Nutbrown Review: Nursery staff skills questioned

A nursery school teacher and pupils The review was conducted into the qualifications of nursery staff and childminders

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A review of qualifications for nursery staff and childminders in England has highlighted concerns about literacy and numeracy skills among workers.

The Nutbrown Review looked at the standards of qualifications needed to work with young children.

It points out students do not need to demonstrate competence in English and Maths to complete their qualification.

The report was commissioned by the government and carried out by Professor Cathy Nutbrown.

It was published by the Department for Education.

The report says that it was a "potential weakness" that those training to work with children were not asked to show they reached a competent level in English and Maths.

It also says concerns have been expressed about whether students are equipped to work with children with special educational needs and disabilities.

'Passion and professionalism'

Professor Nutbrown also has concerns about whether qualifications that can be completed in a year give what she describes as "sufficient time to develop proper understanding of child development".

Start Quote

Clearly there are some areas that show up some real gaps, some areas that need urgently addressing, one of those being about entry level qualifications”

End Quote Anne Longfield 4Children

She quotes one academic who says higher standards are demanded of people working on their own with animals, than of those left alone with a baby.

Professor Nutbrown said: "Getting qualifications right will help to ensure that women and men enter the profession with the skills and experiences they need to do the best work with young children and their families.

"Well-taught courses and learning routes which lead to reliable qualifications can help early-years practitioners to improve their skills, knowledge and personal qualities, constantly developing in their roles.

"This can only benefit young children, both in terms of their day-to-day experiences in the Early Years Foundation Stage and future learning outcomes."

Children's Minister Sarah Teather said Professor Nutbrown's interim report "recognises the passion and professionalism of those working with our youngest children".

She added: "We know the earliest years of a child's life are so important to their development so it's vital we have a workforce with the right knowledge and skills. I look forward to receiving Professor Nutbrown's recommendations in the summer."

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg accused the government of trying to bury the report's recommendations.

"Parents of young children will be concerned if their childminders or nursery workers do not have sufficient skills," he said.

"The worry is that the government's plans to reduce standards and regulations could make the situation worse."

Children and family charity 4Children said the industry was "changing dramatically" regarding the importance of early education on children's development, so it was "fit and proper" that qualifications be reviewed.

'Changes the dynamics'

Chief executive Anne Longfield said: "Clearly there are some areas that show up some real gaps, some areas that need urgently addressing, one of those being about entry level qualifications."

She described qualifications as very swift, with students unable to work in childcare centres with skilled professionals.

She said literacy skills made a big difference to children's learning experiences.

"If you're trying to read a story and you just kind of say, or make it up in a very kind of pedestrian way, it's one thing. If you actually bring it to life then that just changes the dynamics of that whole learning experience.

"To do that you need confidence, you need to be able to actually read what you're looking at in the first place, but also have the confidence to translate that to children."

Conservative MP Elizabeth Truss, who wants deregulation in childcare, said quality needed to be improved in the sector.

She cited the example of the Netherlands where quality had improved and there was "better regulation". There was also on-the-job training in the Netherlands, with more frequent inspections than in the UK.

One company which provides early years teaching qualifications, Pearson, said it agreed with the Nutbrown review that "the quality of care our children receive in their early years can have a dramatic impact on a child's start in life."

Pearson said a new vocational qualification in Children's Play, Learning and Development, for teaching from September, aimed to raise standards in the sector.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    Why does the government expect childminders on minimum wage to have special skills? It expects nothing of parents - are they tested for literary or mathematics skills, the ability to tell stories or being able to care for their children or feed them properly? No, some people have as many children as they like and rely on taxpayers to pick up the pieces. Sort the parents out first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    My daughters inner London nursery nurses could hardly write their own names, but they were very caring and professional. My daughter has just turned 5 and is at primary school, and can now read and write better than most London street gang members, so who cares? Her primary teachers are incredibly professional. I'm more worried about secondary school teachers with their 2.2 and 3rd class degrees..

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    In the 'olden days' when I was at school, I am 48, ALL kids were supposed to leave school reasonably literate. There is no point in complaining about the education standards of the carers when the children themselves may grow up to have sub-standard education. Its a case of "Which comes first? The chicken or the egg?' Educate our teens first, the toddlers will follow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    What are your qualifications? Please check spelling before posting about standards for educators! 5/10 could do better.
    educationary?? origionally ??

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    Meanwhile haven't the Government just introduced a tightening on TAX & NI contributions for those employing nannies? So if you employ someone on a good wage then you will have to pay their tax and NI, whereas if you employ someone cheaper -ie less qualified- to look after your kids you won't. Somehow I can't see this improving the educational standards of those employed as nannies and Au Pairs...

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Nursery staff need to be literate and numerate beceause they teach our children literacy and numeracy. I teach childcare students and I have a child in nursery. I know first hand how bad their English is. It's bad enough that their writing is awful, I can deal with deciphering portfolios. But I don't want my child saying "fink", "haich", and getting their subject verb agreement wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Perhaps we should ban people without qualifications from being parents. too? Maybe it's time we realised that all educators, like parents, have to provide a more rounded education than just an academic one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    231 All the nursery & childcare staff I've ever met have a perfectly good command of the English language & display a more than adequate educationary standard.I know several women working in childcare who have degrees, including 2 who were origionally primary teachers but chose to get involved with early years instead. If there's a problem of illiteracy amongst childcarers it isn't widespread

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Pay peanuts, get monkeys. Simples.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    If nursery staff are required to be educators, they should be paid accordingly. I very much doubt that those complaining about the poor educational standards would be prepared to address the poor levels of pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Because of the way FE courses are funded, the opportunity to offer the CYPW one year course ensured many college executive bodies were quick to replace good quality courses with courses that could guarantee quicker and more likely success. This disheartens so many lecturers who have a passion for turning out good quality practitioners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    Why is it essential for child-minders to me literate and numerate? We don't have the same requirement for parents!

    A child-minder is simpy that - a child-minder. Not a parent subsititute or an educator - that's what homes and schools are for.

    As parents, we occasionally rely on friends and neighbours to mind our children - are we going to expect them to be qualified too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    What ever became of vocation?

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    How can anyone honestly say it does not matter if you are semi literate...

    Quite apart from being able to assist children's learning... these jobs require paperwork and an understanding of policies and procedures.

    If you struggle with English you cannot possibly be able to understand your statutory requirements or be able to complete paperwork to an acceptable standard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    I think that having patience and empathy is much more important than having qualifications in literacy and numeracy. Story telling does not need to be read and the sort of books young children like are not wordy counting games are not maths.

    The British seem to think qualifications are everything, they are not. Let the children play with someone who does not get bored with playing with them

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    I completely agree that all practitioners in early years settings should be literate and numerate but the same should also be true of teachers in schools. My child is in a school (rated 'good' by Ofsted) where the head of English uses incorrect spellings on worksheets given to the children..... no wonder children have problems spelling!

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.


    215. walkswithgoats I did do my Maths GCSE at school but got a grade E.At the time being young I didnt really think it mattered. Now I would love to do it, so please dont judge me with snide coments

    Where did I judge you or make a snide comment? I simply stated a fact. I am sure you were told at school the importance of the exams, but you knew better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    139 I expect your Father had parents who cared about him, not just themselves. A parent who read with him, who took their responsibilities seriously. Why have children if at least one of you isn't going to be with them? Oh I forgot, pay for the second car, the foreign holiday, the dinner parties. Poor little s..ds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    I foresee a similar outcome as in nursing, where we have managed to lose sight of the prime requirement of the job, which is to show care and compassion. Instead we have insisted on unnecessary qualifications.
    The clue is in the name: Child CARE. Education is a job for parents and schoolteachers - shame so many parents either don't realise/can't deliver on this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    If they did degrees in common sense, empathy and caring you would probably have a better work force suited for many support roles.


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