View Full Version : reply from Richard House

The Juggler
11-06-2012, 07:40 AM
I replied to Richard's e-mail last night (much along the lines of Penny, Sarah and uf) and got this response this morning. Thought I would share. I'm not convinced he understands the subtelties for us of agreeing with him in not wanting overburdening EYFS paperwork and not agreeing with EYFS targets and that we can still see ourselves as professionals. If what he means is the negatives of professionalism rather than being professional then why just apply it to childminders and not nurseries - I'm sure as many early years teachers and nursery workers have left the profession for the same reasons as childminders :panic: I wonder if so many strong responses will make him rethink as I don't think we've convinced him about how negative his letter is :panic:

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Thanks for replying, xx. I think there does exist a difficult tension for at least some, and possibly many childminders between how they envisage the nature of the work they do, and the demands of the EYFS. And as you'll know, many thousands of childminders have left the field since the advent of the EYFS in 2008 - and some of them have written to us in despair about feeling they have no choice but to give up the work they love in the face of the statutory demands of the EYFS. This is the 'shadow' side of what I term 'over-professionalisation', and I've heard enough people speak about it now to believe that there's a significant problem that can't be ignored.

Also, I'm not in any way diminishing the quality or the importance of the work childminders do; I've never done that, and I've always only ever written positively and admiringly about the important work that childminers do. As I see it, the problem (and possibly the misunderstanding) is to do with language and 'discourse' - i.e. from my viewpoint, not to use the term 'profession' to describe childminding is not only not a diminishment of your work, but is actually an enhancement, as I don't believe that the conventional discourse of professionalisation is appropriate or helpful for the subtle loco in parentis nature of childminding. But I see that from your standpoint, part of your identity is perhaps to be seen as a 'profession'. If I could be convinced that the discourse of professionalisation and all that goes with it (which of course currently includes compliance with the statutory EYFS) were not having any negative effects on the subtle quality that childminding at its best provides, then I wouldn't be saying any of this. But having seen the effects of 'professionalisation' in my main professional field (counselling and psychotherapy) and the compromising effect it has had on the subtleties and quality of therapeutic practice, I'm afraid I'm not convinced. But please convince me if you think I'm wrong! But just to reiterate: from my perspective, to say that childminding should not be seen as a 'profession' as conventionally understood is a compliment to your work, not a diminishment!

I hope this clarifies my position, and perhaps makes our difference(s) clearer. I appreciate your writing, and I'm certainly open to having my mind changed, if I'm getting something badly wrong.

11-06-2012, 08:20 AM
Anyone else getting the feeling he's patting us on the head?

11-06-2012, 08:39 AM
Well this is my reply from him for my email:

Thanks very much for writing, which I really appreciate. It’s so important to have an open conversation about these important issues, and it helps me to have this detail about your own viewpoint. I also welcome the opportunity to share my viewpoint with you. In my experience, when such conversations can happen, the differences that exist nearly always end up being far less stark than we originally thought they were.

You wrote about childminders’ ‘professionalism’ and ‘protecting the sustainability of their businesses’. For the record, can I say that I’ve always been a strong supporter of childminders being remunerated as highly as nursery practitioners - and indeed for all early years practitioners being paid at the same rate as qualified teachers. We all know that the early years are enormously important in terms of the foundation laid for children’s future development, and in my view it’s always been a nonsense that this work isn’t recognised as being at least as important as school teaching, and therefore being remunerated accordingly. What I don’t understand, however, is why the latter aspiration (about which we perhaps agree) has to be coupled with Ofsted and the EYFS; to me that seems to be a logical non-sequitur (and especially if it can be shown that aspects of the EYFS are problematic, which I believe is the case).

Perhaps one of our differences (and please put me right if I’m wrong) might be this: that for you, if engagement with the EYFS and Ofsted has the effect of legitimating ‘by association’ the professionalism of your work, helping in the process to buttress remuneration levels, then it’s worth putting up with and making it work; whereas my position is that there are some things that are fundamentally wrong with the EYFS, which all young children and practitioners are affected by; so these things should be challenged as such - and crucially, there need be no logical or necessary linkage between the remuneration that childminders receive and their engagement or otherwise with the EYFS. Is this a difference between us that you recognise? (and to make things even more complicated, we might well have different viewpoints if we were in different positions and had different interests – e.g. if I were a childminder, and you weren’t).

Along with my colleagues, I’m in the business of a fundamental ‘paradigm change’ in our culture regarding the importance that society places on early child development, and the recognition of its importance. And I also want to make it clear that if any politician were to use changes in regulatory procedures as a means of ‘smuggling in’ a reduction in remuneration for childminders, I’d be joining you in the front-line to protest against any such iniquity. But I do think there’s a significant danger in taking up the kind of position that argues that if the flawed status quo were to be changed, something even worse might happen – so on that basis we’ll defend the status quo. My own approach is to challenge things when I think they are problematic or harmful – and surely that’s everyone’s ethical responsibility; but no-one can foresee with any certainty what the results of any such challenges will be – we all just have to do what seems ethically right (and what appears ‘ethically right’ will also vary, depending on where one’s standing… – impossibly complicated!).

Re: <<… Seems a rather odd way of trying to ingratiate yourself with registered childminders by insulting them… [and] … childminders would be more receptive to your campaign if it came from a place of mutual respect instead of what can be perceived to be right now. >> - I’m really at a loss to understand what you mean by saying that I have ‘insulted’ and ‘don’t respect’ childminders, Debbie; I’ve never done anything of the sort – quite the reverse, in fact. Perhaps you could elaborate – thank you.

Re: <<… All that EYFS does for us is give us a common language…>> - well I think the many thousands of childminders who have left the field since the advent of the EYFS wouldn’t agree with your assessment of the EYFS, and the impact it has had on childminding practice. (I’m reminded of the thousands of excellent teachers who left the teaching profession in the ‘80s and ‘90s after the statutory imposition of the National Curriculum.)

Re: << Please do not misguide people that deregulation means that we won't have to deliver EYFS, because feedback from my letters to Department of Education and Ofsted state the contrary.>> I think there are many complexities in this that need unpacking. First, ‘deregulation’ is a term that’s being bandied about as if it’s an ‘either/or’ situation, and is quite unambiguous in terms of what it might mean. But I think it’s far more complex than that: there are some kinds of ‘de-regulation’ which I’d very likely support (especially around the statutory EYFS), and some that I wouldn’t; so from my standpoint, it’s not a simple ‘either/or’ situation – which is why I think an open conversation about this is something that should be welcomed by the field. And I can’t be responsible for the DfE and what they’re saying and not saying: I’ve campaigned consistently for years against childminders having to ‘deliver’ the EYFS and being subject to Ofsted inspections; but that isn’t the same as advocating ‘re-regulation’! - rather, it’s to argue for a way of achieving accountability and quality which is appropriate for very young children, and which avoids the inappropriate and unnecessary practices and demands that the EYFS in places requires of childminders (and for which they’re routinely punished by Ofsted if they don’t ‘comply’).

I find very moving your description of your practice when you write, “I am passionate about my job and the children I care for… - when R (age 3) was asked if he likes going to 'Debbie's' he said "yes, she's like a mummy!". It’s like home from home for him (quoted by his mum earlier this month).” I’m delighted that you’ve found a way to offer this wonderful service within the constraints of the EYFS and Ofsted, Debbie; however, and for whatever reason, many childminders haven’t found a way of doing this – witness the many thousands of childminders who have left the field since 2008 – and some of them having written to us in despair at how they felt forced to give up the work they love because the demands of the new regime were ones that, for them, meant that the values of their work were being compromised far too much.

Thanks again for writing – I welcome this dialogue with you, and am certainly open to having my mind changed, if I’m getting something wrong.

Kind regards,


12-06-2012, 01:01 PM
Thank you Juggler and Debbie for posting you replies. Is it just me or has he reverted back to talking just about childminders again - despite his standard reply where he referred to all early years settings?

Looks like he needs a few more e letters to help him understand. DH have a post lunch nap so I am going to do my best to write another one myself - phone permitting

Penny :)

The Juggler
12-06-2012, 01:18 PM
well I feel if he wants to come across as supporting CM's and minding as an equal form of childcare then he needs to change the way he expresses his views :rolleyes: and I told him so (well not in those words :laughing:)

12-06-2012, 01:44 PM
Funnily enough that was the main point of my return emails as well - and when he replied in another one yesterday he said that the new letter was going to be extended to all early years settings and not just childminders. So I think the message has gotten through :)

12-06-2012, 04:52 PM
You may be right Debbie. I have had a brief email exchange with him today and we have agreed that any changes must be for all early years settings.

I have also said that I will now wait until I return home before communicating again ( as I am limited by my skills on my phone) and I have other things to do on holiday.

I return on Sat and so Ms Truss and Mr House can expect long emails on Sun.

Penny :)

12-06-2012, 07:05 PM
I have had a reply this afternoon and he acknowledges the detailed conversations he has had with Penny, Debbie and others. He says he is making significant changes to his draft letter to make sure it can't be misconstrued by anyone with an agenda to downgrade the importance and status *of childminding. I think this sounds positive particularly as he says he is going to make sure nothing in the redraft will undermine us. He has in the past always been very supportive of us and we certainly need a high profile figure to promote our campaign

12-06-2012, 09:29 PM
I think we might be pushing our luck that he will actually come out supporting our campaign - but it certainly seems favorable that his input won't knock the wind out of our sails and sink the ship.

The Juggler
12-06-2012, 09:54 PM
uf, I have faith that he will be fighting our corner. :thumbsup:

13-06-2012, 06:46 AM
He seems to have gone quiet.. is anyone still in conversation with him?

I'd hate to think he was ignoring us :D

13-06-2012, 07:55 AM
Penny I think was in email conversation with him yesterday I think - i've not checked my emails since Monday as have been busy so I definitely haven't spoken to him since Monday.