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Out of the shadows...

The last year has been a whirlwind in the childcare sector. Myriad consultations, announcements, ministerial appointments and a record amount of change in a short space of time. The sector has a lot to get its head round.

At PACEY we work tirelessly to effect change and get the results our members want. But perhaps we aren’t always as good at blowing our own trumpet as other organisations are.

Over the 12 months we got our heads down, rolled up our sleeves and focussed on getting results. And results we got. A quick look back over the past year and you can see just how PACEY’s intervention has made a huge difference to the sector.

Take the GCSE requirement for Level 3. We joined forces with Save Our Early Years campaign and collectively we got what we fought for. Functional skills are now accepted as equivalents to GCSEs. In fact, it was our survey of colleges that provided a key part of the final evidence that government needed to make the change. 

Then there was the issue of local authority payments for the early years education entitlement. We know that this was a huge challenge for childminders and nurseries alike - operating on small profit margins, any delay to payments could have a huge negative impact on their business. PACEY has long campaigned for childcare providers to be paid monthly - we know you can’t function as a business with delays in payments. So we spoke up, and government took notice. It is now a legal requirement for local authorities to pay providers monthly, and they need to be doing this by September 2018 at the very latest. A huge step forward.

We also fought to remove the variation of local authority requirements. Up until now, local authorities could effectively force childcare providers to jump through hoops before allowing them to deliver funded places. Some were made to take training courses, or join a quality improvement programme - often at great expense.

Our campaigning put a stop to this and the change has been reflected in the new model agreements announced last week.

We also campaigned hard to ensure that the Childcare Business Grants, offering financial support to help childminders set up their businesses, returned – and that those who wanted to apply when the scheme was first closed can now do so retrospectively.

We played an important role in the early years funding review and brought PACEY members face to the face with the review team to provide evidence on the true cost of providing childcare. We still clearly have some way to go to ensure that the funding rate is sustainable. However, it is increasing in many areas and the Government is clearly on record as saying that no provider should be paid below £4 following our intervention that pointed out that 20 authorities were set to pay below this.

We also listened when you raised concerns about concessions on funded places. We sought clarity and pushed forward your point of view. Government agreed. Now you can, and should, charge parents for discretionary consumables (e.g. drinks, meals, nappies, wipes) or additional services (e.g. day trips, special classes). The only caveat is they are not compulsory and not a condition of taking up a funded place.

Another result for members.

We published our Towards an early years workforce strategy paper early last year outlining our recommendations for the sector. We connected with ministers and senior civil servants, we arranged visits at settings and involved our members in roundtables and meetings with government. The Government’s Workforce Strategy reflects many of the recommendations include in our paper, including improving access to CPD, setting out clearer pathways and progression routes and reviewing Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). We are also really proud to see that childminders are no longer side-lined. Instead, they are mentioned, equally, alongside other providers and are central to government’s vision in the strategy that was published last week.

All this has been achieved through regular meetings between senior government officials and PACEY staff. From the PACEY members and volunteers who have given up valuable time to attend roundtables and meetings with civil servants, and who have hosted visits from the Minister and government officials at their settings, to all the thousands of our members who have responded to our surveys and consultations. Thanks to our combined efforts, much has been achieved.

Campaigning for change is vital, but we are careful not to lose sight of what is happening at ground level. When false claims are made about the profession, or journalists write untruths or inaccurate articles, we respond. We tackle negative stories head on, we value our role in speaking up for childcarers, and it is one we take seriously. Whether it is a shocking portrayal of a childminder on a TV programme; a mis-informed chat show presenter or a sensationalised newspaper article, we will act on your behalf and get your voice heard.

Everything that PACEY does is focused on raising the profile of the amazing work childcarers do every day –  and in particular on the very special role that childminders play. From the exposure that our members have had on prime time TV talking about their work (Good Morning Britain, Victoria Derbyshire and Meridian TV are just a few recent examples) to the work that we do with our partners including Netmums, Puffin books and the Be Real campaign, our work is taking childminders out of the shadows. And this Spring we are launching a brand new Childminder Champion campaign to celebrate the fantastic contribution childminders make and ensure that parents are more aware of the high quality early education that they can offer to children.

This year, PACEY is celebrating a milestone, our 40 year anniversary. Over the last four decades the association has remained a non-profit organisation.  At the core of PACEY we are focused on making improvements for childcarers, and helping you build bright futures for the children in your care. PACEY is dedicated to making your professional life easier, and we hope you will join us in recognising how much we have achieved, together.

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