Schedule 7 - Inspection of child minding, day care and nursery education

Education Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 22nd March 2005.

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Question proposed, That this schedule be the Seventh schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Angela Watkinson Angela Watkinson Shadow Minister (Education)

I would like to tease one or two answers out of the Minister. With respect to child minding, I wonder to what degree the record of children minded by an individual child minder is taken into consideration. Some child minders have great experience and have been doing it for a long time. Having visited some, I know that the length of time that a child stays with a child minder is a good indication of the service being provided, as is the fact that siblings follow on. A less satisfactory child minder may be noted for a quicker turnover of children. I would like to establish that that is taken into consideration.

The National Day Nurseries Association and the National Campaign for Real Nursery Education have said in discussions that the old nursery nurse qualification awarded by the National Nursery Examining Board was far more effective, and that students with that qualification were much better prepared for looking after young children than students leaving sixth form and other colleges with NVQs in child minding. They also say that the standard of the old NNEB qualification suited their purposes much better. It should be borne in mind that the scope of the NVQ may not be wide enough or may not incorporate sufficient information about, say, child development to fit students for the roles in nurseries that they hope to play.

The Minister reassured us that parents of children in nurseries and other child minding settings would receive a copy of the inspector’s report. Problems accelerate faster with very young children than they do with older children. The damage that can be done to a very young child if there are problems in a child minding setting can be serious and have long-lasting effects. The details of the report and the inspector’s findings are therefore of paramount importance in early years settings.

Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

The schedule is important because child minding is an important aspect of many people’s lives. There have been some horrific stories of child minding being done badly. We have all seen television broadcasts that show that services can be poor if they are not inspected properly. Parents can be the last people to know exactly how bad those services are. Therefore, they need some guarantee or warranty from the inspection service to show that the service that they are using is of good quality.

It is self-evident that not everyone should be allowed to take up child minding. We would not, for example, give King Herod a licence. However, I have from time to time as a constituency MP come across cases in which people have invested significantly in child minding ventures. They have had plans for the future and have had every intention of performing a good, professional and caring service. However, occasionally, they have had difficulties because of what inspectors said and have believed that the verdict was partial.

There needs to be a very good assessment and a very good result, but there also needs to be an appropriate, reasonable and robust appeal mechanism to deal with occasions when the assessment is disputed and people believe that the service that they provide has been unfairly criticised. I am not asking for any latitude for people who provide a bad service, but we want to ensure fairness for those people who believe that they provide a good service but who may not, at first blush, impress inspectors.

Photo of Stephen Twigg Stephen Twigg Minister of State (Education and Skills) (School Standards)

To be fair to the Committee, I shall write to the hon. Lady, to the hon. Gentleman and to other Committee members to ensure that I respond fully to the legitimate points that they have made. The Government seek through the legislation to strengthen the consistency of practice in inspection, but the hon. Lady and hon. Gentleman have raised a set of issues with regard to very young children and the position of child minders in particular, and I want to do justice to those points by considering them fully with colleagues in my Department.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 7 agreed to.