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Caring for the carers

FINDING a way through the labyrinth of childcare qualifications must be a deterrent to those thinking of a career. The same would apply to those already in the field who want to supplement practical experience with a measure of formal study. An annex to the Executive's action plan for extending and improving childcare training (page two) appears to offer a diagrammatic solution to the puzzle. At each level there is an answer to questions that might be posed, such as: "I want to be a nanny, childminder or creche assistant." Response: "No formal qualifications required." One step on: "I want to be a nursery assistant, playworker, out-of-school assistant or classroom assistant."

Response - ah, here come the problems. You could aim for a qualification among those in a white box (which are college based) - SGA care intermediate, National Certificate units in child care and eduction, PDA classroom assistants; or those which are work based (hatched box) - SVQ2 early years care and education or SVQ2 playwork.

Confused? An aim of the action plan is to simplify the qualifications, and possibly to supplement them, or to substitute for some a generic course which might be followed by students whose career path could lead to any of the opportunities in the expanding fields of pre-school and out-of-school care and classroom assistance.

The system needs more people - 5,000 in two years according to the Executive's own programme - and needs them better trained. The onus is placed on local authorities, which get some extra cash, though for only two years. The problem is that armed with a piece of paper, the care worker is still in a grossly underpaid job. Even promoted, she (pace the campaign for more men) does not have attractive prospects.

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