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As the early years sector matures it will take on its own responsibility to evolve, improve and innovate. Strong, child centred and family visionaries who can motivate and empower staff will be crucial as system leaders.

Pen Green

Pen Green Research Centre has set up a national network of ten Early Years Teaching Centres to lead research in this area…

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At Pen Green we are committed to children and families. We hold them in mind in everything we do, from the work within our children’s centre in Corby to the professional development we provide through our research base for everyone working in the early years.

For 25 years we have held the philosophy that it is crucial to work in close partnership with parents. This philosophy is reflected in our daily practice, and in the courses we have developed over the years.

The National College for School Leadership played a crucial role in developing leadership and management through specific Foundation Years projects. Details of this work can be viewed in the archive copy of the National College website.

Today, the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) is an executive agency of the Department for Education working to improve the quality of the education workforce (teachers) and help schools to help each other improve. This includes working with schools to develop an education system supported locally by partnerships and led by the best headteachers.

Qualifications and study modules for the professional development of school leaders and governors are available online.

Leaders email us at foundation@4Children.org.uk to post your leadership professional development needs in order to inform policy.

GCSE entry requirements

GCSE Maths and English entry requirements for Level 3 Early Years Educator training courses…

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  1. What is a level 3 Early Years Educator training course?
    These are courses which train staff to achieve a level 3 Early Years Educator qualification. These qualifications are new, starting September 2014, which have been developed to meet new robust criteria – announced in More great childcare.Note: Early Years Educator is not a job title it is the branding given to the new more robust level 3 qualifications which will be delivered from September 2014.
  2. What changes are being made to entry requirements for level 3 Early Years training courses?
    a)    Entry to training – From August 2014 to receive Government funding for level 3 Early Years Educator training courses candidates must have achieved GCSE English and maths, at grade C or above, on entry.From 1 August 2014 Government funding of Early Years Educator training courses through the Skills Funding Agency will require GCSE English and maths, at grade C or above, on entry. Training providers will be required to confirm learner’s prior achievement of GCSE Grade A*-C in both English/English Language and maths and record this in the Learning Agreement before enrolling learners on to Early Years Educator training.b)   Entry to employment – From September 2014 workers who hold an Early Years Educator qualification must also hold GCSE English and maths, at grade C or above to be counted in the EYFS staff ratios.
    We intend to amend the Early Years Foundation Stage to make clear that to count in the existing staff:child ratios at level 3, staff holding a new Early Years Educator qualification must also have achieved GCSEs in English/English Language and maths, at grade C or above.
  3. Why are you requiring the GCSEs, at grade C or above in English and mathematics for level 3 staff?
    Research has shown that pre-school quality is a significant predictor of later Key Stage 2 performance in both English and mathematics.[1] Also that better-qualified staff offer higher quality support for children age 30 months to five years in developing communication, language, literacy, reasoning, thinking and mathematical skills.[2]This reform, announced in More great childcare (January 2013), is intended to increase the literacy and numeracy skills of the future workforce and so increase the quality of support for children particularly in developing communication, language, literacy, and mathematical skills.
  4. The change only applies to learners on courses funded through the SFA. What if learners self-fund?
    It may be possible for some candidates to self-fund without needing the GCSEs. However, the entry to employment requirements will apply.
    We intend to amend the Early Years Foundation Stage to make clear that to count in the existing staff:child ratios at level 3, staff holding a new Early Years Educator qualification must also have achieved GCSEs in English/English Language and maths, at grade C or above.
  5. What about equivalent qualifications?
    The matter of other equivalencies for GCSEs, in respect of predecessor and cross-nation qualifications, is under discussion although I can confirm that Functional Skills will not be accepted.
  6. Why are Functional Skills not acceptable?
    Key Skills and Functional Skills qualifications in English and maths at Level 2 are not considered equivalent to GCSEs in terms of content.
    It is the Government’s ambition that once new GCSEs are available they will replace other qualifications as the singled gold-standard measuring achievement at level 2 for all ages and ability levels.
  7. I have got an English Literature GCSE, does this count? If not why not?
    An English/English language GCSE confirms a level of understanding and use of the English language that is not evidenced through an English Literature GCSE. English Literature GCSE is therefore not acceptable in relation to this requirement.
  8. What about Apprentices?
    We are working with the relevant partners to ensure that the level 3 early years apprenticeship frameworks are reviewed and revised as necessary to ensure that apprenticeships provide apprentices with skills and knowledge needed by employers.
  9. This will reduce the number of learners entering training courses. What impact is this going to have on the workforce?
    The Government considers the increase in quality to be the most important aspect of the reform. It is possible that there may be a dip in the number of learners initially but that the reforms will raise the profile of the workforce and so attract higher numbers of quality learners in the future.
  10. What about staff with existing qualifications?
    Staff holding existing qualifications will still be able to practice. The new requirements will not be applied retrospectively. This will ensure that practitioners already holding qualifications are not disadvantaged.
  11. Is there funding available for staff to take English and maths GCSE?
    The Government has maintained entitlements to fully funded English and maths provision that will support progression to the standard of a good GCSE for all adult learners

Further information is available from your college or training provider, or the Skills Funding Agency.

Programmes to increase the skills of the workforce

The National College for Teaching and Leadership is leading on a number of programmes to increase the skills of the workforce…

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National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL)

Supporting Quality in the Early Years Workforce

The Government’s aim to improve the quality of the early education and childcare workforce was set out in More Great Childcare (January2013). To support this NCTL is leading on a number of programmes to increase the skills of the workforce.

Early Years Teachers (graduate level)

We want to see more young children supported by graduate teachers as the evidence shows the quality of early years provision is higher when led by teachers.For example, the Graduate Leader Fund evaluation found that settings which gained a graduate with Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) made significant improvements in quality for pre-school children (aged 30 months to 5 years) as compared with settings which did not.

  • We have built on the achievements of the Early Years Professional Status programme by introducing Early Years Teachers. There are over 13,200 who have achieved EYPS. The first entry to the new Early Years Teacher Status programme was September 2013, and interest was healthy with over 2300 commencing training.
  • We consulted on and introduced the Teachers’ Standards (Early Years) in July 2013 which operate in parallel with the Teachers’ Standards. The standards are designed specifically for high quality work with the birth to five years age range. To be awarded Early Years Teacher Status, trainees must meet these robust standards.
  • Early Years Teacher Status is seen as equivalent to QTS as the entry requirements to Early Years Teacher training are the same as those for entry to primary teacher training leading to the award of QTS, including the completion of the skills tests.
  • We are providing funding through bursaries set at the same level as those for primary teacher training to encourage equally high calibre trainees to enter the early years profession. We have also introduced an employer incentive of £14,000 per trainee on the employment-based training route to encourage employers to train an Early Years Teacher. This funds the training course fees of up to £7,000, and the rest could be used by the employer to contribute to supply cover, salary or other support.
  • From September 2014 Early Years Initial Teacher Training (ITT) will be delivered by accredited ITT providers who currently deliver QTS. This approach will locate Early Years Teacher training with good and outstanding providers of ITT pushing up training quality even further. Recruitment is now open for September 2014.
  • Data (Childcare and Early Years Provider Survey, 2011) shows that 32 per cent of non-LA run, full day care settings, employ at least one graduate with EYPS – up from 18 per cent in 2008. More recent data from the Statistical First Release (2013) shows 39 per cent of PVI settings who deliver funded early education places have a teacher with EYPS/QTS working directly with 3 and 4 year olds.

Teach First in the early years (graduate level)

  • The Teach First primary programme has been extended into the 3-7 years age range in order to introduce a route for top graduates wanting to work in the early years. This extension has a focus on children aged from 3-7 years in nursery and reception classes within primary schools in areas of disadvantage.
  • The programme also ensures that trainees have a robust understanding of working with babies and children from birth to 3 years old in line with the wider intention that qualified teachers work with younger children.
  • Trainees will undertake a two-year training programme and be awarded QTS.

Early Years Educator Qualifications (level 3)

  • We are improving qualifications at level 3. We consulted on and introduced new criteria in July 2013 to underpin new Early Years Educator qualifications which will be available from September 2014. Awarding organisations are developing high quality qualifications to meet these criteria. Badging arrangements have been agreed with Ofqual and all qualifications that meet the criteria will have ‘Early Years Educator’ in the title so they can easily be recognised by employers. Three qualifications have already received approval by NCTL and Ofqual and are ready for the market.
  • We expect all entrants to Early Years Educator training programmes to hold at least a grade C at GCSE in English and mathematics which will, over time, increase the numeracy and literacy skills of those entering the workforce.

Apprenticeship Bursary Scheme (level 3)

  • In Sept 2013 we introduced an Apprenticeship Bursary scheme as a transitional measure, before the introduction of Early Years Educator qualifications in 2014.
  • The scheme is for new high quality apprentices who hold a GCSE at grade C or above in English and mathematics and who are working in a setting delivering Government-funded places for two-year olds.
  • 1,000 bursaries are available and the first 200 successful applicants will benefit from an increased bursary of £3,000 – up from £1,500.

0-18 self improving education system

  • We want the system to work as a whole to drive up standards and quality improvement. As part of this we want early years leaders to play a full role in local partnerships working closely with schools around them. The aim is for an education system that is led by the best schools, early years providers and leaders working together for the benefit of children.
  • Through the teaching schools research and development network, expressions of interest have been invited from teaching schools to build on their existing alliances and test local models to increase early years engagement. Up to 15 teaching schools will take this forward and a final evaluation report is due by the end of 2014.

[Published:12 March 2014]

Flexible deployment of graduates

Case study: Dorking Nursery School and Dorking Rural Sure Start Children’s Centre

The nursery school and children’s centre are based on two sites and share the staff and governors. This case study outlines how the four graduate members of staff are helping to improve outcomes for the over 3s and wider age group.