Exclusive: Nutbrown Level 3 recommendations dismissed

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Ministers have confirmed that they will not go ahead with recommendations made by Professor Cathy Nutbrown to move towards a minimum Level 3 qualification for all early years practitioners counted in staff:child ratios.

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Professor Nutbrown said that the decision was 'hugely disappointing' and '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 Government had previously stated that the recommendations remained 'under consideration and subject to consultation'.

In the response to the Nutbrown Review in More Great Childcare, minister for education and childcare Elizabeth Truss said that the recommendation to raise the number of Level 3 staff incrementally until all staff counting in ratios would be required to hold Level 3 was still being considered.

Professor Nutbrown had called for a minimum of 50 per cent of staff at Level 3 from September 2013, 70 per cent at Level 3 from September 2015, and for all staff counted in ratios to be qualified to Level 3 by 2022.

It has also been revealed that the Department for Education (DfE) will not be publishing a response to the Consultation on Early Education and Childcare Staff Deployment, which sought views from the sector on controversial Government plans to change staff:child ratios.

The results of the consultation will not now be published, but the DfE pointed to a breakdown of the number and type of respondents to the consultation published on its website.

This reveals that a total of 1,394 responses were received, including 358 from nurseries, 145 from pre-schools and 156 from childminders.

Professor Nutbrown told Nursery World, '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 2 qualifications are starting points to work with young children but this level is only an introduction.

'I find this news most surprising in a policy context where all agree that investment in early years provision is crucial. If we want the best for young children and their families we need properly to invest in the people who work with them. That means providing opportunities for good career development and progression.'

'The decision not to opt for a workforce with a minimum Level 3 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.'

'An insult'

Unison said that it would be submitting a Freedom of Information request asking for the consultation findings to be published.

Ben Thomas, national officer for education and children's services at Unison, said, 'Unison is very disappointed with the DfE's decision to reject the proposal from the Nutbrown Review that we should be aiming to achieve a fully qualified Level 3 workforce. We believe that this was the key recommendation of the review and a key step in affirming the professionalism of the early years workforce and improving the quality of education and care of young children.'

He added, 'We believe the decision not to publish the results or a response to the consultation is an insult to all those that took the time and effort to respond. One can only imagine that the reason the DfE has chosen not to publish the results is that it will demonstrate how unpopular Liz Truss's proposals were and how out of touch she is with the views of the early years sector.

'It looks as if because she didn't get her way on ratios she has thrown her toys out of the pram.'

Voice, the union for education professionals, echoed Unison's response.

General secretary Deborah Lawson said the decision to reject the aim of a fully qualified Level 3 workforce was 'particularly worrying as this recommendation had been well received by the sector. It was probably the key recommendation of the review and would have gone a long way towards the professionalisation of the early years workforce and would almost certainly have improved quality of provision.

'It also undermines the recent announcement on entry requirement for Early Years Educator training courses.'

'The decision not to publish the results or a response to the consultation throws doubts on the purpose and point of such consultations because it suggests that consultees’ responses are ignored when they do not endorse a decision already made by ministers.

'As with the decision to go against the majority view on staffing, qualification and ratio requirements for out-of hours providers, ministers are ignoring the views of the profession and carrying on regardless, demonstrating either a complete lack of understanding or a blatant lack of respect.'

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 3 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 response to a question on why the DfE had decided not to go ahead with publishing a response to the consultation, a spokesperson said, 'The minister made a statement to the Commons on 11 June 2013 saying it had not been possible to reach cross-Government agreement, so we would not be proceeding with proposals in Early Education and Childcare Staff Deployment.

DfE published a summary of consultation respondees on the departmental website.'