Plans drawn up south of the border to allow childminders to smack the children in their care have been met with derision in Scotland.
Under the proposed English national care standards, with parental permission childminders can smack their charges and also be allowed to smoke in front of them. The proposals have been strongly condemned by the Scottish Childminding Association's equivalent organisation, the National Childminding Association (NCMA).
NCMA chief executive Gill Haynes warned, 'These standards are supposed to be about providing safe, high-quality care for children, wherever they are, but smoking in front of children and smacking babies can never be acceptable childcare practice.'
Scotland is to have its own care standards, which will be developed by the National Care Standards Committee. SCMA national development officer Maggie Simpson said, 'The English national care standards are not relevant to us but we do share the concern of our colleagues down south. SCMA's policy has always been clear that we never accept smacking as a form of correcting child behaviour. Smacking is abuse. We are delighted that the Scottish Executive has confirmed that it has no intentions of going down the same route in Scotland and we will not see the backwards step that has happened in England affecting Scotland. Children will remain protected that way as will childminders.'
A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said, 'The Scottish Executive gives guidance to childminders stating that they should not use physical punishment.
'But if the parent wants their childminder to give the child a smack on the hand then there is nothing we can do.' The responses to a Scottish Executive civil law consultation paper looking at whether physical punishment should be prohibited are currently being analysed.
The proposed English national care standards have also been criticised for setting too low a level for qualifications. They say that half the staff in a daycare setting should be qualified to NVQ2 level or show that they will achieve it within a fixed time. However, many local authorities currently expect half the staff to be at NVQ3 level.
Rosemary Murphy, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries' Association (NDNA), warned that the proposed standard would encourage nurseries to cut costs and lower standards.
Diane Trout, chair of the Association of Advisors for the Under-Eights and their Families (AAEUF), members of which include many local authority registration and inspection officers, said that the child-centred spirit of the Children Act 1989 - the current basis for the inspection of daycare settings - appeared to have been lost and the 'watering down' of current practice in local authorities could compromise children's safety.
Moreover, the Children Act explicitly stated that managers of daycare should have experience, whereas the proposed national care standards do not.
'The Children Act says that child protection is paramount,' she said. 'It's a general feeling among inspection officers that we are compromising quality.' Julie Fisher, chair of the National Association of Educational Inspectors, Advisors and Consultants, said that the standard should be for half the staff to be NVQ3 level or working towards it - and the other members of staff should also be qualified or in training.