It came as a surprise to me to be told about a Government Consultation, that has already been out for 2 weeks, on Facebook. I like to consider myself to be up to date with much of what is going on so I find myself asking Is this a Secret Early Years Consultation? Why, I wonder would the Government not want to widely advertise any consultation, let alone one of reducing red tape for Early Years Providers. Perhaps they are afraid of stirring up another hornets nest as it’s not like we have anything else to ponder over at present is it, well other than turmoil over NLW, Auto-enrollment, 30 hours, push for teachers, week-end opening and 2yr olds in schools! Or perhaps they already have an end-game in mind and are just paying lip-service to what we have to say? They also have published a press release (on a Sunday!). And most recently the 30-hours consultation itself also on a Sunday.
I find it ironic that they are after evidence to ‘understand regulatory burdens’. Are they not the people setting our regulations – how do they not know what they are? They are keen to find ‘evidence of burdens that act as a barrier to new entrants’ (planning departments, Ofsted and financial investment springs to mind) and ‘which prevent existing providers expanding their business’ or and I laughed out loud to this one ‘unnecessarily divert providers from spending the majority of their time caring for children’ – are they for real! – do they think running a business in this industry is childsplay? (sorry for the pun).
But perhaps they are ready to listen as they say the review will consider the impact of
- The activity of national regulators and local authorities in relation to the regulation of Early Years providers, including activity not designed specifically for the Early Years sector but where there is evidence of significant impact on providers and
- The requirements placed on childcare providers by existing legislation
They go on to provide examples of some of the types of ‘burdens’ we may have, these relate heavily to regulation, inspection (Ofsted) and statutory authorities (LA’s). Most pertinently they want examples of ‘evidence of unnecessary compliance activity e.g. where regulation does not actually require something to be done, but providers believe, or are led to believe, it does’. I guess that’s all those LA requirements and Ofsted myths…. I predict this is the beginning of the end of the LA’s and perhaps even of Ofsted as we know it now.
They also want to hear from businesses providing childcare to older children – yes that’s all those out of school clubs – to see if they want to care for under 5’s. I’m sure many of us already are – but I stand to be corrected. Why are they pushing for this I find myself asking? They are also interested in why people have left the sector (Ofsted, lack of sustainability, tired out!?)
Putting my cynicism aside isn’t this a great opportunity to tell them about the hours we do spend on the phone to Ofsted completing the same form (when we actually work out what the form is), some 5-10 times (yes I’ve done that too), completing surveys for the ‘Office of National Statistics’, the hours we spend on payroll as unpaid tax collectors (although they do they they will not be looking at issues that relate to every business under company law or taxation – so I guess that takes VAT off the table), and the days we spend on the funding ‘portal’ only to find our children have all been kicked off due to a ‘technical problem’! and we have to start again or with completing SEN funding forms, CAF, MAFF and NAFF – oh I’ve run out of acronyms (and yes I made that last one up) that no-one else bothers to look at.
I suspect however this is their way of, at some point before the whole thing hits crises point, of telling us they are going to ‘make things better’ – but perhaps it is also our opportunity to tell them how they can do this – for real!
So is there a pro-forma for this consultation? a list of questions to answer? Well NO, they are sticking to form inasmuch as it is an ‘open call for evidence’ and you just send in your remarks from their website, or email them firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps this is so that they can make the same comments about this consultation as they did the last one in respect to answers coming through in so many different formats that they couldn’t correlate them! Even if this is the case – have your say, make your voice heard at every opportunity at the moment. Closing date is 20th May 2016.
What would you say to the Government?
What would you like NOT to do in order ‘to spend your time doing the things that matter most to ensure that children are well cared for’?
See my own personal thoughts and response here.
About the author: Tricia Wellings
Her passion for and knowledge of owning and running a nursery group and the issues within the sector that affect them is second to none. She continues to keep herself updated through regular meetings with PVI groups, Local Authorities, Ofsted Big Conversation and Conferences.
You can find our more about Tricia on her website www.triciawellings.co.uk