'More Great Childcare': a guide to the key points

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The long-awaited Government response to Professor Cathy Nutbrown's review of early education and childcare qualifications goes further than responses to her recommendations.

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As expected, changes to staff: child ratios for nurseries and childminders feature heavily, alongside plans to ensure that the early years workforce is better qualified from entry level up.

The Government is also launching a consultation today on what the qualification requirements should be to allow early years settings to lower their ratios.

Only early years settings that meet these requirements will be able to operate more flexibly with their ratios.

Below are the key points from the report:

Early Years Teachers

The Government wants more graduates in the early years. The report acknowledges the Early Years Professionals have helped improve the quality of education, but public recognition of their status is low. Early Years Teachers will specialise in early childhood development and meet the same entry requirements and pass the same skills tests as school teacher trainees.

Early Years Educators

In future, entrants to the profession will train at Level 3 to become Early Years Educators. Only qualifications which meet rigorous criteria set by the Teaching Agency will earn the Early Years Educator title. All Early Years Educators will be required to have a minimum Grade C in GCSE English and Maths. They will often act as assistant to Early Years Teachers.

The Government’s aspiration is for all group childcare to be delivered by Early Years Educators and Early Years Teachers, and that parents will recognise these qualifications as benchmarks of quality.

High quality providers will be able to offer more places

The Government says that ‘tight staffing rules’ in England drive higher costs for parents and mean lower pay for staff. In other countries providers can use the extra income to lower fees and pay staff more.

Nurseries

Changes to ratios in England to allow providers with better-qualified staff to offer more places will be introduced from September 2013.

Providers will only be able to take on more children if they employ high quality staff.

A consultation launched today will consult on the qualification requirements, which would allow nurseries and childminders to do this.

The proposals on ratios are: 1:4 for babies and one-year-olds (up from the current 1:3 ratio); and 1:6 for two-year-olds (currently 1:4). The ratios for three-to-five-year-olds will remain at 1:8, or 1:13 if led by a graduate.

Childminders

Government sees the ratios as too restrictive and also wants to give childminders more flexibility over ratios. At the moment, childminders can look after six children, no more than three under-fives and only one under one. Childminders will still only be able to look after a total of six children, but the number of under-fives they can care for will increase from three to four and they will be able to look after two babies under one. The document also says that there will be an ‘explicit allowance’ for overlaps between children so that childminders can exceed these new ratios by one for reasonable periods of time.

Regulation

The report says that current regulations are too preoccupied with ‘relatively trivial issues’, such as floor space and whether the nursery has a room where staff can talk in private to parents. The Government says that local authorities duplicate the work of Ofsted and that some of the £160m a year of the funding to deliver early education is spent on duplicating work Ofsted is already doing. Regulations should focus on quality and safety.

The Government will remove unnecessary regulations, for e.g on floorspace, with a general welfare and safety requirement. Ofsted will become ‘the sole arbiter of quality in the early years, focused on identifying under-performance’.

Childminder Agencies

The Government will enable the creation of childminder agencies to support childminders, provide training and match them up with local parents. Agencies could arrange cover when childminders fall ill to help parents when they need to find childcare cover at short notice.

Encouraging schools to take younger children

The Government wants to see many more schools providing childcare. To this end, schools will no longer be required to register separately with Ofsted if they wish to provide for children under three. The report also says that there will also be reform of the ‘current cumbersome statutory processes required of schools if they want to take children lower down the age range.’

More traditional nursery classes

By focusing regulation and inspection on quality and outcomes, the Government says it will encourage private and voluntary nurseries to have more graduates leading classes of 1:13. This, alongside ‘making it easier for schools to take younger children, will give more parents the option of a traditional nursery class led by a teacher,’ the report says.


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