The childcare plans required by the DFEE are typical. It issued detailed guidance to authorities in October leaving them with just over three months to prepare detailed plans, obtain early years' and childcare partnership and council approval, and carry out consultation before plans are submitted by the end of January. That the consultation had to take place over the Christmas period when people had their minds on other things appeared to have escaped the DFEE.
The guidance itself is muddled and where it isn't, it is patronising. Why else the bizarre specification that all paragraphs "shall be sequentially numbered?" Best of all, the guidance for a crucial section on early education places for three-year-olds did not come out until the beginning of January, leaving less than a month to prepare, consult and obtain agreement.
As one DFEE officer put it at a recent conference: "The DFEE rarely invents anything." It does not deliver services but creates work that impedes others. It is a great jackdaw of local authorities' ideas, but messes up when trying to implement them. Sorry, David, far from questioning the role of local education authorities, we should ask whether we really need the DFEE.
Theodore Delamere, 27b Bushwood, Leytonstone, E11