2014 : Blogging Through the Year (on a one horse open sleigh, o’er the field we go laughing all the way…)

December 23rd 2014

Can we have whizzed through another year?  Can you remember it all?  I can’t remember the beginning of the week let alone the previous months, although with old age comes the promise of better long term memory!  So using a blog as the new diary, lets round up the year!

I began the year with promises to watch more TV, knit and see friends more often. I was more successful the first half of the year but my TV watching increased when I discovered Netflix and became an obsessive viewer of Orange is the New Black and Breaking Bad.  My attempts to do more Pilates have been less successful even when encouraged by the crooning of Nas.

The importance of us making global connections was reinforced through conversations with Unicef and the promotion of the International Early Years  open access platform.  As ever, people from 5000 miles away can see our value much more clearly than those on our front door.

Early Years has always been the butt of stupid policy and the attempt to reduce the ratios for babies and toddlers with a push to use the 1 to 13 agreed ratio for those 3 plus was met with a barrage of criticism once the sector joined forces. We won the battle but the risk of this ratio change being slipped in the back door remains a threat as our current Government tries to cut costs.  Just remember no matter how qualified you are, we all have two hips and one lap and that should determine the ratio for any baby.

April and May
We really got the party going with the Ofsted Big Conversation. It was a response to Ofsted increasing complaint- led inspections, down grading at the drop of a hat and defining serious incidents in ways that were subjective, unfair and often inaccurate. Things settled down when Ofsted realised that we had mobilised a very reasoned and considered response across the country and we were not backing down. Our Ofsted leader retaliated by telling us we were rubbish but the stats did not bear this out and we stuck to our guns.

June was the month of British Values and we were told we had to teach them to our children. It was a crass response to the problems that emerged in schools in Birmingham. Ironically, it was also a live demonstration of how the policy for the rapid opening of free schools with limited checks and balances could fail. It was a missed opportunity for us to have an intelligent and philosophical debate across the country about what kind of glue our shifting and changing Britain needs to build a successful and happy society.

The Cabinet was reshuffled and we all breathed a sigh of relief as our Minster was promoted to Environment and Farming.  She has since brought the same messianic approach to this department with pork and cheese a popular subject. Mr Gove was also moved much to everyone’s surprise and he has been much quieter since becoming the Chief Whip. Maybe he has become addicted to chocolate whips.

The Social Integration Commission published a report commenting on how people choose to engage and make friends, noting that the British white population was the least integrated!

I was delighted to launch the new Early Years Chefs Level 2 qualifications, now accredited by Cache. I worked on designing and producing the qualification for nearly three years. I reckoned that given 1.5 million children attend nurseries every day and I in 5 children are overweight with a 40 to 70% chance of becoming obese, we had to do something to help.  Developing a specific qualification for chefs in nurseries with an expectation that they learn about child nutrition, good food procurement and cooking as well as teaching staff and parents about good food and healthy food habits has to be a step in the right direction.

The combination of Party Political conferences and national organisations manifestos made us realise what we are facing in the general election.  The realisation was not great. There is no clear blue water between any of them and quite a bit of policy clash so we need to think about what to do. I think we need a programme that weaves Yes Minister with Gogglebox to get PolicyBash.

For those of us working in social enterprise, November is a busy month as its global enterprise month. I got lucky and met some great entrepreneurs visiting for various events including the eminent Nobel prize-winning Professor Mohammed Yunus. Social enterprises are a very palatable alternative to the faceless global companies and franchises that dominate our High St but we have to find a clever way for the public to understand what “Buy Social” actually means.

Finally, the plight of our apprentices has dominated all year but culminated this month as we face yet another crazy policy decision which demands apprentices to have A to C GCSEs in Maths and English. It’s unlikely that the 36% of students who have these qualifications, will want to become childcare apprentices. So, we end up unable to recruit those young people who have not succeeded in school but who can actually succeed in the workplace through the vocational training route and we slow down our trainee staff pipeline which we need to respond to the Government policy to extend nurseries to disadvantaged two year olds.  I think it’s called unintended consequences when one policy wipes another out!

So, as the strains of Noddy Holder blast out at Sainsbury’s while we panic buy and throw another jar of cranberry in the trolley on top of a ton of potatoes, let’s begin the countdown to 2015. No doubt, a healthy eating plan, dry January and joining the gym will be on your list but first listen to Sandra Aarmodt; Why Dieting Doesn’t Work ( one of the most popular Ted Talks of 2014) and then rethink your approach.

Happy Christmas and Get Ready for 2015!