Select Committee on Education and Employment Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from The Early Years National Training Organisation (EY 87)

  I am writing in response to the Select Committee's request for information about employment in the childcare sector.

  The Early Years National Training Organisation is well placed to provide this information because it has been given the task of advising on how the employment needs of the sector can be addressed. The NTO's policy is determined by a Council which is elected by the sector and which is representative of each type of setting, eg childminders, playgroups, nurseries, schools and private homes. The Early Years NTO operates across all four countries of the UK. Its achievements in the first two years of its existence have been:

    —  the development of an orientation programme for new entrants to the sector;

    —  an S/NVQ Level 4 for managers, experienced practitioners and development workers, in early years and with access to the qualification for playworkers;

    —  an accreditation scheme for training providers;

    —  publicity to encourage the take up of Investors in People by the sector; and

    —  an analysis of the workforce.

  What are the key messages for the Select Committee from the NTO research?

    —  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 and that everyone achieves a Level 2 or Level 3 qualification within five years of joining the sector.

    —  Approximately 20 per cent of the sector leaves each year. This is an enormous waste of experience. It is important that research is undertaken to find ways of reducing this wastage of experience and training.

    —  The sector has a poor reputation for continuous professional development but it is important for everyone in the sector to keep up-to-date with the latest knowledge of child development.

    —  The sector is characterised by low salaries. Most people earn less than £9,000 a year. They need help with the cost of training, as there is too little money in the sector for employees or employers to afford the cost of training without financial support from the Government.

    —  Most people within the sector cannot afford the time to study for a whole qualification. They need to study for small "bite-sized" qualifications which they can put together at a later stage. However, at present there is no public funding available for units of qualifications, only for whole qualifications. The latest proposals for the Learning and Skills Council ignore this issue.

    —  Traditionally, there has been very little importance placed on training and qualifications for the childcare sector by policy makers. However, in the last 10 years, the significance of good early years experiences has really become evident—and the importance of access to high quality training opportunities is now firmly established.

    —  Childcare workers are keen to undertake training—but the biggest single barrier that 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. This in turn raises the question of "who looks after the children while the childcarer is undergoing training"; how is the quality of "locum" care developed and established; and who will pay. In the short term, developing distance learning and other creative ways of delivering training is making some inroads into the problem. But on their own they are not enough.

  If the childcare sector is to expand in this era of full employment, then it has to offer clear opportunities for progression and development across the whole of the early years and social care sector in order to attract high calibre people into the profession. The public profile of childcare has to change and parents will need to be educated so that they can fully understand the imortance of training and development for the carers of their own children.

  We would be pleased to discuss this with you.

The Early Years National Training Organisation

June 2000

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