Posts Tagged ‘daycare’

Children’s teeth hit the news

July 21st, 2014 by Sarah Steel

Over the last week  there was a lot of media coverage of the number of young children having to undergo anaesthesia to have milk teeth removed, Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 11.13.33due to severe decay. I was pretty shocked to read about the scale of the problem, even though we have been members of the ‘Stop the Rot’ campaign at all our nurseries for several years. If you missed the various articles, do have a look at this one:

As usual, juice and fizzy drinks seem to be the main culprits and this should strengthen our resolve to serve milk or water as the main choice for children under 5, offering watered down juice as a treat, followed by regular tooth brushing. What it does bring home is the need to say no to fizzy drinks entirely for pre-school children and hopefully this latest flurry of publicity will help parents to see how important this is.

At nursery, we will continue to promote good dental health with the children, keeping sugar intake to a minimum and offering milk or water at snack times. If you have a challenge with a child who still likes drinking from a bottle past the one year old point, do chat to our staff, who will support you in helping to move on to a ‘sippy’ cup and then a normal cup. The experts advise that juice is never given from a bottle, as this is particularly harmful to teeth and it is in the mouth for so long, causing real damage.

If you would like to know more about our approach, do have a look at and feel free to ask for more information in your nursery.

Do we really want our 2 year olds in school?

April 15th, 2014 by Sarah Steel



Following on from last week’s announcement by Sir Micheal Wilshaw that school was the best place for 2 year olds, there has been some really interesting comment in the press.

Here is just one article that suggests that the Head of Office and our Childcare Minister are not universally supported by the experts!

Frustations with OFSTED mount

July 29th, 2013 by Sarah Steel

This has been another frustrating week to be in Early Years. It makes me sad to start another blog post with such a negative statement, but it feels as though there is always something to fight at the moment. I have some great nursery teams, with really dedicated practitioners who truly go that extra mile to make lives for the children in their care as great as possible, and who also provide a lot of support to the families who come in our doors. However, at times the system seems determined to make life as difficult as possible for those of us trying to deliver great care and education.

Within the sector there is an increasingly loud rumble of concern about OFSTED inspections and the subsequent judgements that are made. We have had the most frustrating experience at one of our nurseries in Gloucestershire, where we had an inspection in May and the inspector gave us a ‘GOOD’ with lots of positive comments, and few suggestions on where we could improve, but no actions or recommendations. She was an informed and experienced individual, who showed a really good understanding of Early Years. However, within a week she was back on the phone, and explained that as we had a compliance action in September 2012,  which resulted in a follow up visit from OFSTED, there was no way we could be graded ‘GOOD’; the only option was ‘SATISFACTORY’. So said the quality assurance team at Tribal.

I appealed the decision, as my team were devastated; since the compliance action we had taken all the necessary steps to remedy the situation (a member of staff recording a dose of mediation incorrectly) and the inspector at both the compliance visit and the full inspection had been very satisfied with these steps. The member of staff involved had been disciplined and subsequently left the company. The manager had been in her last week in post when it occurred, so there had been significant management changes since the issue. The new manager rightly felt extremely disappointed that the experience of the inspector on the day was now being downgraded due to something which happened 8 months ago, under a different manager.

Having decided to appeal the decision, I then spoke to many colleagues in the sector and discovered that we are far from alone. I asked a question to Sue Gregory, head of EY at OFSTED at the NDNA conference last month, but she just repeated that it was really important to have high quality provision in Early Years (yes, we know that, that’s why we care about OFSTED outcomes).  She really didn’t answer my question and sadly, neither did the appeal process. Needless to say, the judgement was upheld, our report was published and we are now ‘SATISFACTORY’. Frustratingly, the report alludes to the compliance issue but says how well we have addressed all the issues. The ‘reason you are not yet GOOD’ is given as ‘some children in the pre-school do not fully participate in routines’.  Unbelievable! So, having decided that we should be ‘SATISFACTORY’, it is not hard to find some statement or other that bumps us down in to that grade descriptor.

I have just asked for the second stage of the appeals process to be undertaken by OFSTED, but hold out absolutely no hope of resolution. I feel that the voice of providers is simply not being heard in this process and OFSTED will always find something to ‘hang’ the grade on that they see fit, following complaint or compliance issue.  Perhaps only when they realise that there are so many ‘SATISFACTORY’ settings out there, that they can not offer sufficient places for funded 2 year olds, will they think again. Or, the more cynical part of me thinks, will they just use these statistics to beat us all up with, decrying the poor quality of PVI settings and finding it easier to reduce funding levels?

The only bright spot on the horizon has been the excellent support we have received from our Early Years Consultant at Gloucestershire County Council. Let’s hope that they are all still around in a few months to continue with this great work. As a sector we must make our voice heard about the increasing unfairness in the OFSTED process and total lack of transparency.


Hooray!  An article in the Independent today reports the finding of Professor Joshi at the University of London’s Centre for Longitudinal Studies, who says that  Studies of previous decades showed children’s literacy and numeracy levels were around 2 per cent lower when mothers worked. Read the rest of this entry »

No change to childcare ratios

June 6th, 2013 by Sarah Steel



I was driving back from Lincolnshire at midnight last night after a networking event and did a double take (if that’s possible, in an auditory sense) when I heard the news headlines. The Government have scrapped plans to lower staff to children ratios in childcare settings, as announced early this year. When the plans emerged in the report ‘More Great Childcare’, there was almost universal dismay from the sector, who could see that first and foremost, less staff with more children would equal lower quality.

On top of that, many of us had problems with the claims that this reduction in ratio would actually somehow improve quality, lower fees and increase staff wages. I have provided figures only this week to Children and Young People Now magazine, to explain how the Government’s economic modelling on this was flawed and to show a more realistic version of life in a day nursery. It is a tough sector to be in; we are caring for the very most important people, we can not keep increasing fees as parents can barely afford costs already, and our staff all deserve higher wages.

There are many measures which would help; the playing field needs levelling between schools and early years, including the issue of VAT on capital work (private nurseries must pay this, school nurseries do not). Business rates are a major issue; I have just had a building re-valued by the Ratings Agency. It was previously a bar, serving alcohol and the rateable value was £5k. For us to run it as a nursery, it will be £20k. If we are such an essential part of getting parents to work, as well as providing care and education which will close the gap and aid social mobility, why can this not be recognised in business rates. I think perhaps we offer a more valuable service to society than a bar?

I am pleased that the Government have listened, and I am even more pleased that as a sector we have campaigned consistently and vocally, pointing out the clear lack of logic in the plans. As a sector we can be divided, but this issue has really brought together nurseries, childminders, pre-schools, whether not for profit or for profit. I hope that we can continue to lobby DfE clearly and calmly, working with them to reduce childcare costs, rather than being put in a position where we are at loggerheads.

The whole issue of ‘free’ funding for 2, 3 and 4 year olds is one I have blogged about lots, and this needs sorting. I am pleased the Government is pushing Local Authorities to ensure that more of the funding reaches the front line and I am sure I am not alone in saying that the sector is willing to work with DfE to look for ways to make childcare more affordable. For now, a victory for children and families who care about quality, but let’s hope the future doesn’t hold any more unpleasant surprises from the Government.


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