Under proposals put out for consultation on 5 December, half the staff in a nursery or playgroup would have to have one of the qualifications mentioned in the Scottish Executive document Working with Children - which includes both level 2 and level 3 qualifications.
Margaret Brunton, training and development manager of the Scottish Pre-school Playgroup Association (SPPA), said there were 'huge gaps' in qualification levels in many Scottish playgroups and they would need time and support to reach this standard. She said, 'There is a long way to go. We have been recommending very strongly that staff are qualified, and our aim would be a strong recommendation towards level 3 as most of our staff work at this level.'
Irene Audain, chief executive of the Scottish Out of Schools Care Network, expressed disappointment that this requirement did not apply to care for school-age children. 'I am concerned that no mention has been made of at least working towards a 50 per cent qualified workforce for services for children of school age. Surely these services are just as important professionally as services for under-fives? What we should be working towards with standards is a fully professional workforce for all childcare, learning and play services.'
The Scottish Executive has also set out proposed adult:child ratios to come into effect when responsibility for regulation passes from local authorities to the Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care in April. For settings other than childminding, these are under-twos 1:3; two-year-olds 1:5; three and over 1:8; if all the children are eight or over, 1:10. However, where children aged three and over are cared for in a session less than four hours long, the ratio may be 1:10.
SPPA practice development manager Gwen Garner said, 'We view that as an absolute minimum and would encourage groups to adopt 1:6, as in our quality assurance scheme. I would be disappointed if this decision has been arrived at as a cost issue rather than a quality issue.'
The SCMA welcomed the proposed ratios for childminding, which are 1:3 for children not yet attending primary school, of whom no more than one is under one; 1:6 for children under 12 of whom no more than three are not yet at school, and of whom no more than one is under one.