THE country’s largest teaching union has called on the Scottish Government to end the “postcode lottery” which means many nursery-aged children do not have access to a qualified teacher.
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said there was a need for new legally enforceable standards to ensure all pre-school children are taught by professionals approved by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS).
According to a report published today by watchdog Education Scotland, there is “significant variation” in the access that nursery-aged children have to a teacher.
Inspectors found children benefited from being taught by teachers with early-years experience, rather than relying solely on trained nursery staff.
The report also noted that “occasional” or “ad-hoc” support from a teacher was “unlikely to make a difference” to children’s development. It said children were most likely to benefit from contact with a range of staff, including qualified teachers and those with other childcare qualifications.
While nearly 90 per cent of council-run nurseries have at least one registered teacher, the amount of time they spend there varies across authorities.
Figures released by teaching unions earlier this year showed that, since 2005, the number of nursery teachers in Scotland has fallen from 1,702 to 1,496, as councils look to save money.
Despite a pledge from the Scottish Government that every three and four-year-old in the country should have access to a teacher, the Education Scotland report found there was a “varied interpretation” of what that meant in different councils.
Larry Flanagan, general-secretary of the EIS, said: “This report highlights that there is wide variation in practice regarding access to a teacher. This is unacceptable in a country the size of Scotland.
“There has been a dilution of early-years education delivered by teachers in Scotland over the last ten years. The current deployment of peripatetic teachers has resulted in many children attending nursery classes in Scotland no longer having direct access to a qualified teacher.
“Parents have a right to know how many hours of education each week are to be provided by qualified, GTCS-registered teachers.”
Aileen Campbell, minister for children and young people, said: “It will be extremely important to maintain teacher numbers, given the increasing early-years population and our ambitious plans for expanding early learning and childcare.
“The report is clear that peripatetic models provide important flexibility, customised teacher input and are highly effective where they give teachers the opportunity to impact on learning.”