Tots centre faces crisis over training regulations

Worried staff at a pre-school centre for special needs children in Moray last night claimed new qualification requirements could put a huge strain on their facility.

A Scottish Government policy to be introduced in 2011 requires managers of pre-school facilities to have a significantly higher level of qualification than at present.

But Irene Stewart, manager of the Ladybird Development Group at Lossiemouth, said the self-funding school could not afford the cost of training employees and bringing in degree-level workers.

From 2011, new regulations for pre-school managers will require them to register with the Scottish Social Services Council every five years – but applicants will not be accepted unless they gain a level eight SCQV (Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework) award.

However, managers applying this year will not have to reapply until 2014, at which point they would have to undertake the qualification.

Mrs Stewart, who has a level-three Scottish Vocational Qualification, has worked with the Ladybird group since 1985. She claimed her experience and qualifications would “mean nothing” under the new requirements but said she would “certainly not” take the course as she was close to retirement age.

And Mrs Stewart insisted it would not be worth younger staff going to the expense of taking the course.

“Even if I was younger, I’m not going to do a degree and then work for the pittance we’re being paid,” she said.

Mrs Stewart said the facility – which in January gained one “excellent” and four “very good” ratings from government inspectors – received one-third of its costs from Moray Council. The rest comes from fundraising – including the money for their wages.

She said staff were very worried about the financial impact of training up existing staff or employing a degree-level manager.

“We’re just really disappointed that we find ourselves faced with a position like this.

“But we’ll keep going as long as we can,” she said.

Last night a spokesman for the Scottish Government said the new regulations aimed to ensure early-years care gave children the best start in life.

He said: “We firmly believe that investing in our children during their earliest years is central to influencing future life chances, and developing the skills and career opportunities of those delivering early-years services is a key strand.”