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The Nutbrown Interim Report

In March 2012 Professor Cathy Nutbrown issued her interim report, which looks at how to help people working in the early years sector improve their skills, knowledge and development.  This article highlights the key issues from her interim report.

Key issues

The interim report has been issued to flag up the key issues that have emerged from the evidence gathering process. These are:

  • The need for an effective qualification structure that motivates people working in the early years and tells employers what skills and knowledge they have.
  • The need for courses that prepare people for working in the early years, by raising the standards of those choosing to enter the profession, giving them the right skills in literacy and numeracy and which include the latest cutting edge findings about child development.
  • The case for expanding the role of teachers in the early years, creating new teaching pathways with an early years specialism, and linking more closely the education worlds.

Professor Cathy Nutbrown said, "Getting qualifications right will help to ensure that women and men enter the profession with the skills and experiences they need to do the best work with young children and their families".

Quality of courses

The interim report suggests that there is a huge range in the quality of courses delivered by different providers. "It is very clear to me that we cannot achieve excellent early years provision without an effective qualifications structure. Well taught courses and learning routes which lead to reliable qualifications can help early years practitioners to improve their skills, knowledge and personal qualities, constantly developing in their roles. This can only benefit young children, both in terms of their day to day experiences in the Early Years Foundation Stage and in future learning outcomes."

The interim report has found that although there are examples of excellence there are still significant concerns regarding the quality of training provided, and the full report will look at this in more detail.

Quality of candidates

Another significant area of concern is that early years courses are often the easiest to access for those students with poor academic backgrounds. Professor Nutbrown found that there was no requirement to demonstrate competence in English and mathematics — skills which are important in supporting the development of babies and young children as well as communicating with parents.

Professor Nutbrown will look more closely at ways of professionalising the workforce, with the possibility of implementing a minimum Level 3 qualification, but accepts that this will require "ladders and bridges for those who want to improve their qualifications, so that valuable people in the workforce are not lost".

There has also been consideration given to a system of licensing childcare workers as a means of improving the standards and status of the early years workforce, though it is unclear how this would be funded and managed.

Professor Nutbrown acknowledged that despite the importance of early education in children's development, the work is seen as " low status, low paid, and low skilled" .

Teachers within early years settings?

There has been significant support for expanding the role of teachers within early years settings, with those in favour arguing that teachers improve the overall status of the profession and they note the evidence supporting the positive impact that teachers already have in early years settings. The NUT are clearly in favour of this proposal:

"In all early years settings where education is taking place teaching and learning should be planned and led by a qualified teacher working alongside well qualified support staff… Teaching younger children is no easier than teaching any other age group and, therefore requires the same degree of training."

Professor Nutbrown acknowledges that there would be significant cost implications to this, but says: "More teachers would help to demonstrate the important links between the early years phase and Key Stage One. ... I have had many people suggest to me the creation of an Early Years Initial Teacher Education (ITE) route, leading to QTS, which covers ages 0-7 ... it would provide the specialist knowledge and skills needed in the early years sector."

Changes to the Nutbrown expert panel

To support the review and assist with the final recommendations, the expert panel for the Nutbrown review has been expanded to include:

  • Stuart Turner (National Childminding Association)
  • Purnima Tanuku (National Day Nurseries Association)
  • Sharon Curtis (Ellesmere Children's Centre, Sheffield)
  • Fiona Pethick (Ofqual)

The final report is expected in the summer.

Postscript: Playwork input to the review

Although there isn't specific mention of playwork in the Nutbrown review, there are obvious implications for play settings, many of which are registered as early years settings. Professor Fraser Brown, of Leeds Metropolitan University complained to the Nutbrown Review about the lack of input from the playwork sector, and as a result has been invited to meet Professor Nutbrown.

The meeting is due to take place on 24 April and Professor Brown says "This may be the only chance we get to make her aware that we even exist". iP-Dip Magazine 30 March 2012

As a result he would like to receive any concerns, reflections or ideas from the playwork sector, so that he can take them to the meeting. You can contact Professor Brown on 01138 125705 or email F.Brown@leedsmet.ac.uk.