The NPQEYL is a new continuing professional development (CPD) course which launched in October 2022 as part of the £180m Early Years Education Recovery Programme.  If you’ve never heard of it or wondered what it’s like, let’s meet three PVI leaders who took the leap into studying the NPQEYL and find out more about their experience so far.

Vicki is manager of a non-profit committee-led term-time preschool and has an early years career spanning 33 years. Vicki was looking to develop her skills to improve her setting and, as a single parent, needed to be able to study flexibly in her own time.

Rachel is manager and SENCO for a family centre at the heart of the wider community.  With 30 years’ experience as an early years professional, Rachel felt it was time to upskill herself to freshen up her practice and learn about new initiatives.

Jude is manager of a large private day nursery in a deprived area and has 22 years’ experience in the early years sector.  Jude is dyslexic and has found academic courses a struggle in the past.  She knows continuous professional development begins with the manager and wanted to lead by example.

Vicki and Jude started the NPQEYL in October 2022 and Rachel in February 2023.  Just a few months in, they’re already all enjoying and getting a lot from the course:

Vicki: ‘I’m putting the ideas I’ve learned into practice.  We’ve revamped our CPD offer to make it more workable for the setting and to engage our staff.’

Rachel: ‘I’m really enjoying the course.  It’s been a while since I’ve taken on something as big as an NPQ and I have to be honest, I’m enjoying the studying and reading.’

They’re all finding the NPQEYL is changing their thinking and approach to their work:  planning things out in slower time, involving everybody and giving things a chance to work.  Jude’s even revamped her nursery garden:

Jude: ‘What I took from the first unit is reflection and slowing down my process when making changes to ensure I’ve got my staff’s buy-in before I introduce something new.  I’ve revamped my garden.  My team collected the resources and it just worked so much better.  Yes, it took slightly longer, but the end product was worthwhile.’

 

 

We’re all aware the early years sector is facing a lot of challenges at the moment.  But how can the NPQEYL help with things like staff management and training?

Vicki: ‘We have a high expectation of staff professional development and the NPQEYL has helped me re-evaluate our training offer.  We’re going to do the mandatory training in an inset day so it’s in work time and then have an ongoing development theme.  This year’s theme is going to be focused on SENCO training. It doesn’t have to be a workshop, but could be talking to other professionals, doing research and whatever encourages my staff and gives them enthusiasm, but will benefit us as well.’

Jude: ‘Newly qualified staff have got a huge amount of pressure put on them straight away and the expectations from them are exceptionally high. The NPQEYL’s really supported me to recognise that someone new to qualification or where they last worked is what will bring your practice up. I ask my practitioners every day ‘Is the intent of the activity you’re providing exciting you?’ because if it’s not, they won’t bring enthusiasm to it, they won’t want to develop and they won’t learn anything new because it’s not challenging them. Children can spend over 5000 hours in childcare between before they go to school.  If it gets boring for children, it’ll be boring for practitioners, so you have to recognise that actually they are the best resource in the room.’

 

The NPQEYL lasts 18 months and requires an average of 2 hours per week to complete it.  Whilst delivery methods may differ between trainings, the NPQEYL was designed to help leaders study alongside their jobs, so how does it work in practice?  Our leaders are studying with the same trainer and they share how they’ve made the self-study element work for them:

Rachel: ‘I volunteer my time on a Friday morning to sit at work and study.’

Vicki: ‘I had all good intentions to do a little bit each week, but I tend to do it in bulk.  I pick a day on a weekend or a couple of days in the school holidays to focus on it.  I like that there’s a long period to do each study block, which makes it manageable.’

Jude: ‘Like Vicky, I do it in a block rather than 2 hours a week.  I’m very lucky that my company are really supportive and when it’s possible, they will give me a day to study.  Because of the way the course is written… and I don’t believe I’m actually saying this… it’s actually quite enjoyable to read all the additional documents.  The reading is really relevant to everyday practices, so I think if you’re motivated to want to join the course, you will find ways that work for you.’

 

So overall, is it worth doing the NPQEYL?  Our leaders share what their main benefits from the NPQEYL are so far.

Rachel: ‘The NPQEYL helps me put things in place that need to change and the way I implement change with the rest of the staff.  It helps me stay fresh and knowledgeable and I have enjoyed interacting with other students too.’

Vicki: ‘It’s given me the chance to rethink how we do things, renewing my knowledge and skills, putting what I’ve learned into practice and helping me become a stronger leader.’

Jude: ‘My confidence has grown. I’ve always struggled with formal education.  Finding the right provider and the right person to support you can make the world of difference. The training provider has spurred me to want to continue to develop myself. It’s always been a dream of mine to get a degree and as they’ve been absolutely amazing and make me feel valued [through the NPQ], I’m looking at doing my degree through them because I feel confident enough that they will support me.’

 

All our leaders said they’d be happy to recommend the NPQEYL to others, or they already have:

Rachel: ‘I would especially recommend the NPQEYL to practitioners who haven’t upskilled their NVQ or who haven’t gained a degree yet.’

Jude: ‘I have already recommended the course to other people because it’s thought provoking, so it makes you question your own thoughts, your own opinions, so you’ll be able to challenge the way you do things.’

Vicki: ‘I would recommend it absolutely.  I like the format, the self-study, the case studies, no long essays to write and doing it in my own time.’

 

If you’re an early years leader or aspiring leader curious about what CPD might offer you, find out more about the NPQEYL and register now for the next DfE-funded cohort, commencing in October 2023.

Thank you to Vicki, Rachel and Jude for sharing their experiences.  If you’re studying the NPQEYL and would like to be involved in a future blog, please email us at [email protected]