Childcare overhaul will lead to high quality early education

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Parents will have more choice of high quality childcare the Government outlined this week in its new report ‘More Great Childcare.’

The current system doesn’t work. We have a poorly paid and poorly qualified Early Years workforce with many not having a grade C in GCSE English and Maths.

That’s why today’s childcare reforms will ensure that we overhaul childcare qualifications, and provide more choice of quality education and care for parents.

European countries, such as France and Denmark, recognise that looking after children is an extremely important job – and that attitude is reflected in higher levels of skills and pay. In contrast Cathy Nutbrown said in her review of childcare qualifications, about England:

‘…too many people who work with young children are under-qualified and the system for qualifications is confusing and inadequate.’

This cannot continue if we are expected to compete in a global market and we want to provide children with a complete and fulfilled education.

The first step in doing this is to make sure qualifications for the early years workforce are rigorous and more demanding.

Secondly, we propose to allow nurseries to relax ratios only where they hire highly qualified staff. Nurseries without highly qualified staff will need to stick to existing ratios.

Thirdly, we will set up childminding agencies who will offer a one stop shop service for childminders - taking care of business practicalities, and quality assurance for parents.

Fourth, Ofsted will be the only arbiter of quality, reducing the burden on LA’s from doing their own inspections and saving them money so more can go to the frontline.

Fifth, by abolishing the requirement on schools to register separately with Ofsted, if they want to provide care and education for children under the age of three – we will make it easier formore schools tooffer childcare and early education.

Education and Childcare Minister Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, said:“It is right that the Government does everything it can to ensure the provision delivering early education is of the highest quality, staff are paid better, and childcare is affordable to parents.

“When parents hand their child over to the care of a childminder or nursery they are not just entrusting them with their child’s physical safety; they are also entrusting their child’s brain. With this in mind it is no longer acceptable that childcare professionals are not required to have a GCSE grade C or above in English and Maths.

“Parents want a choice of quality home based care, quality nursery care or a combination of the two. More flexibility is required. I have met with a childminding couple in Thetford who felt the ratios were so restrictive that even if they ran out of milk and needed to pop to the shop for 30 minutes, the children had to go with them as to leave any behind would have exceeded the adult/child ratios. A nursery in Emneth was keen to work with childminders to provide a support service, particularly relevant in rural areas like South West Norfolk, but this system was not in place. Our proposals for overhauling childcare qualifications, having early years teachers, and child-minding agencies, introducing more flexibility underpinned by a robust inspection regime, will provide this.’’

At the moment, many nursery and private, voluntary and independent settings do not use full ratios. We think teacher-led settings with full ratios and structured activities are a good thing. Ofsted will favour this too. We do not mean to stipulate how all settings should behave, but we want parents to have the choice.