Local authorities are now expected to adhere to new statutory guidance from the Department for Education, which came into force last month, and which states that there is no requirement for childminders to be part of a network or qualified to Level 3 to access the funding.
The issue was raised by delegates at 4Children’s ‘Let’s talk quality!’ conference in London.
Elizabeth Shack from the London Borough of Brent said she was ‘very supportive’ of childminders getting the nursery education funding but, ‘With the current proposal they don’t necessarily have to have a Level 3 and that concerns me, because a child going into childcare in a non-domestic setting, there would be a Level 3 present.
‘We’re acting on the guidance, but we’re finding that a lot of lower quality [childminders] rather than the better quality are coming forward.’
Another delegate mentioned that it was ‘the childminders that can’t fill their places’ that are applying for the funding.
Angie Hicks from Harrow said, ‘My concern is that the childminders that are accessing the funding are all in a childminding network and all have a Level 3, and we know we have to change that, but where do we balance the quality? There will be childminders that we know are satisfactory, their care is very good, and they probably could provide a good service for the children. How can we make it easier for childminders to reach a Level 3? We have some excellent childminders in Harrow, but how do we get others up to that level?’
A show of hands from delegates showed that the extent of the problem was widespread.
Katie Farrington, deputy director for early years curriculum and teaching, who had earlier given an overview of Government policy, attending in place of education and childcare minister Elizabeth Truss, said that she would feed the issues discussed back to the minister.
In response she said that it was the minister’s intention that childminder agencies were all about supporting training and quality for childminders and to boost their professionalism.
A lively question and answer session took in many issues affecting the sector, including the status of the Early Years Teacher qualification.
Karen Sidell from Brent said that career pathways for Early Years Teachers in the private and voluntary sector really needed to be addressed. ‘What do they go on to next? It’s not an established career pathway as a school is.’ She said that a setting had allocated money to have a teacher but trying to get one was ‘proving very challenging’.
Another delegate questioned whether the introduction of the Early Years Outcomes document was intended to replace of Development Matters.
However, Sue Robb, head of early years at 4Children, reassured delegates that Development Matters was still available to download on the Foundation Years website.
Concerns were also raised about the introduction of baseline assessment at the start of Reception, currently set out in plans for consultation.
Ms Robb said that 4Children, in its role as a strategic partner, has held debates and is providing feedback to the DfE on the issue, and urged delegates to respond to the consultation, (which closes on 11 October). ‘I think every single person should respond,’ she said.