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I trained as an NNEB in the early 1970s at Southwark College, sponsored by the Inner London Education Authority. I did my placements at nursery schools and reception classes.

I am now a nursery manager and although looking at retirement, I am extremely concerned in respect of the quality and training for childcare practitioners. When interviewing for a Level 3, the candidate was asked about the Early Years Foundation Stage and I was told that they had covered the foundation stage but 'skimmed over it'. Mentoring early years foundation degree students, I am told that they are covering child development and the childcare theorists which they did not cover when completing their NVQ.

These are all parts of the NNEB curriculum. We had in-dpeth knowledge of child development, looked at all the pioneers of childcare, looked at ourselves as people and why we were in childcare, and we had a two-day exam to pass, marked work and in-depth folders.

Speaking to other nurseries, I hear that many of them are having difficulty finding suitably trained staff, and especially staff who want to take on the role of manager. I have lost count of the students who arrive on placement informing the nursery 'they don't have anything to do', and unfortunately they don't have anything to do for their course.

I sincerely believe that if our profession wants suitably trained practitioners who see childcare as a career, where they can contribute to ensuring the under-fives and their families are given the best opportunity by caring yet qualified people, we must take an in-depth look at the training being provided.

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I was very surprised by the image on the cover of Nursery World magazine (18 December 2010) showing what appears to be a lovely picture of a man, showing a young boy how to cut a log with a bow saw. Written underneath was the caption 'Guiding hand - How to be a great forest school leader'. This led me to assume that the man in the image is a trained forest school leader, teaching a young learner the correct use of a potentially dangerous tool.

Well, sadly, this is not the correct way. During my forest school leaders' training I had it drummed it into me that the use of gloves on non-tool hands (that is the hand not holding the tool) is imperative in preventing injury. All tools can, of course, be dangerous if used incorrectly, but when used while following procedures with appropriate protective equipment such as gloves, children can be taught to work correctly and safely and thrive on the experience of working with tools outside.

Linda Howard, forest school leader, Badgers Bridge Nursery and Forest School, Postling, Kent

- Editor's note: We always aim to show best practice in our photographs; however, the nature of posing for pictures means that the good practice followed by a setting is occasionally not represented fully.


We welcome Graham Allen's report and the emphasis it places on early intervention. The Pre-school Learning Alliance has a long and distinguished history of working with disadvantaged children and families and has always strongly advocated early intervention as a means of giving children in deprived areas the best start in life.

The Coalition Government is committed to tackling the debilitating consequences of socio-economic disadvantage. Like Graham Allen, we believe that this is the time to invest in a sustained continuation of funding to enable those many families in the UK who are locked in inter-generational cycles of poverty, deprivation and hopelessness.

Early investment in families offers significant long-term savings in public funding - a key benefit in such austere times.

We look forward to working with Mr Allen and his proposed independent Early Intervention Foundation to help to make his vision of high-quality early intervention services a universal one.

Neil Leitch, chief executive, Pre-school Learning Alliance

- Send your letters to ... The Editor, Nursery World, 174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP or email letter.nw@haymarket.com or phone 020 8267 8401

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