Education ministers have snubbed MSPs who wanted a guaranteed role for teachers in nurseries, Elizabeth Buie writes. Instead, Peter Peacock is backing a better qualifications and professional framework for those running early years and childcare centres and those working in them.
Mr Peacock's response to the national review of the early years and childcare workforce, published yesterday (Thursday), states that his long-term ambition is for all centres to be led by early years and childcare leaders who are qualified at degree level.
He calls for a qualifications framework to be in place by September next year, programmes offering the new qualifications for leaders to be in place by September the year after and workforce development programmes in place by 2009.
To assist private and voluntary sector providers of pre-school education to recruit and retain qualified staff, the Scottish Executive is releasing Pounds 5 million a year to fund the provision of free pre-school places.
"In the longer term, I intend to move towards a position where all centres providing quality services are funded on a similar basis," he says.
Mr Peacock wants local authorities to develop and support career pathways for staff. He also expects them to become more flexible in the services they provide.
The minister says that while teachers have a distinctive and important role in pre-school provision, he wanted to concentrate on non-teaching staff in this review. "Not every early years setting currently has a teacher and this is not going to change. Indeed, the balance is likely to shift towards more non-teaching staff managing centres in the future.
"It is therefore important for there to be clear routes for people entering the sector by a variety of routes to be able to develop their expertise and professionalism to progress to management and leadership positions."
The parliamentary education committee's early years inquiry, published in June, recommended that qualified teaching staff be a requirement in pre-five nursery education in disadvantaged areas.
It stated: "We are not convinced by the argument that graduates from other types of training programme are necessarily able, purely by virtue of their degree status, to deliver an early years curriculum as effectively as required, or indeed that 'the ability to think critically and reflectively'
will, in the absence of the necessary practical pedagogical skills, prove effective."
However, Children in Scotland, the children's charity, said MSPs had missed a chance to argue for a simpler structure of properly funded and well-staffed services which would provide greater continuity for children and parents.