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The Nutbrown Review, commissioned by the Government to strengthen the standards and qualifications of early years professionals, has published its Interim Report and led to fierce media debate over the teaching abilities of staff employed at some nurseries.
Pupils with poor academic records are still being steered towards "hair or care" with early years courses "often the easiest to enrol on", says the Nutbrown Review into early education and childcare qualifications.
In the interim report of the independent Government review, Dr Celia Greenway at the University of Birmingham said: "For too long early years work has been perceived as an alternative to hairdressing and a suitable route for those who fail in school."
Leading the Review, Professor Cathy Nutbrown, writes of the importance of restructuring the availability of early years qualifications: "Getting qualifications right will help to ensure that women and men enter the profession with the skills and experiences they need to do the best work with young children and their families."
"Well taught courses and learning routes that lead to reliable qualifications can help early years practitioners to improve their skills, knowledge and understanding, constantly developing in their roles. This can only benefit young children, both in terms of their day to day experiences in the Early Years Foundation Stage and their future learning and development."
Speaking to BBC News on Saturday, Purnima Tanuku of the National Day Nurseries Association called for the media not to draw extreme conclusions from the findings: ‘…during the last ten years or so there has been a huge improvement in qualifications right from level 2/level 3 to graduate early years workforce within the nursery sector, and I think it’s important to actually look at that in context with the Review findings’.
On a similar note Neil Leitch of the Pre-school Learning Alliance criticised the style of reporting in newspapers The Times and the Daily Telegraph:
"Professor Nutbrown's Interim Review of early years and childcare qualifications does not say that there are childcarers working in day nurseries unable to read or write. Rather, it highlights how far people in the early years and childcare sector has travelled in recent years with regard to their qualifications and professionalism and how far the sector has still to go."
"It is disappointing that comments such as this being a "wake up call", "a shocking oversight that parents would be very unhappy about" and that " It is shameful that you need higher qualifications to get into hairdressing or animal care" should be made."
A final report is due in the summer and is expected to advise future legislation, to be led in Parliament by children’s minister Sarah Teather.