Sloppy Nursery Staff ‘At Risk of Creating Vicky Pollards’

{mosimage} Nursery staff who dress inappropriately and discuss their hangovers in front of children are at risk of creating a generation of “Vicky Pollards”, a teachers’ leader warned yesterday. Growing numbers of staff do not have a good grasp of language and spelling and many go to work with long nails and “chunky” shoes, according to Deborah Lawson, chairman of the Professional Association of Teachers. She believes such bad examples risk creating toddlers who resemble the delinquent teenager from the BBC television comedy Little Britain, who smokes in the swimming pool and famously swapped her baby for a Westlife CD.

Ms Lawson, 49, who has nearly 30 years’ experience working in education, including inspecting playgroups and nurseries, said: “I don’t want to trivialise this in any way, but we don’t want a future generation of Vicky Pollards.

“I am not saying that is going to happen, but that is the worst-case scenario. As a nanny or a nursery worker, you are acting as role models for children. Therefore it is no good if your spelling and understanding of language are only as good as your ability to text.”

Her remarks comes after a government campaign to raise the standards of nursery education in England, with moves to expand free child care for three- and four-year-olds.

Schools will also be expected to open earlier and close later in the evenings to give parents more child care options while they go to work.

Ms Lawson criticised the Government’s recruitment campaigns for failing to raise the quality of staff. She said standards had been in decline for at least 10 years. Some nursery workers even discussed in front of toddlers how hung over they were feeling after a night on the town, she added.

Ms Lawson has tabled a motion at the PAT annual conference in Oxford that calls for “minimum entry standards for those entering child care training courses”. As a minimum, childcare workers should be expected to have passed GCSEs in maths and English at grade C or better, she said.

Trainees should also be given tough interviews to establish whether they really knew what the job would involve.

The Department for Education and Skills rejected the criticisms. “This completely ignores the true picture of what is happening and is profoundly insulting to those working hard in our early-years and child care sector,” said a spokesman. “We are absolutely committed to creating a world-class child care workforce.”

The Government has already launched work to improve recruitment and retention of staff and establish a more professional workforce. The Children’s Workforce Development Council would also work with the Government to improve the qualifications system for nursery staff, said the spokesman.