Early years reform: Childminders' responses to government proposals
This report contributes to the current discussion on childcare reform by considering its impact on the childminding sector. Based on the findings of our survey of childminders, we draw out some suggestions for policymakers on which elements of reform should be maintained and where new ideas are needed.
The overarching message from our research is a positive one: there is a strong desire to boost the quality and status of the profession, driven by the sector. However, this motivation cuts against some specific government proposals, which have been designed with the intention of making childminding more attractive by relaxing or reducing regulation. Childminders reject several elements of reform for fear of their damaging impact on the quality of provision and the perception of their profession.
The majority (57.7 per cent) think more regulation would have a positive impact on the sector. They also reject the suggestion of cutting regulation - 61.8 per cent thought this would have a negative impact. Three-quarters (73.2 per cent) of childminders want minimum requirements in place in order to be allowed to practise (like having or working towar ds a relevant early years qualification).
On the flipside, the large majority (74 per cent) were against the possibility of looking after more children (despite the fact they thought it would boost their earnings) because they felt it might compromise the quality or safety of their care. While 76 per cent believed relaxing ratios would increase their monthly earnings, 93.2 would not reduce the amount they charged to parents per child.
We ask that the government pauses to take stock of its package of childcare reforms. Specifically, we make recommendations on the following alternative or revised reforms:
- Childminder agencies: the government needs respond to concerns that agencies will undermine quality and sustainability, rather than support the sector, before pushing ahead.
- Individual inspections: our research shows a strong preference for individual inspections to continue for all childminders, alongside proposals for targeting inspections on low-performing settings.
- Minimum requirements: all professionals delivering the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum should have or be working towards a level 3 childcare qualification.
- Ofsted criteria: these should be reformed to ensure they reflect the best developmental practice, with the aim that in future all those delivering the free childcare entitlement will have received at least a 'Good' score from Ofsted.
- Professional development: there needs to be more focus on driving (rather than inspecting) quality, through development, peer interaction and training. With the diminishing role of local authorities, there could be space for a sector body, tasked with designing qualifications and accrediting workers as well as mentoring low-performing settings.