News Views

Congratulations to ASPECT

The following motion was put forward by ASPECT to the recent TUC Congress, and it was passed unanimously.

“Congress confirms its broad support for the basic principles underpinning the Every Child Matters agenda, which prioritises five outcomes for all children and young people: staying safe, being healthy, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution, and achieving economic well-being.

In this context, Congress welcomes the Government’s commitment to, and related investment in, developing the children’s workforce and improving its training and deployment of relevant skills and expertise.  Congress further affirms that the evolution of a consistently high-quality children’s workforce, ambitious for every child and young person and committed to excellence in practice and to partnership and integrated working, requires:

a)    early consideration of appropriate machinery to ensure fair pay and conditions of employment for staff in all sectors of this 2.7 million-strong workforce, and to overcome current recruitment and retention difficulties within key occupational groups.

b)    measures to highlight and promote the continued availability of specialist professional supervision for practitioners in distinct children’s services professions, in all localities, as multi-disciplinary team-working extends.

c)   encouragement of wider discussion and debate over modern holistic approaches to child development, including international experience of the theory and different forms of practice of social pedagogy.”

We would like to congratulate ASPECT on getting this through. It is important – especially when money gets tight – to keep services for children in the public eye in all sorts of ways. Every mention may alert a politician or civil servant to the issues, or may inform a fellow trade unionist. The TUC won’t be able to say that they’ve never heard of social pedagogy now.

For more information about ASPECT see .

Congratulations to NCMA

The National ChildMinding Association has just had its Annual General Meeting, looking back on the year ending in April 2009. This is a well-managed organisation, and although income was down, the NCMA had tightened its belt and so expenditure was down too, so that there was still a modest margin in hand.

Like a number of other organisations the NCMA has been through a process over the last couple of years to reshape itself to match current and future requirements. It is nearly thirty years since the NCMA was founded, and throughout most of that time it simply grew. Inevitably its structures and processes became a bit lumpy and less than efficient, and so the modernising process which it has been through has helped to create a sleeker, more efficient organisation, fitter for its purpose.

And it is fulfilling that purpose. During the twelve months under scrutiny there were only two local authorities in England and Wales with which the NCMA had no joint project. That is some track record. The Association had also successfully lobbied Ofsted and the DCSF on several matters, such as the non-publication of childminders’ addresses and the level of registration fees.

It’s not compulsory for childminders to join the NCMA, but those who don’t are losing out. It is important to the NCMA, too, that it has an active membership and that it keeps listening to what childminders want and consulting them in developing its services and policies. The Association is a very efficient business, but it must always remember that its strength lies in its roots.

For more information see

Congratulations to Little Einstein’s  

Kindergarten company Little Einstein’s has just opened a new, state-of-the-art nursery in the heart of the South Side of Glasgow. Nithsdale House Nursery, in busy Pollokshields, will provide for children from shortly after birth until they are ready for the first days of school age. This facility will also create up to twenty jobs for a new team of qualified and professional carers.

Nithsdale House Nursery is the latest in a thriving business with four premises in Tayside and two in Glasgow, and it will expand and enhance Little Einstein’s current offering of the Hillside Crèche and the Hillside Clubhouse in Mansewood in Glasgow, which currently meet increasing levels of demand from parents in the surrounding area and beyond.

For all 52 weeks of the year, it will offer four huge and comprehensively equipped learning areas where children of different ages will be cared for by staff in ratios as intensive as one nursery professional to every three children. Children will also have frequent access to a pleasant and secure outdoor garden area and they will be further stimulated by outings to the local community.

Leighann Bain, Nithsdale House’s Nursery Manager said: “This is a marvellous new facility for parents in the area, who can leave their children in our care with absolute peace of mind.

We look forward to building a strong and effective working relationship with parents so that they can be satisfied that their child is happy, safe and well-stimulated at all times. We aim to provide an environment in which each child can grow and develop at its own pace and where staff plan responsively to children’s needs to ensure that learning is of the best possible value to children as individuals.”


Voice calls for Mobile Phone Ban in Nurseries

Voice, the union for education professionals, sent is a Press Release urging nurseries to become mobile phone-free zones to protect both children and staff. The independent union – which represents education and early years staff, including nursery nurses and other childcarers – would like private nursery owners and local authorities to consult their staff and introduce ‘no mobiles’ policies for staff when working in the nursery.

Senior Professional Officer (Childcare) Tricia Pritchard said, “We are concerned that mobile phones with integrated cameras enable anyone to take photographs without the knowledge of those being photographed.  Many mobiles have sophisticated cameras and are small enough to hide in the palm of a hand, enabling users to take high quality photographs which can then be uploaded to the Internet or sent to other people in a matter of minutes.

“A ‘no mobiles’ rule would protect children, prevent accusations against staff and reassure parents, many of whom had their confidence shattered by recent high profile events involving mobile phone cameras. Even a photograph taken spontaneously without thinking for purely innocent reasons could fall into the wrong hands or arouse the suspicion of colleagues or parents. I know of an establishment that has moved lockers away from the nursery area so that staff they can no longer hear their mobiles when they ring and therefore cannot take calls or send text messages until break times or at the end of the day.”

Do you agree? We can see the point that staff should not be distracted from their work by the latest messages from their friends, and, when service providers have to be so careful about breaching confidentiality, we agree that pictures of little children should not get onto the internet without proper authorisation. But on the question of suspicion, if there is something for parents to be suspicious about, why shouldn’t they be? If they are entrusting their little children to the care of other people, they need to be reassured, and the Voice policy has a whiff of protectionism rather than re-assurance.

For more, see


This is not a popular word now; people talk of children running away. Absconding has the image of prisoners who have escaped, such as the convict who died on Dartmoor killed by the Hound of the Baskervilles. Running away sounds more sympathetic to the child, and if children choose being on the run as a preferable alternative to staying at home or being in care, they must have real needs.

This item is not starting with the serious problem of children going missing today, but with history. Back in the 1970s, in the days of the approved school service, Spencer Milham and colleagues studied absconding, and found that there were no common factors which could predict absconding, except two.

The first was that in the windy days of March absconding was more likely – a feeling that one should be up and off? The second was the school. Some were absconding schools and some were not. Was it a symptom of the quality of child care or management? Hard to say. Obviously one would expect children to run away from a bad school more than from a good one, but the pattern was probably not that simple.

There was professional pride in not losing absconders in those days, and a degree of shame if one did.

There was the colleague who asked a boy whom he was escorting to another approved school to wait outside the gents at Kings Cross while he went in; he seemed surprised that colleagues laughed when he reported that the boy was not waiting for him when he came out.

Then there was the camouflage exercise in the snow, when the boys took their sheets and hid under them; at the end of the exercise the teacher told the boys to come out, and found they had already done so and were miles away.

And there was the boy who persistently absconded in the opposite direction from home and was regularly apprehended trying to thumb a lift, until a member of staff pointed out to him how stupid he was for doing so. Thereafter he managed to get home and was hard to find in his old haunts.

Or there was the member of staff who thought a cross-country run was a good idea, and sent the slowest runners off first, so that the rest would catch up with them. Some other boys from another part of the school saw the slow runners setting off unaccompanied, thought they were absconding and, feeling public-spirited, set off after them to catch them. By the time the member of staff came on the scene a full-scale fight was in progress, with the chasers trying to drag the runners back to the school, and the runners putting up a fierce resistance.

Stories such as these circulated because absconding was seen as a matter of importance. Children had been sent to approved schools in part to be contained on behalf of the society which wanted them put away. Preventing absconding was a major factor in days when there were no secure units, and the numbers of under-18s in the prison system was much lower.

Later on ideas changed, and there was a period in the 1970s and 1980s when it was essentially an open-door policy, and staff felt that they had no right to contain or control children. It was also left the Police to catch and return children who had run away.

Behind the jokey anecdotes there is an important message. Running away is important because it signifies problems; it also puts children at risk. We think that the people caring for the runners should treat is as serious and as something for which they should feel responsible – not just a matter of telling the Police. They should be on the alert to those who are unsettled and likely to run, to see how their needs may be met. They should have the self-confidence to act to stop absconding, and if children run, they should try to get them back. And they should follow up every such incident to see what can be learnt from it about meeting the child’s needs more appropriately.

And does anyone know how Philly is getting on? – the boy who twice made it to Philadelphia in the 1960s by plane from the UK. He deserved a prize.

From the Case Files

Mother had been sterilised, but the house was still dirty.

You can’t rely on Doctors to do a thorough job these days.

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