Select Committee on Education and Employment Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 56 - 59)




  56. Richard Dorrance has been the Chief Executive of the Council for Awards in Children's Care and Education since its inception in 1994 and is also Chief Executive of the Early Years National Training Organisation. He taught for 11 years in schools and was General Adviser to Berkshire County Council for five years. Savita has been the Director of the Early Years National Training Organisation since its launch in November 1998. I could say a lot more about their very broad experience but it would cut into the time, so, welcome.

  (Dr Dorrance) Thank you very much. Like all the other witnesses, we welcome the Select Committee's report and particularly the proposals on training and qualifications and recruitment and we would not disagree with any of them. In particular we welcome the acceptance that to care for and educate young children you need to be trained. I think that is an enormous move forward. To us it feels as though Cinderella has come to the ball. We have been lobbying for the raising of standards ever since 1945, when the predecessor of CACHE, the NNEB, was set up, and we are very, very pleased with the way the events are moving, although we are slightly worried about the number of initiatives and the speed of change; because it is fine for the experts and the people who know what is happening to talk about this sort of change, but there are 550,000 people working out there in the sector and we need to carry them with us and give them the support so they can cope with that change. There are some issues we would have liked to have seen in the report, even though we liked everything that was there. We would have liked to see higher training targets for Early Years workers. In item 6 the report talks about every childminder having undertaken nationally accredited preparatory training. Why not every worker in the Early Years sector? Surely every child has a right to be looked after and educated by a care person. We believe that no one should be in charge of a setting or in sole charge of a child without both relevant experience and a level 3 qualification, whether it be a training course or an NVQ. We are particularly worried about the lack of childcare professionals on the Learning Skills Councils. We have held five conferences over the last few days for the Childcare Partnerships and there are lots of horror stories coming back about the LSCs not knowing the needs of the Early Years sector. We welcome the government's injection of funding into training but we are worried that a lot of it is targeted at 18-year olds. We are not asking for more money—I do not think the sector could cope with more—but 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 £1500. You are likely to be earning under £8,000. And the LSC is not funding those people to get a qualification; the LSC is saying it is the employer's duty to pay for training—which is quite fair, of course, in an industry that is rich, but in Early Years there is just not that sort of money around to pay for qualifications. We ask the question why there should be a requirement that Early Years settings need access to a qualified Early Years teacher, because by saying that it is giving a message about the existing Early Years degree programmes and the existing level 4 qualifications. We just ask the question. Have I left anything out, Savita?
  (Ms Ayling) One of the concerns we did have was while we do welcome the Government's injection of funding into training, there is no reference to supporting the infrastructure, and we are very aware of this. It came through very clearly from the partnerships and picks up on something Pam Bolton said earlier. If we are going to be looking at sustaining the level of support we currently have within the sector, and we know something like 100,000 people are leaving the sector each year and we need to replace them and move them forward in training, we must have funding and a recognition of funding for registration and inspection, for assessors, for verifiers and for providing mentoring support. The increasing numbers of people coming through mechanisms such as the National Recruitment Campaign is fantastic, but we do not have the infrastructure to support it and the worst thing we can do is to say to somebody new coming into the sector, "This is an opportunity for you" and then they wait six or nine months for registration and inspection to catch up with them, or they wait for 12 weeks for a police check. So we need to support the sector as a complete picture, and training is absolutely integral and key to that, but we have to ensure those other support mechanisms are there and in place. The other thing we wanted to say was that we are doing an awful lot of work on the Training and Qualifications Framework, and we are very much picking up on the issue you raised earlier regarding the place of the NNEB. What we are proposing to do, and we have proposed it to both the Department for Education and to TaEA Northern Ireland (and I understand TaEA will be funding this, and it is a critical piece of work) is expanding the framework from where it stands in terms of job roles related to qualifications related to NVQs to include a reference to pre-framework qualifications, so that those people who currently hold a qualification which does not appear in the framework can see and be given credit for that, so its value is recognised. That would include the NNEB and other such qualifications. We also include a reference to specialist training which are those bits of work which people do which are not necessarily related to the achievement of the qualification but are required by the sector, and we are looking at things like paediatric first aid, food and hygiene, health and safety, all of which enhance the ability of somebody to deliver quality care. A third area we would add to the framework is reference to training programmes. There are some particularly good training programmes in the sector which have been developed both nationally and locally. With the amount of money we have available, rather than asking the sector to re-invent the wheel—every time somebody wants a training programme they will go out and make one—if we can show there are valuable training programmes which have a relationship to national vocational standards then we can stop re-inventing the wheel and can encourage that exchange of information which is so critical to helping the sector best prepare for delivery of quality care. So we are actually looking at bolting on three more bits to the existing framework. We trialled this as a principle in the five conferences we ran with the partnerships, and came back with overwhelming support, so it is something we would like to go forward with which we believe would offer great benefit to the sector.

Charlotte Atkins

  57. I take your point about the 23 year-old who is trained and how they up-date their qualifications, and I think the same issue goes for anyone wanting to enter teaching. To take up the point you made about Early Years teaching, a lot of people in Early Years feel they are pushed into embarking on a teacher route because somehow Early Years is not recognised for its own value. What would you want to offer someone who qualified as an NNEB, say, 15 years ago and clearly knows nothing about the Foundation Stage National Curriculum area? What is offered now? What do you think the Government should offer? Where are the gaps?
  (Ms Ayling) In order to support the sector as a profession, one of the things we are very keen to see is a recognised system of continuous professional development. If you take the reference back to the framework, if we had somebody who had done an NNEB 15 years ago and done very little else, we would be saying as an NTO that qualification would not have a huge amount of validity because it is pre-Children Act and there has been no additional training. In order to take that person forward a regular system of continuous professional development, where we are addressing specific issues which are identified by the sector as being current and important that need to be addressed, we believe would not only support the individual but would also bring the status of the sector on to a more professional footing. We could look at it on the basis of current and existing parallel schemes for, for example, INSET for teachers, the current accredited system offered by the Law Society for solicitors, the existing system which exists within the health regime, and see how we could best adapt those to meet the needs of the Early Years sector. It is our belief that a system of CPD would not only support the individual workers in the setting and the sector as a profession, it would also give some reassurance to parents that learning is a continual process, and those people involved in the delivery of care to their children are continuing themselves to develop in order to meet best practice.
  (Dr Dorrance) About 400 NNEBs a year go on to become teachers, and there are currently three routes which are available which they use. Directly into a BEd, by doing the Advanced Diploma in Child Care and Education, which you talked about earlier, which gives them remission from one year of an Early Years degree course, for example, or they would do one of the other level 4 qualifications available and move into a teacher training programme. The TTA registered teacher route is also available but it is quite tough to go down that route to become a teacher. So the routes are there.

  58. Does that not tend to under-value or devalue the world of the Early Years worker, because of this emphasis on suggesting somehow they will be better off training as a teacher?
  (Dr Dorrance) I do not think it under-values it. What we would argue for is that there should be routes both into the sector and to other jobs from Early Years work. I do not think those different routes devalue the sector, but I do think there is a need to talk up the professionalism of working in Early Years. There is no doubt in my mind that Early Years workers are professionals but parents do not always accept that.

  59. The workers do not always accept that, because when they are approached about going into teaching they feel they are not valued and they do not therefore value themselves as professionals.
  (Dr Dorrance) That is right and we need to tell them and keep on telling them that they are professionals, but there is of course a cost. The cost of being a professional is that you need to keep your knowledge and experience up-to-date and we need to put that message across as well.

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