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June O'Sullivan, LEYF CEO

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Dear Colleagues, it’s time we finally took control.

Our Minister has done us a favour, although she may not have realised it. She has thrown down the gauntlet by challenging the sector, so now we need to take control of our own destiny. Her ill-informed and contradictory facts beg us to tell our story, so every individual – especially parents – is left with a clear understanding of what we as a sector want for the children in our care.

UPDATE: for more recent developments on this topic, please join our new group ‘Reclaim Early Years‘ on LinkedIn.

So here are the challenges and contradictions I strongly believe we need to address:

1: The Government wants more people in work (women in particular), only the Minister now says we are not fit for purpose – so how is this going to happen without the quality childcare these would-be-working mums require?

2: The Secretary of State for Education has addressed poor schools through a programme of Academies which are based on the premise of high quality, yet allow Academy Heads to employ unqualified teachers. Our Minister says we do not provide quality because we employ unqualified staff…

3: There is much confusion about how much is spent on Childcare. Figures range from £7 billion to £4.5 billion. The truth is no one knows, not even our mathematically minded Minister. However, £8 billion was misused in the Academies budget, which could be the very investment we need to ensure Early Years becomes a realistic option. Why is it apparently OK to waste this?

4: The Deputy Prime Minister is keen to use Early Education in good quality nurseries as a key policy driver for social mobility. He wants this to be rolled out through a programme for two-year-olds from disadvantaged areas. The Minister says that only nurseries judged good or outstanding by Ofsted can accept these children. In the meantime, Ofsted is now downgrading nurseries in poor areas – not because of poor education and care but for lack of processes which may not impact on the children. Where then will these children go?

5: Over the last ten years the sector has grown in size and confidence. The introduction of the EYFS went some way to helping agree a framework for improvement. In many cases this was achieved with the support of local authority advisory teams as critical friends. The Minister is keen to dismantle all the support services and just use Ofsted as the improvement agency. Sir Michael Wilshaw says Ofsted with not be an improvement agency, but an agency of improvement.

6: Starting First, EPPE and the OECD all agree that qualifications are only part of the determinants of quality: ratios also matter. Our Minister is keen to reduce ratios on some spurious mathematical formula indicating they raise the cost of childcare to parents.

7: Our Minister wants to change the process of registering childminders. She favours and is pursuing the Dutch model of Childminding Agencies. The Dutch have abandoned this model as too expensive and cumbersome. There is no appetite here either.

So, as a sector we need to explain this to the public. It’s time we cut off a little oxygen to our Minister and held the stage ourselves. We must be calm, grown-up and informed.

I suggest we make June 1st, Children’s Day, our day to  Take Over the Early Years Debate. We need to start working together across the UK to make our voices heard; to explain what we do, what quality means and why Early Years is not a political football but a serious matter – one led by serious people with a serious message.

What do you think? If you’re in, let me know in the comments below.

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  • Vicki Lant

    In his interview on the Andrew Marr show (12 May 2013), Michael Gove cited the personal views of former Barnardo’s Chief Executive Sir Martin Narey, mistakenly describing him as the charity’s current head.

    Barnardo’s made its current, official organisational position clear in our response to the government’s Childcare Staffing Deployment consultation.

    Quality is the paramount issue in early years child care, and so caution needs to be applied if allowing a relaxation in the ratios for the under 5s. Evidence shows that children having greatest need benefit from settings where they can have quality interactions with well-qualified staff. We would encourage the government to stretch the pupil premium to assist with the cost of childcare for the under 5s, ensuring that the UK’s least advantaged children can access the first-class pre-school education and care they deserve.

    • June O’Sullivan

      Barnardos reject @liztruss changes to #earlyyears ratios.

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  • Adekunbi Champion

    It is about time to let the government know talk is cheap and as professional we are bending back over to give the best to the children in our care. If Liz Truss is not say well done, as a fellow, I say a big WELL DONE and give yourself a pat on the back for a work well done!

  • Margaret O’Donnell

    I’m here and will do what I can to help. I wrote to my MP who claims he is on our side and wrote to the Labour party and received no reply. I would like some sort of information leaflet that I can perhaps print off from the internet and hand out at toddler groups. I go to one every day. I can also hand them to childminders I know as a lot have no information at all as they are not getting it from their networks and are not on fb.

    • Simona Mckenzie

      A leaflet is a brilliant idea!!
      childminders can distribute these at Stay&Play, Children’s Centres and at schools at pick up times handing them to parents as well

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  • http://pennysplacechildminding.wordpress.com psw260259

    Hello All,

    I have now added a page to the One Voice site for the Reclaim Early Years campaign – at the moment this is not the official information source but just my way of helping spread the information.

    I will add as much information as possible about the campaign as it develops, as it will add to the impact of the wealth of information already on there about related to More Great Childcare

    http://togetherforquality.com/reclaim-early-years/

    • Jennifer McQuillan

      Thanks Penny! One Voice is a really helpful platform which brings together all that is going on in early years currently. It’s a minefield of information and the site is excellent in bringing together a variety of viewpoints and information about MGC, and now Reclaim Early Years campaign too,with June.

      • Simona Mckenzie

        In addition to One Voice childminders are also joining the campaign in the Childminding Forum and Independent Childminders Focus Group…under the banner: United we stand!
        It is vital all cms are made aware and informed about this campaign wherever they are and by whatever means they access the information…would be good to spread to LAs too, all parents who use cms and at schools where we pick up!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kirsten.harrison.56 Kirsten Harrison

    Cold anyone tell me whether Liz Truss has children of her own?
    When she commented on having ” friends with four children under five who cope perfectly well” does she realise that looking after your own children is a totally different kettle of fish to looking after minded children, whilst following he EYFS and Ofsted registration criteria?
    The government ought to make Liz Truss childmind four under five for a week and see how she and her home fare, and whether she is happy with her income at end of the week, after all the concern of how much parents earn, should also apply to US childminders, some of whom are working parents it’s as though we have no right to earn a decent wage…..
    Think the government ought to listen to,the people in our industry in our country not in other European countries.
    Arghhhhhhhhh
    I will do anything I can to help.

  • http://Facebook Kerrie Brand

    I work on the Isle of Man where ratios for two year olds is 1:8!!!! I have seen first hand the detrimental effect higher ratios can have on the quality of care practitioners are able to provide their children. I have a degree in Early Years education and 16 years experience but I only have two eyes, two ears and two hands. Working within these higher ratios is an impossible task. I know too well what it’s like to work within a 1:6 ratio. It was highly stressful both physically & emotionally and children lost the quality early experience they deserved. Elizabeth Truss must listen to those professions who know children, who love children and who won’t sleep knowing they are unable to provide their very, very best for all our little learners.

  • Rachel Booth

    I’m in

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