21 Jul 10

Dumbing down the early years sector

In the July 2010 issue of Child Care, Voice's Tricia Pritchard, Senior Professional Officer (Childcare), and Chiltern College Principal Chris Lawrence draw attention to what they believe is a backward step that is hugely damaging to the professional standing of the early years workforce a new set of qualifications for the children's and young people's workforce, developed by the Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC), which will be introduced from August 2010.

The Level 3 Diploma replaces the current level 3 qualifications which qualify staff to work in a supervisory capacity in a range of Foundation Stage settings or in sole charge of children in a range of other settings such as home-based care.

It is difficult to see how the new level 3 qualification equates to, or could possibly replace, the current qualifications when you compare them.

The CACHE Award, Certificate, Diploma in Child Care and Education (DCCE) is a full-time, two-year course. It has a maximum of 360 UCAS points attached, which allow candidates to progress to higher education. Through assessment tasks, internal and external, candidates must show an in-depth knowledge of all aspects of children's care, learning and development. It has recommended learning and placement hours.

The new CWDC Diploma has no timescale for completion. However, most awarding bodies are saying that it could be completed over one year or less. It has almost half the recommended guided learning hours of the DCCE and almost half of the recommended practice placement hours. It has no externally assessed assignment tasks and no entry requirements.

Effectively, a 16-year-old could leave school, complete the CWDC Diploma in one year or less, and be employed to work with very young children in a supervisory position. This puts both the children and the person caring for them at risk.

Whilst there should be some recognition that mature candidates with experience may require different pathways to gaining a qualification (currently available through the NVQ route) are we really convinced that this new 'dumbed down' qualification will be suitable for young people and less experienced people who need time to develop their skills, knowledge and understanding in relation to important issues such as equality, diversity, safeguarding etc?

It is well researched and recognised that high quality early years provision can have a significant impact on children's learning, development, their performance at school and future life chances.

The CWDC acknowledges that 'if all children are to benefit from a high quality Early Years Foundation Stage, the early years workforce must be professional, well qualified and dedicated'.

We fail to see how this 'down grading' of the qualification will help to achieve this.

The 2020 children and young people's workforce strategy aspires to a minimum level 3 and graduate led workforce. The new qualification framework may well help achieve a Level 3 workforce but at what cost? We fail to see how we are going to develop graduates when there are no plans for the development of level 4 or 5 qualifications and therefore no career progression.

The high standards set in the Early Years Foundation Stage are right and proper to ensure that we achieve quality care and education for our children. How we are going to achieve these standards in the future when there is no parity between EYFS standards and the proposed CWDC qualification?

CWDC state that this qualification is 'what employers want'. What employers want is a highly skilled, well-trained workforce well prepared and able to deal with the demanding role. More importantly, this is what parents want and children deserve. Unfortunately this new qualification framework will not provide this.

We are told that the QCF will make units and qualifications 'easier to understand, more relevant to the needs of employers and more flexible and accessible to learners'.

What about children's needs? Has any consideration been given to this?

Voice and Chiltern will be campaigning against the dumbing down of qualifications and standards. Do let us know your thoughts


I'm surprised the "PC Brigade" have not jumped on the spelling of "dumbing down" as unsulting those who cannot speak, which is the usual meaning of the word dumb, those unconvinced should read Matt ch 9 v 33 in the AV. The correct version surely is "dumming down" from the German Dumm = stupid, as in Dummkopf, = blockhead. But then, as we are often too dumm/stupid to learn foreign languages, not usng their adopted words properly might be par for the course. In the meantime, the PC Brigade should shape up, ther eis still work to be done.

According to the office (Oxford) dictionary, to "dumb something down" is a phrase of American origin meaning to "simplify or reduce the intellectual content of something so as to make it accessible to a larger number of people".

Under usage, it notes "Although 'dumb' meaning 'not able to speak' is the older sense, it has been overwhelmed by the newer sense (meaning 'stupid') to such an extent that the use of the first sense is now almost certain to cause offence. Alternatives such as 'speech-impaired' should be used instead."

It saddens me to see the real issue overlooked for a discussion on spelling. The point is PANN + VOICE have campaigned for many years to raise standards in Early Years. We want to move forwards in Early Years not backwards. We need highly qualified professionals to work with these vulnerable children. Reducing standards will certainly not help!

No one has even mentioned NNEB! This was the way forward .
Two years of solid training ! in areas you did not want to work in, as well as in those you did ! You had constant assessments and placements. You were taught thoroughly by people who knew their stuff, not left to do this on your own ! in your own house ! who and where are they learning from ? Please rememeber it is the children we are teaching ! How can you teach if you have not been taught ! Would you go to a Dr who had had less than half the training he /she should have had ?! This is what we're doing to our children. Bring back the NNEB !!!!! They have a full training!

Interesting Leedy. I was at a training meeting last week with employers and the very same sentiments were expressed - bring back NNEB.

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