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 264.

    Being able to develop and maintain an appropriate trusting relationship with a potentially frightened small child strikes me as being a) far more important than any taught theory, and b) very hard, if not impossible, to teach in a classroom.

    I really couldn't care less if my kid's nursery carers aren't great at the three R's so long as the kids like them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    As sumone hoo as been fru the UK hedgucation sistern I cun say that is not bout reedin & ritin n mafs n all that stuff, its about turnin out kids who are trained in poolitcal corerectness.
    Which is why many foreigners now laugh at people from the UK because they can spot a Brit by the fact that they can't spell or speak their own language.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    241 I'm educated to post-graduate level.
    I've always been happy with the standard of care my children had when they attended pre-school aged 3-4.Their safety, the fun they had & excellent care they recieved were far more important to me than whether the person caring for them could spell originally or not.
    I did 'A' levels & degree as an adult; possibly that explains the gaps in my spelling?

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    Well, what do you expect when you pay peanuts? And why do parents think it responsible to place their most important and precious charges at the cheapest rate possible? And why do parents think the taxpayer should subsidise them so they can indulge themselves in consumer goods and extra foreign holidays? Do what we used to do: do without so your kids get brought up how you want them to be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    Christine 239 is worried about 'fink' and 'haitch'. This shows a fundamental lack of understanding of how language and accents are acquired. Sadly my son is showing signs of RP despite my strong Canadian accent. Accents are acquired by more than an occasional 'fink' or 'haitch' and literacy levels do not dictate these.

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    While my children were really little we made a decision I'd care for them at home while my husband worked f/t. I realise not everyone feels they can drop to 1 wage -we struggled financially but glad we did it.
    Aged 3-4 yrs is a good age for children to start a few hrs of pre-school a wk, to get chance to make friends, learn to share & generally prepare for school.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    Uprate to support this petition for BBC HYS to publish how, exactly, they decide which stories are worthy of our input and why they don't (as nearly every other news site does) just let us have our say on every single story.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    Young people who train to work with young children are not necessarily academic but all of the ones I knew were very loving and caring.
    These qualities count for so much more
    Having to have high academic qualifications would exclude some of the best people

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Did they dream this up, my daughter is doing childcare and a large part is English and Maths.

  • Comment number 255.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    What do you expect when they earn the minimum wage anyway with the cuts in WTC and the further redundancies of hundreds of thousands of women from the public sector in the next 3 years the demand for nursery places is going to fall women wont be able to afford nursery care all part of the tories social policy plans welcome to the new Victorian Britain 21st century style

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    Loving the spelling errors and apostophe slips in many of the moaners on here! might be an idea to proof read before complaining about the literacy skills of others...........

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    It is plainly rediculous to allow non-academics to work in play schools. Which responsible parent would begrudge paying the additional few hundred pounds each week for the comfort of knowing that their children are being looked after by highly skilled intellectuals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    I am in no way concerned about the skills of the nursery staff who care for my son. They are loving, encourage play, independence, lots of activitiy and he couldn't be happier. What is important for me is that he is safe and eager to attend. Forget the numeracy and literacy tests. They didn't work for the teaching profession and they won't work for childcare either. The government should butt out

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    All people working in nursery schools should be highly educated with at least a post graduate qualifications in playing with children. Of course this will hugely increase child care costs to parents and ensure that even more of our less educated will be forced out of work and on to benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    230 Human,

    Totally agree with your comments. In the UK there seems to be a preoccupation with having paper qualifications that prove you are educated enough for the job, if you can get one. But while numeracy and literacy are essential skills at the primary and secondary level, surely those working at nursery level require a different skills with less focus on the aforementioned. Only toddlers

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    It is a sad but true fact that the one thing many women seem to be able to do with absolutely no qualifications is child minding. Even so all nursery personnel should at least be trained professionals with some sort of qualification and not a bunch of amateurs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    Just as the last Government prompted nurses that they were too important to do basic (otherwise known as caring) nursing, they also persuaded the teachers that they were above the caring involved in basic teaching. And it's had a negative effect on both. Its an awful lot cheaper, though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    Does anyone know what Qualification the name on your Voting Paper needs?
    Or does any idiot qualify as a Politician? Being serious..are the mentally stable?
    Are they intelligent? Do they think for themselves? Or do they do exactly what they are told to do?
    If we vote for the right party..are we intelligent?
    IIf we opt for the wrong party,are we stupid?
    Answer is Yes..and Yes..

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    As a teacher what strikes me is that kids who want to learn do so. Kids who don't can be drawn into learning by good teachers, but it's hard work.

    Teaching at nursery school? Please, can't childhood be about play and joy before the treadmill of education? Before the SATs & the CAT scores & being told your great GCSEs are crap because they got dumbed down.

    Let toddlers toddle.


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