Positive relationships: Let's talk about ... qualifications

Annette Rawstrone
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The EYFS Review suggests that a new professional qualification equivalent in status and content to the NNEB should be introduced. Annette Rawstrone asks nursery managers what they think

Would you welcome a return of the NNEB?

'I would very much welcome the return of the NNEB. I feel the quality and content of the NVQs is shocking! I definitely think the standard of NVQs needs re-addressing and hopefully this will help raise standards in all settings across the board.'

'I myself do not have the NNEB - I was BTEC trained. However, I have worked with many practitioners over the years who have been NNEB trained and I have found them to be highly skilled and informed practitioners.'

'There are pros and cons for the return of the NNEB. It had fundamental issues that delivered childcare in a professional way, highlighting the main focus on planning and delivery of activities and routines, with set periods of college-based attendance and placement hours to be completed. The placements were rigorous, giving students an outlook into all aspects of childcare provision and preparing them for real working life. I would welcome it back on the principle that students knew and understood observations and planning to the letter.'

'I believe the NNEB is far superior to NVQ level 3. I am always proud to say that I have an NNEB. I believe it's harder earned than NVQs and probably the new Diploma too.'

'Please let us not go back to the NNEB. That is a backward step. But we do need to set a standard for people entering the profession - the calibre is way too low at the moment.

'I feel the Government accidentally hit on something relevant when they introduced Early Years Professional Status, as it is raising standards across the board.

In my setting we have three EYPs and everyone else is buzzing to increase their level of qualifications.'

'I hope Clare Tickell won't be recommending the motor maintenance part of the NNEB. I never made any use of that!'

Why do you think the NNEB is still so highly regarded?

'The difference in the level of basic child development knowledge is notable. The NNEB is so specialist that it ensures practitioners understand the theories behind what they do every day. The multiple choice questionnaires they have for NVQ tests are a little unfair, as it can be mainly luck based.'

'The NNEB involved a two-year college course and placements in a range of settings. There was a lot of emphasis on child development, which is so important when it comes to understanding the ages and stages of the children. NNEBs come with great underpinning knowledge.'

'The NNEB training, from my experience of others, has proven to be very hands-on, with a definite focus on caring for babies and young children.'

'Practitioners were taken through all aspects of care and learning, where now this is an oversight in many qualifications. I feel that all the NNEB needs is bringing up to today's standards with relevant references to current legislation.'

'It had set entry requirements to be accepted on the course, followed by an interview to make sure that you were committed and capable of completing the course.'

Have you felt that early years qualifications have been 'dumbed down' in recent years?

'This is a subject close to my heart because, as well as being a nursery owner, I am also a private training provider. Qualifications to a certain extent are only as good as the deliverer and some training providers have taken short cuts with the NVQ and not delivered it to the standard it should be.

'Matters of dumbing down were compounded by Ofsted when they took over from social services. The number of children being looked after was increasing, so more trained workers were required and Ofsted said Level 2 could be classed as qualified.'

'I believe that qualifications are just as hard but much more accessible to all learners, not taking into account previous experience and not always having the commitment to finish what they have started. The qualifications now concentrate much more on equality and diversity, taking away the emphasis of completing a range of knowledge work.'

'When I have interviewed and seen an NNEB qualification, I have already had a high expectation of the person being interviewed. In recent interviews, practitioners with NVQ qualifications have struggled with basic questions in regards to the EYFS, Children's Act and Every Child Matters. This is scary when many of these candidates are currently employed and trusted to look after other people's children.'

'I believe that qualifications are fantastic if there is any substance behind them. Unfortunately, from my experience over the last 12 years, I have seen a decline in the quality but not in the quantity. I do agree with the Government that we should be upskilling the workforce and should be respectful of the roles that we do, and that we need to get it right.

'Unfortunately, too much emphasis has been put on rushing people through their training. This then gives a practitioner a qualification that means nothing. How can you get the knowledge and practice in a six to nine months training apprenticeship? I know they are given 12 months to complete the qualification, but many can do it in as little as six months with apparently little hard work. In comparison, to do a NNEB or BTec at college you were looking at two years of hard work with practical experience built in.'

To what extent is it the qualification or the standard of applicant that is at fault?

The main difference is that a certain level of education was required to be able to take up the NNEB course. You needed at least four GCSEs A-C, or four good O levels. When the functional skills come on board, which are more difficult than the key skills, employers and training providers may find that they have to go back to basics and insist on a certain education level before they admit people on the course.

'The new Diploma looks good. We are delivering it already. I have to ask, if the person hasn't got the basic standard of at least English and maths, should they be working with the next generation?'

'The quality of practitioner churned out today is poor compared to the NNEB. I think the training just doesn't give them the commitment to a demanding career.'

'I think the quality of candidate was higher with the NNEB because they needed to gain decent GCSEs. We get applications now from people who write in 'text speak' or can barely speak in sentences.'

'Many of the practitioners in my setting who have gone through NVQ training have stated that they don't think they gained anything new from their training. As a setting that believes in training and quality, we ensure all our staff are given additional training through day courses, monthly staff meetings where we look at legislation and write and deliver our own training programmes, and closing the nursery for one day a year to do in-house training together.

'If a practitioner leaves our setting after they have gained a qualification, I ensure they have the knowledge and skills I would expect from any practitioner coming into the nursery with a relevant qualification.'

'It is the standard of applicants that are accepted on the awards. Due to funding reasons, colleges and providers are meeting the demands of getting learners qualified and accepting them on to courses that they may not be able to complete - it's "bums on seats"!'

'I have had apprentices here who were not up to the work. They often see childcare as a soft option and are encouraged in school to think this - if you can't do anything else, do childcare!'



By Teresa Stroud, head of curriculum for Health and Care at Aylesbury College  

'I believe that Dame Clare Tickell has held on to the brand of the NNEB as a high-quality qualification but the NNEB was not a qualification; this was the name of the awarding body. The National Nursery Examination Board had many qualifications between 1945 and 1994. These qualifications had a large emphasis on health, food, making clothes and games, with a lower emphasis on education for children.

'Since 1994 the Diploma in Nursery Nursing, and more recently the Diploma in Childcare and Education, improved and made more relevant the content of the qualifications by increasing the theory knowledge and including early years education to a greater extent.

'The introduction of work-based NVQs and level 2 qualifications have confused the industry. There are, in my opinion, too many different qualifications, with different content, different assessments and often a wide variance of standardisation. The reason the NNEB is still talked about is its "brand" awareness. Employers want a recognised qualification that is robust.

'Dame Clare states in her report (p43), "The quality and integrity of qualifications must be guaranteed, and clarity is needed on what should be covered by training providers."

'At Aylesbury College we deliver high quality CACHE courses with students getting a variety of setting experience. I believe the current two-year Level 3 course prepares students for work and gives the opportunity for progression to higher education. The qualification must have regular updating to meet the needs of changing legislation, responding to latest evidence on child development and how children learn and the needs of the employers.

'The CWDC is keen to have one qualification across the sector. I believe there is still much work to be done before this can be achieved. More consultation needs to be undertaken with employers and training providers.

We need to continue driving towards a graduate workforce and a minimum of a level 3 qualification for every member of staff directly responsible for each child.'

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