Why We Should All be Concerned

Chris Lawrence, Principal of the Chiltern College, Reading, and I had a meeting at the House of Commons on Tuesday 12 October 2010 with Andrew Percy MP.  There were three items on the agenda for discussion.

1. Why we believe we should all be concerned at the watering down of early years qualifications.  The new qualifications which have been designed by the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) are in line with the Qualification and Credit Framework and will replace all existing sector-related qualifications.

The previous Government’s 2020 Children and Young People’s Workforce Strategy aspired to a minimum Level 3 and graduate-led workforce.  We fail to see how we are going to develop a graduate-led workforce when there are currently no plans for the development of Level 4 or 5 qualifications and therefore no career progression.

It is also difficult to see how we are going to achieve the high standards set by the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) when CWDC’s qualifications lack parity with them.

2. At the end of June, the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) issued a briefing to all local authorities, informing them that the Support Staff Training and Qualifications Grant will not be funded in 2010.

This grant was formerly used to support the HLTA (Higher Level Teaching Assistant) training and assessment.  It is our view that this withdrawal of funding will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the further training and enhancement of support staff in primary schools and demonstrates, yet again, the Government’s failure to fully appreciate the training and qualifications of the workforce that are required to ensure quality provision.

3. Ofsted is unable to demand that nannies return their certificate of registration if, following inspection, they have been disqualified and deregistered from the Voluntary Ofsted Register.

Ofsted has not been given legal powers to insist that providers whose registration is cancelled return their registration certificate.  This means that, in England, an unscrupulous nanny who has been disqualified from working with children could show parents who are prospective employers her Ofsted certificate of registration and they would not know that the nanny had been found unsuitable to work with children.

Voice takes the view that this is outrageous and endorses our belief that when the voluntary part of the Childcare Register was introduced it was merely to pay lip service to demands from the sector to bring the growing number of home childcarers in line with the safeguarding measures considered necessary for all other forms of childcare and early years provision.

Mr Percy listened intently and showed a real appreciation of all points made.  It remains to be seen now whether or not, with a renewed push, we can actually halt some of the decisions being made by the new Coalition Government – it is not yet known, at the time of writing, how the sector will be affected by the Spending Review of 20 October.

Voice, the union for education professionals, and Chiltern College propose to join forces with a number of interested organisations to lobby government on all of the above issues and other areas of mutual interest.

Tricia Pritchard is Senior Professional Officer (Childcare and Education Support Staff), of Voice: the union for education professionals. For more information see www.voicetheunion.org.uk.

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