Education news

One in three parents 'don't know if child's nursery has qualified teacher'

In Northern Ireland, there are about 15,000 children enrolled in teacher-led nursery school or units

ONE in three parents do not know if their child is being taught by a qualified early years teacher, according to a poll.

The majority of mothers and fathers would rather their youngster was taught by someone who specialises in early years education.

Many others said government ministers should ensure there is a qualified teacher in every nursery.

In Northern Ireland, there are about 15,000 children enrolled in teacher-led nursery school or units compared to less than 9,000 in private and voluntary settings. Some of the latter group will be teacher-led.

Some teaching unions in the north believe every child should have access to teacher-led nursery education, including the National Association of Head Teachers and Ulster Teachers Union (UTU). The UTU sparked outrage last year, however, when chief executive Avril Hall Callaghan labelled some pre-school classroom staff as "well-meaning amateurs".

Now, a Save the Children poll has revealed that while about half (51 per cent) know that their son or daughter's nursery has a teacher who is trained to degree level, 34 per cent said that they do not know if that is the case.

Around half (51 per cent) agreed that they would be worried about sending their child to an establishment with no qualified early years teacher, and around seven in 10 said they would rather send their pre-schooler to a nursery with a qualified teacher than a nursery that does not have one.

Around three quarters said that the UK government should ensure that every nursery has a qualified member of staff.

Save the Children suggested that well-qualified nursery staff could help ensure youngsters got a good start to their education.

"It's just not acceptable that in this day and age, so many children in England are falling behind before they even set foot in primary school - leaving them at risk of staying behind throughout their school years and into the world of work," chief executive Kevin Watkins said.

"Nurseries do an incredible job nurturing our children, but financial constraints are leaving many of them struggling to hire the qualified early years teachers who help give children the skills and confidence they need to learn and grow.

"The evidence clearly shows the huge and transformational difference early years teachers can make for children. That's why we're calling on the Government to ensure every nursery has a qualified teacher. It's an investment we must make to help every child reach their full potential."

The findings came just days after researchers suggested that children who have access to a qualified teacher at nursery do only slightly better at age five than their classmates.

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