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MPs rekindle childminder row

Ministers told they should not have allowed carers to smack and smoke. Geraldine Hackett reports

CHILDMINDERS should be adequately trained and prevented from smacking their charges or smoking in front of them, a parliamentary report is expected to say later this month.

Ministers will be taken to task by the Labour-chaired education selection committee over their failure to regulate the qualifications of those paid to take care of young children.

In its inquiry into early-years education, MPs are also expected to re-open the debate on allowing childminders to smack and smoke. It will argue that childminders should not be allowed to smack children in their care.

Last month, Margaret Hodge, the minister for early-years education, was heckled by child-carers, who disagreed with a Government ruling which allows them to smack and smoke with parents' permission.

However, much of the report will focus on the need for children to have appropriate levels of care and early-learning materials.

It is xpected to stress that four and five-year-olds in primary schools should be in classes with at least one adult per 15 children.

The committee of backbench MPs is concerned that some young children are taught too formally, but they are not expected to recommend that a structured approach to teaching reading and writing be delayed until children reach the age of six.

One MP said: "We saw four-year-olds tracing around letters and that did not seem appropriate for young children who do not have the required level of hand-eye co-ordination. It is important that foundation stage is seen as a curriculum in its own right and that key stage 1 does not begin until the end of reception."

Barry Sheerman, the commitee's chair, has already voiced his support for greater regulation of care for young children.

The Government is to create more than 200,000 new childcare jobs over the next three years as part of a drive to expand nursery provision and get lone parents and low-income families back to work.

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