UK charity the is urging the Government to reconsider leaving out one of the key recommendations of the Nutbrown Review on reforming early education and childcare.
The Review had advised that early years teachers need to be granted a higher professional status in order to draw more quality to the profession but, although confirming new requirements for nursery workers to be better qualified, no such status looks like being granted.
Director of programmes Sue Owen speaks of her disappointment, saying: “Preschool education is vitally important for children’s development and we need to make sure that all children, right from the start, have access to the very best education and caring experiences available.
“Whilst we support the Government’s plans for the development of the early years workforce with a level 3 Early Years Educator qualification, we are disappointed that the new Early Year’s Teachers will not be granted qualified teacher status, as recommended in the Nutbrown Review.
“We appreciate that the Government needs to act in order to make childcare more affordable, but are also concerned that allowing providers to take on more children, in the same space with the same number of staff, could put children’s welfare at risk and won’t necessarily save parents any more money.”
Ms Owen also shared the criticism from many parts of the sector on changes to the number of children staff are allowed to be responsible for, claiming the charity’s own research finds that parents consider one-to-one relationships to be vitally important.
She comments: “It is crucially important that the current staff to child ratios – for example one childminder to three under-5-year-olds or one nursery worker to three children under the age of two – are maintained, in order to ensure that our youngest children are safe and their development needs supported.”
Some nursery providers are seeing great opportunity ahead as a result of the controversial reforms, however. For example, chief executive Ros Marshall welcomes the focus on workforce development, commenting:
“As a company, we invest heavily in the training and development of our staff. We therefore applaud the drive for a better qualified workforce in the early years. Training and study for qualifications can equip even the most talented practitioners with an enhanced repertoire of high level professional skills. In this phase of a child’s education and development, as in all others, there is no substitute for intelligent, well-qualified teachers sensitive to the needs of children and able to bring to their task a strong sense of what works best.
Ms Marshall also chooses to take a less condemning approach to the staff to child ratio issue, though advising caution, saying:
“With regard to the proposed changes to the statutory ratios, it seems to us right that responsible providers should have increased power of decision in this matter. However, it is a flexibility we propose to use cautiously, always in the interests of children and only after consultation with all of our parents, as the level of qualifications of our staff rises. We will not simply change our policy and increase the number of children that we expect a member of staff to look after.”