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All roads lead to two year olds!

It is a pleasure to have James Hempsall as my guest blogger. James has been the Director of Hempsall’s since 1999, leading a team of 25 trainers, researchers, development officers and consultants in early years, childcare and children’s centres.  He has worked with over 100 local authorities supporting them to implement all aspects of government childcare policy at strategic and operational levels.

James writes ”There’s big things happening around two year olds.  The government has signalled their importance by allocating significant new funding to the roll out of thousands of new places.  At a time when new money is scarce, it is incredible that all roads lead to two year olds and their early education.  It is an economic, social mobility, early intervention, poverty and achievement agenda.  And one which retains the potential to support families to make sound economic choices, learn and achieve, and close the gap between the least advantaged children and their peers.

The early years and childcare sector has distinguished itself as a sector that delivers.  It should not be overlooked, forgotten, nor uncelebrated by us or those around us.  We have grown, changed, raised standards, gained changing qualifications, and closed the achievement gap between the least disadvantaged children and their peers.  And we have been here before – many of us were startled by the ambition to offer universal early education to all four year olds, then three year olds, and the sea change to offer greater flexibility.  Yet, we delivered, and parents now expect such provision to be in place.  It would seem unthinkable to remove it.  The recent report by the Economic Intelligence Unit shows we compare very favourably with other countries of the world when it comes to early education, coming fourth overall out of 45 countries.  So I am more than confident we will deliver on providing places for the 40% least advantaged two year olds by September 2014.

It’s a great challenge to have, and it needs some considered thought from local authorities and providers alike.  My monthly column in Nursery World magazine ‘Take Twos’ has shown how sometimes small changes in practice, staff routines, quality processes, partnerships with parents, and business modelling can make the difference and meet the needs of two year olds, their families and the provider’s business.  It is this sort of learning that needs to be harnessed and shared to ensure future developments.  Such experiences remind us that our delivery is not exclusively about funding.

However, core to the issue of delivery is the availability of funding from the government, via local authorities, to fund places, and from the provider to secure long term vision and sustainability.  There is a need for open, inclusive and effective dialogues between local authorities and their providers to negotiate and agree appropriate resourcing and partnership working.  In these economically challenging times, it may also mean that providers choose alternative sources of investment funding – such as loans, supported by the small business loan guarantee scheme championed by the minister, Sarah Teather.  Everyone should carefully consider how this exciting new strategy offers opportunities for families and providers as we all have a responsibility to offer sufficient, quality and financially sustainable places.  There is a long-game to be played.

It is a fact there are hundreds of millions of pounds being invested by government into the sector – which can only be good news after a recession that has challenged us all.  With it comes new opportunities and some new market considerations.  Last week’s Census report showed the under-fives population is booming (400,000 more than 10 years ago), particularly in the least advantaged communities and in BME groups and recent arrivals.  It will be vitally important that early education providers are able to connect to all families and meet all their needs in terms of addressing poverty, supporting employment and enabling two year olds to become successful learners.  However, the sector should do this in ways that benefit the sector as providers and small businesses, as well as those of children and families.  We have a vital role to play in increasing educational achievement, economic chances, supporting families to move from benefits into employment, identifying children’s needs early and signposting to early intervention and support, and in our contributory role as front-line safeguarders of children.  There cannot be a more important job to do.”

For more information, please visit Hempsall consultancies website:


I couldn’t agree with James more! With the needs of two year olds in mind we, at Childcare Consultancy, are delivering the following course to support them:

Neither One nor Three – Supporting the Developmental Needs of Two Year Olds© – Saturday 20th October

Practitioners will understand how to support the holistic needs of two year olds. Practitioners attending this training will have an opportunity to develop and practise strategies in order to carry out effective observations and, more importantly, how to communicate with parents regarding their child’s development. There will also be a focus on the two year progress check.

The course includes:  comprehensive handouts, refreshments, a hot lunch and a certificate of attendance.

If you would like to book a place or for further information, please email Juliette: admin@childcareconsult.co.uk or call 0208 689 7733

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  • psw260259

    Interesting reading Laura, and certainly two year olds are going to be a focuss for lots of practitioners as the 2 year old funding starts to role out.

    I did visit the website mentioned hoping to find information or a link to another site about support being offered to practitioners involved in the role out of the two year old funding – especially as I will personally be involved as from September 12.

    I understand the difficulties that group based practitioners face re sufficient funding and in establishing or adapting environments and in maintaining high quality care when staffing costs for this age group are high.

    However as a childminding practitioner who currently cares for mainly two year olds, and whose places are paid for by parents (both with and without the help of tax credits) I do not have these issues to address. Currently the highest fee paid by the parents is £2.50 per hour based on their current 10 hour day contracts. – and even those paying my hourly rate for less hours per day – pay less than the amount being paid by my local authority for funded two year olds (and at these rates I earn more than the minimum wage when adding all fees together and in my area many jobs do pay the min wage and no more, so I am not complaining. So you can see that for me the funding rate is not an issue.

    Neither is the environment, equipment or staffing ratio’s – they will stay as they are, so I will not have any additional costs in provided care for funded two year olds.

    I know my local authority is hoping (even expecting) childminders to provide a lot of the places required as the increase in number of placed needed starts to need to be met.

    I would be really interested in finding out what plans there are to help support childminders in the role out of funded two year old places – maybe you or James could sign post me to the right place to look for this information.

    Meanwhile, although I can’t access your own training – it sounds fantastic and appropriate for all types of practitioners.

    • laurachildcare

      Thanks for your comments Penny. I will try to find out the information for you and get back to you on this.

      It is a shame that there seems to be a lack of support around the funding of CPD, especially in light of the Nutbrown Review.

      Some childminders and providers are coming together to fund their own CPD.

      • James Hempsall

        Hi there, I think Laura added our website address to my blog so you could find out more about Hempsall’s. My blog was as the director of Hempsall’s rather than the national support director of the DfE’s national support contract – Achieving Two Year Olds, which is my other role. That said, I can give you a little more information. So far, the project is in it’s early stages and we have last week posted some information on http://www.foundationyears.org.uk, it was included on their bulletin too. In short, it says that further information will follow for providers in the autumn term and asserts how we are really keen to engage with and support providers, including childminders, directly, through the national membership organisations and through their local authorities. So I would recommend you register with the foundation years website if you haven’t done so already. Hope that helps. James.

        • laurachildcare

          Thanks, James for this information.

        • psw260259

          Thank you James that is most helpful.
          Yes I am registered with Foundation Years = but have not looked recently. I think it is a problem that many practitioners have these days – keeping u to date and knowing where each particular bit of information has been posted /supplied. So thank you for the signposting and to Laura for providing the means to link these particular bits of knowledge for me.

          Note to self – find out why not receiving and / or reading Foundation Years bulletin!

  • psw260259

    You are right about CPD Laura – funding is an issue – self funding especially so if have to add travel costs to access training further afield.

    I do fund all my CPD as it is extremely important, but these days I either deliver training to others (and due to research needed include this as CPD which Ofsted do accept if documented) or try to access courses that are beyond my current personal level of knowledge / ability to deliver.

    Of course my route back into childminding and previous experiences are slightly different to the average childminder, and as a result my training needs are also different to the average childminder.

    Have heard a couple of your short workshops I recommend your training to others and you may have noted there is a link to your website on my new blog.

  • Denise Burke

    I don’t usually have differing views to James, but on this occassion he says in his article ‘so I am more than confident we will deliver on providing places for the 40% least advantaged two year olds by September 2014’. I wish I shared his confidence but I simply don’t believe local authorities have the capacity to fulfil the numbers.

  • Marion Nash

    Thank you for posting this Laura, I found it very interesting. I do pick up the message from practitioners including childminders and nannies that they wish for further sources of information and support for the younger children.
    Research shows us what we probably know already, that language and communication are essential key skills that provide each child with lifelong opportunities.but it also shows that there are ways in which we can develop these skills most effectively.
    Myself and my colleague and friend, Jackie Lowe, who is a specialist Speech and Language Therapist here in Plymouth,with support from Jean Gross CBE have drawn from our experience to produce a practical guidance to developing a child’s language from pre birth to 3. It also gives advice on what to do if things don’t go as planned!
    It is meant for parents and carers, childminders, nannies and early years practitioners.and is built on the tried and respected Spirals language development work.
    If anyone would like further information do contact me on our website http://www.spiralstraining.co.uk. A preview of our book is on Amazon.http://tinyurl.com/bslblmf
    Best Wishes

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