Early Years Teachers: Part 4 - On the fast track

Hannah Crown
Monday, July 13, 2015

Training to become an Early Years Teacher doesn't have to take an entire year. Charlotte Goddard meets an experienced nursery practitioner who took a shorter route to the qualification.

Jessica Bradley has had plenty of opportunities to take a teaching qualification during the 17 years she has been working in the early years sector, but until recently she did not feel there was any teaching course that suited her needs. 'My love is early years,' she says. 'I held back from taking things further until there was something specific.'

Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS) proved to be the qualification Ms Bradley was looking for. Her previous experience made her eligible for the assessment-only route to EYTS, while continuing to work as a nursery teacher at Green Oak Church of England Primary School & Nursery in Godalming, Surrey, during the three-month process.

'My first early years qualification was a modern apprenticeship in childcare, which I took when I was 17, while I was working as a nursery assistant in an independent nursery,' she says. Next, she worked as nursery teacher at the Haslemere Preparatory School in Surrey, ending up as head of early years. While working there she took an Open University degree in Early Childhood and Youth Studies over five years, completing it when she was 30. She also spent some time in Devon, teaching multi-sensory baby development and parenting classes.

After she had her son Jack, now three, Ms Bradley got a job as a teaching assistant in Green Oak.

'I was then offered the role of nursery teacher, and although I had already worked in a similar role in an independent school, I needed EYTS to do the job,' she explains.

Her employer, Green Oak, funded the course, which was delivered by the University of Winchester.

Wendy Todd, head teacher at Green Oak, believes the benefits of having strong early years practitioners are felt by the school as a whole. 'We depend on outstanding early years practitioners to set in place firm foundations for learning,' she says.

'The experiences children have in these formative years impacts hugely on the progress they go on to make and their attitudes and enthusiasm for life-long learning.' The school also supported Ms Bradley in taking time out for other placements, to help gain experience of other age groups.

jb'I spent two weeks in a Reception class, a week with babies and a week with toddlers,' she says. 'The course has really consolidated my knowledge, and given me confidence in my own pedagogy. The assessment route is very much about reflecting on practice - I do this every day, (asking) but why?'

The assessment-only route is predicated on the fact that students already have most of the experience they need. Those taking this pathway do not have to attend any taught lessons, but instead must gather two pieces of evidence for each of the 38 sub-standards required to gain EYTS, covering areas such as risk assessment, safeguarding and leadership.

Jane Joyce, programme leader for EYTS at the University of Winchester and also Ms Bradley's tutor, says, 'Those doing the assessment route need to be self-motivated, but also have to be very experienced practitioners.'

The pathway is tailored to the individual needs of the particular student. 'We put individual learning agreements in place after we have found out what experience applic- ants already have across four age groups - babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers and Key Stage 1,' she says.

'They usually need experience in one age group, so we will say, for example, you need to go and do a placement in Key Stage 1 and we'd recommend a minimum of 10 days.'

Although the assessment-only route is a three-month process in theory, in practice the University of Winchester does not begin the course as soon as applicants are accepted, encouraging them to first fill as many gaps as possible in their experience. 'Jessica is very experienced in early years, but had to do some Key Stage 1 practice and also some work with two-year-olds,' says Ms Joyce. 'As a working mum it would be hard to fit it in within three months, so although she came to us in September, she didn't start the three-month process until early January.'

Winchester breaks down the course fee, charging £50 for the first interview and the application process, £450 for tutoring support before the course starts, and £2,000 once the three-month period begins. During this time, Ms Joyce saw Ms Bradley twice in her own setting and twice at the university, and was in frequent contact by email and phone. A tracker system shows students where they are in relation to each EYTS standard, where they need to develop and how they are progressing, and students are shown how to best present their evidence.

EYTs are expected to take responsibility for driving forward early years practice in their own setting and inspiring others. Ms Bradley is about to put that to the test as she oversees changes in her own school in the next academic year. 'From September we are physically moving our nursery classes in the school to be next to the Reception class,' she explains.

There will be two nursery classes overseen by Ms Bradley and a teaching assistant, and a Reception class overseen by a qualified teacher with an early years specialism and a teaching assistant. 'We will get together for free flow, visits and trips, and certain teaching inputs and planning,' she says. 'It's about making the transition to Reception easier, so we can support children of all abilities in Reception and nursery - some are so very little and they all have different experiences.'

Ms Bradley sees her biggest success in the nursery as the fact that all children have made good progress, and are happy and settled. 'Those entering Reception are emotionally prepared and have good self-help and classroom skills,' she says. 'I am also happy that we have increased the numbers on the roll in the nursery threefold in the past year and gained the confidence of our local community.'

Looking to the future, Ms Bradley feels she might use her EYTS to teach Reception classes.

But Ms Joyce warns that other students in a similar position are finding that they need to requalify in order to get the same pay as their colleagues. 'Two students who gained EYTS recently applied as Reception teachers - the head wants them to be paid as teachers, but the local authority won't do it because it won't recognise the qualification,' she says. 'They are doing the job of someone with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), so it is a real shame those teachers now feel the need to come back and do the assessment-only QTS route, when they are supposed to be equivalent status.'

Further information

More details about the training courses leading to EYTS at the University of Winchester can be found at www.winchester.ac.uk/studyhere/Pages/early-years-initial-teacher-training.aspx



1. Graduate entry, a full-time, 12-month course for graduates, of which 120 days are placement. All entrants have their fees fully covered, with a £7,000 grant to cover course fees as well as bursaries of up to £9,000 for graduates with a first class degree and £4,000 for graduates with 2:1 degrees.

2. Graduate employment-based: a one-year part-time route for graduates working in an early years setting. Applicants must be employed in an early years setting and their employer needs to support their application and agree to release and support them to undertake the course. All entrants have their fees fully covered, with a £7,000 grant to cover course fees, and an additional £7,000 as a contribution to costs incurred by their employer. Applicants need to hold at least GCSE Grade C (or a recognised equivalent) in maths, English and science, and a degree in any subject, and must pass the professional skills tests for trainee teachers.

3. Undergraduate: a full-time, three- to four-year route leading to EYTS. This route is for undergraduates completing a degree in an early childhood related subject, who will earn EYTS as well as their degree.  There is no additional fee for the EYITT element, and tuition fee loans are available from Student Finance England. Degree courses will have varying entry requirements. Undergraduates wanting to incorporate EYITT into their degree must have a GCSE Grade C and above (or recognised equivalent) in maths, English and a science subject, and must have passed the professional skills tests for trainee teachers. Students must carry out 120 hours of paid or voluntary early years experience

4. Assessment only: three months, self-funded for graduates with experience of working with children from birth to five years old who can meet the Teacher Standards (Early Years) without further training, for example an early years teacher from overseas. Applicants must have achieved a GCSE grade C (or equivalent) in English, maths and a science subject, hold a first degree (Level 6) from a UK higher education institution or equivalent qualification, and have passed the required professional skills tests. Fees vary depending on the training provider, with some providers offering additional tutor visits or support prior to the course at extra cost for example.

5. School Direct (Early Years): route 1 is delivered by a nursery provider or school along with a training provider. Results in EYTS. Training is fully funded by NCTL through a grant of £7,000 available to all trainees. Bursaries are available: £9,000 for graduates with a first-class degree and £4,000 for graduates with a 2:1. Prospective students for the School Direct route 2015/16 should apply directly to one of the nine lead organisations. See www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-direct-early-years-initial- teacher-training-lead-organisations




A two-year training programme for 'high calibre' graduates working full-time in schools, nurseries and early years settings. Applicants must have a degree at 2:1 or above, and two relevant A-Levels at a B or above if their degree is not in early years, psychology or a relevant curriculum subject. If the applicant passes the initial application they must attend a day-long assessment process, followed by an online test and a six-week summer school. They then start working at a school or nursery while studying for their PGCE after one year, and QTS after two.


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