Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by Mrs Suzanne Aldridge (CF38)

Dear Sir,

I would like to add my comments to the consultation on the Children and Families Bill.

1. I am an Ofsted registered childminder with 3 years of experience caring for young children. I have level 3 qualifications in childcare and attend training every term to remain professional in what I do. I have a degree in Human Resources and pride myself in the way I run my childcare setting. I am continuously seeking ways to improve what I provide so the outcomes for children are the best possible. I was rated outstanding in all areas of practice by Ofsted in my inspection and am working very hard to keep this status.

2. The areas of the Children and Families Bill about which I have most concerns are - ratios for early years children, childminder agencies and qualifications for early years workers.

3. Ratios for early years children

3.1 I am passionate about keeping children safe and feel that having had experience of looking after children with variations from Ofsted that the current ratios are an absolute safe maximum. Children under 2 who need help to sleep/ toileting / feeding would not be looked after appropriately in my professional opinion if ratios increase – care for basic needs would take over and therefore development needs in areas like communication will suffer – e.g. key worker would constantly be taken up with practical needs and not have time to communicate with other children regularly.

4. Agencies for childminders

4.1 I am probably most devastated about this proposal – having worked so hard to safeguard my rating with Ofsted – the thought of being forced to join an agency to gain local authority funding for preschool sessions upsets me beyond belief. I understand that less qualified or reputable childcare providers could join an agency if I were in one and this could instantly lower the ‘rating’ Ofsted would have given me if I continued to operate alone. This is unfair and provides parents with a false picture of the quality of childcare in an agency as some will be higher in quality than others. We are all private businesses and so to join an agency and operate as one business is not what we desire and would lead to agencies falling apart and good quality providers leaving the profession. It would be good if high quality providers could remain alone and still gain local authority funding and be reviewed by Ofsted alone for a fee. Or why not reduce inspections for Outstanding practitioners to once every ten years unless complaints are received or the local authority flags a provider as reducing in quality?

5. Qualifications for early years workers

5.1 I think to increase the desire for good qualifications is a good thing but am concerned that older qualifications are still recognised and accepted as equivalents. I’m also concerned that good qualified practitioners are being prevented from entering into the profession if they obtained their experience within a business rather than via a degree – making it harder for them to bring their business experience to the right level within a childcare setting without spending another 4 years doing an early years degree. There needs to be more flexibility in looking at business experience from the past and business qualifications and accrediting childcare professionals with ‘degree equivalents’ and allowing them to then fast track their training – e.g. I have business equivalents of A level and Post Graduate Qualifications – I believe I can easily run a setting and apply best practice in childcare – but at present without an early years degree I can’t access the training to manage a setting other than childminding.

You seem to forget that pay for childcare professionals cannot increase as parents and the media want to keep childcare costs down – how can you demand higher qualifications from people who will be paid little more than the minimum wage? If you want to push for higher qualified people then the government needs to give more funding to pay higher wages.

I hope you take my comments into consideration and help me protect outcomes for the next generation of our children and my livelihood.

March 2013

Prepared 20th March 2013