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Review of NDNA annual conference 2016

NDNA conference

Last week FSF HQ headed up the M1 to attend the NDNA conference in Milton Keynes. We attended a range of talks in the Leadership stream – here are the headlines we picked out …

John Timpson

“A fabulous motivational speech from John Timpson, boss of the Timpson empire and Telegraph business agony uncle” (www.ndna.org.uk)

I wasn’t familiar with John Timpson, although I have used his shops many times! I was pleased to hear him speak - he was a passionate and ‘no nonsense’ orator. Following his presentation, I looked at some of the advice he has been giving out on the Telegraph business page. There were numerous examples of his straightforward approach – you can read some of them here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/businessclub/management-advice/

It might seem odd trying to equate the management (and ownership) of a key cutting / shoe repair business and the intricacies of the Early Years world however I was able to pull some nuggets of wisdom from what he said. I’ve listed them below:

  • Tackle issues and problems early on – you don’t need to be confrontational, just make sure your expectations are clear from the start.
  • Keep everyone in the business up to date with what is going on – Timpson have a weekly staff newsletter. Make sure that all staff from juniors to seniors know and understand any changes that have been made and know why they have happened.
  • Make sure staff know what the company aims and objectives are. Review and remind staff of these often. Timpson have a weekly meeting for senior managers and agree the aims for the week and then evaluate what has been achieved before the next meeting.
  • As a company, make sure you are listening to your staff and do what you can to help – at Timpson, every member of staff has holiday on their birthday, there are a range or staff reward and motivation tools (performance related pay, loyalty bonuses, ‘spot prizes’ for employee of the week / month). Timpson also have a staff ‘hardship fund’ which staff can apply to. Early Years settings tend not to be able to make financial gestures to staff due to the amount of money that working in early years generates; however, I thought it was a timely reminder about looking after staff and remembering that they are your biggest asset.
  • Above all, remember that “Processes don’t make the money” – John was extremely clear on this: People make the difference and the difference is what makes the money.

I came away thinking I will do the following:

1.    Fortnightly newsletter for staff – I’m going to email it to all staff and then put a copy in the staff room with a response space at the bottom. I’m going to include on it reminders about the usual things e.g. uniform, punctuality etc. but also what I’m going to be observing or any new ideas we are trialling in any of the rooms.

2.    Discuss staff motivation at the next staff meeting – what could we do to improve / motivate staff more?

Sam Gyimah MP

The full transcript of his speech is here:

My personal thoughts on what he said were as follows:

  • The minister's view matched what we had heard previously from John Timpson “In terms of quality, the workforce is the sector’s biggest asset. Having the right people with the right skills and being able to deploy them in the best ways makes a big difference to outcomes”.

However, the cost of employing highly qualified staff was not tackled and remains the key issue for us in the early years sector. Although the minister was keen to stress the flexibility of the the staffing model that providers adopt saying only that it should ‘suit the needs of children and parents’. He would not be pushed on how ‘high quality’ providers would actually be able to pay for the high quality staff they need. The minister reminded us, as employers, about the incentive funding available to us if we took on someone undertaking Early Years Initial Teacher Training. He did not however explain how any appointment of such a high qualified member of staff would-be sustainable once the incentive funding was gone.

  • The minister announced that the requirement for GCSE Maths and English for all L3 staff would be reviewed again in response to feedback from the sector.

As an employer I have mixed feelings about this – I don’t want it as I am perfectly capable of making sure I recruit L3s who are suitably literate and numerate for the role I want them to do. But then, I have very high standards and would probably only recruit those who would have, or be capable of, achieving GCSE Maths and English. I accept that there might be other providers who are less scrupulous …. I also know very well that there are some amazing nursery workers who would not get their GCSE but also some who have got high grades in GCSE but who have little affinity to a role in childcare. So, I think I’d prefer not to have it as a ‘requirement’ but I would be happy to see it as a recommendation. I might be happier to see a requirement in ‘spoken English’ as I often see to see work-placement students who struggle to put a sentence together! … but that might be just me (so don’t tell the DfE!)


Following this speech, I decided that when I get back to my own setting I would do the following:


1.    Review when the ‘free’ hours were offered to ensure that they had as little impact on the times that my ‘paid’ place were available as possible

2.    Review which activities we provide as part of cost – music sessions, yoga, mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks and decide which would become ‘paid’ for by parents. Therefore, not included in the ‘free’ entitlement sessions.

3.    Review my hourly rate calculation to ensure that the session costs meet my expenditure costs and reflect any anticipated cost increases this year

Purnima Tanuku

Purnima, in conjunction with the NDNA Board, is responsible for the strategic direction of NDNA.

  • Purnima spoke articulately, as ever, and clearly made the case that more investment is needed in early years in order to achieve the cross-sector high standards to which we all aspire. She urged NDNA members to remember that they could charge parents for any extras provided over and above the free entitlement and that providers had influence over the hours of delivery for the free entitlement. In the presence of the minister she reiterated the sector’s commitment to making the 30 hours entitlement work – but not at the expense of the sustainability of providers.
  • Purnima announced the NDNA #qualityvision which she described as being key to their leading in the sector and would help inform their policy debates with the DfE.

Following Purnima’s presentation, I felt confident that the NDNA knew what the issues were and that they demonstrated a professional yet determined relationship with DfE and Ofsted.

Sean Harford

“National Director, Education in September 2015. Sean was appointed Her Majesty’s Inspector in 2003” (DfE)

The full presentation is here:

  • Mr Harford explained that there would be minimal changes to the CIF Inspection Handbook in September but that any changes would reflect the new requirements for Paediatric first aid qualification. Beyond that he said that we would need to wait to see how Ofsted would respond to the additional 15 hours of care being piloted from September 2016 and from 2017 across the sector.
  • Mr Harford gave feedback on the new Ofsted complaints scrutiny panel that had been put in place since September. He explained that the step 3 scrutiny panel has been very successful and everyone involved has felt that the process was robust. He reiterated that “judgements can change and nothing is decided”. Another member of the panel (who is an early years representative on the panel) was present at the conference and confirmed that the ‘process is very thorough, the sector knows the system and understands that the system is credible”
  • Mr Harford was asked what his response was to the proposed new head of Ofsted’s comment that we might see the end of the ‘Outstanding’ grade. His response was that he felt the comment was ‘a musing’ from Ms Spielman and was not being considered by Ofsted at this point. He explained that any change would need to go through a period of consultation and it would have to be ‘cross-remit’ because all inspections are carried out under the Common Inspection Framework. The conference delegates seemed reassured.

Following his presentation, I felt reassured that he knew what he was doing, was a safe pair of hands, and was very aware of the sectors suspicions surrounding Ofsted. I have started following him on Twitter @HarfordSean and I have been pleasantly surprised by what he has to say on a day to day basis.

The big health debate

This was a panel presentation and discussion. We heard from Lisa McHendry (Youth Sports Trust), Edwina Revel (Child and Family Health and Life Chances at Newham Council) and John Blaney (Forest School and Bridgewater College)

  • The presentation began with the startling statistic that this current generation of children would be the first generation to Live 5 years less that their parents. The link was made between having an active body and having an active brain – with 80% of brain development happening before a child reaches the age of 3 years.
  • The panellists asked us to think about the food that our early years children eat – are the portion sizes correct? Are the nutritional balances correct? Do we involve parents in any menu planning?  Food for thought indeed!

The final panellist to present was John Blaney. As an advocate for outdoor play John reassured us that “Every trip and fall (playing outside) does not need medication”. John’s belief is that we should recreate ‘street play’ experiences where children can run, jump, climb and balance and ‘make their own games’. John cautioned us against having outdoor spaces with the same resources and the same layout day after day – he reminded us that this does not encourage imaginative challenging play.

  • John recognised that parents were wary of their children playing in this (what they perceive to be risky) way. To address this, John recommends an education programme for parents reminding them of their own childhood when they did play outside and they did take risks and subsequently learnt from what went wrong. John explained that robust risk assessments were important but that the benefits of taking risks far outweigh the negatives – it is through these risks that children learn to coordinate themselves.

As a consequence of John’s talk I have already decided to ‘strip out’ our large garden area and replan how we use our outdoor space. We are planning to share John’s philosophy with our parents and get them involved in a new ‘outdoor play’ experience at our nursery. I’ll keep you updated!

Hanif Qadir

“Hanif Qadir (Active Change Foundation) is recognised as one of the United Kingdom’s leading specialists in positively transforming violent extremists and is called upon to advise on strategies to counter violent extremism around the world” (NDNA)

  • This was a very thought provoking presentation which brought into sharp focus the ways in which Prevent Duty can be relevant in the early years sector. Mr Qadir explained that children are vulnerable to racist views from the ages of 3 or 4 years. He explained that what children hear at home amongst their family and friends will become what they think is acceptable. We were told that extremist views exist in all areas of society and that the events of 9/11 and 7/7 were the turning points for when we, as a society, began to take things seriously. Hanif told us a nursery rhyme that was shared with him – it was from a 4 year old child and demonstrated clearly how quickly young children can come to take extremist views as acceptable. In the rhyme we were told, the sentiments were clearly unacceptable and extremely shocking.
  • Hanif Qadir explained very clearly that there is no single profile for a person holding extremist views who is at risk of radicalisation. We were told that we should be alert for attitudes and behaviours that are different and noticeable. We should explore and challenge what children say. We should get to know our community and understand the thoughts and feelings they hold.
  • Mr Qadir explained that some families believe that the ‘war or terror’ is a war on Muslims and that there is a suspicion that the West is at war with Islam.
  • In closing, Mr Qadir reminded us that “revolutions come from small conversations – if it doesn’t ‘sit right’ you must challenge”
  • In response to a question, Mr Qadir clarified that it was his firm belief that British Values are “universal human values” he reminded us that we should respect, appreciate and tolerate each other.

Prior to this presentation, I understood my role in terms of Prevent as being very much aligned to my safeguarding role. I am always alert to children’s behaviour and I am very well trained in identifying the signs and symptoms of abuse and the potential behaviours that might cause me to be concerned about a child’s welfare. Having listened to Hanif Qadir speak I understand more fully how vulnerable our children are and I feel that I have more knowledge about the kinds of indicators that I need to be vigilant about. I also was pleased to hear him clarify British Values – as this is something that I and many of my colleagues have said to one another since the requirement for them to be ‘taught’ was introduced.

Millie’s Mark

Joanne Thompson spoke about her daughter Millie who had choked, and died, whilst at nursery. Joanne and her husband Dan have set up Millie’s Mark charity to promote the importance of having full first aid training for staff in early years settings. You can read the NDNA press release here.

It was an emotional presentation and a very brave one for Joanne to do – I think everyone was very moved by what she had to say. I know that I have signed our nursery up to Millie’s Mark and I hope that you will do the same.





FSF Rebecca
Rebecca's family hail from Liverpool but she was born and bred in the south of England. She gained a PGCE from Cambridge and an MA in Education researching school improvement. Rebecca taught in the primary sector for several years before setting up her own nursery, gaining EYPS and later working in nurseries and other early years settings helping identify areas for improvement. For some years she was the FSF Education Adviser and Web Content Editor and she is now an Education Consultant for the FSF and Tapestry.

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