Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Bureaucracy in the Early Years Sector

Last night I was phone chatting with my daughter and we talked ourselves into feeling rather miserable.

Last year I helped her to set up her child minding business that she now runs from her home.

We were both amazed at the red tape involved and I spent a good few days putting together the obligatory 50 or so pages of policies that she needed to adhere to. And that she has to give to parents of the children in her care, and keep handy for when the inspectors call. She also needed a bit of financial help to make the required changes to her house and get herself allied to appropriate organisations, buy stationery, toys and equipment etc, before she was able to be registered as a child minder.

Less than a year on, and she now tells me she has discovered that the goal posts have completely changed. From September this year she will have to follow a prescribed Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum and write daily observations and reports on each child. She is upset. Although she is a very competent child carer, with twenty years experience as a nanny, and only very positive references, she is literate but not academic, and finds formal writing difficult. It’s why she needed my help to begin with.

“Mum,” she said, “I’m not a teacher. I’m a carer. I find it hard enough to do my registers and accounts and write up incident reports. I wish I could do something else.” But as a single mother of a four year old, and with a mortgage, she doesn’t have much option. She told me that some of her friends who are nannies and were considering moving into child minding have now decided against it. Are we now in danger of losing the child minding places we have so that mothers will not find it so easy to go out to work?

I decided to do some research on the OFSTED website. EYFS (the Early Years Foundation Stage) is yet another new qualification and it appears that all child minders will be required to hold or be working towards the Level 3. Instead of one register for child minders, there will be three new registers, on for each age group – 0 to 3, 4 to 7 and 8+. Anyone caring for a child in the first two age groups for two hours or longer must be registered. Those not falling into that category can register voluntarily, as can those caring for older children, but charges will apply. I haven’t yet found details of the curriculum, but have seen examples here of how observations of babies and young children leads to planning their learning.

It all reminds me of the late 1990s when I had been working part time as a teacher of Basic Literacy and Numeracy. I had a degree, a level 2 relevant qualification, plus significant and satisfactorily inspected experience. Suddenly, in order to continue working, I would have to acquire a new level 4 qualification, specialising in just one aspect of that work. I declined an invitation for a course that I would have to pay for and which would mean two hours driving each way to attend, plus giving my hours of teaching practice to a college half an hour away. I no longer teach.

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