Select Committee on Education and Employment First Report



26. The Foundation Stage in children's education requires a highly qualified and stable workforce. The Professional Association of Early Childhood Educators[125] argued that England should be working towards a system where all key staff are qualified teachers.[126] Professor Iram Siraj-Blatchford of the Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) project had found that managers qualified at NVQ level 5 or graduate degree level created better quality environments for children.[127]

27. Currently Early Years practitioners are working in circumstances where low wages and low status predominate. New employment legislation (such as the minimum wage and the Working Time Directive) has enormous implications for pre-schools.[128] Approximately half of pre-school assistants were paid less than half of the minimum wage.[129] The Pre-School Learning Alliance warned that such employment legislation tipped the scale towards closure of pre-schools including playgroups and nurseries: "the costs of running pre-schools can no longer rely on subsidy from staff willing to work for nothing, or for substantially less than the minimum wage".[130] Ms Margaret Hodge, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment and Equal Opportunities, said that she had been "shocked" by the number of cases where the minimum wage had caused a problem for pre-schools.[131] It was argued that low pay was linked to high staff turnover, which was a factor in the lack of investment in staff training.[132]

28. The vast majority of Early Years practitioners are women. Ms Julie Fisher, the leader of the Oxfordshire Early Years Advisory Team, told the Sub-committee that the low level of pay in the Early Years profession may be one of the reasons why it did not attract men.[133] The Professional Association of Early Childhood Educators[134] complained that for too long the Early Years had been considered as relating only to lower status, female workers: "strong efforts must be put into place by policy makers to increase salaries and status in early years teaching so that, for example, male teachers are encouraged to work in this phase".[135]

29. According to the National Early Years Network, "the issues around the gender balance within the workforce in the early education field need urgent attention. Men have an important role to play in the care, education and support of young children and their families with potentially far-reaching consequences for children's healthy and balanced intellectual and emotional development".[136] Ms Clare Power of the National Training Organisation said that in her experience men were increasingly comfortable attending childcare courses.[137] Mrs Mary Dickins, the Training Development Officer of the National Early Years Network, underlined the importance of children having effective male role models in the settings in which they were being cared for.[138]

30. Ms Susan Hay of Nurseryworks told the Sub-committee in her oral evidence on behalf of Early Education that "there is a place for the gifted amateur, the intuitive carer, but only if they are not being required to do something which is beyond their knowledge and understanding and insight in terms of observation planning and so on and so forth for the learning of that child".[139] An alternative view was expressed by the television producers David and Clare Mills, who argued that "overcoming the weakness of institutional care while exploiting its potential strength and at the same time assessing, promoting and monitoring age-appropriate development of whole groups of children is extraordinarily demanding. It leaves little or no place for 'gifted amateurs'."[140]

31. Ms Hodge told the Sub-committee that three to four million pounds a year was being spent on a campaign to recruit more people into the Early Years sector.[141]

32. We were impressed in Denmark by the standing of the 'pedagogues', who are trained professionals working with children either in Early Years settings or in afternoon activities for school-age children.[142] The 'pedagogues' are members of a well-regarded and highly respected profession, which is almost on a par with qualified teachers in terms of pay. Both written and oral evidence expressed an overwhelming concern with training and the quality of people working in Early Years settings.[143]

33. This concern goes to the very heart of the current debate on the Early Years and deserves the highest priority for Government action. We recommend that as a long term vision the DfEE should foster the creation and development of a ladder of training for Early Years practitioners which could lead to a graduate qualification equivalent to that of qualified teachers. Our detailed recommendations on training in the immediate future are set out below.

34. We recognise the quality of the contribution which has been made over many years to the care and development of children in the Early Years by non-qualified staff, many of them volunteers. Some of these staff may have first come into contact with Early Years settings as parents. We have no wish to deter such people from their chosen vocation of working with young children, as part of a team under the guidance of appropriately qualified practitioners. Our welcome for their contribution is linked to our recommendations that over time all practitioners in the Early Years sector should be equipped through the acquisition of appropriate qualifications to deliver a better quality of provision for children.

35. We recommend that every setting outside a home which offers early education should have a trained teacher on its staff. Trained teachers should also be involved in the networks which support childminders looking after children in the Foundation Stage.

36. We recommend that Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships should publish regular surveys of the costs of childcare in their local authority areas, as well as surveys of the typical rates of pay in their area for different categories of practitioners in the Early Years sector.

37. We recommend that the Government with the Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships should adopt an objective of ensuring equitable pay and conditions for all categories of practitioners across all settings in the Early Years sector.

38. We urge the DfEE to examine the reasons for the low recruitment of men into the Early Years sector and to make strenuous efforts to address the imbalance in the Early Years workforce.

39. We welcome the national recruitment campaign, led by the DfEE, for Early Years staff, including Early Years teachers, and we recommend that particular efforts should be made to attract men as part of this campaign.


40. The crucial importance of a well trained and well qualified Early Years work force was emphasised throughout the inquiry as a major factor in the development of high quality early education and care services. Parents who would not dream of hiring a plumber without qualifications seem to be prepared to leave their children in the care of unqualified staff.[144]

"Effective education requires both a relevant curriculum and practitioners who understand and are able to implement the curriculum requirements. Effective education requires practitioners who understand that children develop rapidly during the Early Years—physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially."—QCA Curriculum Guidance, page 13.

QCA goals page 13.

41. The link between practitioner training and children's educational progress was highlighted by several witnesses. For example, Early Education told the Sub-committee: "Teaching in the early years demands particular skills in educators which go beyond the direct transmission of knowledge. This is the stage when the foundations for life long learning are laid".[145] The Professional Association of Early Childhood Educators[146] in its written evidence drew attention to the "ample evidence that fully qualified early years teachers offer enormous benefits to children's learning: the work of Pascal and Bertram (1998), Sylva (1999), and Moyles and Suschitzky (1998), in particular show unequivocally that quality outcomes to children's learning are a result of the involvement of qualified teachers".[147] Similarly, Dr Gillian Pugh of Coram Family drew upon the research evidence:

    "There is a clear link between the quality of early years provision and the quality of the teachers and other early years educators working with them ... Effective early education requires a well qualified workforce, all of whom should be appropriately trained. All early years settings should employ or have regular access to early years teachers. Teaching young children is a skilled and demanding job. As the RSA Report (1994) argued, early years teachers require a breadth of knowledge, understanding and experience which is not required of those trained to teach older children".[148]

42. There was some debate about the role of qualified teachers within the early childhood workforce and the requirement that all early educational settings should be led by a qualified teacher . In her analysis of the written evidence submitted to the Sub-committee, Ms Eva Lloyd of the National Early Years Network told the Sub-committee that:

    "The majority of respondents see it as essential that all those working in the Foundation Stage should have a recognised early years qualification. However, independent day nurseries and the Children's Society believes that it is 'vital that education in the early years is not seen as the prerogative of teachers'. Opinion varies as to the appropriate qualification for those in charge of early years settings delivering early education, but the majority of respondents, including PLA, come down firmly on the side of a qualified early years teacher being the appropriate person. Alongside this person, qualified support staff such as nursery nurses and classroom assistants should be employed. The Sub-committee is urged not to overlook this 'invisible professional'."[149]

43. The National Day Nurseries Association has long argued for the enhancement of Early Years qualifications and the development of a ladder of progression, but "we do not, however, accept that the present focus on all early years qualifications should lead to qualified teacher status ... the ladder of progression should enable early years staff to achieve qualifications that allows them to attain a status of equivalent value to that of a teacher. We would see this as running parallel and complementing the work of an early years teacher".[150]

44. Dr Pugh told the Sub-committee: "The majority of early years practitioners are not teachers, and although many are very experienced, lack of funding means that not all are sufficiently well qualified. As recommended by the Early Childhood Education Forum and the recent review of playgroups (1999), all managers of nurseries or playgroups should be qualified to graduate level or equivalent, and all practitioners to NVQ Level 3".[151] The Early Years Curriculum Group supported the drive towards establishing a graduate teacher in every setting "in order for that setting to be managed by a professional who is sufficiently trained to understand the complexities of how children learn, how areas of learning progress and how to respond to individual and collective learning needs. This is a challenging and complex task and needs high intellectual ability".[152] The Early Years Curriculum Group argued further that "the second and other adults in every setting should be qualified. It is not acceptable that at such a crucial— perhaps the most crucial—time in a child's life, that their learning is planned, taught and managed by unqualified adults".[153]

45. The current enormous diversity and complexity of the qualifications base for Early Years workers was evident. Witnesses talked about the low qualification base of the Early Years workforce, the 'muddle' of training options available and the difficulty for employers and parents to make sense of the different types and levels of practitioner training found in Early Years settings.[154] Ms Margaret Hodge, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment and Equal Opportunities, outlined the scale of the challenge:

    "I think it is going to take time to get to our objective. We will not achieve this overnight. It is going to take time partly because of the diversity of the settings that are out there and with which we are working, and partly because of the lack of qualifications and training within the workplace. 44 per cent of people in the last workforce survey we had, which was in 1998 and we are just about to commission a new one, did not have an appropriate qualification, one in four in pre-schools do not, 70 per cent of child minders do not. One in five private nurseries do not. Those are the figures. There is a huge task ahead of us in supporting and training those who work with young children".[155]

46. There remains a substantial unmet need for training. The Pre-School Learning Alliance referred to a survey carried out by the Local Government Management Board which had found that more than 67 per cent of pre-schools/playgroups reported that paid staff had significant training needs. "The survey also showed that more than half of the pre-schools and playgroups in the sample reported that lack of time and lack of funding were constraints on undertaking training. In addition, only 22.5 per cent of pre-schools/playgroups had a training budget, with the average annual value being only £380. The cost to students of undertaking training can be considerable. As mature students, pre-school workers are unable to access vocational training on the same terms as 16-19 year olds".[156]

47. There was also evidence that for many practitioners, particularly in the private and voluntary sectors, there was poor access to many training opportunities because of inflexible course delivery and cost.[157] Over time, this situation has resulted in a poorly qualified work force with limited access to further professional development. In their background report on the United Kingdom for the OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care, Dr Tony Bertram and Professor Christine Pascal wrote:

    "There remains a shortfall in the numbers of qualified early childhood practitioners coming into the profession. This is a central concern as the development of the services and the commitment to quality will crucially depend on the ability of the profession to attract and retain high quality and well trained staff. Access to well articulated, coherent and appropriate training opportunities for many early years practitioners is improving, and cross sector training opportunities are now available at every level, from basic vocational training to higher degrees".[158]

48. Witnesses welcomed the increased Government investment in Early Years training which was being planned and led largely by the local Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships.[159] Ms Hodge told the Sub-committee: "We need to invest in training .... We deliberately this year put £8 million into establishing the training programme around the early learning and Foundation Stages. Next year there is £13.5 million in the Standards Fund to that purpose, not enough but it is a good start. A lot of money is being focussed on the private and voluntary sector".[160]

49. The establishment of the Early Years National Training Organisation and the development of a national 'climbing frame' of Early Years qualifications were seen by witnesses to mark a major achievement in the development of a more highly qualified and professional Early Years work force. The need for flexible training options, with open access and affordability, which took practitioners from NVQ 1 through to postgraduate level was a key theme in much of the evidence on training. In its written evidence the Early Years National Training Organisation (EYNTO) told the Sub-committee that the qualifications level within the sector is low: "the Early Years NTO believes that new regulations are needed which require everyone working in the sector to undergo an introductory training course within six months of joining the sector so that everyone achieves a Level 2 or 3 qualification within five years of joining the sector".[161] The EYNTO pointed out one of the problems in expanding training: "Childcare workers are keen to undertake training—but the single biggest barrier they perceive is time. This is a structural barrier which prevents women with family responsibilities (the majority of the childcare workforce), from accessing training on a long term basis. If the professionalism of the workforce is to be increased, therefore, this issue needs to be addressed".[162]

50. The need to increase access for all staff to continuing professional development opportunities was stressed by many respondents, who argued that this in-service training was as vital as initial training requirements, and should be more equitably available across the sectors. In her review of the evidence submitted to the Sub-committee, Ms Eva Lloyd of the National Early Years Network (NEYN) told the Sub-committee: "Virtually all respondents stress the need for opportunities for continuing professional development for all early years staff during the working day and the need for accreditation of prior learning and experience. NEYN calls for the establishment of INSET days for all early years workers, equivalent to those for teachers. Regular opportunities must be provided for in-service training and support from specialist advisers. A realistic investment in training is recommended by the majority of respondents".[163]

51. We recommend that there should be continued Government investment in training at all levels in the Early Years sector.

52. We recommend that there should be national targets for training so that within ten years all Early Years practitioners have appropriate and specialist levels of training, with all heads of centres, nurseries and playgroups being at graduate level or equivalent and all other early childhood workers at NVQ Level 3 or equivalent.

53. We recommend that all training should be adequately funded, and in particular, that there should be Government grants for mature and part-time students, and better support for those following NVQs.

54. We recommend that all early childhood workers should have access to continuous professional development as of right. Qualified Early Years teachers should visit the settings outside the home to work alongside practitioners to assist their professional development.

55. We recommend that further education, higher education and other training institutions should develop more flexible training options (such as distance learning, workplace training and modularised training), to increase access across the sectors.

56. We recommend that Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships should provide positive leadership and financial support to make training more accessible and affordable for the private and voluntary sectors.

57. We recommend that higher education institutions, in conjunction with the Teacher Training Agency, should develop Early Years training options at higher levels (postgraduate) to enhance the Early Years trainer work force. We recommend that the Teacher Training Agency should sponsor places on Early Years postgraduate courses.

58. We recommend that the Early Years National Training Organisation should take a strong lead in the dissemination of the new Early Years qualifications 'climbing frame' to ensure that employers and parents understand what the range of qualifications mean.

125  TACTYC 'Training, Advancement and Co-operation in Teaching Young Children'. Back

126  Ev. p. 87 para. 3.2. Back

127  Q. 379. Back

128  Ev. p. 13 para. 2.12. Back

129  Ev. p. 13 para. 2.12. Back

130  Ev. p. 13 para. 2.12. Back

131  Q. 461. Back

132  Ev. p. 16 para. 5.10. Back

133  Q. 69. Back

134  TACTYC 'Training, Advancement and Co-operation in Teaching Young Children'. Back

135  Ev. p. 88 para. 3.7. Back

136  Ev. p. 120 para. 3.3. Back

137  Q. 273. Back

138  Q. 274. Back

139  Q. 177. Back

140  Ev. p. 79-80. Back

141  Q. 470. Back

142  Appendix 39. Back

143  For example, Q. 3, Q. 36, Q. 68, Q. 175, Q. 199, Q. 260, Q. 280, Q. 295 and Q. 448. Ev. p. 127; Appendix 3 para. 3, Appendix 4 para 2; Appendix 7 paras 4.1-2, Appendix 14, para 10, Appendix 24 para. 7, Appendix 27 paras 16-17, Appendix 28 para 3.5, Appendix 29 section 3, Appendix 30 paras 16-19, Appendix 32. Back

144  Q. 177, Q. 199, Q. 484. Back

145  Ev. p. 55 para. 3.2. Back

146  TACTYC 'Training, Advancement and Co-operation in Teaching Young Children'. Back

147  Ev. p. 87 para. 3.1. Back

148  Ev. p. 2 paras. 9-10. Back

149  Ev. p. 127. Back

150  Appendix 26. Back

151  Ev. p. 3 para. 12. Back

152  Ev. p. 32 para. 3.1. Back

153  Ev. p. 32 para. 3.3. Back

154  For example, Ev. p. 55 para 3.1, Q. 303, Appendix 17 para 2.1. Back

155  Q. 453. Back

156  Ev. p. 16 paras. 5.8-5.9. Back

157  Appendix 28 para. 3.8, Appendix 38. Back

158  Tony Bertram and Christine Pascal, UK Background Report for OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care, page 74. Back

159  Q. 1, Q. 54, Q. 137. Back

160  Q. 440. Back

161  Appendix 38. Back

162  Appendix 38.  Back

163  Ev. p. 127. Back

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