Monthly Archives: May 2012

A rant about being an employer

As an employer, about 3 years ago I received my first court liability order from the local council. This informed me that I was now liable under law  for the ongoing processing of an Attachment to Earnings Order for council tax, on behalf of one of my employees.

The employee had not paid her council tax and it was now my responsibility, as ordered by the court, to pay it on her behalf, out of her earnings.

I forwarded the relevant paperwork to my accountants, who performed the necessary calculation each month during payroll, to work out what percentage of income should be sent to the council and, since the council can only accept cheque payments which have to contain the reference, name and address of the individual, each month I dutifully wrote out a cheque, put the reference details on the reverse side, addressed and stamped an envelope and recorded the payment details, ensuring it was posted in good time to make the cut-off date so I wouldn’t get fined.

Oh, and by the way, on enquiring I was told I could claim expenses for all this effort – £1 !!!!!

A month ago, we finished paying the amount outstanding. Recently, the employee left the company.

Yesterday, I received a formal notification from the council that “According to their records they have, to date, received no payments against the Attachment of Earnings Order in respect of this employee.”

The letter reminded me that failure to comply with an Attachment of Earnings Order could lead to a fine of up to £1,000 plus any costs incurred in court actions.

I phoned the contact number on the letter and was told to send in proof of all the payments we have made. I pointed out to them that they had a record of all these payments and that they had processed the cheques.

They agreed with this (and could see them on the employee’s council tax account!) but still wanted me to prove that I had made payments! I was advised that it was up to me whether I decided to comply with a reasonable request or not – and how this might be viewed in any subsequent investigation.

With the benefit of a good night’s sleep, I have now calmed down, a bit.

I sent an email notifying the council of the employee’s date of leaving the company and telling them that I have neither the time or inclination to send them details of payments I have made.

So now I sit here waiting for someone to come and arrest me!

Refined EYFS

Apparently our national curriculum for the under 5s has been “refined”! following the review by Dame Claire Tickell.

There aren’t too many surprises in the finished article, recently published. We are now preparing for its introduction from September.

Most changes are seen as “tweaks” rather than a full scale rewrite. There is much that is valued and retained. I believe most childcare providers and practitioners would be in support of this.

One area of contention has been the reference to “School Readiness”. We are not too exercised by this. Seen in the context of preparation for life in general, we have always developed each child’s independence, ability to concentrate, socialise and sense of investigation, awe and wonder, as well as ensuring the maximum capacity for fun and laughter. This, for us, is business as usual. We are not going to be teaching formal reading, writing and tables!!

We are pleased with the focus on 3 prime areas – Physical, Emotional and Language development, complemented by the 4 “specific” areas of Understanding the World, Literacy, Expressive Arts and Mathematics.

This helpful categorisation maps to what we have always done anyway, based on what we know to be of prime importance to children’s development, particularly for those under 3 years.

We also welcome moves to reduce the paperwork for staff. I believe it is self evident that time spent interacting with children will always be more useful than keeping records.  It remains to be seen whether our professional judgement fits with that of Ofsted. In other words, whether they will be happy to take our word for it rather than having to see everything written down.  We are told that it will be so, under the new inspection regime. I do hope so.

Lastly, there is the introduction of so called “2 year old testing”. There are very good intentions for the earliest possible opportunity to identify and intervene to address child development issues. But I predict this will be a huge can of worms, for any number of reasons –

What is to be tested, when, how, by whom? What are the norms that are being tested against? How will results be communicated? What will be done about any identified issues? What about those children who don’t attend a setting, or attend multiple settings or have just started?  How can this be statutory when children do not have to attend anywhere before the age of 5? and providers are not paid by the government, in most cases currently, to take 2 year olds?

There are a lot of questions and no real answers at this stage. Come September, we will endeavour to address ourselves to this task – as we always have done, working in partnership with parents for the good of their children.

We believe the refined EYFS builds on the existing framework to enable us to develop our practice, based on sound theory and consultation, to give our children the best of starts in life.