Tag Archives: Big Society

A Promise of 30 Hours Free Childcare heralds the Big Childcare Conversation

The Government made childcare a central component of its election manifesto. Mr Cameron insists that his Government will extend the childcare ‘free offer’ to 30 hours a week, 38 weeks of the year, to any parent working eight hours plus; the same threshold as the tax free childcare scheme.  It’s interesting that the policy talks of childcare not early education, is this a shift or has the Government finally understood that childcare and education are totally integrated?

This promise has deep implication for the sector including making childcare a key part of the British infrastructure.  It’s a shift that may have happened as a last minute election promise to outbid Labour’s offer of 25 free hours. Either way we are now facing the challenge of how we make this policy work and we need our own conversation to help us to do this.

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Frustratingly, this promise fails to reflect the repeated warnings from the sector about the perennial problems such as:

  • Funding the costs of a place correctly. ( If you have been asleep for the past ten years then read the Ceeda Report and the Affordable Childcare report)Sleeping-Beauty-Wallpaper-sleeping-beauty-6259616-1024-768[1]
  • Reconciling two different policy targets with one approach therefore creating a high quality service for all children but guaranteeing that those children from disadvantaged backgrounds are benefitting in a way that narrows their attainment gap. More information from  OECD Starting Strong Reports
  • Insufficiency of places in the right areas and with the flexibility that makes work viable Family and Childcare Trust report
  • Unfair rules about registering and inspecting nurseries in schools which means that schools can open nurseries more easily now and have less inspection and external quality control.
  • The challenge of how to address the situation that 1 in 4 children in Primary Schools are obese.  The Early Years must be supported to take a strategic approach to helping the children eat well and exercise well so we prevent even more health disasters.
  • Training and recruiting enough Level 3 staff for such an expansion including sorting out the qualifications fiasco. Do you know that all the young graduates completing their degrees may not be counted in the nursery ratio because they haven’t got A to C GCSEs but have been selected using an equivalency test not approved by the DfE?
  • Replacing and funding Local Authorities CPD and quality support services. If quality depends on well trained staff then what is the solution to this?
  • Maintaining the year on year improvement in quality with 83% of providers rated good or outstanding. So why bully a sector that shows such promise and capability for improvement?
  • Meeting the two year old programme targets if all the attention is focusing on extending the 30 hours. Half all local authorities have insufficient places for two year olds and the growth of school nurseries is hampered by increase in school rolls. So if disadvantaged children benefit more than other children why have a system that limits access for the very children that need us most?
  • Getting the Childcare Bill through the House of Lords within the timeline for pilots operating from September 2016
  • Agreeing what the Regulations will look like given the devil is in the detail for example defining ‘working parents.’  Will it include people in training? Zero hours contracts? Parents with disabled children? Grandparents?
  • Establishing whether the existing policy of 15 hours has achieved its intended outcomes.

However, we have been thrown a concession in the form of the Childcare Commission LINK to appease our worries about fair funding.  I hope that they will listen to us with the same candidness and perspicacity of Lord Sutherland and his Select Committee.

The 30 hour policy is the Government’s attempt to reward hard-working families by reducing their childcare bill.  Done well it will be popular and helpful and may achieve its intention to boost employment rates among women with children under 5 years. Long term employment rate for this group has risen over the last two decades from 49% in 1996 to 61% in 2014.  In doing that the Government has confirmed absolutely that childcare is a significant part of a modern British infrastructure.

Surprisingly, we may have an unexpected ally in Mr Osborne.  In the Budget he promises the Living Wage, a calculation based on what it costs to live developed ten years ago by Citizens UK. This must surely be a very good benchmark for the Childcare Commission as they work to define a funding strategy that pays the full cost of childcare.

7164409713_9254a12dc7_zIn the meantime, we are strong only when we have one voice – we proved that with the #OBC.
So respond to the Childcare Commission and come to the *Big Childcare Conversation conference on the 19th September at Middlesex University where we will be debating the issues and ensure we remain motivated, upbeat and able to “Occupy Childcare”!

Please follow the LINK for further details and book your places ASAP! https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/big-childcare-conversation-tickets-17807118571

 

 

Nets, Networks and Networking to Create Collective Impact

This week I visited the West Country to speak to a group of people working or interested in working in social enterprise. I really wanted to have a day at the seaside and take a train along the Dawlish track which was the subject of such dramatic TV footage last year. Continue reading

The London Men in Childcare Network Celebrates its Second Birthday and Launches its Video

Men in Childcare is women’s business’ said a colleague at the first official meeting of the London Men in Childcare Network for 2014 which was held last week.  It set the tone as we reviewed the first year of the Network and considered our shared tasks for 2014.

In 2013 we organised the first National Men in Childcare conference in London, won the Nursery World Inclusion Award and presented to the Government All Party Parliamentary Group.  We supported colleagues in other parts of England who want to form networks and we made a film to enlighten others about the benefits of having a gender balanced workforce. Not bad going given we have no budget and rely on old–fashioned barter and modern social media. Quite a combination. Read out Men in Childcare report – https://www.leyf.org.uk/articles/leyf-issue-men-in-childcare-report/

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However, the best reason to celebrate was a comment made by a female manager who came along with her new male member of staff. She very movingly said  ‘I would not have appointed a male member of staff but for getting involved with the Network.  I changed my attitude, my approach to recruitment and the whole way I operate and I am so glad I did.’

That is the outcome we want and it’s needed because two days later I had an email from a Director of a large chain of nurseries asking for support to explain to a Board member why they should support an approach to have more men in childcare.

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Men in childcare is good for children, good for staff teams and good for society. Read the LEYF report or my many blogs on the subject , the most recent for the Huffington Post
So, given we agreed that men in childcare is a women’s issue we are launching our video on the week of International Women’s Day because women need to ensure that the workplace is a welcoming place for men to join because it’s  good for children.

In the words of Abraham Lincoln:

                               ‘These men ask for just the same thing: fairness, and fairness only.

Watch, enjoy and share…

Early Childhood Care and Education must become a Global Issue

This week had an international flavour not because I was travelling to faraway places (my next trip is Walsall) but because I spent quite a bit of time considering how we share and learn about early childhood care and education in the developing world. On Tuesday I was with Save the Children and colleagues from UNESCO, UNICEF and the Department for International Development considering how we create global partnerships that support early childhood development. Later that week I spent a morning with colleagues from UNICEF explaining our social enterprise model which is now gaining traction with the UN and Europe 

because-i-am-a-girlThat evening I went to a most inspiring film from GirlsRising which was all about the importance of girls education . ‘One Girl with Courage is a Revolution’ was the title and certainly looking at the statistics beginning with one in five adolescent girls around the world denied an education by the daily realities of poverty, conflict and discrimination then we all need to ensure that we each help one girl to become educated, particularly because an educated girl is…

  • …less likely to marry and to have children whilst she is still a child.
  • …more likely to be literate, healthy and survive into adulthood, as are her children.
  • …more likely to reinvest her income back into her family, community and country

See more at the Plan UK website.

You will know from previous blogs that I have been looking to the developing world as a thoughtful innovator of  early childhood care and education.  Some colleagues and I are busy setting up the Institute for Early Years which will be an International and free access global platform. Across the world countries are recognising the broader social, economic and education goals (OECD) that comes from ECCE. However, the sector remains underdeveloped with gaps in provision, inadequate quality in services and limited or no regulation.

It is the gap in provision and the need to develop quality childcare community services that has attracted interest in the LEYF social business model. I am particularly keen to nurture this because I believe our model would replicate well across the world. But this is not enough.  Despite our advances we have, like our overseas colleagues, yet to convince the public and politicians about the value of ECCE. We therefore need a much louder conversation and sometimes you can only see what is staring you in the face if someone else says it. 9741549456_912689b555_z

So when looking at UNICEF reports such as study conducted by the Education International ECE Task Force in June 2010, the Children’s manifesto and the UN, there is a consistency. Everyone wants to consider:

  • Equality and gender equity particularly girls education
  • Sustainable services
  • Peaceful and safe communities ensuring we protect children from violence
  • Give children a voice
  • Global  partnerships

The UN is currently agreeing targets for 2015. Our Deputy Prime Minister has a vote on the relevant committee. He needs to hear our views as do local politicians.  Tessa Jowell MP is trying to get enough signatures and she needs 6000 more to get the UN secretary General Ban Ki Moon to put early development at the heart of the new post-2015 development framework .  Sign up and help amass a worldwide energy to understand how we best support and enhance children’s futures.

Sign up and spread the word : Put early childhood development at the heart of the new post-2015 development framework with targets that promise all children care, support and services which work together for the best start in life

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Will the Chancellor become the Fairy Godmother to Cinderella Childcare on Thursday?

 

What is important about Thursday? Well, it’s the Chancellor’s autumn statement. I wonder whether he will still need to rely on the bursts of fast food energy which got him through the Budget. Or has he eaten enough brain food to come up with a few big ideas? If he needs a big idea then he could sort out the incoherent and confused mess we call childcare. That Cinderella Childcare, which despite its rags needs to provide affordable best quality childcare for those families where both parents work, those single parents who need to earn enough to secure their independence away from benefits and those children which the Coalition has deemed will increase their social mobility by attending the best quality nurseries.  Yes, Mr Osborne you would do well to sprinkle some fairy dust on poor Cinderella Childcare and make her feel important and valued. You could start by recognising the importance of children to society and ask the question ‘what do we want for our children?’   Continue reading

Stonehenge, Farms and Icebergs: Developing Successful Growth Strategies

I am rarely found up at 6am on a Saturday unless I am on my way back from some lively event but this Saturday I headed off to Paddington Farm for a strategy awayday. It was a glorious clear morning with a romantic frost over the Salisbury plains. Passing Stonehenge made me wonder whether our prehistoric strategists realised 3500 years ago that they were building the most important prehistoric monument in the whole of Britain.moonrise stars Stonehenge Wiltshire England UK

The point of a strategy is to plan the action needed to ensure we meet our mission statement in a way that secures us economically.  It is a day to remind us all about the core business ( in this case educational farm holidays for people who are in need ) and what we can do to sustain and develop it.  It is quite broad in that we try to avoid drilling into how we will achieve the strategy.  We have to stick to asking ourselves over and over is this the right direction of travel.  Will this help us achieve our aim? Are we fit for purpose?

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Will Technology Based Networks Lead to a New Age of Enlightenment and an Early Years Wiki?

Last week was a week of networks and networking.  On Wednesday I was at an event organised by the Social Business Trust (SBT.)  It was called ‘Social Enterprise Potential in UK Education’ and a central theme was how we connect and form communities of like-minded people where we can converse and debate and learn from each other. I ended up having a very lively conversation with the Development Head of Ark Academies and Brett Wigdortz of Teach First or as I said to him Teach Early Years First! I think we will continue the discourse as we had much to say.

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Come and Celebrate ‘Creative Connections’ at our Event this Thursday

Some weeks are pretty gloomy but this one had some really lovely highlights.

The first was midweek when I gave a keynote speech to Essex County Council Early Years colleagues about the creative practitioner.  It gave me great scope to tell stories, get them to draw the person sitting next to them and read them my favourite book of the week, the feminist tale of Princess Sue who is ‘The Worst Princess.’ (we need to reclaim some of our feminist thinking in some of the modern arguments about women, motherhood and dress codes).

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Welcome to the Institute of Early Years: A Global Portal Connecting EY Colleagues – Help us shape it to meet your interests

For the past year, a small group of us have been mulling over how to create an international open-source space which connects people involved in all aspects of Early Years in a way so that they could chat, share ideas, make friends, organise visits and link to other organisations and resources.

We wanted it to be open source, low cost and accessible to all. We want anyone working with children across the childcare, social care, health, education, police and preventative sectors to connect. Continue reading

Fly Me To the Moon….’Dunoon!’

It was a good omen when we were told our plane to Glasgow was a long haul plane and we would be upgraded to business class.  As this was my first trip out of zoo class I was chuffed but baffled by the whole seat arrangements and the range of buttons on the arm.  In fact I thought I was upgraded to pilot.

Things got back to normal when I arrived in Glasgow to rain. In the ten years I have been training across Scotland I have rarely arrived to sun. I was collected by Alice from Experiential Play, a great advocate for child focused nursery care and education and Paul Brannigan who has now collected his second BAFTA having already received a BAFTA Scotland for The Angels’ Share. Paul’s rise to stardom is meteoric not least given his uncertain start. His newest film Sunshine at Leith probably worth a view if it is as good as his previous work.

From Glasgow we head to Dunoon on the Firth of Clyde and this means getting a ferry across. The plan was to join John Carnochan a recently retired Detective Chief  Superintendent of Strathclyde Police who set up the Violence Reduction Unit for Scotland in 2005.  He believes that violence is preventable not inevitable and starting with the Early Years is the best solution. He also says “murder ” better than Taggart who is based in MaryHill where John was also a police inspector.  He says that unlike Taggart they could never solve a murder in 90 minutes!

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We had been invited by Kathleen Johnson of Argyll and Bute Council to present at their annual conference in Dunoon.  My role was to give a speech about why the Scottish Collaborative is so important.  I was expected to give a critique from the South, a sort of ‘view from the bridge.’  The Scottish Collaborative  is designed to create the sort of collaborative working across the sectors that will help everyone achieve the national vision  “To make Scotland the best place to in the world to grow up by improving outcomes and reducing inequalities for all babies, children, mothers, fathers and families across Scotland to ensure that all children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed.”

It’s ambitious but clear and its something I have blogged about before as I cannot understand why we have not come up with a similar vision down here in the South.

Early Years Collaborative (Scotland)

Early Years Collaborative (Scotland)

The Collaborative has ten underpinning principles:

  • A coherent approach
  • Helping children, families and communities to secure outcomes for themselves
  • Breaking cycles of poverty, inequality and poor outcomes in and through early years
  • A focus on engagement and empowerment of children families and communities
  • Using strength of universal services to deliver prevention and early intervention
  • Putting quality at the heart of the service
  • Services that meet the needs of children and families
  • Improving outcomes and children’s quality of life through plays
  • Simplifying and streamlining delivery
  • More effective collaboration

Our messages were very similar, the collaborative needs to work so that the child and the family access the right services at the right time with the right intervention.  It’s all about humanity.  I believe that too many systems and processes limit humanity and we forget about “the wain” as they say in Scotland. Look at the reprehensible situation of little Daniel Pelka.  Systems were coming out your ears, everyone knew what to do they just did not do it.  The Headteacher said she did nothing wrong.  In my book, she did nothing right because a child died on her watch.

The Scottish view is that a good collaborative could mitigate those situations because it would have helped create relationships and people would know each other and be able to talk and share so as to prevent the attitude of buck passing and avoidance. Paul brings this to life when he talks about his own life, living with abusive drug addled parents in a gang ridden hopeless place where no one reached out and tried to help or understand what it was like for him. John is passionate that no legislation should prevent you from helping someone. We all agreed that we need to stop complicating things and keep it much more simple. We need to get off our high professional horses, talk to each other without using jargon and understand why we are there. I hope the audience left feeling able to take the first small step because as John said,

‘If not you then who and if not now then when?’

It’s a great message for us all. Take the first step.