According to Save The Children, over 200,000 children are being failed by nurseries because they do not employ a qualified teacher.
This report, yet again means Save the Children are completely devaluing the 100,000's of childcare staff currently employed with in the sector. They are disregarding the research that formal 'teaching' for children under the age of 5 is detrimental to their development. They are also failing to acknowledge that the issue of 'underachieving' actually lies with the Government's own EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage). Over 13,000 nurseries will be at risk of closure if there are any further financial constraints or requirements placed upon them.
In the past year alone, the childcare sector has had to carry the burden of two increases to national minimum wage, a national living wage introduction, introduction of pension scheme contributions and increases in all other aspects of business expenses and in particular food costs and heat & light. In addition, in 2017 there will be an additional increase to minimum wage and the Government are insisting upon the introduction of 30 hours free childcare.
Many people, especially those in business will probably be thinking 'we have all had those cost increases too'. However, almost all other business also have ways that they can look to cut costs, work with fewer staff for example and will still have access to the same customer base.
Childcare settings do not have that option. They have staff ratios they HAVE to adhere to. They have minimum requirements that are required to provide and with the introduction of the 30 hours free childcare - they cannot even charge for additional services that they may provide.
With regards to 'customer base' in what other industry could it withstand a customer base drop by 50% through enforced policies and state funded competition and STILL maintain the same standards in minimum requirements whilst expenditure is increased? I cannot think of any, yet that is the situation childcare is being forced in to by Government.
State funded schools are now taking children at an ever increasingly young age, in some settings as young as two, WITHOUT having to adhere to the same minimum requirements that are placed on childcare settings and without the same provision or knowledge of care requirements.
There are numerous studies, including one by University of Cambridge, that have provided evidence that children should not be in a formal education environment until the age of 6 or 7, let alone the age of 5 that is the current UK school entrance age.
So, why is Save The Children insisting that not only is additional financial pressure put upon an already crumbling childcare sector that could put each and every one of the 13,000 settings at risk of closure, but completely ignoring the evidence from well-respected professors in education that formal education is detrimental to the development and well-being of the children?
I would like to make it very clear that the childcare sector is required to follow the EYFS - a Government programme for the development of children. It is THIS that is the cause of 'underachieving', this along with the year on year withdrawal of parent support services.
The childcare sector does not need qualified teachers - there is already a shortage of qualified teachers in the education sector!
What the childcare sector needs is to:
• Abolish the EYFS and return to the tried and tested (and successful) developmental achievement models of Mary Sheridan for example and allow settings to use their own developmental programmes that meet those standards.
• Re-structure schools to be the educational settings they were designed to be for 5 years and above. This will also work to address the lack of space, resources and teachers that reception years are currently facing - 100,00's across the country.
• Value the staff currently employed in the sector with a new 'professional status' qualification that enables them to increase the skills they already have to meet the needs of the children to achieve a model programme such as that quoted above.
• Support the sector financially to enable childcare staff to receive a suitable salary for an early years development professional.
• Abolish the 30hrs scheme in it's current proposed form and provide parents with access to either parent/child classes and/or childcare settings from birth through to 5 years. Enforcing set hours and for only 3 & 4 year olds is both missing a huge opportunity to develop a crucial age of foundation skills in the under 1's but also increasing the costs to the parents of children under 3 years. A new set value voucher system that allows parents to choose the services they wish to attend - parent/child classes or contribute to their childcare for a return to work or access a pre-school setting for example whilst staying at home. Not only values the choices of parents but ensures ALL children are given access to services and development without the financial restrictions on nurseries.
• STOP berating the childcare sector and save it from the imminent collapse it is currently facing!