Nursery Management

Investing in staff

It may be more expensive to hire experienced, well-qualified staff, but the benefits far outweigh the costs, says Sian Nisbett…

Once asked to consider the cost versus benefit of employing highly qualified staff in early years settings, I didn’t have to consider my answer for too long. The bottom line is that qualifications matter! Indeed, at my nurseries we do not employ any staff who aren’t qualified or training towards a qualification. No excuses. Qualifications offer a base guideline as to the knowledge that a given practitioner has.

However, I am a believer that qualifications should not be held in higher regard than experience in some situations. For example, I have a practitioner who is Level 3 qualified (having finally got round to doing a formal qualification last year). She has worked in childcare for 30 years, has three children of her own plus grandchildren. What she doesn’t know about childcare quite simply isn’t worth knowing! As such, the majority of the work she undertook was an affirmation of her skills, though she did have to research theorists that she probably would not have done before. But in this instance, it is important to understand that the reason she is such a good practitioner is due to her experience, not an NVQ certificate. While I believe that it is important for that practitioner to have the qualification to prove her knowledge, I don’t think it will necessarily make her a better practitioner once she has completed it.

My opinion is that qualifications are proof to parents that we are professionals and that we take our roles responsibly and professionally. They are verification that we meet the minimum standards acceptable – to a parent this is hugely important, and so they should be to us too.

On the flip side, I recently interviewed a recently-qualified EYP. Having spent three years at college doing an art degree, she decided last minute that she wanted to go into childcare. She did the fast track threemonth programme (having a degree meant that she could do this!), and now I’m supposed to be able to leave her in charge of a preschool with a 13:1 ratio? I don’t think so! Oh yes, and she was expecting the same salary as that of the manager too…

I would always choose to employ someone with qualifications rather than none, but if I saw someone who had lots of experience and was willing to formalise this in the form of work-based learning and qualifications then I would consider them too.