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Visit Of Minister!


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We are having a visit on Wednesday afternoon from someone from 'the office' Department for Children, Schools and Families wanting to know what the challenges are of providing quality childcare in a rural setting. We are extremely rural - tiny Cumbrian village, drawing children from surrounding villages - so the obvious point is the distances that children have to travel to come to us - the furthest comes 8 miles along very winding country lanes. My second point is that to attract these children from far-flung villages we have to keep our session fees down to £5 and then of course our salaries are low too.

Even though we are 'in the middle of nowhere' there isn't any appropriate building so we are in the back room of a chapel - but at least have the luxury of leaving our things out and decorating the walls as we wish. We also have no quality outdoor immediate playspace, although we have a small sloping grassed area, and then fields as far as the eye can see! (fantastically muddy just now!)

So, I want to make sure we make an impression on this chap and put across the challenges really well - has anyone got some really fantastic points for me to tell him so that he can go back to the office with a much better understanding of the challenges we face on a daily basis?

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Well gee, thanks everyone

Sorry Cait - am having a rough week (and its only Tuesday!).

 

Do you have problems attracting and retaining qualified, experienced staff? I am on the borders of my Borough, so if I recruit staff from the middle of the Borough they have to drive some distance to get to me, but if I recruit from the next Borough, they have to travel to access training. That's if I can find a suitably qualified practitioner in the first place!

 

But really I think you have enough issues of your own to content with - although as you say you are lucky that you can leave your equipment/furniture out overnight - that is really beginning to get me down!

 

Seriously I think you put the case really well: perhaps he might consider extra funding for 'very' rural groups like yours - £5 a session probably doesn't allow you to pay your staff anywhere near what they are worth (nor yourself, I imagine! :o )

 

Good luck with your visit - and remind him that if he wants to find out what its like on the ground - he needs to click on www.foundation-stage.info!

 

Let us know how you get on!

 

Maz

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Hi Cait -

Looks like your query got lost in amongst a blizzard of other posts from yesterday, sorry about that. Also, I think your situation is quite specific, so although plenty of people may have read it most will not have experience of your kind of setting (very rural, 8 miles down a country road etc...).

 

Personally I'd try to put across the view that although childcare provision like yours is much less easy to fill and much less predictable in a financial sense, it's also something that is indispensable if we are serious about universal provision for 3-5 year old children. Hope that helps and that you have more replies before your man from the ministry arrives.

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Thanks Happymaz and Steve, you've given me a good couple of 'quotes' for tomorrow. I'd like to think that this chap is really going to listen, at the very least wheneve someone in the future says 'rural preschool' he will have a memory of us in his mind!

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Just found out that the man who is coming, David Bell, used to be the Chief Inspector of Schools for OFSTED! EEEEEEE (not that that makes me more nervous or anything .............

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Well it went really well, it wasn't that chap though - but another from the same department with the same name! They regularly get crossed mail - are we surprised??

It went really well, I showed him our cash flow for last year to show him how 'close to the mark' we are and explained about keeping session fees low in order that children from distances can still afford to attend, with the obvious repercussion that this means low staff salaries.

We chatted about sustainability with unpredictable numbers of children attending each year - local dips in birth rates - impracticalities of an old building with high ceilings and draughty lead paned windows with holes in - staff qualifications and our Excellence in Cumbria Award and Accreditation. He was very positive and a lovely chap.

As he was leaving, one of my staff quipped 'if you are really the secret millionnaire, please don't feel you have to hold back!' hehe

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Guest Wolfie

That sounds like a good visit then - it'll be interesting to see if anything happens as a result of his visit and chat with you, won't it? :o

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