Back in 2012, Professor Cathy Nutbrown carried out a review of early education and childcare qualifications, on behalf of the Department for Education. In her report, she recommended that it become mandatory for all staff counted within a setting’s ratio of adults:children to be qualified to a minimum of Level 3. (Currently, only 50% of staff counted within ratios must be qualified, and while the supervisor must be qualified to Level 3, it’s acceptable for the remaining staff to be qualified to Level 2).
Professor Nutbrown called for this policy to be phased in, with a minimum of 50% of staff counted within ratios to be qualified to Level 3 from September 2013, increasing to 70% in September 2015, and finally to 100% by 2022. The Government told us this was under consideration, and for a considerable time, we’ve been waiting to hear if the recommendation would become mandatory.
This month we got our answer – ministers will not be implementing the change. Also, the Department for Education have unexpectedly revealed that they will not publish the response to a recent public consultation, which collected views from workers in the sector on proposed Government changes to ratios. This news is a hot talking point amongst early years practitioners, and the topic may well have been under discussion within your setting.
It’s worth stressing that the current mandatory staff:child ratios are the minimum required. Some settings already exceed them, either in terms of the numbers of staff they employ, or the level of qualifications held by staff (and perhaps both). Studies show that this is likely to impact on the quality of the care and education received by the children. But some settings say that they simply can’t afford to exceed the minimum ratios, especially in the current financial climate, even though they would like to.
Whatever the position in your setting, it can be really beneficial to spend some time thinking about the way in which staff are deployed, and how and when certain everyday tasks are carried out. Routines are of course an important part of young children’s lives, and they contribute to children feeling emotionally secure and settled in the early years environment. But with many tasks taking staff out of the room (e.g. to toilet, change nappies, wash hands, or to prepare snacks), the smallest changes can help towards making sure that staff spend optimum time with the children. This is particularly the case if it’s been some time since schedules were designed, and the needs of the children in the group have changed.
For an example of this, visit Planet Vocational, where you’ll find a Practical Example entitled “Staff Deployment.” For further information on staffing issues, including effective staff deployment, check out our book Good Practice in Nursery Management.
I’ll be back next month with a look at the new Early Years Educator Level 3 qualification, and with recommendations on how to plan your own professional development.