The Queen’s Speech confirmed the Government’s commitment to its pre-election childcare commitments.
However as well as drawing criticisms over a lack of adequate funding, however, the new Conservative Majority may find itself poised to clash with trade unions over a profession that is seen as lacking in career rewards.
According to Voice general secretary, Deborah Lawson, “Qualified childcare professionals who have trained and undertaken academic and practical assessment are likely to earn the minimum wage or a little above it for most of their career. Promotion opportunities are limited and often provide greater responsibility, which is not matched or reflected by the accompanying salary increase.
“Increasing free childcare may sound like good news for parents, but nurseries need to retain and recruit motivated qualified staff to provide that childcare.”
Ms Lawson also adds her voice to those that have highlighted the funding issue, saying, “While we welcome the Government’s aspirations for world-class education and childcare, we believe that it is failing to address the twin crises of funding and recruitment facing education and childcare. It seems that it is more interested in headlines and structures than in the people needed to deliver education and childcare and the funding that they require to do that.”
Another key issue on which there is growing discontent against the Conservative agenda, concerns that of academies.
Ms Lawson says, “There is no evidence that academies or free schools are more likely to provide higher standards than other schools.
“However, without recruiting and retaining high quality teachers, headteachers, support staff and childcare professionals, schools, colleges and nurseries cannot deliver what is asked of them.
“Chopping and changing headteachers will not provide the stability and long-term vision that schools need.
“Many schools are struggling to recruit headteachers and there is little incentive to take on a job with increasing responsibility and pressure to perform in a very short timescale but decreasing job security. As Sir Michael Wilshaw of Ofsted has pointed out, it could be hard for schools to find enough outstanding heads to take on the new academies.
“There is not only an axe hanging over headteachers’ heads but their budgets too. The constant need to restructure in order to cut costs puts the jobs of staff at risk. Student numbers are rising sharply, yet staff face redundancy due to financial pressures. Without urgent action to protect and increase funding, students will see larger class sizes, fewer teachers and lecturers and a reduced curriculum.”