As the old saying goes, ‘life begins at 40’ and, as we turn 40 this year, PACEY is not only celebrating its birthday but also all it has done to promote high-quality childcare and early education during this time.
Supporting, promoting and informing have been at the heart of PACEY’s work since it was formed in 1977 by a group of childminders, local authority workers and parents in response to a lack of support for and understanding of registered childminding.
NCMA, as it was named then, has come a long way since its humble beginnings. It was formed by passionate volunteers who wanted to support childminders doing one of the best but also most challenging jobs you can have.
The National Childminding Association, as it was named then, meets for the first time in 1978
From the start, the focus was on providing training and support – in the form of membership of an association and ensuring childminders and, later, other practitioners had a voice on the matters that concerned them most. These included regulation, good practice and government policy, and promoting this much under-valued profession so that others – teachers, parents, health visitors – better understood its unique role and valued its contribution.
Just one personal example for me was our campaign to ensure childminders were included in the EYFS so they had the same status, support and access to funding as other registered providers. It may seem hard to believe today, but there was a time when childminding was regulated differently from other childcare provision. As a result, it was often viewed as a lesser form of childcare than a nursery or pre-school. It took a great deal of campaigning by PACEY and its members to persuade Government that childminders were delivering the same quality of care as group settings and should be regulated in the same way. Indeed, some childminders at that time were not too keen on the idea and asked to be exempt from the EYFS.
Fun Day in Battersea Park, 1989
PACEY always championed quality standards and equality of access for all its members. We realised that if childminders were not part of the EYFS framework, they would be considered lesser provision, potentially receiving less support and funding. So despite some opposition, PACEY successfully argued that childminding should be included in the EYFS just like other settings. Fast-forward 15 or so years and today we can see the value of that effort. Childminders are included in 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare, are part of local authority childcare plans in England and Wales, and are delivering high-quality experiences for our youngest children.
There is of course much more to be proud of and we have highlighted some of our achievements here – all part of how the association has supported and championed early years practitioners in the past 40 years.
Outside Downing Street, 2000
Looking to the future, we know our job is far from done. The move to 30 hours brings with it challenges as well as opportunities in England and Wales. More parents still need to understand the unique contribution that early education makes, and childminding, just like the whole childcare profession, is still undervalued by many in society. Until this is challenged and all childcare practitioners are recognised and fairly rewarded for the amazing job they do, PACEY will keep up the pressure.
I hope that these issues will be a thing of the past well before PACEY’s 50th anniversary.