My Thoughts on Childcare Reforms and Our Tots 100 Meeting

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be asked to go and meet with Elizabeth Truss and her special advisor to talk through the governments document More Great Childcare. If you haven’t read it you can find it here and frankly I think it’s an incredibly important document to read if you have children in the Early Years age group.

I’ve got a special interest in these issues because (if you are a regular reader you’ll be aware) I have been unable to find a job within my sector which pays enough money to cover the childcare costs of three children and so I have been forced to retrain as a childminder. This does at least give me a great insight to both sides of the argument.

I’ve been discussing this document with my childminding and parent friends and have come to the conclusion that the idea of childminding agencies whilst good in theory are simply not practical in application for both parents and childminders. In fact I couldn’t find anyone who thought they were a great idea and who would join or use them. So I went along with this is mind for some clarification. I was told that the way the agencies work in practice has not been finalised yet, so watch this space!

The other point that I wanted to hear discussed was the reasoning behind the changes in ratio. I think at the moment we have very good ratios and I don’t think (certainly within childminding) that an increased number of children will enable a childminder to charge a lower rate, rather a childminder will certainly earn more money. I think there needs to be a change to the way the ratios are offered. For example, it’s much easier to look after four 3 to 4 year old children who may be in schooling for at least part of the day than  it is to look after the equivalent number of tiny tots/ babies. Even when there is a mix of children it can currently be quite hard to fulfil the current criteria of the EYFS for each child in terms of activities, I cant imagine how this could be achieved with more children. I tried my best to explain this within limited time scale. I did get the impression that the MP was open to feedback and was happy to receive further thoughts via email, should anyone have any.

One of the thrusts of the policy is to make sure childcare workers are better educated. I agree with this to a certain extent, although feel a little bit sceptical when thinking how that worked out for nurses in the NHS. All I have ever wanted for my children is for them to be cared for by someone who does actually care about their well being and happiness. Personally, I would have been quite happy to sign a disclaimer to stop my childminder having to do all the EYFS reporting etc as I’d much rather she had the chance to spend the time preparing activities for the children and enjoying being with them than taking pictures and writing reports. I don’t think I am alone in this. I suppose that what I am saying is that I don’t think qualifications and reporting are the be all and end all. I certainly don’t think qualifications should mean you are able to take on more children in any setting.

Another of the issues I mentioned was how I feel that Ofsted reporting and grading is not necessarily accurate and reflective. The fact that settings are given a notice period before the arrival of an inspector means that preparations can be made. I also know full well from colleagues that the grading is very much dependant on particular inspectors; who you get on the day. So, to take this as a measure of whether a setting can accept more children seems a little misguided. I think Ofsted needs some reform in working practices to make it more standardised in the field and not so dependant on the judgement of individual inspectors and it should also have a more mystery shopper approach.

This is a topic I can go on about for hours, but if you want a far better summary of what actually happened on the day you’ll find it over on the Tots 100 blog. You can have a good read of Elizabeth Truss ideas on her blog which you’ll find here I must admit I’ve not managed to read it all through yet, but when I have, I shall blog some more!

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