lost, or I had some at home – and so on, in general just well practised ‘excuses’ by those who know that actually the setting cannot afford these extra things.

Many practitioners do paperwork at home in the evening or at the weekend. Recently I carried out a mini survey on one of my Facebook groups – asking who was doing paperwork, or preparing for the following week – this was at 9pm on a Sunday evening! A huge number of childminders, some pre school staff and nursery staff were;- updating records, laminating stuff, emailing parents, doing their planning, – one was even sewing bean bags to use in the setting – all of this unpaid time – and often using resources from home – I am ‘guilty’ of doing this and I know that if I charged for these extra hours of work my setting would be unsustainable unless I put my fees up to parents – and I know that the amount of funding that I receive does not cover the real cost.

I will be really interested in the findings from the Alliances part of this research into the true cost of providing the free entitlement – and although not part of the Alliance research – I would be really interested in finding out what the true cost of provided a place at an early years setting is – if all staff were paid were paid for all the hours they work – and all resources were paid through the setting accounts not individuals bank accounts.

It actually goes a lot deeper than that – as many people give their time as a volunteer for early years organisations such as the Alliance, and in peer to peer support through social media and face to face meetings. If all this volunteer time had to ‘counted’ – I think the true cost of providing a place in an early years setting would surprise many – including myself – as how many of really know how much we provide for free in various wys?



Friday 6th June – Part Two of my personal feedback from Pre School Learning Alliance AGM / Conference   Leave a comment

I left Part One of my feedback just as we broke for lunch, at the Pre School Learning Alliance AGM / Conference, if you have not already read it, you can do so by clicking HERE

So I will now continue with my feedback of the lunch break, the actual AGM and the workshop that I personally attended – which was ‘Achieve  an Outstanding Ofsted Rating’ and led by Liz Elsom who was formally a Divisional Manager for Early years and Childcare at Ofsted.

Due to my low blood glucose levels, I made my way straight to where the lunches were being served – and quickly realised that there was an issue with lunch – I did not like most of it! I have got much better recently at making my dietary needs known, so that conference organisers are aware that I am diabetic and that I only really like plain food – no spices, not even pepper, no alcohol, no herbs and so on – yes I know a bit fussy – but that it just how it is. However, if I filled in the dietary needs box on the booking form this time – who knows?

So trying to make the best of things, I selected a couple of mini croissants that had salmon in them, and a small slice of a cake type dessert – the rest of the selection was not to my taste. Usually at conferences there is a selection of fruit available – but if there was I did not not see it.

Still, it was a lot better than nothing and so I took my plate into the other room and joined some other people at a table to eat lunch. Some of those at my table seemed to know each other and there was some ‘in house’ chat which I did not feel I should join in with, so I ate my lunch as quickly as possible, so that those at the table did not have to worry about me over hearing things – and more importantly that I did not have to worry about hearing anything that I should not be listening to.

I took another look round the exhibition and surprisingly resisted buying any of the lovely things on display. I bumped into Jo who was trying to manoeuvre a couple of the children who had helped with the Volunteers Awards presentations  – however the children thought the working display model of a hand washing unit – really did need exploring.

I decided that the contents of my purse would be much safer if I moved out of the exhibition – as I was starting to linger by displays and even pick things up to look at them closer – so I went and stood in the reception area.  I had a brief chat with Simona – a childminder from London – although Simona  told me that she is currently doing some work in a pre school. I then chatted  to one of the trustees, (Sophie, I think, but I may be wrong!),  we chatted about a wide range of things including the many roles we both hold and the difficulties of multi tasking and managing a family when away from home; I also spoke to Rita Sutton, the member of staff who is leaving, we chatted about her retirement plans and maybe being able  to spend more time with her grandchildren. Rita said that she thought that she would do some volunteering in the future – but was not sure if it would be with the Alliance or another organisation – she expressed her concerns about going back to grass routes with the Alliance. I could understand this as when I returned to my grass roots as a registered childminder, in 2010 –  it was at times difficult.

Then just before we were asked to get our voting cards ready to go into the AGM – Margaret Jones came over and had a word. Margaret said she had spotted me earlier but had not been able to come over and chat at that time, as so many other people wanted to talk to her. I was surprised that Margaret recognised me – as although our shared history with the Alliance (or rather the PPA) goes back a long way – Margaret was what I might call a major player and I was … well I was not. Margaret and I chatted for a while about this and that  and then it was time to go into the conference hall for the AGM. I found my voting card, gave in the tear off strip and made my way towards the second row where I had sat earlier that morning.

The trustees were sat in the front row just in front of me, on the platform were all the key people needed to hold the AGM, and  to the side was Estella ready to record the proceedings of the AGM.  Also in the room were the Tellers for if it was needed to actually hand count the votes, and a few other official people.

The formal record of the AGM will be available in due course – as recorded by Estalla  – but for now he is my personal recall.

Janette opened the meeting, and introduced the key people, she then made a outstanding speech – her last as Chair of the Board of Trustees. We moved onto the things that I and the other members in the room had to consider and vote on – not in the right order as on the day – but things like accepting the minutes of the last AGM, accepting the accounts, appointing the auditors for next year, agreeing to the appointment of new Trustees and so on- all this went very smoothly – although to ensure we remained quorate no one was allowed to leave the hall. But then things became a little more interesting – and caused a few discussions with the legal team! This was over the changing of wording in the official documents so that it reflected the broader membership that the Alliance now has, a good thing which I personally agreed with. However a suggestion then came from a member about further changes to the wording – and in light of the mornings presentations; and this is what caused the discussions around the legality of this.

In the end it was agreed that the wording could not be further changed at this point in time – although it could be changed at next years AGM – if members wanted to. A vote was then taken about the original  proposal to change the wording and because it was not clear from a show of hands – we had to use our voting cards and the votes counted. The proposed wording changes were passed due to the votes of those in the room and the postal votes  that Janette had in her charge.

Exciting stuff – and something that I have not personally been involved in – since the now famous Scarborough conference in 1995 (?) when Preschool Playgroup Association changed its name to the Preschool Learning Alliance, when doors to the hall were locked and votes counted – if memory serves me well not once but twice.

However both events show how members can and do have a say in the structure of the association that represents us.


Time was ticking on and we had to move into our seminar groups – I was looking forward to mine as it was being run by an ex Ofsted colleague with whom I had had a good relationship with in the past – Liz Elsom.

I have no intention of repeating Liz’s presentation word for word – although I do recommend readers accessing one of Liz’s workshops if they can. However I will say that the discussion points given did generate some very useful discussions and points of view – which as you would expect were varied and occasionally very different.

One of the questions debated in my group was ‘What makes a practitioner a leader?’ – I was asked this question in relationship to my role as a Ofsted Registered Childminder, directly by a member of Alliance staff.  Not something that is easy to put into words – but I did my best! Some of the other discussion were around quality of qualification training, and setting ethos and practice, and recent inspection experiences – all subjects that get me on my soap box – so apologies to the rest of my discussion group if I appeared to be opinionated and dominating (Not my intention but as I personally lack confidence – I overcome this by becoming the ‘public me’ – the one who writes blogs and challenges Government – rather than the private me who doubts own knowledge and would rather sit and say nothing – and of course in discussions I am just one of a group of people, where everyone’s opinion is valued –  so as I say apologies)

We had a very welcome tea / coffee break during the seminar,  and because I was using up a lot of energy by being the ‘public me’ and well out of my comfort zone; and the knock on from the mini hypo in the morning and the reduced intake at lunch time – I could feel myself starting to wobble and other early hypo warning signs, I put some more biscuits in my handbag.

During the break I also had time for a catch up with Liz Elsom – and was surprised that she recognised me – and clearly remembered our professional relationship from when she worked for Ofsted – and when I helped filled her inbox with lots of questions during the pilot period and early days of EYFS 12.

All to soon the seminar was over and it was time for those staying for the Drinks reception to make their way to the room set aside for this purpose. On the way I bumped into Mel – another member of Alliance staff – and another person I know from the time that I worked for Worcestershire LA. We had a little chat then separated as we collected our drinks – orange juice for me.

I found a table and took advantage of the networking opportunities with colleagues and with Alliance staff – including Dee who wants to meet up soon to discuss a few things about childminders and the Alliance from the perspective of the West Division.

Janette gave a rousing speech – reminding member that they need to be proactive in shouting about the things that concern them, and in supporting the Alliance in its work – that which is primarily representing members and speaking up for us and the children we care for.

Well said Janette – I totally agree; more members need to more proactive, as it is together that we can make a difference – the children cannot speak up for themselves – but we can speak up for them – and we can enable the children’s parents to have a voice as well.


I urge all my early years colleagues – to be proactive if they are not already doing so – and to be more proactive if they are already doing so.

Those who are currently making decisions about early years settings and about the children of this country – are not qualified to do so – and in my opinion are making a mess of things.

We – the early years sector – have the knowledge, the experience and the qualifications in our field – we MUST speak up – we MUST make Government listen.

By we – I mean  – ALL OF US


And so the AGM / Conference came to an end, and said my goodbyes – hand shakes with some, hugs with others and a verbal ‘bye’ to some;  and I walked back  to the train station in the company of Simona, and for some of the time with Neil Leitch and other members of staff who were all making their way back home after a very successful day.




Posted June 10, 2014 by psw260259 in Pre School Learning Alliance

Friday 6th June – Part One of my feedback on the Pre school Learning Alliance National AGM / Conference 2014   2 comments

I attended last years Pre school Learning Alliance AGM and Conference and wrote two blogs about my experiences



I had a great time – and as I blogged at the time – I said I hoped I would be able to attend the next conference. So when the booking information first came out I made sure, I made parents of the children I childmind aware that I would be taking the day off – and as usual they were all very accommodating and put in place alternative childcare arrangements. I saved up the conference fee and in due course I booked my place.

I was really looking forward to attending – not least because since the 2013 AGM/ Conference, I have become even more involved with the Pre school Learning Alliance;

I am now Chair of the Worcestershire Sub Committee – having been voted in at the Worcestershire AGM in Sept 2013, and we have had several committee meetings, produced our first newsletter and held our first Meet and Greet event

I attended the National Forum meeting in London and helped shape the new strategic plan, and got to know some of the staff and Trustee’s of the Alliance.

I have attended several meetings with Neil Leitch (and others) in connection to campaigning against Government proposals. including one with the Early Years Minister Ms. Truss – where I managed to be even more vocal and outspoken than Neil

I have been a signatory (in my own name) to letters that Neil has signed as CE of the Pre school Learning Alliance

And I have continued to communicate regularly with Neil via email and phone calls about campaigning issues and the Alliance’s childminder membership package.

And I was one of the people who supported Neil’s nomination for Nursery Management Today 2014 Power 20 awards

So fair to say things have moved on a bit since last year – and The Alliance is now a huge part of my life.

There were a few last minute hitches to my planning as a new foster child joined my family and as with all new foster placements, the first few days are a bit up and down and need time and patience; plus on the day itself – it took me considerably longer to actually leave the house than it normally would.

Anyway I made it to the station and caught a slightly later train than I had planned to – which meant I missed the connecting train and had to stand around waiting for 30 mins – freezing cold, as in my rush to leave the house I had forgotten to pick up either coat or cardigan.

Still I made it to Birmingham International station just before 9am, and walked to the hotel where the conference was being held – luckily the same one as last year. En route I spoke to some ladies who had not been before and needed directions and to a couple of Alliance staff who were positioned along the route to ensure members did not get lost.

I was welcomed warmly by staff and given my goody bag – then directed to the exhibition and coffee. I grabbed a coffee and some biscuits – especially welcome as I realised in my rush in leaving, I had not actually had my breakfast – although I had had my medication, so I added some extra packets of biscuits to my handbag which as it turned out was a good decision.

I then had a look at the exhibition stands, telling myself that I would not buy any new resources – difficult as there were so many lovely things. Still, much to my own surprise I did manage to keep  my purse in my handbag and did not buy anything or even order anything!!!

I met Raj – who works for the Alliance and who supports the Worcestershire sub committee, we hugged and greeted each other warmly. Raj introduced me to the staff from Clickety Books, who specialise in resources for building speech, language and literacy skills.  I had a chat with them and hopefully they will be able to provide a workshop for Worcestershire sub committee’s next AGM – subject to the committee agreeing to it, when we  discuss it at the next committee meeting.

I had a chat to Bridget on the Alliance publication stand, and had a bit of a catch up. I also spoke to staff on the volunteer stand and the supporting two year olds stands – picking up free publications from both. The publication that I am most looking forward to reading is the ‘Changing Lives, Changing Life’ book which is about the pedagogical perspective of the Pre school learning Alliance, because I know my own life experiences and the influences on my personal ethos will be interwoven into the words that I read.

I chatted briefly to Jo who is Raj’s manager and who therefore also supports Worcestershire sub committee (and who as I mentioned in last years blog – I used to work with in the past in Worcestershire Early Years and Childcare Service). I also chatted to a couple of other people who I was meeting for the first time – and whose names I still do not  know due to poor memory about names and also to the very small wording on the name badges making visual reinforcement of names very difficult ( and speaking to some of the men present – they said made things a little difficult / embarrassing as they tried to read the names badges pinned to  female colleagues chest area)

I then left the exhibition area (before temptation became too much) and stood in the reception area. I spotted Neil Leitch chatting to some people, he spotted me and after a while came over, and greeted me with his usual hug and air kisses. We chatted for a short time before he was called away to talk to others.

I also spoke to Shannon who is the editor of Under 5 – the Alliance’s member magazine. Hugs from Shannon as well – making me feel like part of the ‘Alliance family’. Shannon introduced me to another member of staff – and afraid another name that I have not remembered. I chatted to Shannon for quite a while because although we have communicated via email it was the first time that we had met in person.

A lady with a clip board came over and told me that I was to sit at the front – no idea why – and wondered if – as my first name is the same as one of the workshop leaders – if there had been some confusion?

Next to have a chat was Estella – Neil Leitch’s PA and who is recognised as being the person who actually holds everything together and makes sure Neil is organised.

After that, as it was nearly time for the conference to start , I stood in the reception area and chatted to some of the trustees – again I was made to feel part of the Alliance family. I had met some of them at the National Forum – and it won’t surprise you the reader, to know that I could not recall all their names. I will try to remember in the future.

I then went into the conference hall and to the front rows as directed – I asked Janette, who is Chair of the Trustees were I should sit and she indicated the second row back. A lady, who I thought I recognised came forward and said much the same thing to me – she thought she recognised me! It turned it it was Jane Payler who is chair of TACTYC (which for those who don’t know is the Association for the Professional Development of Early Years Educators – information can be found HERE  – and as aside taking a look at the the website I realised that I have not yet joined this organisation – so I have now printed off the membership form to do so). Of course once I realised who Jane was, I knew why I recognised her name – it is through my connection with Save Childhood Movement and my SCM colleagues who are members of TACTYC. I had a chat with Jane before she had to go and speak to others.

Just then a large group of Chinese visitors arrived in the hall and Janette asked me if I could move up so that the Chinese visitors could sit together – which of course I did. The Chinese visitors were present because the Alliance are now working in partnership with the Chinese – exciting times ahead.

The conference then started and we were welcomed by Chair of the conference Graham McMillan – who is one of the Trustees. We were told that Nick Clegg , the Deputy Prime Minister was unable to be with us all, as he was attending the D Day celebrations – however he had recorded a video address – which we watched.

Nick Clegg’s speech via the video sounded very positive and supportive of childcare practitioners – and the Alliance, but I was not convinced that overall – as a sector we would be fully listened to by the Lib Dems.

Next to speak was Neil Leitch  – I knew that this was going to be a difficult speech for Neil to make and would be quite emotional –  because Neil had discussed some ideas with me previously and told me what his speech would be based on.

However before the emotional bit, we had the serious bit – Neil is very passionate about what he does and his role within the Alliance – and this shone through his speech – once he had got the ‘big head’ bit out of the way – the bit about winning the Power 20 award in the Nursery Management Award – and the story that I had already heard about what happened when Neil returned home late after the awards night – where his partner had had none of the ‘big head’ stuff, and put him in his place.

Neil spoke about the ratio success but also about the things the Alliance was still campaigning about, including Ofsted, complaints, inspections. Neil questioned why Ofsted / DfE / Government do not apply their own guidance and recommendations about consulting and making decisions. I have to agree with Neil – as recent consultations have been useless; asking closed questions, not always having comment boxes, short time scales, released over holiday periods, released in quick succession, so people don’t really have time to complete them fully – if at all.

And then to cap it all – even when people do respond and say they don’t agree with the Governments proposals, the Government either don’t bother to release the results or decide that they won’t take any notice of public opinion, or sector opinion or even research based evidence.

Ofsted inspections and the ‘school readiness’ are of course some of the main concerns at the moment, and Neil spoke about some of those letters, and early years manifestos that I mentioned earlier that both he as The Alliance CE and me as myself , have been involved with. He said that members should make no mistake – as The Alliance will continue to shout very loud to ensure that every child has the best possible start to their early years. In my view this means are all able to meet their full PERSONAL potential  (which is somewhat different from being school ready or  exam / test results – as human beings have so much more potential in so many other areas).

Neil also talked about Childminding Agencies – and certainly as a Ofsted Registered Childminder – and someone who works closely with Neil around this issue, I can not stress enough how strongly Neil (and the Alliance) are against childminder agencies, nor can I understate how much he advocates on behalf of all childminders and not just those who are Alliance members.

In case you are not aware The Pre-school Learning Alliance does now offer a specific childminder membership and childminder insurance. If you are interested in finding out more take a look

Towards the end of his speech, Neil spoke about his son, a lucky boy who has two loving parents and everything he needs, but who is still concerned about who would look after him if Daddy and Mummy were unable to – Neil’s emotions bubbled to the surface – but he was not the only one with tears in his eyes – and I am sure that everyone in the conference hall valued, his honesty, his passion and indeed his bravery in telling a story that he knew would be difficult. As he does so well, Neil linked his story to that of parents with a child whose life could not be more different from that of his son.

I  know Neil said a lot more but these points above are the ones that stuck in my mind – as of course – as usual I was not taking notes (and reason for poor memory will become clear later).

Next to speak was Norman Lamb, who according to the programme is Minister of State for Care and Support. Norman had stood in for Nick Clegg because as already mentioned Nick Clegg was unable to attend. I am afraid I switched off a bit during Norman’s speech because a bit like Nick Clegg’s video address, I considered it to be a party political presentation which did not tackle the real issues or offer any real alternative ideas. It was of course all positive sounding but I find that these days I tend to look beneath and behind the words presented.

Following Norman, was Dr. Jane Payler, Chair of TACTYC, who I spoke to earlier. Jane gave a presentation that I almost entirely agreed with; which was about appropriate early years experiences especially for our youngest children, about enabling environments, and about the need to ensure high quality early years provision.

Next bit is of course personal opinion – The only aspect of Jane’s presentation that I struggled with, was the bit about degree qualified early years professionals providing the best early years care and education. It is not that I don’t agree that degree qualified professional  provide good early years experiences and outcomes – I know that in MOST cases they do – but it is not a given fact.

Also the biggest problem from a personal point of view as someone without a degree – it is not a given fact that those without degrees cannot provide good early years care and education – as some can. The problem is that there is hardly any data to prove or disprove this fact, the Early Years Foundation Stage profile does not gather data about children’s previous settings / experiences, never mind breaking down which early years settings are good at which aspect of learning and development. There is a lot of data about schools and maintained nurseries but there is no data about the other early years experiences that children experience in addition to a maintained nursery or a school reception class, and so on.

Questions are not asked or data kept about level of qualifications of staff in those other early years settings that a child may have attended, in terms of the Early Years Foundation Stage Profiles – and in many cases the children spend less time in a maintained nursery class or even a school reception class than they do in other settings – and children may spend far more hours per week in the care  of a registered childminder.

Add to that the fact that experience, non certified CPD, drive, passion, commitment, common sense, and natural instincts,  all can and do make a difference to the quality of experiences offered and outcomes.

Add the fact that children learn in different ways, and at different times

Add the fact that inspections are not the same across all sectors and that there are huge variation between inspectors and judgements of those inspectors; it is easy to see how comparisons are difficult.

Therefore as far as I am concerned the data is not yet complete and therefore the conclusion can not be made that degree qualified professionals provide better opportunities or outcomes in all cases, or that  early years professionals without degrees  don’t.

And best not get me started on the whole should all children be in day care and having a formal curriculum – because that is a can of worms – and I don’t agree that children who stay at home are disadvantaged just because they don’t attend an early years setting – it is their other life experiences that make them disadvantaged – such as poverty, domestic violence, abuse of any substance and more – but being at home with their parents is not the route cause of disadvantage per sec

As I say though on the whole I agreed with what Jane was saying and will be joining TACTYC.


Moving on the next speaker was Lucy Powell who is the Shadow Minister for Education. I do like Lucy because as a mum of three young children she has her feet on the ground and her own real life experiences to draw on – indeed she told the conference hall, that she was late arriving as she had had to drop her 3 children at 3 different child care settings before travelling from Manchester to Birmingham. Lucy spoke about Labours achievements in the past – and admitted that they had not always got it right; she spoke about how much she values childminders – I was warming even more to her – BUT THEN she mentioned getting women – MOTHERS into work to create a tax revenue. I may be missing the point but if you need mothers to work to pay tax, so that can pay for support for childcare –  isn’t it a bit of a pointless exercise? Would it not be better to enable all parents but especially mothers to have a real choice about if work and use childcare or if stay at home and care for their children themselves?

So I am afraid I switched off a bit at this stage and had a word with the person next to me who clearly disagreed as much as I did about the whole ‘getting mothers into work’ agenda.

There was time for some questions – the one that stuck in my mind was the one about the cost to Government of the Youth Offending Service – huge amounts of public money spent trying to undo the damage in terms of self esteem, social skills and much more. The point made was that a short term extra investment could pay itself back many times over if we did not need to fund an ever increasing budget for youth offending services.

As a foster carer I know it goes much, much deeper than this – as the budget for fostering services is eye wateringly large – and so much more could be done to stop these children ending up in foster care, by addressing the route causes of disadvantage.

After the serious stuff – it was time for the bit of the conference that I really like – The Volunteers Awards.

Amanda Lamb did the honours – as she had last year – and as with last year it was the children who caught my attention – one little girl in particular was a delightful inquisitive soul, who explored every thing that she could and at every opportunity.

This year there were joint winners for the awards – and I could see why. How could anyone choose between such worthy nominations? One thing that really struck was the age of those winning the awards – and their passion and commitment to the children that they care for. I have to ask – in the future will we have such dedicated professionals who have given a life time worth of volunteering to improving outcomes for children? And maybe the current drive to get parents, particularly mothers into work, will have the unintentional side effect of reducing, if not totally removing the number of willing, professional volunteers, who have the resources in terms of time and energy – to take on such roles? The Government and those in opposition really do need to look at the bigger picture.

Half way through the Volunteers Awards, I realised that I was starting to go into a hypo – partly due to not managing to eat breakfast and partly due to the fact that the morning session had gone over time a bit. However disaster was prevented due to having my glucose tablets in my bag – and those conference packs of biscuits that I had put in my bag earlier on – and the caring words of the person sat next to me, enquiring if I was ok.

Neil had some surprise presentations of flowers to make – and did a good job of reducing 2 ladies almost to tears! The two ladies in question were Janette Parker who was standing down as Chair of the Board of Trustees after holding this position for 3 years, and Rita Sutton who has decided  to leave her position within the Alliance in a couple of months time. Both ladies gave heartfelt speeches and it was clear that both will be very much missed by staff, trustees and members.

I will end part one of my personal feedback here, and will pick up with part two later covering the lunch break , the AGM and the workshop that I attended.



Posted June 8, 2014 by psw260259 in Pre School Learning Alliance

Worcestershire Pre school Learning Alliance Sub Committee – Meet and Greet Event   1 comment

This event took place on Wednesday 14th May 2014 at Perdiswell in Worcester. It was in fact the first event put on by the sub committee since the Worcestershire sub committee was reformed in September 2013 at the AGM.

Between the AGM and this event – a lot has happened – but maybe not that visible to those outside the committee.

We have held several committee meetings and we have begun to get our heads around the policies and procedures of being a volunteer for the Pre school Learning Alliance – by ‘we’ I mean Linda – the treasurer, and myself – the Chair – just the two of us. We have learnt a lot – but still have more to learn – these things don’t happen overnight.

We have both signed up to attend divisional meetings  but unfortunately could not attend the first event because of the dreadful floods around that time. I (Penny) have attended the National Forum meeting in London and was involved in helping set the wheels in motion for the Alliance strategic Plan for the next 3 years. It was lovely to be included and to be able to express the views of Worcestershire members

We have sent out our first newsletter – and of course organised this event.

As both Linda and myself work full time it has not been easy to get things organised and we are very grateful for the support of the Regional Office. However we have been the ones driving this forward  to support the settings in Worcestershire. We have had a few issues that we had to overcome, such as not all settings receiving the newsletter – and the order for the publications and raffle prizes being delayed. Not too mention only 4 people booking for the event.

Some last minute publicity resulted in 8 people attending – representing both group members and childminder members. We had the support of both National and Regional staff and the services of an excellent Alliance trainer – Lesley Senter.

The evening started with coffee and network opportunities – a feature that we plan to have at all our events – as not only are those networking opportunities vital – having a delayed start to the official agenda of an event allows those attending a little bit of flexibility if they are running late for some reason – and so don’t have to panic about being late for the ‘proper’ start. Essential we think when everyone – including Linda and myself – lead such busy lives with so many other commitments.

It was during these informal chats over coffee, that I realised that we have a bit of a communication problem here in Worcestershire (although I don’t think we are unique in this). It seems members are not all getting their member magazine Under 5, and some were not getting their member e bulletins. Also none of those attending last night attended the AGM in September because they had not heard about it. So something is clearly not working and we need to find out what is happening and resolve the issue.

As we had sent out some last minute information via the media – is was good to see that some had come along as a result of that media based information – and so again we need to look at this.

After the networking, we grouped in a horseshoe shape gathering of chairs, and I welcomed everyone, and everyone said who there were and where they were from – some people said a little more – and in particular our guests Rita Sutton from the Alliance National Office and Jo Randall from the Regional Office. They do of course have official titles but as the event was very informal and everyone chatted as if friends (and I hope we do all become friends – or at least close colleagues) I am not going to mention their official job titles. In my opinion, the title you have does not make you any more important than anyone else or your opinion any more valid than anyone else’s.

Having said that it was very useful to have the information available about aspects of the Alliance that neither Linda or I hold in our heads – and we are very grateful that Rita and Jo attended to support us – especially as they had spent the day moving the Regional Office into its new office space.

I also outlined the agenda for the evening – and the reason why we had arranged this event

First reason is because Worcestershire sub committee does have a healthy bank balance and we want to (no, we must) spend it on what Worcestershire members want – so the only way to do that is to ask the members. So we need to know what members want – some possibilities are;

  • Statutory training
  • Formal training courses
  • Networking events
  • Social events
  • Guest speaker events – and not necessarily only about childcare related things – as practitioners our own well being is important
  • Hands on workshops – so making things and trying things
  • Peer support events – where everyone brings some thing to share

Second reason – Worcestershire sub committee is very small – in fact just Linda and myself – which constitutionally is ok and we do have the support of Alliance staff – but Alliance staff can’t really help with the hands on and everyday stuff.

Before everyone stops reading – and this was stressed at the event – so that those attending did not get up and leave the room! We are not looking for committee members and we will not be ‘twisting arms’ or applying pressure to people to join the committee.

However, it is clear that as Linda and I have full time jobs, hold other volunteer roles and have family commitments ( the same as everyone else) we are going to need help with some things – so our thoughts are if members in Worcestershire could support in small ways – as and when they can, that together not only will things be easier to manage but that together we can make a difference to Alliance member settings in Worcestershire – which in turn will support the families and children in Worcestershire.

As we discussed at the event, these are the sort of ‘small ways’ that members may be able to support the Alliance Worcestershire sub Committee.

  • If attending a meeting or training or event – arrive a bit early and – help set out chairs, or ‘man’ the signing in table, or set up refreshments or help move things from cars into the room – and so on – each task taking less than 30 mins and normally less than 15 mins – but making a huge difference in spreading the workload
  • Same at end of meetings and events – if people could stay behind for an extra 10 mins we could all be finished and out of the venues a lot quicker
  • Provide a free room in your own setting for committee meetings – we would need room for up to 10 people – but usually only 4 or 5 people – so even a home based setting could be suitable
  • Provide a room in your setting for training or other slightly larger events where maybe we need space for up to 20 people
  • Give us details of halls and so on it your locality so we can move meetings and events around the county without the need to research where these halls are – and if it is hall belonging to an organisation that you belong to – we would be very grateful if we could benefit from a discount price
  • Offer to make a cake or buy biscuits for a meeting or event – we can reimburse the actual cost of these things – but often we just don’t have the time to stop off at a shop to buy these things.
  • Sit in on a committee meeting and give your views – this is important as with just two  of us trying to decide what is best for Worcestershire settings – we really do need the input of others. Please note this is not about becoming a committee member – anyone who expresses an interest in joining us for committee meeting – now and then, as and when they can – will be sent the agenda for each meeting in advance so they can make an informed decision about if they want to pop along for that meeting or not.
  • Provide your expertise in a particular area – for example you may be good at typing things up (I’m not); you may be good at taking minutes; you (or someone you know) may have a hobby that you can share with other adults or with children – either as a demonstration or as a hands on workshop; You may be really good at thinking of craft ideas that we could share via the newsletter – and so on.
  • Basically there are lots of ways that you could help – that you do not have to give a commitment to – but that will make a difference if you can help –   on a now and then.

And the third reason for the event was to provider a taster of what we can offer as a sub committee – which is where Lesley Senter comes in . Lesley has been involved with the Pre School Learning Alliance for many years – and like many of us has seen ideas and Government requirements come and go.

Lesley had been asked to provide something that was FUN and that provided not only a less serious side to early years planning and curriculum but that also provided sound research based reasons as to why planning is not always needed and does not always lead to the best outcomes for the children.

And Lesley certainly provided a taster workshop that ticked all the boxes that we required ticking. It was fun – I an sure that none of us will ever forget Lesley doing her impression of some bagpipes or her impression of the Early Years Minister who appeared to have a vaguely  Scottish based voice.

(The Scottish connection was due to my information sharing about my visit to Edinburgh the previous weekend and the Patrick Geddes gardens that I had learnt about and visited.)

It was really good to see so many smiling faces and so much laughter – it certainly took me back to my early days with the association which had begun before the name change to Pre School Learning Alliance.

I am personally a firm believer that if you ask people to come out to training / events / meetings in their own time – and often at their own expense – then it must be enjoyable, and it must give them ‘something; to take away in terms of new knowledge or information rather than in terms of goody bags.

The evening seemed to go really quickly and we had some very positive comments about Lesley’s session and about the event in general – everyone went home with a goody bag – and everyone selected a publication from the free raffle.

I will now be emailing those that attended and asking for their thoughts about what they would like the Worcestershire sub committee to provide for their members and once we have the information we will plan our next event, next newsletter and our AGM

If you are a Worcestershire based setting and did not attend the Meet and Greet event on the 14th May – Please do get in touch- if you provide the committee with your email address then we will be able to communicate directly with you (data protection prevents both Regional Office and National Office from sharing  your contact details at the moment)

If you are interested in popping into the next committee meeting it is on Wednesday 4th June – please let us know, and I will ensure you get the agenda and full details

Finally Linda and I are keen to help, support and advice Alliance members in Worcestershire – we may not always know the answers to your questions – but we know a lot of other people within the Allaince who might know – so just ask us your questions and if we don’t know – we will ask someone else and get back to you

You can email me – Penny Webb  as follows –

or Linda as follows –



Posted May 15, 2014 by psw260259 in Pre School Learning Alliance

Neil Leitch – CEO of Pre – School Learning Alliance nominated for an award   1 comment

As many readers of this blog will know, I am a member of all the organisations that represent childminders, but it is the Pre School Learning Alliance that is my main membership organisation – and the one that I volunteer for (currently holding the role of Chair of the Worcestershire sub committee)


There are two main reasons for this involvement with the Alliance;

First reason –  I have been associated with the Alliance for many years and was a volunteer in the past – this is because the Alliance has a very similar ethos to my own about children, about learning through play – and also about valuing adults – both parents of the children attending their settings, their volunteers and their staff. Certainly my involvement as a young, lacking in confidence mum who was encouraged to be a parent helper and on pre school committee’s, and the training I attended, plus the nurturing and the support I received – have helped make me who I am today.

Second reason –  Neil Leitch himself. I have been very lucky to have been able to meet Neil several times and to work closely with him in my campaigning against increased ratio’s and childminding agencies.

Neil is – in my opinion – the most amazing man, he  has a very caring nature, an insight in to what makes people ‘tick’ and a genuine passion for young children and their families. He also has a sense of humour, a gentlemanly way, and a way of making others feel valued;  and he  is prepared to speak up for children and families … and say things as they are. This does not make him popular with those that he speaks up against – but it does make him highly respected within the early years sector and beyond.

I first met Neil face to face, in his office where together with other members of Alliance staff, we discussed the Alliance’s plans to offer a specific childminder membership package. I remember being very scared (just getting to London was scary for me and having a meeting with a CEO – even more scary) However Neil put me at ease, made me feel that my opinion mattered and was valued – and amazed me at his ability to read between the lines about what I was saying – and feeling. A skill I have seen him use many times since that first meeting, putting people at ease and making them feel valued.

Since that first meeting I have met Neil on 5 other occasions; some public events and some more private events such as the recent round table meeting with Elizabeth Truss,  and each time I have continued to be impressed with his sector knowledge and his belief in the fact that what he is doing is not only ‘right’ but is in the best interests of the children of this country.

And I agree with him – it is.

Due to  our shared vision and joint campaigning, I have come to know Neil quite well through emails and phone conversations – our discussion have been varied and wide-ranging – which is why I have an insight into what makes him tick, about why he is so passionate about what he does and why he does not ‘give up’

It is Neil’s own background  as a child, as a parent and as a grandparent that is the basis of his understanding and his belief that every child matters, and every child should have the best possible early years experiences – and furthermore that every parent matters and should be supported and encouraged to ensure as many children as possible, also have positive early years experiences at home.

And so this is why I am supporting  the nomination for Neil in the 2014 Nursery Management Today CHILDCARE POWER 20 – his own personal vision and determination to make a difference – together with his leadership of the Pre School Learning Alliance – taking the association forward and building on its past history as a leading organisation within the early years sector and its strong values and ethos about the rights of the child and support for the family.


If you wish to add your support you can do so by writing a statement and sending it to



I am very pleased to tell you that Neil has won the 2014 Nursery Management Today CHILDCARE POWER 20 award.

Many congratulations Neil


Posted April 17, 2014 by psw260259 in Pre School Learning Alliance

Worcestershire Pre -school learning Alliance AGM and Conference   1 comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

AGM part of the day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conference part of the day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other workshop was run by Lesley Senter and called;

Positive approaches to supporting communication 

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

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

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

After lunch, we all went to our afternoon workshops

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

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

Closing session

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

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

A newsletter with local and national information and stories

Training events on childcare subjects

Social events with fun workshops based on members hobbies and interests

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

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

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

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

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