Wales plans to raise the bar for early years workforce

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A ten-year plan to improve the qualification levels and status of the early years, childcare and play sector in Wales is set out today.

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Education minister Huw Lewis wants to raise the status of working in the early years, childcare and play sector to make it 'a career of choice'

Welsh ministers want to ensure that a decade from now a highly-skilled workforce across all settings in maintained and private, voluntary and independent provision will be ‘highly-regarded’ and viewed as ‘a career of choice’, able to recruit and retain high-quality individuals.

The plan is aimed at all those responsible for the childcare or education of children from birth to seven in the Foundation Phase in all sectors.

Early years and childcare staff will also understand child development, be ‘proactive learners’ themselves and bilingual in Welsh and English, so that parents can access childcare in either language.

The draft plan focuses on the themes of leadership, attracting high-quality entrants to the sector, and raising the skills and standards of the existing workforce, and has been put out for consultation until 15 December

Proposals include:

  • changing adult to child ratios in Reception from one to eight to one to ten;
  • making Level 3 the required standard for practitioners;
  • a progression route through to Level 6 (degree equivalent);
  • improving pre-entry information and a structured induction for new entrants;
  • the development of early years learning hubs to support workforce development.

Education minister Huw Lewis, who will launch the draft ten-year plan at Herbert Thompson Primary School in Cardiff, said, ‘The ages of 0-7 are a crucial time in every child’s development. It’s important, therefore, that individuals like those I will meet today, that play such a key role in supporting children during these important years, receive the right level of support, are highly motivated and skilled and feel that they are valued.     

‘We’re determined to raise the status of careers in early years, childcare and play to a level which better reflects the vital role these practitioners play in supporting children’s development.’

Voice Cymru, the union for education professionals, which represents childcare, early years, teaching and education staff across the UK, welcomed the plans but urged ministers to look to consider pay and conditions for the workforce.

The union’s director for Wales Nick Griffin said, ‘If these proposals are to succeed, they must include not only training and professional development but also a proper career and salary structure for these dedicated and hard working, but underpaid and under-recognised, professionals.

‘School staff, including support staff, are to be included in the new Education Workforce Council, alongside teachers, so they should all be treated equally in terms of career development and professional recognition.

‘We will study the proposals in detail and respond to the consultation in due course.’

The National Day Nurseries Association, a member of the task group that contributed to the plan, welcomed the proposals but warned that extra funding would be needed.

Purnima Tanuku, NDNA chief executive said, 'We’re really pleased the Welsh Government is recognising the value of early years education and the specialist expertise of staff who work in the sector. While we all want to see a well-trained, qualified early years workforce, there are doubts as to how this will be funded.

'Many nurseries are struggling to meet rising costs and are losing money on free early education places. A more highly qualified workforce will demand higher salaries and further push up costs for parents unless it goes hand in hand with additional funding.
 
'There must be investment if the sector is to build a high quality workforce and make early years and childcare an aspirational career.'
 

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