However, we are very confused by the sudden change in direction of Ofsted inspections. We understand that Ofsted want to focus on education rather than care - and we are keen to jump through whatever hoops Ofsted put in our way to continue being registered and individually inspected by Ofsted because we are adamant that we do not want or need agencies.
We would very much appreciate Ofsted engaging with us to help us in our aim, so we have written the following letter...
There are more than 60,000 childminders currently registered in England. The vast majority with whom I talk on various forums such as the Childminding Forum and groups tell me that they are quite happy to be left alone - to continue working independently in their own homes, with individual Ofsted inspections and support from their Local Authorities.
Some childminders do not get very good Local Authority support and wish there was a better local network but that could easily be resolved with a little targeted guidance. Some childminders are frightened of Ofsted inspectors but would still rather keep their individual inspection outcome than lose it to an untried and untested agency.
Yet we are finding that, since Sir Michael Wilshaw announced that childminders are too expensive to inspect because they have to visit ‘every time a youngster goes into a childminding setting’* (which is completely wrong!!), the focus of our inspections has totally changed.
*Quote taken from Ms Truss in Nursery World 14.5.12 - http://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/article/1131539/why-regulatory-reform-will-boost-numbers-perception-childminders
As Jenny says in her blog on the Kids Allowed website, Ofsted seem to be promoting a culture of fear at the moment, visiting outstanding and good settings and destroying them in one stroke of the pen for often spurious reasons -
Childminders are finding the same things happening. Inspectors visit to check compliance or respond to a complaint and spend the next few hours looking for problems so they can justify their visit.
There are many examples of overly harsh actions childminders are facing every day from Ofsted inspectors who seem to be determined to downgrade us. As June O’Sullivan comments on her blog, ‘Why does Ofsted feel the need to be so draconian in its criticism of the sector?’
I have a theory and I would very much appreciate you telling me I am wrong -
I believe Ofsted are trying to catch childminders out and downgrade us. We know that Ofsted don't want childminders in their remit and the best way to get rid of us is to make us inadequate or satisfactory and then tell us we need to join agencies to improve... or force us into agencies because Local Authority support has been removed (which is happening at an alarming rate across the country) ... or even to get us to realise that we are unlikely to have to go through an individual Ofsted inspection again if we join an agency because the agency will be inspected not us!
As Neil Leitch from PLA states in his recent Nursery World article - http://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/article/1194209/model-failure childminder agencies will not bring down costs for parents - they are being ‘rushed in despite fundamental flaws’ - they are not wanted by the vast majority of established childminders - they have failed in other countries - consultation has not been robust.
We even have evidence of Ms Truss only wanting to meet those childminders who agree with her agency plans - http://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/article/1172143/truss-asks-meet-open-agency-idea and we know that we have all received standard letters in response to our concerns because we communicate with each other!
So, Ofsted, please tell me - what is happening please? At the moment, as Jenny from Kids Allowed so rightly asks in her blog, ‘Who loses out most..? The children.’