More status for employees, more confidence for employers. That's the promise of a new diploma for childcarers which finally lays the NNEB to rest. Patricia Slatcher reports
New Year has come early for the nation's soon-to-be nursery nurses. It was already out with the old and in with the new in September, when a new, improved diploma was introduced by CACHE (Council for Awards in Children's Care and Education). The Diploma in Childcare and Education (DCE) replaces the CACHE Diploma in Nursery Nursing (DNN), which has run since 1994 and was often referred to as the NNEB.
'The NNEB title always persisted because the National Nursery Examination Board which set it up had been around since 1945 and it became the industry standard,' says CACHE director Maureen Smith. 'However, the NNEB actually ceased to exist in 1994 when it merged with another organisation to form CACHE. 'So this new Diploma is the "next generation" and we feel it very much increases the reliability and the rigour of the qualification and will give employers even more confidence.'
Why the changes?
The new national qualifications framework being developed by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) prompted the change.
Around four years ago, it was given a statutory remit to bring all national qualifications into a framework, making them better understood and more accessible to the general public. Its role is also to bring a level of quality assurance and a range of formal awards, to all qualifications.
In the early years sector the framework is particularly useful. Previously there was such an array of vocational qualifications and training courses that no-one was quite sure what they all meant, making it difficult for employers and employees alike.
'The changes were simply to do with bringing the qualification more in line with the national framework, not because there had been any problems with the previous course,' explains Maureen Smith.
The course content remains virtually unchanged from the DNN. It offers the training needed to work with children in a wide range of settings and is suitable for everyone, whether nanny, childminder or nursery supervisor.
It allows you to work unsupervised or supervise staff yourself. As a Level 3 qualification it is recognised throughout the UK and some other countries. It is also a gateway to higher qualifications such as the Advanced Diploma, or other university or college courses.
It remains a two-year, full-time course, though some centres do offer a part-time option. The course includes 750 hours of practical training and is split into 11 units (previously known as modules), covering everything from observation to working with parents.
Marking and assessment are the main changes introduced to satisfy the QCA. All individual units are now certificated and are moderated externally by CACHE.
Marking is also now graded on an A-E system, in line with A-levels. A final sit-down examination has been introduced which is marked outside of centres independently.
Maureen says, 'We feel this significantly strengthens the status of the qualification, and unit certification also gives a candidate a concrete stage-by-stage measure of achievement, particularly if they need to leave and complete the course later.'
Welcomed by students
The new course seems to be getting the thumbs-up from both tutors and students. Anne Houchin, 18, and Jessica Whibley, 17, both started it in September at Chiltern College in Reading. Both were aware of the changes before signing up to the course, but were undeterred.
'I was doing A-levels at the time, so I was used to the academic aspect and formal exams,' says Anne. 'I think the marking criteria does make it a bit more difficult, but I am hoping to go on to university after this and think that it helps me to continue with that discipline and that universities would recognise it more.
'It is a really good course. It can be quite a hefty workload, but you have the support of the college and the opportunity to work with different age groups. I'm on placement in a baby unit at moment and love it.'
Jessica Whibley chose to leave a family in France and a school career in Geneva, Switzerland, to come and do the course. 'I was doing the equivalent of A-levels over there, but wasn't enjoying it,' she said. 'I came over here last May and knew then I wanted to do this. It's going really well. It's what I expected and I'm very happy with it. I'm doing a placement on site with toddlers. One reason I chose it is because the qualification is recognised in France and I would like to go back and work there when I'm finished.'
Course tutor Chris Lawrence says the new marking and assessment criteria both formalises and upgrades the qualification's status. 'The grading criteria helps students see exactly what they need to achieve at each level and helps us in terms of guidance,' she says. 'I think it also helps with those who want to continue down an academic route for a while afterwards.
Maureen Smith agrees. 'The way to qualified status quite simply depends on the candidate and what they prefer. The NVQ has been around since 1990 and it is very popular, but there has not been a shift away from the diploma route. With the childcare sector growing, I believe there will continue to be room for both qualifications.'
Courses in Scotland
At the moment, probably the nearest equivalent to the CACHE diploma is the one-year, full-time National Certificate course, aimed mainly at 17- to 18-year-olds. But to gain full qualified status students must then go on to take the Higher National Certificate for a further two years. A new one-year access course called Caring for Young Children has also just been introduced for 16-year-olds.
You can also take a Scottish Vocational Qualification in Early Years Care and Education. More changes are on the way as the Scottish Qualifications Authority is also introducing a qualifications framework. By 2002 the National Certificate will be replaced by a Scottish Group Award in Childcare and Education.
10 tips on...
NVQ evidence gathering - C2 By Meg Jones, NVQ assessor
Follow our pointers to help you gather evidence for NVQ Level 3 Unit C2 - Provide for children's physical needs. Read our advice in conjunction with the Level 3 standards in Early Years Care and Education.
1 Nutritious food and drinks are essential to the development of the child.
- You need to know about balanced diets. Draw up a sample week's menu for three- to five-year-olds. Learn about food values, age- appropriate diets, possible allergic reactions and nutritional disorders.
- Write down what you know about diet in the major religions of the world.
2 How food is prepared and presented is an important aspect of caring for young children.
- Observe children at mealtimes and assess the opportunities for independence and social interaction. Do children from different social and cultural backgrounds have different ways of eating food? Find out parents' views on this.
- List potential hazards in the kitchen and serving area.
3 Personal hygiene and cleanliness should have a high priority.
- Identify ways cross-infection can occur in the home and work setting, and how this can be avoided.
- Devise an activity to use with the children to promote healthy teeth.
- Write a nappy changing procedure suitable for a baby nursery.
- Be aware of the diversity of cultural practices in grooming and personal hygiene. Think about toileting and hair and skin care.
4 Independence and self-esteem are developing processes in the young child.
- Draw up a 'spider chart' with self-esteem in the centre. From the radiating legs identify the ways children can gain this through personal hygiene routines. Identify how children can maintain dignity and privacy in group settings.
5 Being aware of signs of illness is vital, particularly with children who have communication difficulties.
- Draw up a chart of common childhood illnesses showing signs (what you can see), symptoms (what the child tells you), and what actions you need to take. Describe a situation from your experience where you dealt with a sick child showing what you did, who you talked to, how it was recorded, and the long-term outcome.
6 From time to time children need medication.
- Write a list of what constitutes medication, what precautions need be taken, conditions for administration, how records are kept, and who must be involved.
7 From time to time, unfortunately, children have accidents. You need to know how to deal with them.
- Take the opportunity to do a first aid course, a paediatric one if possible, and keep it up to date.
- Investigate the first-aid box in the setting and make a list of contents. Note who last checked it and when, and how it is recorded. Note who the staff first-aiders are. Evaluate your current procedures with your supervisor to see if anything would benefit from changing or updating.
- Write up an account of what action needs to be taken if a child falls from a climbing frame and becomes unconscious. Stand by the climbing frame and think through the whole scenario. Is the frame indoors or outdoors? What immediate first aid would you give? Where is the nearest first-aider? What will you do with the other children? Who needs to be told about the accident? How will actions be recorded?
8 In an active day, rest and quiet periods are essential elements to be incorporated into the routine.
- Keep a diary over a few days to record all the opportunities you see for children to rest. Keep notes on the time of day, length of time the children are resting, the quiet activity or sleeping place. Evaluate current practice to see if it could be improved.
9 Children are often separated from their parents for long periods of time.
- Write an account of how children can be helped to feel more secure, the benefit and disadvantages of comfort objects, the importance of routine and rituals, and the value of key workers.