With the introduction of the Early Years Foundation Stage this autumn, maintained schools will have to have a qualified teacher in charge, and this could mean that qualified early years staff working in nursery units attached to schools in England may find themselves out of work, come September.
Nursery Nurses speak out
The following statement expresses very clearly concerns shared with us by an increasing number of members:
“We wish to state our objections to the statutory requirement outlined in the Statutory Framework for the Early years Foundation Stage, page 50:
‘Children aged three and over in maintained nursery schools and nursery classes in maintained schools
- At least one member of staff must be a school teacher as defined by section 122 of the Education Act 2002 and the Education (School Teachers’ Qualification) (England) Regulations 2003′.
“This statutory requirement will obviously lead to many Nursery Nurses / Managers being made redundant nationwide. This will undoubtedly be devastating for the professional future of those highly skilled practitioners and also for Early Years Education.
“We are qualified Nursery Nurses, some with twenty years plus experience in Early Years Care and Education, and have worked in a variety of settings managing pre-school playgroups and private nurseries. We have managed pre-reception classes in schools for several years and have held the posts of Nursery Manager in primary schools for a number of years also.
“Throughout our careers we have always ensured that we have kept up-to-date with all early years initiatives and our performance management records show continual development in our individual areas if expertise, involvement in whole school improvements and commitment to raising standards in Early Years Education.
“We have led our schools through the Effective Early Learning Programme, resulting in Investors in Children accreditation. Our nurseries have each been acknowledged as providing good provision by Ofsted and recognised as Centres of Excellence for observation and assessment by the Early Years Advisory Teams locally.
“Our job descriptions encompass all areas of education and care for nursery age children, in particular the understanding of health, welfare and hygiene requirements necessary to meet the duty of care responsibility. We are each confident in our abilities to meet all of these duties without exception.
“Foundation Stage data shows that the children in the nursery classes we manage make excellent progress and parental comments, recorded in children profiles and reports, indicate that they are confident in the care and provision provided for their children and delighted with their progress.
“As this new statutory requirement is apparently an attempt to raise standards within Early Years Education, we would like to know how removing loyal, dedicated and highly skilled practitioners from school nurseries would achieve this aim. We would also like some clarification as to why practitioners with Early Years Professional status can manage day nurseries but not school nurseries when the provision and delivery of curriculum should be the same.
“We feel it is important to emphasise the fact that qualified Nursery Nurses qualify after rigorous training courses and experiencing a wide variety of early years placements. Nursery Managers have usually accumulated years of experience in a specified field and are well equipped to care for, teach, observe and assess nursery age children.
“In our opinion it would be beneficial to provide established Nursery Nurses and Managers with a ‘fast track’ option to Early Years Professional status. If they do not hold a degree qualification they should have considerable proven experience and the support and endorsement of their Head Teacher and School Governors. We also feel that it is important that staff managing day or school nurseries should hold the same qualifications so as to provide equality of access to training and work opportunities and equality of care and education for all three to five-year-olds. After all, isn’t this what is supposed to happen under the Integrated Qualifications Framework?
“Finally, if considering how to raise standards in Early Years Care and Education, surely it would be sensible and advantageous to retain competent and effective members of Early Years Teams across the country?
“It would seem to us that the days of the Nursery Nurse / Manager are numbered but who cares then?”
Action by PANN / Voice
PANN has been in touch with a number of Local Authorities and they appear to take the view that for many schools there will be no change. However, the impact on individual Nursery Nurses is not yet known, and PANN would urge Local Authorities and schools to work together, making sure they make the most of the skills and years of experience these staff have. We would further remind Local Authorities and central Government that support staff are not frustrated teachers and the view that they should work on gaining teacher qualifications to secure their posts is short-sighted to say the very least.
As well as changes in staffing rules, the new legislation requires a lower ratio of children to staff in nurseries. We know that some schools may be recruiting extra staff to reduce the current pupil/adult ratio from 15:1 to 13:1 but, with tight budgets, we fear schools will be forced to bring in very junior and therefore lowly paid individuals, which will not therefore safeguard the retention of a currently highly skilled workforce.
PANN will be monitoring the situation carefully and will of course pass on to Government our findings.
Tricia Pritchard is Senior Professional Officer for the Professional Association of Nursery Nurses, which is now part of Voice.