An interim report of a Review on early years and childcare qualifications was published this week and was reported in the Guardian. This statement from the report was summarised in the Guardian and many other articles: “We demand that students need a relevant level 2 qualification before they are able to handle animals independently on our animal care courses at Solihull College. Nobody demands the same level of qualification before you can be left alone with a baby.” Actually, with the exception of childminders, a childcarer can’t be left alone with a baby (or older pre-school child) full stop. I am a qualified teacher and have Early Years Professional Status but I am not allowed to look after a pre-school child on my own. There is a requirement for a minimum of two members of staff at all times when children are present.
Parking that for the moment, I have noticed that many job applicants haven’t had adequate skills in English (maths has been far less of an issue), sometimes because they have English as an Additional Language. I had an argument with a local training provider last year who wanted to offer a place on a Level 3 childcare qualification to an ex-parent of mine with EAL. She is an intelligent person with a clear love of and desire to work with children, but her English was nowhere near good enough to even understand simple instructions never mind support children who are learning to communicate. I lost that argument and the student now has a Level 3 childcare qualification. Whether she will get a job and actually work in a nursery is another issue. Employers need to bear some responsibility if they are taking on staff without a proper screening process.
I have a one-to-one worker for a little boy with Special Educational Needs who is patient, caring and supports him very well. Her written English is poor but she can make notes and I write them up as necessary. I have other staff who read to the children with expression and passion very well and support their emerging speaking and listening admirably. Their grammar and punctuation leaves something to be desired. I get round this by having a requirement for reports to be typed and editing them myself. Ideally, I would employ staff who can write well without me spending time proof-reading but this is not possible without the funds to pay staff more. General funding in my setting has been reduced by £2500.00 for the next financial year and we have been told to expect worse next year. Parents can’t afford fee rises. This means I can’t pay staff any more than I am already. For the record, I am not making a profit and do not expect to or aim to.
Over the last few years, higher level early years qualifications such as Early Years Foundation Degrees and Early Years Professional Status have been promoted and funded. There has been significant extra money available to enable settings to pay an enhanced wage to graduate leaders (the Graduate Leader Fund). This is all coming to a rather abrupt and unwelcome end. Locally, most settings are having their GLF cut by 60% and funding for study days for those working towards graduate early years qualifications has been cut completely. The money available for bursaries, which covered all but £100.00 of course fees for childcare qualifications has been halved. I have one member of staff who has nearly completed her Foundation Degree but wants to continue to attain her degree; she told me today this will cost £850.00 with no bursary available. Another member of staff has just started her foundation degree and unless she is lucky and gets one of the remaining bursaries will have to abandon it.
If the Government is serious about the importance of early education, they need to fund it properly. The rewards will be reaped in the long run.