Under Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT), learners are required to understand how early education links to education beyond age five and into Key Stage 1 and 2. As part of this, those on the course have to do placements, including at least two weeks in a Key Stage 1 class.
A number of childminders with degrees have argued that the placements, particularly in school, are a barrier to them gaining Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS), as they are unable to find cover for their childminding business.
Leeds childminder Helen Rawstron, who intended to start her EYITT in September, said she feels the odds are 'totally stacked against childminders'.
Ms Rawstron, who graduated with a BA Hons in childhood and youth studies last summer, said she contacted one provider for an application form and was told that she would need to undertake at least a ten-day placement. 'I would be unable to provide childcare during term time for 11 children and their families,' she said. 'I already work with Key Stage 1 children in my own setting after school and during school holidays, so it's not as if I don't have experience of this age group, but that doesn't count.'
She added, 'Providing an unreliable and inconsistent childminding service is not at all professional and would likely result in parents considering alternative options. Much as parents appreciate my wish for continued professional development, they still have to work and need childcare.
'None of the childminders I know who did the EYPS programme had to give up so much time. I am extremely disappointed that my plans to continue my own professional development have now been halted due to these changed programme requirements.'
Jackie Edgar from St Albans in Hertfordshire told Nursery World she probably won't be able to pursue EYTS because she works five days a week.
Universities running the EYTS in September have acknowledged that the length of the placements could deter some childminders.
Jeanne Barczewska, senior lecturer and assessor of EYTS at the University of Northampton, said, 'While the requirement will provide learners with a deeper understanding of the connections between children's early stages of development and primary education, it could pose problems for some learners on the graduate employment based route, particularly childminders, if it causes disruption to continuity for children in their care.
'Childminders choosing to do the EYITT will therefore need to plan carefully so they can make sure they are able to meet the minimum of two weeks in a Key Stage 1 setting. One solution could be to arrange the placement for one day a week over a certain period, or buddy up with other childminders in their area.'
Ms Barczewska said the university has supported childminders in the past to gain their EYPS and EYTS and has already had applications for September 2014 from a number of childminders. It is developing placement arrangements so it can give all trainees the opportunity to access the best placements to support their personal and professional development.
Kay Fisher, tutor and mentor on the EYITT programme at Anglia Ruskin, said, 'Childminders are continuing to apply for the EYITT and have successfully completed the various pathways to date.
'Although childminders find it more difficult to find cover than those in other early years settings, it does not mean this is impossible. In fact, taking time off as holiday is ultimately at the discretion of the childminder. In addition, many childminders work with assistants who can assume responsibility. A two week placement will not deter those who are in a position to, and wish to, gain Early Years Teacher Status.'
One childminder who has juggled the placement element of the EYTS programme with commitment to her business is Emma Harris from Doncaster. Ms Harris, who is doing the Graduate Entry Pathway at Anglia Ruskin University, said she was able to undertake the placement over four mornings and her husband, who works alongside her as a childminder, and an assistant, provided cover.
If that hadn't been an option, she said, she would have booked the time off as holiday.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: 'Trainee early years teachers need to gain a variety of experience across schools and early years settings to enable them to meet the rigorous standards parents would rightly expect.
'The training is intensive, but rewarding. Placements include at least two weeks in a school at Key Stage 1 so that trainees can demonstrate an understanding of teaching at this stage and how to support young children as they move into school.'