The childcare profession has been criticised over training and working conditions in an international study into education services for the under-fives.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says: "The majority of childcare workers do not have formal training, except for some hours required by a few education authorities.
"On the whole, childcare staff have poor conditions of work, are paid much less than the average wage, and do long hours with little access to training and support."
Starting Strong: Early Childhood Education and Care also questions whether the Government's 2.5 hours a day of care is sufficient to give under-fives, particularly those from deprived areas, the support they need.
The study recognises that since 1997 the Government has "launched an unprecedented effort to increase investment in families and young children", but warns that Britain has started from "a low base".
The UK is fourth of 12 in the number of four-year-olds receiving support, but eighth for three-year-olds. The Government has pledged to ensure that all three-year-olds have access to a nursery place by 2004.Reuse content