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Simple Solutions?

“Children are the most powerful source for a better world” Martha Llanos

It’s great that the government commissioned Cathy Nutbrown (click to view review)   Foundations for Quality   to review early years qualifications and that they have now set up a Childcare Commission to look at costs involved. However I feel that the government need to consult with a wide range of early years/childcare/education providers, specialists and parents.

The cost of childcare has always been a catch 22 situation, as quality childcare is expensive and parents want to pay less. As a single parent, who used childcare previously, I found that childcare costs made a huge dent in my monthly outgoings but felt that this was a sacrifice worth paying for.

I work with providers across the UK and know that financial investment in early years makes a considerable impact on children’s outcomes. The cliché ‘quality childcare costs’ is not to be underestimated.  Qualifications are important and most providers already exceed the current recommendations for qualifications. But, what is more important is how the individual practitioner emotionally connects with the young children that they work with.

In addition, the current staff to child ratio has a huge benefit on children’s learning and development as do most of the quality controls imposed by regulation. These must not be reduced if we wish our children to be kept safe and provided with inspiring opportunities that lay the foundations for their future learning.

The cuts from central government have had a huge impact on local authority budgets, resulting in a lack of training and support for providers. I believe that investment post-qualification needs to be directed at ongoing continuous professional and personal development.

The idea, as stated in the media today, of schools staying open until 8:00pm worries me; headteachers and governors have other priorities!  There are providers currently who have vacancies and willing to offer flexible care for children up to and beyond 8:00pm. We should press the pause button and stop trying to reinvent the wheel, when we could work with existing providers to achieve this.

I recently spoke to my ex-childminder who cared for my sons and she has vacancies and is willing to offer flexible childcare for parents. She states that she and other childminders are struggling to fill vacancies. Note, deregulation of childminding will not solve this! A solution could be that providers (nurseries, Pre-schools, Crèches, childminders and out-of-school clubs) who are willing to offer greater flexibility in opening hours are given extra financial support to do so.

We also need to carefully look at free entitlement and why providers are, inadvertently, supplementing this government scheme.

As a sector, we need to be creative in our solutions, for instance planning departments within local authorities can decide the opening hours for nurseries and may impose conditions that they can’t open beyond 6:00pm – even though we know there is a need for more flexible childcare e.g. parents who work in retail and in hospitals don’t down tools at 6:00pm! More joined up thinking is needed; let us open up discussions with planning departments and more importantly the local community, as to why day care providers need to open past 6:00pm.

The Government will need to invest financially to make this happen and carefully continue to listen and work with the sector.

Cross reference previous blogs:

http://laurachildcare.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/putting-the-quality-back-into-qualifications/

http://laurachildcare.wordpress.com/2011/10/07/practitioner-and-child-positive-or-personal-relationships/

 

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21 Comments

  • Amanda Pipe

    Completely agree. As a flexable childcare provider, I’ve been connecting with others & if we had a little support & were funded correctly we can fill the childcare provision gap. But and it’s a big BUT do not de-regulate! I’m a mum & childcare provider, children deserve the best start in life we can give them, let’s not cut corners.

  • Helen Jones

    As a manager of a pre-school with all staff qualified to Level 3 and myself in the last year of a degree and studying for EYP, surely the key to maintaining quality in childcare settings is for the government to provide funding for staff to recognise the dedication that many practitioners continue to give. How sad it is that many EYP’s leave their settings to gain employment where the remuneration is considerably more! We believe that the children in our local community deserve the best possible start in pre-school terms and are determined to provide it.

  • Penny Webb

    I like your sentence about needing to press the pause button – and to consult with all concerned. Has anyone actually done any research into the childcare hours that parents require – do lots of parents need these extended hours? I ask because as a registered childminder I offer a childminding service between the hours of 5;30 am and 7pm – with options for babysitting in the childs own home if parents works a late shift. In 2 years only one parent has used this service. I also offer weekend childminding – againonly one parent uses these hours.

    Has anyone asked the children for their views about staying at school for so long, about not seeing younger siblings (and where do the government think these younger siblings will be cared for?), about not being able to play outside or go to things like Brownies, Cubs, swiiming, ballet and so on.

    Has anyone asked the school caretaker about ensuring safety of the buildings and locking up this late, and what about the cleaners – will they be doing the cleaning at 4am just before breakfast club starts?
    In my opinion children need the right environment to relax and unwind in, they need to enjoy family meal times – either with their own family or their childcare family – not sit down with 20 or 30 others. Children need to be able to do ‘nothing some of the time, children need adult to child ratio’s that enable them to have individual attention and conversations.

    I wonder if anyone has consider the child who hates school or the child who finds school stressful, or the child whose individual needs mean they can not manage being in large groups (or do they intend to pay for one to one support up to 8pm?)

    Yes Laura – time to pause, time to consider all aspects of each scenario, time to consult, time to make better use of childcare available.
    Like some other government ideas at the moment – this idea needs to be put in the bin and the people ‘at the coal face’ so to speak should be consulted as should parents. It seems to me the government running before it can walk and as a result is constantly tripping over its own feet

  • Elizabeth Johnson

    Hi Laura,
    I totally agree with your line of thought and was actually discussing this issue of schools opening till 8 pm today at a meeting.

    You have my support. I do hope the government will rethink their proposals.

    Rgds
    Elizabeth Johnson
    CEO, Cornerstone Group of Nurseries Ltd

  • Havva

    You have voiced my thoughts exactly. Thank you.
    It seems that the working day is being extended whilst sacrificing family time, which can be detrimental to childrens and families social well being.

  • Neil

    All good points. At no point in any of the government’s proposals is the need of the child central to thinking, less still the needs of a child within a family unit (however that should be made up). We have an outdated, piecemeal, education system with inadequate funding, something the government now seems to think private companies will be able to help with… In New Zealand, settings receive more money the more qualified its staff become, which doesn’t solve the shortfall in funding, but does compensate settings for improving qualification levels and standards, which should, you would presume, improve the knowledge of staff and hopefully, the experience of the children and their families. It also means that settings have more chance of paying staff a wage equal to their level of training, which in turn can help to raise their status. Not a perfect system, but better than the one we have currently.

    If the government takes up all of the Nutbrown recommendations, it is worth bearing in mind that their ultimate aim and, therefore, impact are not due to be accomplished until 2022. That’s 10 more years, best case scenario.

    In Cameron’s big society, wouldn’t it have been better for the government to stand up to the banks and bankers that the tax system bailed out, and told them that no bonuses could be paid to its staff until the equivalent of the bail out money had been repaid, but that this money (that would have formed bonuses) should be placed into social enterprise, such as improving the levels of funding to nurseries and children’s centres. Wouldn’t that make more of a difference to the country’s future? Just thinking out loud!

  • Derek

    More joined up thinking between Planning Departments and Children’s Services would be hugely beneficial – my usual conflict is around trying to limit outside play – but another issue to improve accessibility is to tackle the ‘not-in-my-back-yard’ brigade who want childcare but not on their street.

    With regard to extended opening hours… this reminds me of the extended services push just a few years ago… and while time and time again we hear there is demand, in reality, too few parents are willing to commit to ou-of-school provision and put their hand in their pocket. In my experience it is not viable. Also surveys into sufficiency are woefully inadequate and question a very limited sample of parents. Definitely better to work with childminders who can be flexible for the odd demand.

    Finally – I remember when I was at school just how exhausting a day was and the idea of staying on till 5 or 6pm would be soul destroying, never mind being farmed out till 8pm. It’s just the wrong message to send out to parents and I really don’t think it accurately reflects the market needs.

  • Idda Olagbaiye

    Brilliant discussion Laura. But if the government is really being thoughtful and caring to families and nursery practitioners, why did it close down so many children centres? It all looks very hypocritical to me. If it is so easy to run nurseries and offer all sorts of opening hours, Sure Start centres or maintained nurseries should have been the first ones to set such examples to the private owned ones. Definitely more thinking and talking is required.

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