An open letter to the DfE early years director

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An open letter to newly appointed director of early years and childcare at the Department for Education, Michelle Dyson.


Karen Simpkin, managing director of Sunflower Children's Centre in Sheffield

Dear Michelle,

I am assuming you will receive this email, your new post does not appear to be on any of the government information sites.

Probably another barrier to reach a representative of the chaos of 30 hours ‘free’. You will note I have waited a while since your introduction, hoping to be the tail end of the many responses from the sector.

I would like to introduce myself: I am managing director of Sunflower Children’s Centre based in Sheffield, and the NDNA (National Day Nurseries Association) Sheffield chair.

Since 2002 I have proudly provided high-quality childcare for thousands of children in my local area, ensuring all children get the best start in life, regardless of their background or additional needs.

Thank you for reminding me of the process of obtaining THE CODE, verifying and understanding eligibility and doing it as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, a little too late; I probably understand, along with most of the sector, more about the process and its limitations and unavailability. Apparently the software developers omitted the ‘two Qs’ (quality and quickly).

Michelle, I have to ask, have you introduced yourself to the department that designed the process? Have you introduced yourself to the department that verified the quality of the process to ensure it works? Most importantly, have you found out if they understand that they must ensure the delivery of the process reaches the user as quickly as possible?

As a sector we struggle to understand how the words ‘free and sustainable’ can be used in the same sentence to describe quality childcare. I am sure as someone new in their post, who is enthusiastic about their position and wanting their brief to succeed, that you will be willing to step out of your box and talk to a representative of providers who want to succeed in delivering 30 hours’ funded childcare.

I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the operational guidance
and tools you believe will help the sector, and how you see this brief being the ‘two Ss’ (sustainable and successful).

I realise that Sheffield probably is not on your radar; however, I would like to invite you to step up north and join me at my nursery for the ‘two Ts’ (tea and a talk),along with one ‘R’ and one ‘C’ (reality and check).

I hope that you have the confidence to accept my genuine invitation, and I look forward to a positive response.

Karen Simpkin,
managing director, Sunflower Children’s Centre, Sheffield

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