Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by Hilary Terry (MB 35)

1. My name is Hilary Terry. I have been a registered childminder since 1995, and have twice now been awarded the top Ofsted grade of Outstanding (2007/2008 and 2011/12 inspection years). I have a great desire to promote top quality childcare for the early years children in my care, and am totally committed to running my own self-employed business. I have grave reservations about the "More Great Childcare" plan which I believe will have long-term detrimental effects on the well-being of both the early years children in childcare and childminding in general.

2. The areas of the Children and Families Bill which I am most worried about are childminder agencies and qualifications for early years workers.

3. Agencies for childminders

3.1 Childminders do not seem to have been consulted in depth concerning this proposal. Last year childminders tried to present their doubts about the wisdom of agencies, trying also to make it clear to Ms Truss and the Department of Education that they did not want agencies. There were several well supported petitions and representations.

3.2 I believe that agencies will do exactly the opposite of what they are supposed to be doing, i.e., I believe that agencies will put people off becoming childminders as well as forcing already-established childminders to leave their profession.

3.3 This is because agencies are unlikely to be popular with parents, who like to choose their own childminders after meeting them in their own homes and following up personal references, not those produced by some outside institution.

3.4 Children cannot be passed around childminders when occasion demands; if a childminder is ill, you can’t just send a baby or toddler to someone they don’t know, they have to be left with a known person they love and trust.

3.5 Agencies are highly likely to be run by local schools and nurseries, who will then control and choose which childminders to send the children too, possibly encouraging favouritism to particular childminders. How do they choose who to give the new business to? And if the nurseries are running the agency, then they will promote their own nursery business before the interest of childminders.

3.6 Local authority networks are currently at threat because of a lack of  funding, so that will impact on training opportunities for childminders.

3.7 Childminding agencies will encourage a 2-tier childminding system, with confusion and uncertainty for both childminders and parents. Parents recognise the authority and national significance of Ofsted, and if this is withdrawn, there will be a backwards step with a downturn in standards and professionalism.

3.8 Childminders already struggle to compete with nurseries; if they are downgraded and removed from the umbrella of Ofsted, then in the eyes of parents they will be considered as second rate childcarers.

3.9 Ofsted inspections, together with the introduction of the EYFS, have improved the standards of childminders and the professional way in which they run their businesses. Taking childminders away from Ofsted will not only demoralise existing childminders, but will also take away the incentive for personal and professional improvement. Why should a childminder aim to be outstanding, if the agency grading is actually lower?

3.10 It is highly patronising to suggest that people can’t run their own business, and that this puts people off from being a childminder. It is quite the reverse – people become childminders because they want to be self-employed and independent workers.

4. Qualifications for early years workers

4.1 You do not need to have English and Maths GCSEs to be an outstanding childcarer. Such qualifications do not prove that somebody will make a good childcarer and it is a very misguided conclusion. The qualities needed for good early years workers are far more vocational and inspirational, based on a desire to bring out the best in the children in their care. Good training and support is far more important to encourage people into the early years sector.

4.2 Enforcing these qualifications will actually lead to fewer workers becoming childcare workers, while the Government says it wants to encourage people to become early years workers!

Prepared 20th March 2013