Early Years & Childcare Bulletin - Term 6 2023
Welcome and Introduction from Alex Gamby
As we are now well into July and for some of you hurtling towards the end of this term, I do hope that the final bulletin for this academic year finds you all well. Even as I say that though, I want to acknowledge, not for the first time, just how full on and challenging things continue to be for early years and childcare providers of all types.
Please be reassured that, through our regular conversations with the Department for Education (DfE) we stoically represent the views of providers (and indeed our own) about the nature and scale of national challenges. For things that are more local (ie Kent specific) we do always aim to do all that we can to secure the best ways of doing things in support of yourselves as providers and by implication for Kent’s children and families.
The DfE has very recently announced new funding rates for Free Entitlements, hence we expect Kent County Council (KCC) to be able to communicate with providers about this shortly. We will be in liaison with our KCC colleagues to ensure that information about what this means in real terms for Kent providers is shared as soon as possible as we recognise the critical nature of this and that it has been long awaited.
Many of you will be aware through attendance at Briefing and Networking Sessions and other information sources that KCC’s Early Years Review is due to bring forward recommendations in Term One. For ease of access, this Review has undertaken ‘deep dives’ into:
- Children’s Pathways
- School Readiness
- Sufficiency of provision and support in relation to vulnerable children
- SENIF (Special Educational Needs Inclusion Fund)
- Specialist Intervention Nurseries.
We will bring forward information on this as and when required by KCC.
On a different subject entirely, Dimples Day Nursery is in Dartford. Not sparing the blushes of its Manager Sandra Roles, this week she won Manager of the Year and the NDNA Awards. Here is a picture of Sandra with colleagues at the event.
Sandra, very well done, you must feel extremely proud, as are we, that you have brought this award into Kent.
I feel that this a fitting place to say what fabulous provision and practice we have in Kent. We have an early years and childcare sector to be proud of, and whatever the challenges it is facing (and notwithstanding these), this is something to be truly celebrated.
Whatever the Summer looks like and brings for you, I hope for everyone it will include some rest and relaxation. Thank you to all of you for everything you have done this academic year and I look forward to connecting with you again in the Autumn.
With my very best wishes
Head of Early Years and Childcare
Kent Early Years and Childcare Provider Association
The Early Years and Childcare Provider Association met recently and received:
- an update on and was able to comment on next steps for the Kent Early Years Stronger Practice Hub (a copy of the Hub’s most recent newsletter is attached with the Bulletin with another due to be sent this week)
- an update on the KCC Early Years Review, which we expect to report its recommendations during Term One
- some information on and considered how the early years and childcare market looks for September 2023 (attached for information)
- feedback from Provider Association representatives who had been present at recent Briefing and Networking Sessions on issues that providers in general had raised, which included:
- ongoing concern about funding rates from September
- ongoing concern about recruitment and retention challenges
- the level of government free training available (too much, too confusing)
- challenges with the Level 3 Maths requirements
- the numbers of children presenting with a wide range of needs, perhaps most notably those with SEND
- concerns about the SENIF process and timescales
- the particular difficulties that childminders have with accessing training
- some providers not being aware of/engaged with Kent Early Years and Childcare Provider Association’s ‘Call to Action’. Please visit their Facebook page to find out more.
By way of response:
- for any national issues, the Early Years & Childcare Service meets monthly with the DfE and consistently and persistently raises these issues
- issues around children with SEND/SENIF are central to the KCC Early Years Review
- from the Association itself, please, please, please do get involved with its Call to Action campaign.
The Association next meets in September.
National News and Updates
Ratio Requirements in Early Years Settings from September 2023
The staff:child ratios for early years providers are listed in the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). These requirements detail the ratio and qualification requirements for the total number of staff available to work directly with the children.
The Chancellor recently announced an optional change to childcare ratios from 1:4 to 1:5 for two-year-old children. This change will apply from September 2023. All other ratio requirements remain the same.
For early years settings, from September 2023, these are as follows:
- for children aged under two:
- there must be at least one staff member for every three children
- at least one of these staff members must hold an approved level 3 qualification and be suitably experienced in working with children under three
- at least half of all other staff must hold an approved level 2 qualification
- at least half of all staff must have received training that specifically addresses the care of babies.
- for children aged two:
- there must be at least one staff member for every five children
- at least one staff member must hold an approved level 3 qualification
- at least half of all other staff members must hold an approved level 2 qualification.
- for children aged three and over (without a qualified teacher, early years professional or early years teacher):
- there must be at least one staff member for every eight children
- at least one staff member must hold an approved level 3 qualification
- at least half of all other staff must hold a level 2 qualification.
- for children aged three and over with a qualified teacher, early years professional or early years teacher:
- there must be at least one staff member for every 13 children
- at least one other staff member must hold an approved level 3 qualification.
Where providers work with mixed age groups it is not acceptable to use a combined ratio, 1:6 or 1:7 for example, as this may not always meet the ratio requirements listed above, particularly if you have a higher number of younger children. Providers must look at the separate ratio requirements for the different age groups.
Providers must also ensure that within these staff:child ratios the qualification requirements are also being met and staff qualifications remain approved as defined by the DfE. A full list of those qualifications defined as ‘approved’ is published by the DfE.
If you don’t already do so, make the checking of every qualification part of your recruitment and retention procedures.
For the full ratio requirements please refer to your Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, paragraphs 3.28-3.40.
Ofsted has responded to some frequently asked questions about staff:child ratios in their blog How do staff-to-child ratios work?
Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Consultation Reminder
The DfE is currently consulting on making changes to the EYFS framework to make it more practical for different types of EYFS providers. The consultation closes on 26 July 2023.
National Professional Qualification in Early Years Leadership (NPQEYL)
The NPQEYL is free, flexible and designed by sector experts to help professional leaders and aspiring leaders across the early years sector develop their career. It also trains leaders to support children impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as helping them to lead effectively through:
- creating and implementing a vision and policies
- improving staff recruitment, development, management and appraisal
- marketing their setting
- working in partnership with parents and carers.
The qualification is open to childminders pre-school / nursery practitioners, nursery leaders and teachers.
Participants need to have at least a level 3 qualification, which is full and relevant.
The course will take eighteen months to compete, estimated time per week 1-2 hours. This consists of a blend of self-study, face to face and group sessions which vary between training providers. It is expected that training will fit around schedules and will be able to be competed in work time. Assessment consists of a reflection-based case study (up to 2,500 words).
Participants will need agreement from line manager before applying. Those undertaking the award should sign up on GOV.UK website where they will be able to choose a provider. There are six providers available.
Enrolment is from now through to September, start date October 2023
More information about the NPQEYL and eligibility criteria can be found at: Early years leadership NPQ (education.gov.uk)
Kent News and Updates
Early Education Funding Rates with Effect from September 2023
Funding announcements were made by the DfE on 7 July and we expect a communication from KCC imminently.
Early Education Funding Reminders
There is one remaining opportunity to submit a Free for Two (FF2) claim this term.
- By 5pm on 28 July 2023 for payments week commencing 14 August 2023
The next opportunity will be in Term One.
- 1 to 19 September 2023 for payments week commencing16 October 2023
More information for this term and the following academic year can be found on the FF2 Payment schedule documents on the Kelsi website.
If you submitted an estimate for three- and four-year funding by 4 July 2023, interim payments will be made the week commencing 4 September 2023.
Headcount week for the Autumn term:
- Monday 11 September to Friday 15 September 2023.
The PVI Calendar on the Kelsi website provides further dates for the next academic year.
Compliance – When Free Early Education is Part of a Session and Consumable Charges Are Not Voluntary
Increase in Complaints
The Education People/Kent County Council (KCC) along with other local authorities in England, are receiving an increasing number of complaints from parents. These complaints are mainly focused on:
- costs for consumables including meals, snacks and other items such as nappies and suncream that are not voluntary
- Free Early Education (FEE) hours that are part of a session where the costs for the additional hours are excessive and a lot more than a setting’s normal hourly costs
- supplementary costs attached to each FEE hour
- not having a fair access to a completely free FEE place.
An increasing number of these complaints are being escalated to the Local Government Ombudsman as more parents become aware of their rights to a free place and many more are unable to pay rising childcare costs. In almost all cases parents complain they don’t understand what they are paying for. Please see links to recent cases:
The Ombudsman’s focus when dealing with these complaints centres around:
- providers not being open and transparent about their charges
- parents not having fair access to a free FEE place
- additional charges that are not voluntary
- invoices not being clear and transparent so parents can see exactly what they are paying for.
Currently Across Kent
There is an emerging issue in Kent which may be putting some providers at risk of increased parental complaints which could easily be escalated to the Ombudsman. There are two main issues, the first being that charges are being made that are not voluntary and the provider’s paperwork does not state this. Secondly providers are increasing their charges to offset the rise in costs by making FEE part of a session and then charging excessively for the additional hours. Parents are questioning why their cost per hour is £17.00 when the normal daily rate is £9.00 per hour. How will you explain this difference to a parent or to the Ombudsman?
Some providers have justified excessive charges by saying that it is the difference between what they need to charge, and the FEE received from the local authority, or that the charge covers meals and additional services not covered by the FEE. In such cases these have led to complaints of a ‘top-up’ and escalation to the Ombudsman with a ruling by the Ombudsman that this is in breach of the statutory guidance and parents must be refunded.
To mitigate the chances of a complaint you may need to review how you offer your FEE. The scenarios attached to the email delivering the Bulletin may help you to consider what the Ombudsman might believe is a top up.
Compliance with the Kent Provider Agreement – September 2021 (KPA)
The Early Years & Childcare Service’s Childcare Sufficiency Officers (CSOs) and Childminding Advisers (CAs) carry out audits on all providers to ensure they are compliant with the Kent Provider Agreement (KPA). Any parental complaints are also investigated. In cases where the terms and conditions of the KPA are not being met providers will be given an opportunity to correct any errors. Failure to comply with the requirements of the KPA could result in FEE funding being suspended and a request for any charges not in accordance with the KPA being refunded to parents.
In cases where an Ombudsman ruling instructs KCC to refund a parent due to charges not being in the spirit of the statutory guidance and the KPA, KCC will seek redress using Provision 9 (3) of the Childcare Act 2006 and reclaim any amounts paid from a provider’s next FEE payment.
How Can We Help?
The CSOs and CAs have years of experience working with providers and supporting the sustainability of their businesses. We can provide help and support with:
- business reviews to allow you to take a holistic view of your whole business
- cashflow templates so that you can look in more depth at your monthly income and expenditure, thus allowing you to identify any areas of concern in time to take action
- breakeven scenario which will enable you to view what financial impact would occur to your business if you made changes such as changing your sessions time, making changes to your staffing structure etc
- occupancy Calculation – to help identify sessions that are breaking even and those that are not.
Safeguarding Information on The Education People Website
Although the Education Safeguarding Service has moved into KCC, the policy templates and other information and documents are still available on The Education People’s website. We have added the URL to the Contacts List at the end of the bulletin, but you may find it useful to bookmark this link to help you find it easily in future.
As you are aware, and which has previously been reported, the Charity Commission is making changes to the way it does things and updating much of its guidance. Last month, Helen Stephenson, CEO and board member of the Charity Commission set out how the regulator is working to better support trustees - and why it expects trustees to engage with its guidance and avoid disputes.
Within the speech, Helen shared how pleased she was that an updated version of one of the Commission’s most used pieces of guidance, Charities and Internal Financial Controls, which some of you may know as CC8 had been updated. Helen explained how the Commission has worked hard to make CC8 clearer and more accessible and that guidance covering the use of services, such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, and working with crypto assets has also been updated. This guidance now stresses the risks involved in the use of crypto currency and advises trustees to exercise caution. As part of this process, the Commission wrote to around 1,000 trustees to user-test the new guidance, and 93% of those who responded said they were now more confident on their responsibilities around internal financial controls.
In the meantime, the Commission is writing to charity contacts and asking them to log into My Charity Commission Account, so that each charity has at least one log in and can start using the service when it is rolled out. Please ensure you have the right person registered as your charity’s contact, and that their email address is up to date as this is a substantial period of change in the Commission’s digital services. The services being developed are big, and complex to deliver. By ensuring your contact details are up to date, and by taking swift action when you are invited to sign up, you can help the Commission ensure that the roll out is smooth for all involved. What underlines the work so far on the My Charity Commission Account is a growing understanding of trustees as people.
Focus on Out of School Providers
The summer term has arrived, and we are seeing children and staff enjoying the outdoors and, hopefully, the sunshine.
Transitions become very important at this time of year. For out of school provision this may include preparing for a new intake of reception children. This can be an extremely busy time with registration forms, planning play visits or trial sessions, allocating key people, staff deployment and finding out as much information as possible about each child to support their transition into the out of school provision. The Education People’s ‘Transition Matters’ document provides guidance to practitioners, managers and teachers to reflect on policy and practice to ensure that children's emotional wellbeing is appropriately supported through the many transitions they experience in the early part of their life.
Whilst supporting transitions in the EYFS is exceptionally important, it is also vitally important to remember the transitions that all children make each new school year and particularly the year six children who will be going to secondary school in September. When they go to secondary school, they leave the security of the out of school setting, sometimes after many years.
Because of the informal, relaxed ethos of playwork, play workers and childcare staff are in the privileged position of developing trusting relationships with children. This often means that children are more likely to feel comfortable in expressing themselves in this environment. This term is full of excitement for the summer break, however for some year six children, the prospect of transitioning to a large secondary school can be frightening and very stressful. Playworkers and childcare staff can collaborate with the school to support children’s’ metal health and wellbeing during this transition with a variety of activities, discussions and helpful resources that can be individualised to meet each child’s needs.
There are many organisations that provide families with support, and staff can access resources and information through these sites. Young Minds has a variety of information to help year six children help themselves or seek help.
Getting used to a larger school, changes in routines and lessons is a huge part of the year six transition and the anxiety of building new friendships or maintaining existing ones, can be daunting. Kidscape has an excellent resource library to support children. Their Friendship Flower activity and information is a meaningful way of engaging positivity and kindness. Kidscape write: ‘What can flowers tell us about friendship? Just like flowers, friendships need time, attention, and lots of TLC (tender loving care!) in order to grow. Both friendships and flower growing can bring us immense happiness but can also be challenging at times. They have a lot in common!’
Remember to share your activities, play opportunities, special events and celebrations on our Facebook page. This is a great place to showcase the wonderful things that are happening in your setting and share ideas with other settings
The Early Years & Childcare Service’s Out of School Improvement Adviser continues to offer their support for settings through Annual Conversations, dates are still being offered and appointments made until the end of November. The principle aim of these visits is to reduce the risk of falling below a ‘met’ judgement. During these visits there is the opportunity to explore and understand the settings approach to the monitoring of the quality of provision, the safeguarding and welfare requirements and its place within the self-evaluation and setting improvement plan. In addition to the Annual Conversations, the Out of School Team supports newly registered out of school settings until their first Ofsted inspection. If you have any questions about our visits, please email the EY improvement box. [email protected]
Focus on Childminders
Recent Ofsted recommendations have shown the following trend:
- risk assessing the play environment, particularly outdoors.
With many childminders using their outdoor space more frequently in the summer months, it is a good time to review the space and your risk assessment procedures.
The EYFS Statutory Frameworks 2021 states that ‘Providers must ensure that their premises, including overall floor space and outdoor spaces, are fit for purpose and suitable for the age of children cared for and the activities provided on the premises’ (3.55)
The Child Accident Prevention Trust has produced information on Garden Safety with points to consider when risk assessing your outdoor space. You should check your outdoor space daily, before children use the area to ensure that you clear all hazards such as animal faeces and rubbish and should carry out regular checks on your garden equipment and toys to ensure that they continue to be in a fit condition for use.
Join Us on Facebook
Over 560 of the Kent childminding community have now joined our ‘The Education People Kent Childminders’ closed group on Facebook. This is a great way for us to be able to engage with you on a day-to-day basis and for you to network with each other.
This month we have focussed posts on Health and Safety, and Tips for Under Twos to support your Childminding practice, join us for support, discussions, and ideas.
Stay in Contact
Alongside our support to childminders and our Facebook page, the Childminding Team also sends a childminding specific email to all childminders in Kent monthly. This email contains childminder specific updates and information to support your practice. If you are not currently receiving these emails please contact us at [email protected] and update us with your contact details to ensure that you are kept in the loop with Kent childminding news.
Information to Share with Families
Information on Gov.uk has been updated to provide information for parents on the following:
COVID-19 vaccination: at-risk children aged 6 months to 11 years
COVID-19 vaccination: resources for children aged 5 to 11 years – this link takes you to guidance for families as well as a useful information booklet and might be relevant for childminders and out of school settings.
Briefing and Networking Sessions
Our regular Early Years and Childcare Briefing and Networking Sessions provide a good opportunity to keep your setting and staff up to date and to network with colleagues from other settings.
Our next round of sessions will be in October with dates currently being confirmed.