News

Gyimah Heralds Golden Age

A few short months into his time as the Minister for Childcare in a single party government, Sam Gyimah tells Tommy Leighton that this is a Golden Age for childcare and looks forward to an exciting period for the sector.

How does the mindset of a Minister change from leading a department in a coalition to having full ownership of policy?

It is interesting. What I found deeply frustrating about Coalition wasn’t the fact that we had to work with another party, but it was more the fact that I found our coalition partners often tried to suggest that where there were matters of social justice, it was their idea and when there were difficulties or issues that were unpleasant it was the Conservatives' idea.

Actually, as Conservatives, we care very much about social justice, about fairness and in the context of childcare, we care about high quality childcare as much as they do. Having to deal with that was deeply frustrating, so there is a sense of liberation post coalition.

You sit in a meeting and agree a policy and all the good bits would be down to someone else and all the difficult bits were down to you. Of course you expect the opposition to question you, but we now have a real opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to working parents by dealing with the issues that they find challenging around childcare – you know, childcare is important because it affects the cost of living for a lot of people and for mothers it affects their decision whether or not they can go back into work, but we also know that for the children, high quality childcare can make a positive impact on their life chances. What we really do have an opportunity to do is to demonstrate that this is important and that we can make a difference to parents’ lives.

How has it changed government policy on childcare – what are the key differences we should note that weren’t part of Coalition policy?

For the first time, we had a Childcare Bill in the Queen’s Speech – that has never happened before. One of the first pieces of legislation that this government has passed is on childcare and that’s for 30 hours of free childcare for parents of 3 and 4 year olds, so not only do we have the manifesto commitment, but we made it a top priority to be delivered speedily through the legislating process and that underscores our commitment to this sector.

In the Autumn statement, the Chancellor went as far as coming out with a down-payment for that policy, so we are acting on a key manifesto pledge and that’s different. This is no longer the Cinderella area of government.

Westminster politics can seem far removed from the reality of everyday life sometimes. Outside of formal consultations, what is the best way for childcare professionals to make sure their voices are heard by your department?

I hear what you say about Westminster politics, but I’m a parent, I’ve got a 16-month old and so my wife and I are having to juggle childcare issues like a lot of other parents up and down the country – what do you do if your child is ill? Who picks them up? So, yes Westminster politics can appear far removed but there are a lot of us who work in Westminster politics who experience the day-to-day challenges around childcare in the same way.

As far as childcare professionals are concerned, I think consultations are an important way to gauge the opinions of the sector before any changes are made. That’s how we formally listen to the sector, but what we are going to be doing in the course of this parliament is to find new ways to engage with the sector and with parents outside of formal consultations. We’ll be using ‘new’ techniques like social media, you’ll be seeing a lot of that from us during the course of this parliament. We know not everybody responds to consultations; they have certain time periods and you have got to respond in a certain way, so we are looking at finding new ways.

The new Childcare Bill seems very focused on parents’ entitlements, but gives little detail about how these will work in practice. There are concerns about how providers will find the extra space, staff, training etc necessary to offer the hours. In addition to the issue of funding, will you consult with the industry on the practicalities of implementing this policy?

The first thing to be clear about is that we’re doubling the free entitlement from 15 to 30 hours, but that is not the same as doubling the demand for childcare. There are a lot of parents of 3 and 4 year olds who are already taking more than 15 hours of childcare, that providers are already delivering. What will happen here is that the government will be subsidising their childcare costs, so the sector can, I believe, rise to the challenge in terms of providing the childcare and a lot of the spaces already exist.

In terms of how the workings of the Childcare Bill are concerned, as it goes through parliament we’ll be fleshing out the detail. A lot of the implementation aspects will be discussed by a cross-government Childcare Implementation Taskforce*, which I co-chair, and what we’re trying to do is make sure that we bring all of the different departments across government around the same table. So local government, because of course Local Authorities are very important to the delivery; the Treasury, because obviously we need to fund this; the Department for Work and Pensions and others will come together so we have a policy that is clearly implemented in a way that works for the sector.

In addition to that, we launched a call for evidence from the sector, about the cost of providing childcare. That finished in August and what we’ve got is the sector to come up with their ideas of how much it costs them to deliver the free entitlement so that feeds into our thinking around the funding and how to implement it. That is how we’re listening to the sector.

This is a funding review that was promised during the election campaign – we’ll be publishing the results of that funding review in the Autumn and that will feed into the spending review that the Chancellor will come out with, also in the Autumn.

Of course in terms of timing, we want early implementers to come forward in 2016 before we fully implement this in 2017, so we’ve got time for the sector to get itself ready, which is important.

Childminder Agencies (CA) were introduced by your predecessor and caused much confusion and consternation. Does it feel to you like the model is working? Are you confident that agencies will be able to make sufficient money to be commercially viable in the long term?

I think Childminder Agencies are a welcome innovation. They are independent of government, but I can see [how they can] get really involved in the delivery of the 30 hours – for example, school nurseries often offer the 15 hours in term time and there’s no reason why a Childminder Agency can’t partner with a school to work to deliver the second 15 hours. It’s not for me to prescribe how independent organisations run their business, but I think this is a good piece of innovation in the sector that can have a positive role in delivering quality childcare to parents.

The important thing is, childminders don’t have to join an agency if they don’t want to – it’s voluntary.

CAs were meant to increase the numbers of childminders. It’s early days of course, but Ofsted figures show another drop in the numbers of childminders - do you think Childminder Agencies will do anything to help numbers increase?

There are actually more childcare places offered by childminders. It’s gone up from 266,100 in 2011 to 277,500, so there has been an uptick in terms of the number of children being looked after. That is good news.

I think for all childcare providers, this is a Golden Age of childcare, in the sense that there are more women who work than ever before, there are more parents who are looking for childcare solutions and you’ve got a government that is really committed to investing in childcare. We invested £5 billion across the last parliament, that is obviously going to be going up in this parliament. We are also going to be implementing tax-free childcare, which was legislated for in the last parliament. I think the real driver of the increase in childminder numbers will be the fact that there is a lot of opportunity now for high quality childcare.

We all know that when it comes to childcare no two [sets of] parents want the same solution. There are some parents who want their children to be looked after in the domestic setting, some prefer them to be close to work because of proximity. I want to see all of the different parts of the sector flourish and I think with the government’s commitment to the sector and with parental demand, this is a good time to be a childminder.

They [The figures} also show a failure in the attempt to narrow the attainment levels between poor and better off children – obviously that is something that concerns you, but what else can be done?

Obviously that is in the educational aspect of childcare – it is very important and close to my heart. I believe that if you want children to go on and succeed in school, the early years are when you start and that means high quality childcare, which we know makes a huge difference, in particular for the less well off.

That is why we introduced the 3-year old entitlement in the last parliament, which we are carrying forward in this parliament, so that children from the most disadvantaged households begin to get that education sooner and do not fall behind. We also introduced and extended the pupil premium, which is targeted at disadvantaged children, into the early years so that those children begin to get that extra help that they might need from the age of 3.

So with these things, and also making sure the quality of the staff coming into the childcare sector is of the right standard, we are laying the foundations to narrow that gap further.

You talked recently about the “moral mission” of the childcare sector – what type of response did you get to that from the childminding profession and do you feel there is a will to take a “fresh look” at the issues?

The response I got from a lot of childminders was actually ‘this is what we’re doing already’. They do consider that looking after children is a vocation, not just something you do to pay your bills, and that there is something rather special and unique about it. So, in a sense I was echoing what a lot of chilminders in their own way see themselves as doing. I think we’ve got to keep reminding ourselves that especially as more and more parents look for childcare solutions, that the opportunity to help a child develop is one that is incredibly unique and there is a moral dimension to that.

How does the continuing drop-off in childminder numbers sit with government plans to increase the number of funded hours available to parents? Won’t a drop in places make 30 hours more difficult to achieve in some areas of the country?

I have talked about parental demand and the investment that is going into childcare from the government, which is a good backdrop for people thinking about becoming a childminder [to decide] this is a good time to do it. But also we are taking some practical steps. We are reducing some of the bureaucracy, so that for instance, you can operate 50% of your time as a childminder away from your domestic premises. That will bring flexibility and allow childminders to partner with a number of different organisations, including schools, to deliver their service. We are really helping childminders set up their businesses – they are now eligible for early education funding – 32,000 are currently able to access it.

All of these things are providing a positive environment for people who want to be childminders to do so successfully.

How do you view the role of Local Authorities in supporting the childminding community? Is funding at a sufficient level to allow them to continue this role?

As part of the funding review that we promised, we also committed to increasing the average hourly rate for providers to 3 and 4 year olds. That obviously applies to childminders. What local authorities are there to assure as much as possible, is that there are enough childcare places – that is a statutory duty for them, they have a role in shaping their local market and I believe childminders are very keen to be part of that.

What is your view on nanny regulation? Could CAs be used to register and regulate nannies?

Many nannies register under the voluntary part of our general childcare register and [if] nannies want to be regulated more, I’ll look at their submissions. The key to me is that parents should be able to choose the childcarer that works best for them. We should be giving parents the freedom to organise care in their own homes.

What is top of your wish list for your time as Childcare Minister, before you move on to another post?

Well, I’ve enjoyed my time. When the election came, I hadn’t got my feet under the table [in this post] and for me it’s been great to come back into the department, to a job that I had started doing and therefore had a feel for the issues. But also I became a full time department for education minister with responsibility for childcare, so I’m immensely excited by the opportunity.

To many parents, childcare is the issue, not an issue, and what I would like to do is to get to the place where it ceases to be the issue – so that parents who need childcare can have access to childcare that is affordable for them, high quality and gives them peace of mind when they leave their children. That’s what I want to achieve.

For childminders, I want to see a better service. Given all the investment that is going into childcare, I want to see childminders being a big part of this 30 hours, working with parents and other providers to deliver what parents need. I think childminders are an extremely important part of that.

* The Childcare Implementation Taskforce

The Government has established a Childcare Implementation Taskforce, co-chaired by Sam Gyimah and Priti Patel. The taskforce has cross- Government representation including the Department for Education, the Department of Work and Pensions, HM Treasury, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Cabinet Office.

The Taskforce will work to drive forward the delivery of key government policies including: the doubling of free childcare for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds; the delivery of Tax-Free Childcare to support parents back into work; and further improvements in the supply of childcare.

August 2015

News Archive

The British Association of Professional Nannies (BAPN) announced Tricia...read more

Complete the Morton Michel annual survey and you could WIN a £100 Amazon...read more

So if you’ve been following the advice from Caroline Noel in previous...read more

Now there’s a no-mess way your youngsters can paint wherever they are and...read more

Chris Williams, founder of “chatta” and language development...read more

Did you know allergies affect more than 25% of children in Europe? How prepared...read more

We are really pleased to announce that with effect from 1st September 2017,...read more

Two and half years after it was first announced in the 2015 General Election,...read more

Government IT projects do not have a particularly good track record. This is...read more

In March, the then Childcare minister Caroline Dinenage announced that the...read more

Childcare Expo Midlands is back for 2017 with an unmissable programme of...read more

It's your last chance to receive your Morton Michel's Magic Miles fundraising...read more

Macmillan Cancer Support’s much-loved World’s Biggest Coffee...read more

The Nursery Catering Company (NCC) has launched its summer vegetarian and...read more

My Family Week celebrates families of all shapes and sizes, allowing children...read more

Get ready to be inspired by the leading influencers and suppliers from across...read more

Morton Michel are delighted to have teamed up with Make-A-Wish UK this...read more

Last week the inquest into the death of Nasar, a 14-year-old boy from North...read more

Children and babies are prone to head injuries as they have disproportionately...read more

An online services marketplace has created a GCSE style quiz to see how many...read more

A top au pair agency is leading a revolution in the holiday market by providing...read more

An event for everyone in the early years community will be opening its doors...read more

Childcare minister Caroline Dinenage MP chose Childcare Expo to make two...read more

One of the UK’s leading voices on physical activity in the early years...read more

The Department for Education has re-launched its start-up grants for childcare...read more

A unique, affordable conference for Childminders and all Early Years...read more

Childcare Expo London have just announced their bursting educational seminar...read more

Home childcarers are being urged to get involved with Save the Children’s...read more

Morton Michel has revamped its Childminder Help website to help budding...read more

Just 10% of under-fives meet NHS guidelines for physical activity of three...read more

A £4.4 million government fund has backed a new anti-bullying app as well...read more

Results of this year’s phonics screening check show a continued rise in...read more

Chief Medical Officers in the UK have written a letter to early-years...read more

Kidstogo has launched a Characteristics of Effective Learning pack, its first...read more

Children’s charity Action for Children (AfC) has taken over most of the...read more

Organic baby food brand with a Mediterranean twist Piccolo, has launched four...read more

Drinks brand The Berry Company has launched a range of children’s fruit...read more

Morton Michel’s annual design competition has proven to be a popular...read more

With only a few weeks to go, Childcare Expo is looking forward to welcoming its...read more

Online printable resource supplier Twinkl.co.uk is getting into the summer of...read more

Public health minister Jane Ellison MP has told childminders and other...read more

Childminders and other early-years practitioners now have an opportunity to...read more

Practitioners need to support parents as much as they can when it comes to...read more

A new wearable device designed to boost language development in babies and...read more

Practitioners should not overlook puppets as engaging and effective resources.read more

The early-years sector is in prime position to deliver national health goals,...read more

Manchester welcomed Childcare Expo with open furry arms last week at EventCity...read more

Morton Michel is delighted to announce the launch of their brand new website!read more

Never before has children’s health been deemed a ‘national...read more

Morton Michel has launched two new online forums for the childcare sector.read more

The number of nannies voluntarily registered with Ofsted has risen, reversing a...read more

Play deprivation must be addressed, the All Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit...read more

Family and disability charities welcomed childcare minister Sam Gyimah’s...read more

The Northamptonshire Childminding Association (NCA) has launched a national...read more

Two experienced teachers, authors and education advisers have launched a new...read more

An alliance of early-years organisations is stating its opposition to baseline...read more

The Care Inspectorate’s annual report on early learning and childcare...read more

Children’s Communication Charity I CAN has launched a new intervention;...read more

Northern Ireland’s consultation on the region’s proposed 10-year...read more

Deborah Lawson, general secretary of Voice, the union for education...read more

Childcarers have a fun new way to keep the car clean and tidy thanks to Tidy...read more

Increasing the free childcare provision to 30 hours is “going to have...read more

Education and childcare minister Sam Gyimah visited Paris for two days in...read more

Morton Michel’s annual design competition has proven to be a popular...read more

Maybe you’re a nanny looking to become a childminder or you have worked...read more

If one word had to sum up Childcare Expo Midlands last week it would have to be...read more

A few short months into his time as the Minister for Childcare in a single...read more

A new anti-inactivity programme is targeting children as young as five- years...read more

Childminders in England will soon be able to operate from suitable non-domestic...read more

Research from Post Office gift-card One4all revealed children’s birthday...read more

Many youngsters will be crossing roads for the first time independently over...read more

Awarding organisation NCFE has acquired the Council for Awards in Care, Health...read more

This autumn marks the 6th year for Childcare Expo at Coventry’s Ricoh...read more

A recent contributor to Home Childcarer was named in the Queen’s Birthday...read more

This September, the Ricoh Arena in Coventry will once again be fizzing with...read more

The Children’s Activities Association (CAA) will be a UK first; a...read more

Schools will have to start publishing their childcare provision alongside...read more

The Department for Education has issued new guidance for practitioners on child...read more

The National Early Years Trainers & Consultants Organisation (NEYTCO) has...read more

London’s Olympia was a hive of activity last month as early years...read more

Early years practitioners are being urged to take part in a research project...read more

Devon County Council (DCC) has renewed its contract with training provider and...read more

New government funding will be given to councils to help them prepare for the...read more

The government has launched a competition to develop a mobile app to help...read more

We all know the phrase ‘you are what you eat’ and anyone who...read more

Ofsted-inspection tracking website Watchsted now collects and features...read more

The government’s childcare business-grant scheme has been extended for a...read more

A new national organisation for early-years trainers launched at an event in...read more

Nursery staff and childminders will be expected to report pre-school children...read more

Health Minister, Dr Dan Poulter, and Childcare and Education, Minister Sam...read more

The first childminder agency in England has been given the green light.read more

After holding a consultation, the Government has confirmed that childminders,...read more

The government’s Childcare Business Grant Scheme, offering grants of up...read more

Childcare minister Sam Gyimah has written to the childcare sector to thank...read more

The Welsh government has launched a 10-year plan for the early years, childcare...read more

A coalition of charities has launched the Read On. Get On. campaign and...read more

Nurseries, pre-schools and childminders have all shown an improvement,...read more

Inspections of nurseries rated as ‘require improvement’ are to be...read more

The Department for Education has confirmed that Sam Gyimah is the new childcare...read more

Childcare providers will have their funding withdrawn if they do not...read more

Sam Gyimah, MP for East Surrey, has replaced Elizabeth Truss as minister...read more

David Hoare, a trustee of the Academies Enterprise Trust, has been appointed as...read more

The House of Lords has launched an inquiry into how affordable childcare is and...read more

Over two-thirds of nurseries and childminders fear the new Tax-Free Childcare...read more

Montessori Centre International (MCI) has announced a new Diploma in Montessori...read more

Monday 2nd June 2014 – The day the childcare sector took over LEGOLAND...read more

The number of childminders has fallen by over 2,000 in the last six months,...read more

Early years regulator, Ofsted, has clarified and simplified its essential...read more

Kingston University psychologist Dr Jo Van Herwegen has warned that if children...read more

Employers of nannies were left angry and confused in April after receiving...read more

The Government announced a freeze on Ofsted fees for childminders on the same...read more

New laws giving play opportunities for children across Wales will soon come...read more

All home childcarers are invited to celebrate Morton Michel’s 50th...read more

Women and equalities minister Maria Miller recently reminded aspiring...read more

Norland, the world famous Early Years training college, is the UK’s first...read more

Early years regulator, Ofsted, has launched a consultation on how childminder...read more

A political row has erupted over the sacking of Ofsted chief, Baroness Morgan....read more

Morton Michel, the leading childcare insurance provider in the UK, is...read more

The first year under the new Ofsted inspection framework judged more...read more

The Government is pressing ahead with its plans to introduce childminder...read more

The official launch of the Register of Playwork Professionals was warmly...read more

A new online safe driver qualification designed specifically for childcarers...read more

Early-years training provider People & Business Development Ltd (PBD) is...read more

The number of children being care for by childminders in Scotland rose in 2012...read more

The site features news and information about the Campaign, including the...read more

After reviewing proposals from over 100 different organisations interested in...read more

Parents will have to start paying money into a pension scheme for their nanny...read more

The Welsh government launched its first childcare and early years plan, setting...read more

Change4Life has launched a campaign to ensure children maintain a healthy...read more

From this month until December, schools, colleges and youth groups across the...read more