Early years teacher standards 'ignore sector's views'

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Early years experts and academics have slammed the new Early Years Teacher standards, which were set out last week by the National College of Teaching and Leadership.

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The standards published earlier this month had already been roundly criticised by the sector for failing to focus on the importance of play for young children, but now two different expert groups have submitted highly critical responses to the standards.

TACTYC, the Association for the Professional Development of Early Years Educators, said that the new standards ‘include several aspects that will skew work with young children’ and claims that the sector’s views have not been sufficiently taken into account in drawing up the standards.

The association’s chair Dr Jane Payler, a senior lecturer in Education at the University of Winchester, has written to education and childcare minister Elizabeth Truss with the group’s concerns.

Although the NCTL held a five-week consultation to aid development of the standards, the final version pays ‘very little regard to the weight of evidence and the number of views’ that are represented, TACTYC claims.

A summary of responses to the Government’s consultation was published alongside the standards, but the group of experts says that because responses to it from organisations are counted as individual responses, this underestimates ‘the strength of feeling across the sector’.

TACTYC’s own response ‘speaks for over 500 members’ and notes that other responses from sector organisations are highly likely to follow a similar format.

The standards themselves provide ‘inadequate and inappropriate coverage of the EYFS range’, the statement adds.

Many of the standards refer to pedagogy that is more appropriate for older children, they say, highlighting reference in the standards to ‘group learning’ and ‘group activities.’

TACTYC says, ‘These are not appropriate to babies and very young children whose confidence, emotional well-being, social and communication skills are developed and enhanced primarily by individual responsiveness and learning.’

In its response to the publication of teacher standards the Early Childhood Studies Degree Network said that while some changes had been made in response to feedback to the consultation, the language of ‘children’s rights’ has been removed and there had been a shift towards more formalised learning.

The network highlighted ‘a narrow focus on systematic synthetic phonics for reading, rather than a range of strategies to support early literacy.’

The network also urged the Government to ‘undertake a very robust evaluation of the impact of these changes. It is vital that the emotional well-being of our youngest children is not compromised by the proposed changes to their earliest experiences and that the aim of the Government to foster "a love of learning" is not impeded by more formalised learning, goal setting and the lack of a specific focus on play pegagogy.’

However, Professor Pat Preedy, GEMS chief academic officer, Early Childhood Education and ISA representative disagreed. 'We have moved away from the old arguments of play versus formal approaches. Professionals are able to use a range of techniques to meet the age, stage and needs of young children. I am particularly pleased that transition to school is included as education should be a continuous and seamless process.'

'Early childhood is the time of greatest brain development and learning. These qualifications provide a framework to ensure that we have highly trained and skilled professionals who understand child development and how to support children to achieve the best outcomes.'

Qualified Teacher Status

Both early years groups are highly critical of the decision not to award Early Years Teachers Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

The network urged the Government to give clear guidance to employers about the expected employment conditions for the Early Years Teacher.

‘It is important to note that the standards should underpin a very competent and knowledgeable professional. They need both professional and salary recognition in line with other professionals working in the wider children’s workforce and especially their teaching colleagues with Qualified Teacher Status.’

TACTYC said, ‘How can one set of teachers claim to be as important as or equivalent to those with QTS, when by virtue of the fact that they do not have QTS they will be paid less, have different terms and conditions of service and have fewer career opportunities?’

  • Read TACTYC's statement here

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