The early years workforce makes a huge contribution to young children’s lives, and supporting and growing this workforce is a priority for the Department. In the government’s Spring Budget 2023, the Chancellor announced transformative reforms to early years and childcare that would vastly increase the amount of funded childcare that working families can access.

To support this expansion, government wants to ensure that providers can operate successfully, and practitioners can focus on providing children with a high-quality early education and care whilst having opportunities to progress their careers.

Growing the early years workforce to deliver our transformative reforms to early education and childcare is a priority for this government. This includes supporting providers to better utilise the skills of their existing workforce, attracting talented staff into the sector, and making early years careers as accessible and rewarding as possible.

In April 2023, we published the new Level 3 Early Years Educator qualification criteria. The new criteria will provide higher-quality Level 3 qualifications, leading to higher-quality training for early years educators.

In January 2024, the Department has made changes to the EYFS to provide more flexibility and remove burdens for early years providers while maintaining quality and safety standards. The Department also continues to develop a range of new workforce initiatives, such as the new national, multi-channel broadcast recruitment campaign entitled ‘Do something BIG, work with small children’. The campaign aims to boost interest in the sector and support the recruitment of talented staff. It shows how rewarding life as an early years professional can be by highlighting their important contribution in preparing young children for school and beyond.

Pathways into Early Years training and employment

We are committed to maximising the skills pipeline into early years and ensuring the provision of high-quality training.

Students can study a T Level in Education and Early Years, the new gold standard of technical qualification, in Education and Childcare, which provides a route into either work or further study in early years.

There are also several other approved qualifications that allow staff to be counted as qualified members of staff in staff:child ratios.  These can be found on’s ‘Check early years qualifications’ page.

The Department has also worked with early years employers to develop three high-quality apprenticeships: early years educator, practitioner and lead practitioner, spanning Levels 2 to 5.

Apprenticeships remain a great route for employers and apprentices:

  • 83% of employers were satisfied with their apprenticeship programme with 62% very satisfied. 85% said apprenticeships developed skills relevant to their organisation and 78% reported improved productivity. [1]
  • 84% of apprentices were satisfied with their apprenticeships and 85% felt their career prospects had improved since starting their apprenticeship. [2]

The Department has also procured Early Years Skills Bootcamps, which include a pathway to an accelerated Level 3 Early Years Educator apprenticeship. Skills Bootcamps are free, flexible, employer-led courses of up to 16 weeks, that give adults the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills and an offer of a job interview with an employer on completion.

The department also supports graduates into the early years sector through funding the Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT) programme, including providing bursaries and employer incentives. We are also considering how to introduce new degree apprenticeship routes into the EY sector. For those who are already qualified or working in the Early Years sector, early years vacancies can be found via the government’s ‘Find a Job’ service.

The government is also continuing to provide a package of training, qualifications, expert guidance, and targeted support for the early years sector, including additional funding for graduate level specialist training leading to early years teacher status and an accredited level 3 early years SENCO qualification. The Lifetime Skills Guarantee also provides a route for studying approved level 3 early years qualifications for free.

2024 EYFS changes

The Department for Education published the updated Early Years Foundation Stage frameworks in January 2024, and the changes are now in effect. One key change to the frameworks was the removal of the requirement for Level 3 practitioners to hold a Level 2 maths qualification to count within staff:child ratios and instead place this requirement on managers. We know that the previous requirement to hold a Level 2 Maths qualification, in addition to their approved early years level 3 qualification, could at times prevent settings from releasing the full potential of qualified and experienced staff to work in ratios. This change will enable all Level 3 practitioners to use their skills and experience to their full potential and give settings the necessary flexibility to deliver transformative childcare.

The Department however recognises that it is vital for Maths to be taught to consistently high levels throughout a child’s education, including in the Early Years. This is why the DfE has invested in Maths training for early years practitioners and childminders through phase 3 of the Professional Development Programme and Early Years child development training as well as support for quality provision via the Stronger Practice Hubs and the Experts and Mentors programme.

Instead, the Department now requires that new managers of early years settings must hold a level 2 maths qualification. This is because we recognise that as the leaders of their settings, managers should have the skills and knowledge to ensure that learning is to a high standard. However, this change will not apply to managers in post prior to the changes coming into force on 4 January 2024 while they remain in that position. Managers will also have a grace period of two years to gain a level 2 maths qualification when they start in a new position.

Adults who don’t have a GCSE in maths at grade 4 (or equivalent) can study a range of qualifications for free through the Government’s Skills for Life guarantee. Skills for Life offers free qualifications, from entry level up to level 2.

Suitable level 2 qualifications in maths are:

  • Functional skills qualification in maths at level 2
  • GCSE or International GCSE qualification in maths to at least grade C (grade 4)
  • Key skills qualification in application of number at level 2
  • A level or AS level qualification in maths or pure maths and/or further maths to at least grade E
  • O level qualification in maths to at least grade C
  • CSE grade 1 maths
  • Basic skills certificate level 2: certificate in adult numeracy

Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh equivalents are also recognised.

It is important to note that T-Level and Apprenticeship maths qualification requirements are set separately, and these have not been changed. The apprenticeship Maths and English requirements are set out in the Apprenticeship Funding Rules. DfE are keeping the maths requirements for apprenticeships under review to ensure we are striking the right balance in equipping apprentices with good maths skills without putting up unnecessary barriers to starting or completing an apprenticeship.


Links mentioned:

Check early years qualifications

Become an Early Years Teacher

Skills Bootcamps in Early Years

Find a Job

Early Years Foundation Stage Frameworks

Early Years Professional Development Programme

Early Years Child Development Training

Skills for Life

Apprenticeship Funding Rules


[1] Apprenticeships evaluation 2021 – employers research report (

[2] Apprenticeships evaluation 2021: Learners research report (