I am the childminder representative on the OBC North West steering group and I took on 2 main jobs during the meeting – to speak on behalf of childminders at the start and to be ‘roving microphone’ when delegates wanted to talk from the audience. I felt these jobs would raise the profile of childminders – who have always been welcomed at OBC meetings and actively encouraged to share their concerns with Ofsted through the OBC.
In my speech I introduced myself as an Ofsted registered independent childminder and explained that means I am one of the thousands of childminders who wants to stay individually inspected by and registered with Ofsted. I said I had never personally had a poor Ofsted inspector or inspection but, in my capacity of admin on the Childminding Forum and Independent Childminders Facebook group, I support far too many childminders who have been devastated by inspections.
I joined other steering group members and delegates who were talking about the inconsistency of Ofsted inspections (including inspections carried out on behalf of Ofsted by Prospects) and asked for consistency and fairness in inspections. I explained that childminders feel the inspection process - including the time it can take reports to go through QA - is flawed and adversely impacting on outcomes for children. I had been asked by some childminders to request that Ofsted look at and consider extending the 24 hour period between receiving reports and making complaints about inaccuracies because many feel it is not long enough – I hope I made that point clearly.
I also joined the other delegates in talking about the flawed complaints process which lets down so many of our colleagues. However, I felt it important to balance the negatives and used a message from a childminder who commented on our Facebook group the other day about her recent very positive monitoring visit.
Delegates came from a wide range of settings and they all said the same – they are delighted that complaint visits will not automatically be followed by a full inspection (but would like it confirmed in writing); they want a fair and robust complaints process they want more consistency during inspections; they want better trained inspectors… interestingly an ex-inspector in the room did say that they are very well trained, which leads me to believe that something must be going wrong between the training and the visits – I think this needs looking into in more detail during future meetings.
Many childminders spoke up from the audience talking about the unfairness of the way Ofsted inspect childminders – why does a husband and wife team have completely different inspection reports? Why are childminders downgraded when parents and other settings refuse to work with them, regardless of how hard they are working to try and engage them? Why are reports downgraded during QA by someone who has never seen the provision? Why are complaints about inspectors and the inspection process never upheld even when clear evidence is provided to show the inspector was wrong?... and much more.
The visitors from Ofsted made lots of notes during the question and answer sections of the morning and talked about how things were improving… and reassured us that they are listening… and told us that things are improving… and confirmed that clarification will be coming soon on a number issues. They also committed to continuing to attend OBC meetings – the feeling in the room was very much that they are engaging with the process rather than just turning up to be seen.
While I had been roving with a microphone, other members of the steering group were taking delivery of food and making drinks to ensure all delegates were fed and watered before leaving. During lunch I took the opportunity to chat to (some might say corner) a chap from Ofsted who had said earlier in the morning that he was involved in setting up childminder agencies. I told him that I have a letter from Liz Truss* which clearly states we can stay independent and I asked if Ofsted were going to confirm this too.
He said… Liz Truss’ assurance that we can stay independent may only last as long as her term in office... which tells me that we need to keep lobbying Government and reminding them that we do not want agencies!! The OBC may be just the platform we need to make sure our views are heard…
* Letter from Liz Truss here - http://independentchildminders.weebly.com/blog/dfe-supports-independent-childminders.
Thank you to members of the Childminding Forum and Independent Childminders Facebook group for your unfailing support and encouragement – I was very nervous standing up in front of a room full of people (give me a room of children any time!!) I did it for me and I did it for you. Thank you to Richard from Childcare.co.uk for giving independent childminders the online platforms we need to support and ‘be there’ for each other. Thank you to all those delegates present in Salford yesterday, the Ofsted Big Conversation steering group who have welcomed me and encouraged me to participate – and thank you to the visitors from Ofsted who are listening to us.
Together we can make a difference!
Links and stuff
Ofsted Big Conversation - http://www.thebigofstedconversation.co.uk/
Independent Childminders information and advice - http://independentchildminders.weebly.com/
Independent Childminders Facebook group - https://www.facebook.com/groups/independentchildminders/
Childminding Forum – http://www.childmindinghelp.co.uk/forum/
Childcare.co.uk - http://www.childcare.co.uk/