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 Best Practice Forum –Early Learning Communities and Support
14th June 2012

The general response to Learning Communities is positive. People like the idea of being able to share information with others and build on the support that we have had to date. Training is an important part of development and the Learning Communities offer a chance to continue developing and improving practice through a network of like minded people. Interacting with other Early Years professionals has benefits for all. However, there remain reservations regarding how they will work in practice. In order to feel part of an early years community childminders raised the following points which they would like to see considered:


- Childminders would use children’s centres and would visit the centre to look out for forthcoming early learning community events. This seems like a good place to advertise and would need to be in each locality. This only works for those who attend children’s centres and many do not.
- there was also interest shown in the TAS contacts emailing or writing to people to tell them what events are planned. This has been patchy to date with several people (non networked) not knowing who to contact.
- at the moment because communication has been weak events which have been run have not been advertised and many childminders were unaware of events going on. The example of Castle Hill children’s centre was given which is an event with a speaker from Pen Green. This may be because this area has a very active and involved community of childminders
- The localised approach still raises some concerns and discussion took place regarding how events could be attended by people from across the borough. If the need is great enough for a session to run twice then this works. However, if one childminder in the North would like to attend a session from the South then this would be something we would like to consider. This could be done through clear communication to the CCMA and NCMA local forum’s who could then pass the information on to all members. A central point would be in a better position to see whether duplication is happening or if there can be a better match between need and provision.


- Some children’s centres have made it clear that they do not want childminders attending sessions (Woodside was given as an example where childminders have been asked not attend family sessions). As this can be an important way of communicating with parents this feels as if childminders are being excluded. This also highlights that not all children’s centres are fully on board with the early learning communities if they are unsupportive of childminders.
- We would like to raise the importance of childminders as part of the communities in which children’s centres run and would need to do this through positive PR. It is really important to all childminders that other members of the learning communities recognise that we work towards the same Early Learning goals and hold lots of positions of responsibility. This needs to be done through links with the CCMA, NCMA Local and Council and to highlight that there is a higher than average amount of Good and Outstanding childminders. This is a clear reflection of the professionalism and capability amongst us and that we have a lot to offer the Early Learning Communities.
- the issue remains that Early Learning Communities could be run during the hours in which children’s centres currently operate e.g. 9am-4pm. This will make it difficult for childminders who have school runs or several children to attend events even if they want to. Especially as young children have unpredictable patterns from one week to another. We would like to see children’s centres and the Learning Communities run out of hours sessions that allow childminders to attend. We would like to see other members of the learning community encouraged to attend sessions outside of their working hours as childminders have to.


- Early years community sessions were deemed a good idea because it allowed people to mix with people from other areas of the community. On some occasions it will allow people to attend or discuss training that they may not be able to attend otherwise. However, because of the issue below some of these sessions need to run in the evening or at weekends to allow childminders to be a well represented part of the early years community.


- the events proposed to run at children’s centres could be poorly attended by childminders if they have to bring their minded children with them. Crèche’s are a solution to this but some parents are unhappy at the idea of their child being put into a third party childcare provider when they have chosen a childminder for this job. It would be difficult to focus on sharing or receiving information if a childminder is still working during the session. We feel that other Early Years professionals would not be expected to bring the children in their care along so would be at a greater advantage. There is a paragraph in the EYFS (yet to be determined) that suggests you have to be able to see or hear the child in your care at all times. If this is a requirement of the EYFS then even crèche’s may not be a solution to this issue.


- childminders would be glad of the opportunity to run voluntary sessions targeting childminders/early years professionals in order to integrate in to their local children’s centres
- many network childminders were unaware of the children’s centres they are networked into. This means they have not been able to keep their vacancy information up to date as they were unaware that all children’s centres in the locality hold the information. It would be helpful if we knew which children’s centres were part of which communities and it was clear where information was held on individuals.


- in the past Early Years conferences that invited all members of the community to one place allowed for interaction and sharing of best practice in a well managed way. This approach is something we think would work well within the Learning Communities and we hope that the success of these conferences can be built on with the new communities.


- it was suggested that a list of speakers and trainers was put together with a price hierarchy so that community members had an idea of what was available and could then group together to arrange their own sessions. If this cannot be done by the council the CCMA would look to take this role on.

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