Qualifications drive for early years staff

4th November 2005 at 00:00
Early years practitioners in Scotland need to be more highly qualified to deliver a formal pre-school curriculum, new research suggests.

Children in Europe, the magazine specialising in issues relating to children up to the age of 10 and published in the UK by Children in Scotland, has found that practitioners in Scotland are generally less qualified than a number of their European counterparts whose curricula are flexible and therefore require considerable professional responsibility.

The findings coincide with the publication of a report by Children in Scotland, in association with the Scottish Council Foundation think-tank, which is calling for "an over-arching review" of the whole children's sector workforce, estimated at 220,000 strong.

The review should address levels of qualification, pay and conditions, gender inequality and the emergence of new types of worker, the children's charity suggests.

The European research study, also published this week, shows that Denmark's pre-school curriculum is just two pages long and there are no formal assessments (Scotland's is 60 pages long and does not assess children formally before they start school).

In Denmark, 65 per cent of all staff working in early years centres are educated to degree level. In Sweden, 50 per cent of early years staff have a four-year university degree. In Scotland, only pre-school teachers are qualified to degree level.

Bronwen Cohen, chief executive of Children in Scotland, said: "If the current review of the early years and childcare workforce leads to a significant rise in qualification levels of staff working with young children, it will offer Scotland the opportunity to develop an early years workforce which can support a less prescriptive and more reflective approach, leaving space for children, parents and local communities to ensure services meet their own needs."

However, Peter Moss, professor of early childhood provision at the Institute of Education in London and editor of Children in Europe, warned that staff training must ensure practitioners are equipped with the necessary skills to be able to take on the responsibility of delivering a flexible curriculum, rather than simply being trained to be highly effective "technicians" of a specific curriculum.

Meanwhile, the report into the children's sector workforce, entitled Working for the future: re-imagining the children's sector workforce, argues: "Qualifications vary considerably across the children's sector workforce. Two-thirds of social workers and virtually all teachers, nurses and midwives have qualifications at levels four and five and many are graduates. Only a quarter or less of residential and child care workers, education assistants and 8 per cent of childcare-related occupations have qualifications at this level.

"Teachers on average finish full-time education around the age of 21, education assistants at 17 and residential and childcare and related occupations at 16. These differences are reflected in pay and conditions."

It adds: "Recognition of the importance of the arts, culture and creativity to the well-being of children and families is leading to the creation of new links between these and health, social work, education and community development, and to the emergence of new types of workers."

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