Cash for early years education training bursary announced by Norfolk minister

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2009

Childcare minister Elizabeth Truss said there was a high demand for quality childcare in Norfolk as she announced a £2m bursary cash pot for early years education yesterday.

The Norfolk MP said 1,000 students across the country would be able to apply for a bursary worth up to £1,500, with a further £300 available for more trainingunder government plans to build a stronger and more professional early years workforce with more rigorous qualifications.

Earlier this month Ms Truss was forced to defend her proposals to relax the rules on how many children nursery staff and childminders can look after deputy prime minister Nick Clegg signalled he did not support the plans.

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said opposition to the government's plans to relax the child-to-adult ratios in nurseries had been overwhelming.

Ms Truss said yesterday she would not comment further on ratios beyond the statement in the House of Commons, but said: 'In general I think the feedback from nurseries and more widely is that the system needs to be a lot more simple. What is important is having high quality staff who know what they are doing and can deliver.

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'Just like any education the most important thing is the quality of teachers and it is exactly the same in early years. We want the put the focus on quality.'

She said that she had visited nurseries in her south-west Norfolk constituency and also had two young children herself.

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She added: 'We have got some very good quality nurseries in Norfolk. What I have found is that particularly around qualifications they want clarity. They are keen to recruit high quality people and want clear signals.'

She said her aims on childcare has been given support of College of West Anglia principal David Pomfret, who was keen for his students to apply for the bursary.

She said: 'There is very high demand for high quality childcare in Norfolk. We have got some very good further education colleges who are interested in participating in the scheme.

'The feedback I get from childcare providers is that the range of qualifications is confusing and it is difficult to tell before joins them exactly what qualifications they have.'

Mr Pomfret said: 'We have seen a significant increase in the number of young people taking childcare courses at the college in recent years and are about to launch a new range of work-based apprenticeships in early years to provide further opportunities.

'We welcome the minister's announcement of the Apprenticeship Bursary Scheme, which should enable more people to train for a career in this growth industry.'

Under the plans for the 'Apprenticeship Bursary' applicants will have to have a GCSE, at grade C or above, in English and maths and have secure a placement in a nursery.

The apprenticeships are expected to last an average of 20 months. They will consist of employment and study to gain a recognised qualification through various routes, including further education colleges.

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