Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
WEDNESDAY 2 MAY 2001
HODGE, MBE AND
100. So for the record I would agree with you
that more professionalism in this area is desirable if the provision
of child care is affordable for the parents. That is a critical
factor. For the record, the Government is alive to the problem
that professionalisation could be driving people out and you are
coming forward with measures to try and make sure that does not
(Ms Hodge) No, I do not think it is the professionalisation
that is driving people out. I think it is the tightening labour
market whereby people are choosing to go elsewhere. The response
to the training opportunities that we are putting to child minders
is overwhelmingly positive. We do not get people saying, "You
are expecting us to gain this more professional attitude. We do
not want it." It is not that. One of the ambitions we have
got is to enable people to come in without any qualifications
at all, with having an instinctive liking of working with children,
and in a modular way work themselves through to a new higher professional
qualification which we will have in place probably in about a
year's time, NVQ 5-ish sort of thing, so that you can modularly
work up to that. Then we want to provide routes which will have
a thousand child care workers trained as teachers by 2004.
101. I was giving out awards at a Pre-School
Learning Alliance Ceremony for some of their staff who had been
through the training programme and of course, as you said, it
is very positive for them. However, I was hearing yet again from
the Pre-School Learning Alliance that despite what you have described
in terms of this additional resource going into the sector they
are very concerned by the future of nursery schools in our area,
let alone in others. What investigations has your Department done
into why, at a time when you are putting in so much more resource,
traditional providers of nursery schools are still closing?
(Ms Hodge) Traditional providers of nursery schools
102. Or long standing providers.
(Ms Hodge) Are you talking about pre-schools?
(Ms Hodge) I think we have turned the corner on that
one, I have to say to you. As I quite often say in the Chamber,
last year for the first time we got an increase of 6,000 places
in the pre-school sector. Again, it has been a range of measures
that we have taken which has not just ensuredone tries
not to be overly party-political in Select Committees but bluntly
the pre-schools suffered their biggest blow with the nursery voucher
scheme, which was, I am sure, an unintended consequence of that
scheme, but nevertheless was the reality. That is when you got
the biggest decline in pre-schools. We have been grappling with
how we change the nature of pre-schools so that they more adequately
meet the needs of children and the needs of working families in
a new age, and I think we are being successful. They are still
picking up 80 per cent of the three-year old places.
104. Can I just correct one aspect of that because
pre-schools in my area say whether you fund the four-year old
places through a voucher or through direct payments does not actually
make a difference to the pressure. The pressure is there and in
paragraph 58 of our report, as we had an exchange in the Commons
last week about this, we say that we have been concerned with
evidence that parents come under inappropriate pressure to enrol
their children in reception classes. Can I ask you as a final
question: you say there has been an expansion in pre-school places.
How much of that expansion has been in the independent sector
and how much of that has been in the funded sector? What is happening
is that you are obviously having a big expansion of funded places,
but the fear is that you are crowding out the independent sector.
(Ms Hodge) We are not.
105. And pre-schools in the area I represent
are saying they are delighted to hear the plans we have as a Conservative
education authority for creating more pre-school provision but
they are worried about the knock-on effect on their other pre-school
provision in the area because there will not be enough people
going to those schools and they may actually have to close because
a critical number of them are being drawn to the new provision.
(Ms Hodge) The funding of the expansion of three-year
old places is primarily going into the private and voluntary sector.
In excess of 80 per cent of the new places that we are funding
are going into the private and voluntary sector, so we are not
crowding them out. We are providing them with resources to sustain
and grow the sector. That is the first thing to say. Private day
nurseries are expanding like there is no tomorrow. They are one
of the fastest growing sectors. Pre-schools are also, in a whole
range of ways, grasping our agenda. Chairman, you talked about
the vision. The vision we have is of breaking down all the traditional
barriers and boundaries that used to exist between child care
and early years education and trying to build a holistic service.
That means providing integrated services, not just necessarily
a two and a half hour session but integrated services that meet
the needs of children, both for nurturing and for education, and
meet the needs of changing families. We are talking to pre-schools
at the moment. They want to be a big player in the Neighbourhood
Nursery expansion, and they want to lead that from the head office.
We have given them quite a lot of money. Recently I announced
another four million pounds which they are getting to develop
wrap-around care and to look at new ways of expanding. There really
is a revolution going on in the pre-school sector as much as anywhere
else to respond to what we are trying to construct. The final
thing I want to say to you, because there is so much mythology
about this, is that this idea that children and families are being
forced out of the voluntary and private sector into the school
sector is just not borne out by the evidence. There are two things
I would say about that. One is that our analysis of admission
policies shows that about half have a two-term policyadmit
people twice in a year. The second thing is that the analysis
that we did, which was a totally valid statistical analysis, on
summer born children, who are the ones most likely to be pushed
into a reception class too early, showed that 80 per cent of parents
were happy that their summer born child started school as a four-year
old, 71 per cent said that they did not defer and would not have
considered deferring, 80 per cent said they had enough information,
and, interestingly enough, 28 per cent of parents said that their
play group had encouraged them to move their child. I think there
is a lot of mythology growing up around this.
106. That means 72 per cent discouraged.
(Ms Hodge) No.
107. I am glad you clarified that because I
think there is a lot of mythology about it. Certainly I am pleased
that the pre-school play groups and schools have been encouraged
to become more professional in terms of looking at the progress
of their children. It is training I want to look at in particular.
First of all, I would like to know what aspects of training in
Early Years you focused on in particular and what areas have you
given top priority to.
(Ms Hodge) We have now got a budget of £184 million
for training over the next three years. We have also set a target
for the Learning and Skills Council to train 230,000 people to
NVQ 2/3 and there is money in the standard spending assessment
for local authorities to spend more money on training. Of course
there is the access to individual learning accounts and modern
apprenticeships and all those programmes which are providing things
for the child care sector. We are prioritising the foundation
stage in Early Learning goals and we are doing that in a number
of ways. Every practitioner working in the foundation stage will
have to provide four days' continuous training for professional
development for all those practitioners by 2004. Some of them
are there already; one of the things we vet in the plans. We want
a ratio of 1:10 for teachers to Early Years settings by 2004.
Just to jog you all, there are 35,000 settings delivering early
years education. Compare that to 24,000/25,000 schools that we
have got, so that is a massive task. We have said that every teacher
working in the foundation stage must undertake training that is
appropriate to the early years, so around the foundation stage.
We have put a lot of emphasis on special educational needs and
there is some really interesting work going on there. Every setting
now must have an SEN policy. Every setting must have an SEN co-ordinator
who will have three days' annual training by 2004, and we are
going to have SENCO advisers for every 20 settings in place. There
we agreed, and I announced that in the SEN Disability Bill, that
we are looking there with special educational needs at the under-twos
even. We have now got an advisory group that is looking at children
from birth through till two to see, if you get a very early identification
of a child's needs, how you can respond between health, social
services and education to ensure that you really put in place
the proper support, including educational support, so that the
child reaches its full potential. The other thing is the senior
Early Years practitioner; we are quite excited by that, which
is the new qualification that we are developing where we want
a total of a thousand to have achieved that by 2004 or to have
progressed through to qualified teacher status, with some more
perhaps going into health and social work. We are doing some training
around leadership which has come out as crucial, particularly
in the Early Excellence Centre and Early Excellence analysis,
and we hope to have a leadership qualificationit might
be a head teachers' qualificationin place in the not too
distant future. It is being piloted at the moment by Margy Whalley
at Pen Green.
108. That sounds incredibly exciting, and so
I wonder why I have had NNEBs coming to me disgruntled. The concern
of one in particular was that her qualification was not recognised
by the census. She felt devalued and, I suspect, a little de-motivated.
What would you say to NNEBs who see themselves as the first Early
Years professionals in terms of what the Government is doing for
them and whether they should feel devalued? Some of these would
have qualified 20 years ago and others may have qualified more
(Ms Hodge) There are 16 qualifications now in the
framework. That is that from 1,600 we have reduced to 16, so that
makes much better sense, both for employers and for students.
The NNEB is in there. It is just re-named and re-classified, so
it is not that they are not recognised.
109. What are they re-named as?
(Ms Hodge) I cannot remember. Level 3 qualification;
I just cannot remember the actual name. Nursery nurses are feeling
edgy and what I try and reassure them of is that as we expand
the sector the opportunities grow. As we introduce our teaching
assistants into schools the opportunities grow. As we provide
the routes to further qualifications the opportunities grow.
110. One of the issues is, and you mentioned
(Ms Hodge) They want to stay as a nursery nurse.
111. You mentioned teaching assistants. I think
I would be right in saying that they believe that they have particular
qualities that they are not just looking at teaching, they are
looking at the holistic view of the child coming into to a nursery
or an education setting, and that to suggest that they train as
teachers reinforces the view that they are under-valued and therefore
they want their own qualities to be recognised. The issue for
me is how can we ensure that people who have got NNEB qualifications,
who may be outside child care at the moment, fit into this new
ladder of qualifications while they are still in other jobs? I
think it is quite difficult for mature entrants into the sector
who may still be on low pay to have the time off to do the training
to get them into the sector?
(Ms Hodge) That is why we have provided a modular
route. Where we will be at very shortly is that this new higher
professional qualification will count as 240 CATs points, so that
knocks two years off a higher education degree. Then either you
go through the registered teachers' programme or you go on and
do a degree. We are talking to a number of higher education institutions
who are working with us to see that as a route through to higher
education, so it is not a question of coming out of work. I have
to say, which is perhaps a slightly tough message to nursery nurses,
that they are recognised, they are valued, they are important,
but the qualification level they achieve and the qualification
level that a teacher has is different and that is reflected in
salary. What we are trying to do is provide the routes through
to enable them to go up the climbing frame, as I call it, rather
than the ladder, if they want to do so. That is their choice,
but if they want to remain as a nursery nurse they have done a
different amount of training than a teacher has.
112. Do you believe that we will not get men
into the sector until we improve the pay and conditions of the
(Ms Hodge) The interesting thing is that we have been
incredibly successful. We are the second fastest growing sector
in the labour market. We have run this advertising campaign where
we have had something like 64,000 responses, and Alan will correct
me if I am wrong.
113. What is the gender balance in that?
(Ms Hodge) There are only two per cent of men working
in the sector. Eight per cent of our respondents to the advertising
campaign have been men, so that is getting better. Salary levels
are growing. In the discussions we are having with a number of
private nursery providers to do the 900 Neighbourhood Nurseries
you are talking about somebody running a nursery probably earning
in the region of £35,000-£40,000. That is much higher
than it would have been five years ago.
114. Yes, but, Minister, we had Richard Dorrance
give evidence to us last week where he has been Chief Executive
of the Council for Awards in Children's Care and Education, and
he did say, and I quote him: "I do not think the sector could
cope with morebut if you are over 23 and you have been
working in the sector for five/six years and you want to get a
qualification, that qualification is going to cost about £1,500.
You are likely to be earning under £8,000." We visited
one or two pre-school settings in the private sector catering
to workers in the City, just down the road here. Yes, they were
being well paid. They are almost a beacon setting in terms of
what I would like to see and members of this Committee would like
to see, a well organised setting, well paid head, well paid staff.
The people who gave evidence last week said, "We are paying
£7,000 a year". What sort of country are we that pays
the people that look after our children at this most delicate
and important stage £7,000 a year? We must as a Government
surely do something to raise the level of qualification and, essentially,
(Ms Hodge) I think we are doing something. First of
all, we are investing £61 million to support low paid child
care workers to access their training and that is entirely around
access. The costs of getting your NVQ will be met out of those
monies that are available for access. The second thing is that
when you do raise the qualifications levels inevitably you do
raise the salary that goes with it. The balance we need to strike
is between raising salary levels and retaining affordable child
care. I was very pleased that the Chancellor responded to our
representations and others in the Budget recently by raising the
child care tax credit levels quite considerably so that you can
now get 70 per cent of £135 towards your child care costs
for one child to 70 per cent of £200 for two children. That
sort of level begins to reflect the sort of salaries that we want
to pay for higher quality care. I think this is going to take
time, Chairman. It is not going to move overnight. All those elements
are moving in the right direction. I would say that this is perhaps
what the Helen Penn provision would be: shovel zillions in. If
we had zillions we could raise salary levels faster, but we are
having massive growth and responding on all these fronts to providing
a really solid infra structure.
115. Can I just come back to that because, whilst
much of what you are saying to us is very interesting and I think
something which we would all support as a Committee, I am still
rather concerned by the fact that the strategy appears to be that
as people raise their qualifications their ultimate aim is to
become teachers. Ought we not to be ensuring that we have dedicated
child care workers who are well paid and who may not necessarily
wish to become teachers? It is a different skill and actually
valuing that as a skill and paying it appropriately. We will not
retain people for long in the sector, will we, unless they are
(Ms Hodge) That is why we have got the senior Early
Years practitioner qualification that we are developing entirely
to support that. That is why Early Years degrees are growing in
the HE sector all over the place. I have got a daughter doing
one. We are growing a new profession, but you do not grow it overnight.
116. Can you tell us what monitoring of the
sector you have? You have referred to people earning £35,000
a year but that is extremely rare, is it not, still at the moment?
(Ms Hodge) We do a workforce survey. We did our last
one in 1998. We are in the middle of doing the current one, the
results of which will be out in a few months. We do monitor it
regularly, literally 1998 was the last one and 2001 will be out,
I imagine, probably by the autumn.
117. You referred in the response to our report
that the Government is keeping under review pay and conditions,
but also, understandably, the new structure accept that they are
outside the Government's remit. How can you keep them under review
if they are outside the remit? How can you take sensible decisions
on funding and development without taking into account pay and
(Ms Hodge) Salary levels are negotiated locally. Very
often they are negotiated between a parent and a child carer,
so we do not want to interfere with that. I think it would not
be appropriate for us to get involved in those sorts of negotiations.
Quite a lot are negotiated at local education authority level.
The fact that we worked quite hard to convince the Chancellor
to raise the working families tax credit levels demonstrates our
sensitivity to what is happening both to salary levels and therefore
charges, because the two are closely correlated, and we will continue
to do that. I suppose one other factor that I have not mentioned
is the money we are putting in through the Nursery Education Fund
is massive and that also gives play groups, pre-schools, resources
to then increase the pay that they can offer to their workers.
We are taking action on all fronts. Other than having a sudden
300 per cent increase in salary levels funded out of the taxpayer,
I think we are acting sensibly.
118. But Helen was pushing you on the monitoring.
(Ms Hodge) We do that through the workforce survey.
119. Has there been any encouragement for almost
a beacon setting in each Early Years Partnership, almost a model
that people who aspire to that could go to and have the notion
of a beacon setting in which people are well paid, where it is
well managed, where all the best elements are there? One of the
things about driving up pay is just to see what it is like when
people are properly trained, properly qualified, properly rewarded
and whether that would suffuse the system, okay, again along a
pragmatic line but actually would raise the general level?
(Ms Hodge) Early Excellence Centres, which I think
are one of the success stories.