Seminar Three
What works in early childhood education and care in Mexico?

The third and final seminar in the sixth series took place on Monday 22 July at UEL's Docklands campus. The speaker was Professor Marco Delgado, while Dr Margy Whalley in her role as discussant was the first speaker in the discussion with the audience that followed Professor Delgado's presentation.

Dr Marco Delgado is Professor of Education at the Iberoamericana University, Mexico City. He has been working with the economist Dr Robert Myers, and the Mexican Department of Education, to try to develop research-based policies on early childhood education and care in Mexico. The National Programme for Childcare and new law for Childcare and Children’s Development aims to build mixed services (private and public), and regulate the market, but to do so within a framework of democratic community participation. This programme also involves a component to encourage low-income women into the childcare workforce, and for some, there is a question about using marginalised women as cheap labour to make the programme work. 

Mexico is the second largest economy in Latin America and the 14th largest economy in the world. It has a population of approximately 116 million people and roughly a third of the population is under 18. Mexico City, the capital, is a mega-city of 21 million people. About 10% of the population are indigenous, that is they are drawn from one of Mexico's 60 or so indigenous language groups. These indigenous groups have very rich cultural and artistic traditions but they also tend to have the lowest incomes, the highest rates of infant mortality and lowest rates of educational attainment. Articulating and delivering the new National Childcare Programme in such a diverse and unequal country is highly problematic.

Dr Margy Whalley is Director of the Research, Development and Training Base at Pen Green Centre for Children and Families in Corby, Northamptonshire. Dr Whalley set up and ran the well-known Pen Green multi-functional children's centre She also has experience of working in Latin America and with indigenous groups.

Posted 23 August 2013.

Seminar Two

Childcare sufficiency and sustainability in disadvantaged areas

The second seminar in the 6th series of ICMEC international seminars took place on the afternoon of Tuesday 19 March 2013 at UEL's Docklands campus.

The sustainability of early childhood provision in disadvantaged areas of the country is a topical issue, especially in the light of recent DFE policy announcements. So is the role of Local Authorities in ensuring its sufficiency. In disadvantaged areas, its quality, of paramount importance to children's wellbeing and longer-term outcomes, has proved more difficult to ensure. In December 2012 DFE published an important report on these issues, commissioned from a research team at the National Centre for Social Research: Childcare sufficiency and sustainability in disadvantaged areas, Research Report DFE-RR246.

Sarah Dickins and Ivonne Wollny, from the National Centre for Social Research, spoke about this important study which they conducted on behalf of DFE. The third author of this report, Eleanor Ireland, could not participate in this seminar, as she is currently on maternity leave. Dr Barbra Wallace, who was scheduled to provide a discussant's input, was prevented by illness from attending, but made her PowerPoint presentations available. Instead, Dr Eva Lloyd provided some comments to start off what proved to be a wide-ranging discussion following the presentation, with inputs from local authority officers, academics, students and childcare business leaders.

For a copy of the Powerpoint presentation delivered by the speakers, follow this link: Dickens and Wollny NatCen Childcare sufficiency and sustainability for ICMEC seminar 19.03.2013.

The speakers kindly left their presentation notes on this version of the PowerPoint to provide additional clarification about the points made.

Posted 3 April 2013.

Seminar One

The first seminar in the sixth annual series of international ICMEC seminars took place on Monday 26 November 2012 p.m. at UEL's Docklands Campus. 

Profit or surplus? Implications for provider sustainability

This seminar explored financial implications of provider aegis. How do social enterprises and for-profit childcare businesses compare in terms of sustainability? Do economies of scale matter? Is ethics an issue? Each issue was explored in depth as part of the discussion following the main presentation to a packed audience.

Zoe Raven, CEO of the Acorn Childcare chain based around Milton Keynes described the chain's evolution before discussing the rationale for her transformation of the originally for-profit organisation into a not-for-profit/social enterprise. She described practical aspects of the process and explained that this is still on-going, as it has been very difficult to convince the bank in particular to understand and accept this change of status. While parts of the business, for instance, its training arm, are already not-for-profit, most of the nurseries have still to change their status. She very honestly set out the benefits and disadvantages of cross-subsidising those nurseries operating in particularly disadvantaged locations with the income from nurseries operating in areas with high employment levels. Her PP presentation can be found here.

There followed a wide-ranging and very lively discussion with the audience of childcare business leaders, local authority policy makers, academics, students, think tank staff, journalists and others. Delegates shared their experiences of running for-profit and not-for-profit childcare enterprises, as well as a cooperative setting which had adopted a truly collective approach. The audience appeared to agree that the value of childcare business assets resided mainly in any property owned. Equipment was worth very little after depreciation. This had implications for any arrangements entered into such as 'sale and leaseback' which removed the type of asset on which a business might be able to raise additional funds.

Delegates discovered that Zoe had found that the Charities Aid Foundations had been unable to provide help to the Acorn childcare chain, despite its focus on social enterprises. The discussion also covered the impact that Zoe claimed the training provided to Acorn Childcare staff had had on staff retention, promotion, morale and effectiveness. Current childcare policy was touched on, particularly in relation to the capacity of local government to support alternative childcare business model development.

Dr Barbra Wallace, Open University Business School, had been scheduled to provide a commentary on Zoe Raven's presentation, informed by her own work on social enterprises. Unfortunately she had been unable to travel to Docklands from the West Country, due to the floods. ICMEC's co-directors hope that she will be able to contribute to another of the 2013 seminars.

Posted 28 November 2012.