View Full Version : Reply 'from' Liz Truss

04-03-2013, 10:58 PM
I have had a reply to the letter I sent to ET at last. It's not actually from her obviously! The letter and my response below. Not very eloquent but its late and I've got a cold. I'm sharing freely so this will pop up elsewhere on the net too.

Dear Ms Truss
Thank you for your response, via Barbara Redican, to my letter. I have responded to the points Ms Redican makes on your behalf with my continued concerns in blue type below. I hope you are able to clarify and respond to these points.
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Thank you for your email of 7 February, addressed to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare, about the proposed childcare reforms. As I am sure you will appreciate, the minister receives a large amount of correspondence and is unable to reply to each one personally. It is for this reason I have been asked to reply.
I should start by explaining that we want to enable the provision of more high quality childcare and childminders are an essential component of this. This is welcome news but I believe you need to reassess your strategy for achieving this aim.
There are superb childminders right across the country, but we know the current system is not working for many of them. I wonder how you know this. My overwhelming impression, gleaned from the views of my local colleagues, and other childminders I know from online sources across the country is that the current system in general works very well. In fact the area that most of us find frustrating is actually tax credits and the way these are abused by clients who make fraudulent claims when no longer using the childcare hours or provider stated on their application. It is needlessly complicated and burdensome, which has led to the number of childminders falling dramatically in the last twenty years. We want to tackle this worrying trend and encourage more talented people to enter the profession. My understanding is that the fall in childminder numbers has now ceased so it appears there is no worrying trend to tackle, although if agencies ever became mandatory you would see a definite decline as we all jump ship! I wonder what evidence you have that the fall in numbers is entirely due to burdensome, complex systems? Whilst I am aware that many childminders did leave with the advent of Ofsted and later the EYFS (due more to fear of the unknown and an unwillingness to change rather than the paperwork I believe) many more have left to retire, to have their own children, to begin new roles in the childcare sector (teaching, management, assessing, inspecting etc.) following up-skilling and access to professional qualifications, not because of burden or complexity. The childminders who chose to remain have embraced the changes and the greater professionalism and access to new opportunities they have brought. Yes, it has taken awhile to get used to the paperwork and new regime, but we are not the only practitioners in the sector to have had to tackle this, and we can see the added value the EYFS brings to our practice and in improving outcomes for young children. We have also welcomed the additional support developed and provided by our LEAs, which has helped to improve and enhance our practice still further. We are not against the current changes proposed because they are changes but because we do not comprehend how they will be beneficial and because we have been given insufficient information about how they will operate in practice.
That is why we are introducing childminder agencies, which will offer a far simpler route into the job I really do not understand why you say this. Registering as a childminder currently is already pretty simple. You contact your LEA who arrange for you to join a briefing/training session about what the job entails and point you in the direction of the statutory training required (1st Aid, CYPOP5), and usually fund all or part of this, then support you to complete the Ofsted forms etc. once you have attended the required training. It’s quite straightforward. The worst bit is usually waiting for the CRB to clear! and help make sure that all childminders are treated on a par with nurseries in receiving Government funding Since Government have already relaxed the requirement for a childminder to belong to a Network in order to receive this funding (my Network has been dissolved and all CMs with a Good or Outstanding and a Level 3 can become accredited now) childminders are already on a par with nurseries so agencies are not required for this aspect either. We are introducing legislation to allow childminders to join an agency if they wish, but no-one will be compelled to change their practice. Childminders can continue to operate independently – agencies are not compulsory. Agencies will check prospective childminders' premises, provide training and approve those who are good enough. I am pleased that agency childminders would not be required to change their practice although I am not entirely sure what you interpret as ‘their practice’ encompassing or what criteria would be used to judge whether or no they are ‘good enough’. I am also pleased that agencies are not compulsory; at least for existing childminders, but you haven’t answered the question about new childminders. Will they have to register via an agency and once registered will they then be able to become independent if they wish? I wonder also, who will be supporting the continuous professional development of independent childminders if funding is withdrawn from LEAs.
Agencies and independent childminders will be directly regulated by Ofsted. Once Ofsted approved, they will be able to offer funded provision for three and four-year-olds without the need to jump through additional hoops at local authority level I am concerned by this repeated reference to LEA hoops to jump through. I understand that LEA support is inconsistent across the country but the bulk of childminders I have contact with feel their LEAs do a good job of supporting them and ensuring consistent, high quality practice. Rather than go to the effort and cost of dismantling the current systems it must surely be more logical and cost effective to look at ways to standardise what LEAs offer as they already have the expertise in place. Where a childminder or an agency is judged by Ofsted to be “good” or “outstanding”, they will also be able to offer places for two-year-olds without the need for additional local authority approval. Now this really worries me. All childminders need to be Ofsted inspected, if they are to retain the professional standing alongside other childcare practitioners they have worked so hard to attain. Without this approach there will be no consistency or ability to make a comparable judgement of the quality of care provided by an agency childminder compared to an independent childminder, which will make it impossible for a parent to make an informed choice between them. The agency childminder will have no grade. The grade belongs to the agency and will refer to it’s delivery of its services and its leadership and management not to the quality of care delivered by its individual childminder members. Incidentally, does this mean that nurseries and pre-schools without a Good or Outstanding will no longer be entitled to offer funded places? One rule for all?
This will reduce the burden on paperwork for many childminders, which are often additional requirements from local authorities that are not part of the Ofsted inspection process. This demonstrates a lack of understanding about how LEA quality systems work and why they are important. Ofsted visit once in a 4 year cycle. A lot can change in that time and LEAs currently use their quality assurance schemes and peer support systems to ensure that the quality of a provider’s practice is maintained and developed in the meantime. An agency will simply be duplicating this existing function so I fail to understand why the LEA role cannot be strengthened instead. As I said earlier, it must surely be more cost effective to make better use of existing resources rather than setting up an entirely new system. Criteria could easily be developed to ensure LEAs were not creating unnecessary demands on practitioners, and this doesn’t just apply to childminders. These changes will mean that more money gets to the front line which it would now if it were ringfenced! and that professionals are able to focus on their actual job – looking after children which we do already. There is very little paperwork an agency could do on my behalf that directly affects my work with the children. It cannot write up observations or update learning journals, complete a 2-year check or accident form (none of which I find onerous or burdensome incidentally). It will also be a major step forward in allowing childminders to be treated on a par with nurseries How? In my eyes these proposals serve to reduce the status of childminders, implying we are not good enough to operate without an agency or to deserve an individual inspection.
We are also planning to allow professional childminders more flexibility. Within the existing overall limit of six, we are proposing that childminders can look after one additional child under the age of five. They will be able to use their own professional judgement about what works best for them and the children in their care. This will help in practical terms during changeover periods and if they need to briefly leave their premises. Again this displays a lack of understanding and knowledge regarding existing systems and legislation. I can already use my professional judgement to increase the number of children I care for, as laid down in the revised EYFS 2012 and clarified by Ofsted in January 2013. In fact, sections 3.29 and 3.40 of the EYFS enable me to grant myself an exception to care for up to 6 children in the early years age group which is more generous than those proposed. The difference is that the current system has safeguards in place to ensure I DO use my professional judgement when considering whether or not to utilise the option. I currently have to conduct a risk assessment (not necessarily in writing) including health & safety issues, space issues, resources, logistics, the ages of the children, the opinions of the parents involved and above all my own opinion of my own capabilities based on experience of being able to fully meet the individual needs of each child. Such a change in numbers would be in exceptional circumstances rather than the norm, but gives me the freedom and flexibility to allow for overlaps in drop offs/collections; changes in parent’s hours or circumstances; new siblings etc. The new proposals make their less flexible ratios the norm with no safeguards in place and they don’t equate childminders with other childcarers as the increases for childminders are not linked to qualifications or grade.
Working in the early years is challenging but rewarding. These changes will help ensure that the contribution childminders make to young children’s development is recognised and valued.

Once again, thank you for writing in and sharing your views.Thank you for responding but please I ask you from the heart to do us the courtesy of starting to actually respond to our concerns rather than regurgitating paragraphs from ‘More Great Childcare’ and quoting from related speeches and interviews. We need facts not politics and spin!

blue bear
05-03-2013, 01:13 AM
Wonder if you will actually get answers to your questions? True politician repeat yourself or change the subject. Your response is great very to the point and professional sounding.

05-03-2013, 10:47 AM
Fab response. Interesting to see what the reply is!

05-03-2013, 11:23 AM
That's a great response from you! :jump for joy:

Can I suggest you send it to the committee who are scrutinising Truss' plans? They are meeting for the 1st time today, but you can still submit evidence after today:

Details are here in madaboutmusic's thread:


05-03-2013, 12:30 PM
I had that reply from her too, think your response is brilliant hope they reply to you :clapping:

julie w
05-03-2013, 01:46 PM
Other people always write what I think. I really wish I was as good with words. Brilliant reply xx

hectors house
05-03-2013, 02:34 PM
Well done - I had the same reply yesterday - hope you don't just get the same standard reply again to your questions - as my questions haven't been answered from my first letter.

Love all your arguments why the agency plans are not going to solve any problems - as they are tackling problems where they don't exist!

05-03-2013, 06:10 PM
Brilliant reply to the normal twaddle... thank you for sharing! :cheerleader:

I hope you get a more focussed response back.

I have had a more encouraging letter today - I am just trying to work out my scanner and will share it in a minute xx