So the drive to raise standards by ensuring every playgroup manager is trained to degree level in childcare has to be broadly welcomed. We expect our school teachers to have university degrees and all the research shows that the pre-school years are the most important in shaping a child’s development. So why shouldn’t those who are looking after our youngsters for so much of that crucial time have specialist training to the same level?
This isn’t a case of random criteria being plucked out of the air by the Scottish Government or an arbitrary insistence that playgroup managers are educated to a particular academic level. This is all about ensuring that those who are overseeing our children’s early development are experts in their chosen field.
The difficulty with this approach is when you come across people like Linzi Douglas, who is doing a good job but has not been able to fund a degree. If the Granton Toddlers Playgroup, where she works, had been a bigger organisation or based in a more affluent area then there might well have been enough money around to make sure that wasn’t an issue.
So what is the answer? Relaxing the rules is a slippery slope. That would be likely to lead to less well-trained staff working in some of the less well-off communities, which is clearly something to be avoided.
The other obvious solution is a more inclusive system for training existing staff whose work is valued by the families whose children they look after.
Could fees not be waived for such staff or more flexible ways found of offering on-the-job training? Any change along those lines is likely to come too late to save the Granton Toddlers. Sadly, their only hope seems to be a well-off benefactor.