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Sunday, 5 November, 2000, 00:23 GMT
Childcarers protest at 'smacking' rules
nursery school
Nursery professionals say smacking is wrong
Childcare organisations are meeting a government minister on Monday to express their worries about new rules which would allow childminders to smack toddlers and smoke in their presence.


Smacking babies can never be acceptable childcare practice in any childcare setting

National Childminding Association
Their fears about the "dumbing down" of standards will be made clear to the Early Years Minister, Margaret Hodge, who said when she introduced the proposals that parents could be confident their children would get high quality, safe care.

Not so, says Tricia Pritchard of the Professional Association of Nursery Nurses, which is renewing its call for a national register of childcarers.

She said: "We applaud the introduction of national standards, which will take away the inequality of the registration process that occurs across the country at present, but we are very concerned about certain elements of the draft content."

Other groups which will be represented at the meeting include the National Childminding Association, the National Day Nurseries Association, the Association of Nursery Training Colleges and the Association of Lawyers for Children.

The draft National Standards for the Regulation of Daycare and Childminding in England relate to nurseries, playgroups and crèches, where smacking will not be allowed.

But they also cover childminders - who may smack pre-school children and smoke in front of them provided parents have given their permission.

Professional advice 'ignored'

The Department for Education said its arm had been forced on the smacking issue by a court ruling.

It felt that where parents did believe in smacking and wanted a consistency of discipline for their children, they should be able to authorise childminders to do it for them.

In publicly-funded places, corporal punishment is outlawed whatever parents think.

But it is understood that officials foresee great practical difficulties in trying to enforce any such ban in a private setting such as a childminder's home.

What the department is setting out in the guidelines is a sensible minimum standard against which Ofsted can inspect.

The National Childminding Association agrees the existing regulations, which differ in each local authority, should be replaced by national guidelines.

But it says it is "dismayed" its advice - backed by the experience of its 40,000 members - has been ignored on the key issues of smoking and smacking.

"These standards are supposed to be about providing safe high quality care for children wherever they are but smoking in front of children and smacking babies can never be acceptable childcare practice in any childcare setting," said its chief executive, Gill Haynes.

Best start

Other aspects of the proposals that trouble the campaigners involve reducing the level of qualifications needed by nursery staff and arrangements for special needs, funding and training, and childminding ratios.

Ms Pritchard said: "It is essential to value all young children and their families and to invest in them.

"The national standards must build a childcare profession that is sound, safe, experienced, highly professional and well regulated.

"It is only by achieving these goals that we can start to build a service where children will be cared for at a high standard, staff can be fairly rewarded, and parents can be satisfied that their children are receiving the best possible start in life."

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See also:

04 Aug 00 | Education
New rules permit smacking
29 Jul 00 | Education
Concern over childcare
04 Jul 00 | Education
Search for 83,000 child carers
17 Apr 00 | Scotland
Charity urges smacking ban
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