Early years qualifications, ratios, regulation and diversity of provision are all in line for change under the Government's recently announced policy proposals.
What is the vision for a graduate role in early years?
The Government wants more graduates in the early years. The report acknowledges that Early Years Professionals have helped improve the quality of education, but public recognition of their status is low.
- Early Years Teachers will be introduced to build on the EYPS programme.
- Early Years Teachers will be specialists in early childhood development
- Existing EYPs will be recognised as the equivalent of Early Years Teachers
- Early Years Teachers will be seen as equivalent to Qualified Teacher Status, but will not have QTS
- Early Years Teachers will have to meet the same entry requirement as primary school trainees - C grade in English, Maths and Science GCSE - and pass the same skills tests from September 2014
- The first Early Years Teachers will start training in September 2013, using EYP standards amended to more closely match Teaching Standards.
How is the Government proposing to raise the bar on entry level?
In future, entrants to the profession will train at Level 3 to become Early Years Educators. Only qualifications which meet rigorous criteria set by the Teaching Agency will earn the Early Years Educator title.
All Early Years Educators will be required to have a minimum Grade C in GCSE English and Maths. They will often act as assistant to Early Years Teachers.
The Government's aspiration is for group childcare to be delivered by Early Years Educators and Early Years Teachers, and that parents will recognise these qualifications as benchmarks of quality.
- The Teaching Agency will consult on new, tougher criteria for new qualifications this spring, to be published in summer
- Awarding bodies will introduce new qualifications in September 2014
- An apprenticeship route will be offered, with some bursaries available for better qualified apprentices from September 2013 to become the first Early Years Educators and support delivery of the two-year-olds programme
- The new criteria will not be applied retrospectively, so previous qualifications will retain their status.
How are ratios changing?
Changes to ratios in England to allow providers with better-qualified staff to offer more places will be introduced. The report says the Government wants to shift the focus from the quantity of staff towards the quality of education and care. Ratio rules have remained largely unchanged since the 1970s.
Providers will only be able to take on more children if they employ high quality staff.
A consultation launched last week (see box) will consult on the qualification requirements, which would allow nurseries and childminders to do this from September 2013.
The proposals on ratios are:
- 1:4 for babies and one-year-olds (up from the current 1:3 ratio)
- 1:6 for two-year-olds (currently 1:4).
- The ratios for three-to-five-year-olds will remain at 1:8, or 1:13 if led by a graduate - the Government wants to see more 1:13 teacher-led sessions in nurseries.
Government sees the ratios as too restrictive and also wants to give childminders more flexibility over ratios. At the moment, childminders can look after six children, no more than three under-fives and only one under one. Childminders will still only be able to look after a total of six children:
- The number of under-fives they can care for will increase from three to four
- They will be able to look after two babies under one
- There will be an 'explicit allowance' for overlaps between children so that childminders can exceed these new ratios by one for reasonable periods of time.
Is Ofsted’s role changing?
Ofsted will be given an enhanced role in early years improvement, with more HMIs devoted to early years and more emphasis on learning and development and children's progress. Changes to regulation and inspection will require legislation.
- Ofsted will have greater freedom to target weaker providers.
- More flexibility in terms of when inspections are scheduled as opposed to the current four-year cycle.
- Providers will be able to request and pay for an early re-inspection if they believe their service has improved.
- Ofsted will inspect the new childminder agencies, plus a sample of individual childminders. Those who do not join agencies will continue to be inspected individually.
- HM Chief Inspector will set out plans for improvement of early years inspection this spring.
How will safeguarding and welfare requirements change?
The report says that current regulations are too preoccupied with 'relatively trivial issues'. The safeguarding and welfare sections of the EYFS framework are 'overly complicated'.
- Floorspace regulations will be removed, along with requirements such as a staffroom and a place where staff can talk to parents.
- Unnecessarily prescriptive regulations will be replaced with a general welfare and safety requirement.
- Proposals will be published soon.
Will local authorities still have a quality support role?
The report says that local authorities often duplicate Ofsted's role in inspecting providers taking thee free entitlement, and sometimes offer conflicting guidance. The £160m they retain from the free entitlement funding is in part spent on this work and could go to the frontline.
- Ofsted will be the sole arbiter of quality and fitness to offer the free entitlement.
- Local authorities will lose their quality improvement role and focus on ensuring that the most disadvantaged children are accessing early education that meets their needs.
- Constraints on training, such as the obligation to use only local authority-approved first aid training, will be removed to ensure competition.
Why are childminding agencies being introduced?
The Government will enable the creation of childminder agencies to encourage more people to become childminders and provide a framework of training, support and quality improvement. The agencies will:
- Provide regular training and quality assurance
- Match supply and demand, helping to fill places
- Take on administrative tasks
- Be registered with and inspected by Ofsted
- Joining an agency will not be compulsory
- Agencies could be run by nurseries, schools, or childminders
- Agency arrangements will be piloted in 2013
- Agencies will be operating by 2014, subject to parliamentary approval.
How is it being made easier for schools to take under-fives?
The Government wants to see many more schools offering provision for under-fives. It points to France, where ecoles maternelles take children from two. It will remove barriers to schools improving their offer to younger children.
- The requirement for schools to register separately with Ofsted to take under-threes will be removed, subject to legislation.
- Statutory processes for schools to change their age range will be reformed, to make it easier for them to offer early years provision for two-year-olds.
- More nursery classes led by a teacher will be encouraged for younger children.