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Those that know me will know I can't resist a Disney connection but sadly this is not a fun filled article, it is a serious one that has huge repercussions for the childcare industry.

When I first opened a nursery 23 years ago, the qualification needed by staff was the NNEB (Nursery Nurse Examination Board), to enter this course you needed to achieve minimum grades in English and Maths and take an English speaking exam. The course content was such that when students completed their studies they were highly sought after in the world of Nannying, which for a very good friend of mine meant working for some very important people around the world and earning herself the reputation of 'a real-life Mary Poppins' (yes that is her winning first prize at her child's school costume competition dressed as "Mary Poppins' of course!).

Fast forward 20 years though and things are very different. I Chair a Hertfordshire Childcare Forum Group and there has been a common thread to all of our discussions recently - "Where are all the qualified staff?"

Everyone is desperate for good qualified Level 3 (NVQ) staff!

Well the problem it seems is that Government just changed the requirements for entry on to the Level 3 course - you now have to a have a minimum grade C in English and Maths. Now I know I am probably going to be controversial and receive endless amounts of backlash BUT, I don't think that is far enough!

You see, the Early Years is a very undervalued and down-trodden profession of late. I have honestly heard careers advisors say 'if you can't do anything else why not do childcare". I am horrified!! To be a teacher of children from 5 years old you have to undertake a teaching degree, no one argues there, but to care for the under 5's where the very foundation of ALL skills is developed, and in particular in the first year, the requirements are only just a grade C in Maths and English?

However, to make matters worse both the course content and the EYFS (Early Year's Foundation Stage) Framework, which is the Government's own development programme, is appalling and the root cause of the current trend of development regression we are seeing and the constant berating of childcare and nurseries in the media!

Please don't get me wrong, I am not being derogatory to those in the childcare profession, I have absolutely fantastic staff that are very dedicated and passionate and I am sure that all other setting owners would agree. However, when leaving college, after a much shorter course time, their knowledge base is nowhere near what it needs to be (or used to be) and much more on the job training is needed. Many good and outstanding settings provide this, however some don’t and staff are just expected to jump in at the deep end.

I can almost understand why the recent Save The Children report said “every nursery should have a qualified teacher’ – shock horror I know as I am adamantly against ‘formal education for the under 7’s let alone the under 5’s. Taking the statement as it is, I don’t agree with it as it is basically saying to all those fantastic nursery staff that are doing their best “you’re rubbish and you need someone ‘better qualified’ to tell you what to do”.

This is absolutely NOT the case!

What the childcare profession needs is a new ‘Professional Nursery Nurse’ qualification with a completely revamped course content that teaches child development and how to nurture it as it should be (not what it has become), that details the care and wellbeing needed by babies (believe it or not this is barely covered). It needs to be an accessible ‘Top Up’ course for existing Level 3 staff and a much more detailed, higher status course for those wishing to become qualified to a much higher standard.

In addition, whilst I agree there should be a minimum grade C in Maths & English they should be required to undertake further tuition and achieve a minimum grade B on a re-take. After all, we are expecting these people to be responsible for the development of the next generation!

For those that cannot achieve that minimum grade but are still valid and excellent members of staff there should be a Nursery Assistant qualification that allows them to still be supportive team members.

As the current rules stand, a Nursery Manager MUST hold a Level 3 qualification (which is only equivalent to two A Levels). For the rest of the staff, half must hold a minimum of Level 2 (which is only equivalent to 5 GCSE grades A-C), the rest may be unqualified.

Is this not the root of the problem? Just in our education system, the requirements are continually dumbed down to counteract the continuing failings of the Government policies??

The problem is as always, the Government have not listened over the past 10 years or so to those of us on the ground highlighting these issues, so we are now almost at a point of no return! Why you may ask? Because funding and budgets have been cut so severely over the years that most settings could not afford to pay for their current employees to undertake further training to raise the standards to what it needs to be and many of those employees now have their own families and commitments and would also find it hard to do. In addition, as highlighted in my letter to David Cameron last year, over half of those leaving school last year did not achieve even a grade C in Maths or English and most of those that did would not consider the childcare profession as it is so undervalued!

Just to reiterate the point – our local college, Herts Regional College only have 12, yes 12 students completing their Level 3 this year!

We are continually forced to follow the EYFS which in itself is damaging to children’s development. We are also forced to accept Government policies on Free 15 hours education, which is grossly underfunded and will also be forced to accept the new additional 15 hours free childcare which is likely also to be grossly underfunded. However, I would like to point out that the Government COULD find £3million pounds to go to an organization just to administer the new 30hrs funding scheme! Utterly outrageous!

Childcare is not VAT Zero rated, like it should be (due to EU restraints!) and all previous subsidies on business rates etc have been withdrawn over the years.

The childcare industry is in crisis! The nursery nurse profession is in crisis! In answer to my question “where has Mary Poppins gone? The answer I am afraid is not good…

“Mary Poppins is a fictional representation of all things great in the ‘childcare world’ and the way things used to be before constant meddling from Government and berating from media completely under-minded and devalued a profession that was once a sign of ‘Great Britishness’ & our status in the world.“
 

Nursery Information

Open 51 weeks of the year. The nursery is open Monday to Friday with the exception of Bank Holidays and the week in between Christmas and New Year. The nursery is also closed for an additional two days at the Easter weekend. Full fees are payable for Bank Holidays and nursery closing days as these have already been discounted in fee calculations.

DOWNLOAD THE NURSERY BROCHURE


Registration Fee
There is a registration fee payable of £100.00 for a new family registering a child for two or more days per week or £50.00 per child for all other registrations including a new family registering more than one child or existing families registering a sibling. The registration fees are non-refundable under any and all circumstances and are to assist with the administration of the waiting list and space allocation for your child.

Allocation of Places
All of our nurseries are required to work to strict Ofsted guidelines regarding floor space and numbers of children, and taking this into account and the overwhelming interest we have for places at our nurseries, when a place becomes available it will be allocated according to the date the registration was received. However we have an allocation policy in place which is on the reverse of the registration form and within the Parents Handbook.

Sibling Discounts
For families with two or more children at the nursery a sibling discount of 15% is available on the youngest child’s fees. Sibling discounts are not available if the family are using an already discounted service such as Long Weekenders/TOPS/Mini-breaks etc.

Company Information
‘Angels at Play’ is the trading name of Little Angels Nurseries Ltd.

Little Angels was first established as a sole trader in 1993 and quickly established an excellent reputation. In 2000 the second Little Angels was opened under the company Little Angels Nurseries Ltd and followed the same successful path.

With the opening of the 3rd nursery and following the introduction of the company’s Babyopathy® & Nascuropathy® Programme, the company wanted to create an identity that was unique and set them apart from any other nursery, thus recognising their excellent standards and reputation. Therefore, from 2004 all of the nurseries trade under the name Angels at Play.

General Information
The nurseries and their practices are governed by the Angels at Play Policies - Parents Handbook, which parents are required to read and adhere to at all times. A copy is given to parents with the ‘Registration Acknowledgement’ letter sent by the Nursery.

Should you however have cause for concern or complaint we ask that you direct this to the Nursery Manager in the first instance, who will deal with it accordingly and advise you of the outcome.

Ofsted
Should you have further concerns regarding this or any other childcare provider then please contact Early Years at Ofsted:- The National Business Unit, Ofsted, Piccadilly Gate, Store Street, Manchester. M1 2WD  Telephone—0300 123 1231

Behaviour Policy
With the nursery’s help and support the children will begin to understand through play and activities, to mix with others, establish self confidence, self discipline, self control and respect for rules as well as the important qualities of good manners, courtesy and consideration for others.

The nursery believes strongly in praising a child when they say or do something considered helpful, courteous or general good behaviour. This builds a child’s confidence in themselves and respect in others. However, with constructive discipline comes security and self-control, as long as it is supported by a strong, loving relationship between child and carer.

The Nurseries have a full Achieving Positive Behaviour policy that will be provided on confirmation of registration or to view at the nursery if you so wish.

Equal Opportunities Policy
It is the nursery’s policy to encourage all children to experience a wide range of activities, games, role play and toys etc. All children, regardless of race, religion, disability or gender, will be given equal opportunity to places within the nursery, the care they receive and the activities we provide.

Every child is important and should be made to feel so.

We hope that our facilities and the care provided by the staff accommodate all and any requirements of any child that may wish to join.

However, we are governed by guidelines from Ofsted with regards to staff ratios and the service we provide. Therefore we take careful consideration of the needs of all children that wish to join us. If meeting those needs, for whatever reason, contravenes the guidelines we have to adhere to then we would regretfully have to refuse entry to the child.

The nursery is an equal opportunities employer.