Workforce Strategy, Part 5: Further Education - Teacher training

Budget and time constraints are limiting FE early years lecturers’ access to CPD, raising sector concerns. By Charlotte Goddard

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[asset_library_tag 1629,Workforce Strategy, Part 5: Further Education]

Workforce Strategy, Part 5: Further Education

I want to be inspired so I can go ahead and be inspiring to students,’ says Emma Marden, lecturer in early years at West Kent & Ashford College. ‘But the sort of training I want to go on is expensive, and my employer is already contributing to my current study towards a BA in education.’ While early education students look to their tutors to help them understand the latest policy and practice developments, keeping up to date with skills costs money, a problem for cash-strapped colleges everywhere.

Professor Cathy Nutbrown highlighted inadequate CPD for early years trainers in her review of early years qualifications in 2012, and the early years workforce strategy, published in March, recognised that the ‘quality of (FE) training is not consistent, resulting in some staff being unable to perform the role they are certificated to deliver’. But for Ms Marden, who wants access to training about theorists and international perspectives, citing the Reggio Emilia approach as one example, the problem is also time. ‘It requires working with the college to be given time away, and choosing where to go, as you need to be observing quality settings.’ While training is available from her college, it tends not to be specific to early years, she says. ‘There are only three or four early years tutors, so it is not economically viable for the college to run courses especially for them.’

Government response

In response to the Nutbrown review, the Department for Education said it would work with the now-defunct Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to help post-16 providers ‘promote good practice in this area’. Then the FE, skills and higher education remit was subsumed into the DfE following the general election in June. Now the Government says ‘bringing these responsibilities together will mean that the government can take a comprehensive, end-to-end view of skills and education, supporting people from early years through to postgraduate study and work’.

Be that as it may, the requirement for CPD for further education teachers has been eroded across the board. Since the removal of workforce regulations in 2012, it is no longer a legal requirement for FE teachers to declare their CPD record annually. Before this a minimum 30 hours of CPD per year was required for membership to what was then the Institute for Learning. Now the requirement for a minimum number of hours has been replaced with a CPD journal.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, says, ‘In a fast-changing skills landscape, it’s vital that teachers are supported to refresh their skills. Busy staff already have massive workloads, so employers need to make time and resources available so all staff have the opportunity to access CPD.’

In 2013 a requirement for FE teachers to gain a formal teaching qualification was scrapped by the Government after some colleges said it was a barrier to getting the highest skilled people. ‘That was deeply disappointing,’ says Ms Hunt. ‘Teachers are dual professionals – as well as being subject specialists, they must be able to support different types of students with their learning. We believe that renewing the requirement for a formal teaching qualification would send a clear message about the importance of quality in FE delivery.’

Three of the four biggest further education provider groups saw the proportion of providers judged Good or Outstanding decline between 31 August 2016 and 28 February 2017, according to Ofsted. Independent learning providers (including employer providers) had the biggest decline in Good or Outstanding providers in the first six months of 2016/17. Data specifically on the quality of early years teaching is not available, but stakeholder feedback on the Government’s early years workforce strategy included concerns about the lack of knowledge, and recent experience of the childcare sector, among some tutors.


Sharon Thompson, regional manager, north for Action for Children, which runs 44 nurseries, is one of those with concerns. ‘In comparison to my training in 1993 as an NNEB, I don’t feel the current quality of further education is high enough,’ she says. ‘There appears to be very little for students to do at placement, such as observations, activities and assignments. I remember making equipment at college, then bringing it in to placement and observing the children playing with it. This is really important as due to budget restraints, staff have to be creative and use their imagination when providing experiences for the children.’

Students need more practical experience, she adds. ‘I don’t think you can ever have too much,’ she says. ‘That’s what the training is about – putting the theory into practice. I would love to see the focus change and go back to intense observations at placement – when I was at college we had to do 60 placement observations. That’s what Ofsted focuses on so we need practitioners with excellent observation skills. The skills of planning and assessment will follow on from this.’

Professor Nutbrown said in her 2012 qualifications review that student placements should be limited to settings rated Good or Outstanding. The workforce strategy does not mention student placements, but the Government’s Post-16 Skills Plan, published last year, says every student following a two-year, college-based technical education programme (a T-level) will be entitled to a ‘high-quality, structured work placement’ of up to three months.

Skills Plan

Last month, the Government announced that ‘education and childcare’ would be one of three initial routes to be developed, and will contain these T-levels, which sit alongside apprenticeships. The Government says ‘highly skilled teachers and leaders’ will be critical to the success of T-levels, and has said it wants to increase the number of industry experts working in the further education sector.

A 10-week public consultation on the design and delivery of T-levels, including key aspects of work placements, is planned before the end of the year, and the childcare and education T-levels are expected to be available from 2020.

A work placement pilot scheme was launched in September 2017 to test different models and approaches, and the Government will allocate funding, starting with £74m to cover the period April 2018 to July 2019, for providers to start building their capacity to deliver work placements.

Workforce plans

The workforce strategy committed the DfE to conduct a training needs analysis for early years tutors and trial a professional exchange for the early years part of the further education workforce. These actions are being carried out by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), which has engaged consultancy The Research Base to carry out the two-phase project, starting in May.

The researchers first interviewed stakeholders from the early years sector including nurseries, training providers, professional associations and unions to gain an insight into the training needs of the early years workforce and the extent to which they are being met. Researchers also carried out a literature review. In the second phase they interviewed training providers including colleges and work-based trainers, and carried out focus groups with early years students. The data is currently being compiled into a report for the ETF that should be ready by December.

The ETF has also established three professional exchanges, covering the South-East and South-West; the Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside; and the North-East and Cumbria. Each exchange is bringing together tutors from at least four separate early years training providers, including colleges and PVI providers, to discuss their own training needs and come up with action-led research plans looking at ways to meet those needs. ‘For example, maybe they don’t feel confident teaching maths and English skills in an early years context, or maybe they feel out of touch with what is going on in the sector’ says the ETF’s Sue Lownsbrough. The Research Base will disseminate its findings to the three groups before the end of March 2017. The ETF will use all the findings to develop a CPD package for early years tutors in the FE sector.

There is some evidence that this sort of work is happening already. National Early Years Trainers & Consultants, (NEyTCO) which has not been consulted by DfE, has conducted its own audit of the training needs of early years trainers, on which it bases CPD, and offers a professional exchange including networking meetings.

Catriona Nason, chief executive, feels much of what the DfE has committed to is already being carried out in the sector. ‘The DfE is reluctant to recognise anyone that is not the DfE,’ she says. ‘But it is important that sector leaders are consulted on the process to avoid throwing money at useless projects.’

For the rest of the articles in this series, see our Workforce Strategy Management Guide

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