Early years qualifications are starting to have a positive impact on the lives of Scottish children, according to a new report by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).
The percentage of qualified workers in settings for children under the age of 5 has risen from just 55 per cent when the council's official register opened in 2006 to 89 per cent in 2013-14, the report says. The remaining 11 per cent of the workforce is currently working towards gaining qualifications.
The Scottish government now requires all practitioners and managers in early-years settings to belong to the SSSC's register, which they can join only if they hold a qualification or are working towards one.
The increase in qualified workers and scrutiny of early years and childcare services is "improving the lives and outcomes for children, families, communities and the economy", the report adds.
Anna Fowlie, chief executive of the SSSC, said: "Qualified workers lead to quality early years services. Scotland's early years workers deserve praise for their efforts to increase their knowledge, confidence and leadership skills but most importantly, for the difference they are making to children's lives."
The research also finds that the range of qualifications and resources developed by the SSSC is "starting to make a difference" to the way those in the workforce view themselves and their work. The impact also means that Scotland is now viewed as an international leader in the field of early years workforce development and education, the report says.
The SSSC is now looking forward to working with Iram Siraj-Blatchford, an academic from the University of London's Institute of Education, on her independent review of the early-years workforce, due to be published in the spring of next year.
The report was welcomed both by the Scottish government and the EIS teaching union, which has long fought for a legal acknowledgement from the government of the role that teachers registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) play in early-years settings.
At its recent AGM in Perth, the union agreed a motion to call on the Scottish government to "legislate andor regulate for meaningful access to a GTCS-registered nursery teacher for all nursery pupils".
The SSSC's paper comes only months after the union lost a landmark case at the Court of Session, where it was challenging an earlier ruling that Glasgow City Council had no legal requirement to employ qualified nursery teachers in its nurseries.
Announcing the union's support for Professor Siraj-Blatchford's review in February, EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "While recognising the important and valuable role played by all staff in nursery establishments, the EIS is firm in the belief that the continued involvement of teachers, as part of the pre-5 team, is essential to the delivery of quality educational experiences."
Welcoming the SSSC report this week, Mr Flanagan told TESS it was "confirmation that highly qualified staff make a difference in the pre-5 sector".
"We just make the point that in terms of the educational input in the pre-5 sector, a postgraduate qualification in teaching offers another dimension. The higher qualified the staff are, the better the outcome. That is why teachers who are beyond graduate level bring something even further."
Aileen Campbell, minister for children and young people, said the report showed that the increase in qualified childcare workers was "improving the lives and outcomes of children and highlights the positive impact the degree qualification is having in the sector".