Government in childcare qualifications ‘neglect’

Concerns have been expressed after a “key aspect” of recommendations on the future of childcare qualifications was “neglected” by the government.

The Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education (Cache) has spoken out after the government said it would not implement suggestions made by Professor Cathy Nutbrown for a minimum level three qualification for early years practitioners counted in child to staff ratios.

It would have meant that practitioners would only have counted as staff in ratios if they had a level three qualification.

She wanted a minimum of 50 per cent of staff at level three by last September, increasing to 70 per cent from September 2015 and 100 per cent by 2022.

The Department for Education (DfE) has said it listened to Professor Nutbrown’s advice and had implemented some of her suggestions, but it would not adopt the minimum standard.
But a Cache spokesperson said this did not go far enough.

She said: “Any change may appear to neglect a key aspect of the Nutbrown Report.

“It is important to focus on how any real difference to early years education and care can be measured through the introduction of the early years educator level three qualification. The outcomes for babies and young children, as well as their families, are the real business of any proposed change and must remain so.

“We have responded enthusiastically to the Nutbrown recommendation concerning qualifications at level three, in order to provide those that are ‘rigorous and challenging’.

She added: “We have developed full and relevant early years qualifications in partnership with our stakeholders and through employer engagement that are much more up to date, fit for purpose and appealing.”

Professor Nutbrown also criticised the government’s decision, calling it “hugely disappointing”.

She said: “This decision denies opportunities for many babies, toddlers and young children; for their families, and for the women and men who seek a worthwhile career with enhanced status and career prospects.

“The quality of the experiences offered to the youngest children, depends greatly on the quality of the staff working with them; and robust qualifications is one way to ensure that staff are well equipped to do this important work. Level two qualifications are starting points to work with young children but this level is only an introduction.

“The decision not to opt for a workforce with a minimum level three qualification threatens the future status of the profession, limits career progression and denies some of the most vulnerable children the best that we can offer.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “We accepted many of Cathy Nutbrown’s recommendations on childcare qualifications and share her ambitions to ensure the highest standards of quality in early education and childcare.

“That’s why we have introduced the level three early years educator qualification, and early years teacher status for graduates, both of which have tougher entry requirements to ensure high quality staff are working with children and giving them the best start in life.”

In its original response to the recommendations, the Association of Colleges (AoC) said it supported Professor Nutbrown’s view “that level three qualifications must deliver the necessary depth and breadth of knowledge, be rigorous and challenging, and require high quality work experience placements”.

However, it declined to comment on the DfE’s rejection of Professor Nutbrown’s suggestions.