The DfE has increased the funding to the first 200 successful applicants, suggesting that the number of successful applications has been lower than anticipated. The application process for the new Apprenticeship Bursary scheme opened on 5 September. Up to 1,000 bursaries are available.
The scheme is part of the Government’s drive to attract high-quality candidates to the profession and is the transitional scheme ahead of the Early Years Educator qualifications in 2014.
Unveiling the plans in May, the DfE said that from September, early years students would be able to apply for up to £1,500 with a further £300 available for more training. Apprentices also need to have a minimum of grade C in maths and English at GCSE. The scheme is run by the National College for Teaching and Leadership.
The scheme is intended to support the roll-out of nursery places for disadvantaged two-year-olds. To be eligible for the funding, apprentices must be taken on in an apprenticeship position in a nursery, school nursery, or children’s centre that is offering the early education places for two-year-olds.
Applicants will need to be enrolled on the Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Children and Young People's Workforce to be eligible.
Apprenticeships are expected to take an average of 20 months to complete, and include a mixture of study and employment to gain recognised qualifications through various routes, including further education colleges.
In More Great Childcare, Elizabeth Truss set out plans to increase the number of skilled staff working in the early years, and to improve qualifications.
The childcare and education minister said, ‘Caring for and educating young children requires great skills and specific experience. I hope the increased bursaries announced today encourage more talented people to start a career in early education, which can be a fantastically rewarding job.
‘Research shows that a third of children are starting school without basic language and communication skills – in poorer areas, this rises to more than a half. Knowledgeable and experienced staff, such as the new Early Years Educators, will play a vital role in providing good quality early years education to ensure that all children – no matter what their starting point in life – develop the skills they need for learning.’
Commenting on the increase to the bursaries, Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association, said, ‘This can only be good news for the sector and will encourage the high quality candidates we need to build a truly professional early years workforce.
‘The 200 places may be a small start, but it will provide useful information and the sector will be keen to know how we can develop a large scale strategy to recruit and retain staff to the 400,000 strong workforce.
‘This added incentive for young people with good academic qualifications to look at childcare as a career path will benefit the sector, parents and children.’
‘Childcare has suffered from the perception it is an easier career option but it is one of the most important jobs a person can do. We agree with the comments from Elizabeth Truss that caring for young children requires great skills and specific experience.
‘We know that by building a better qualified workforce children will benefit from practitioners with increased literacy and numeracy skills helping them develop and be ready for the next step up into school.’
Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association of Childcare and Early Years, welcomed the rise in the bursaries, but raised concerns that the funding would only be available to those working in childcare settings.
‘We know that many childminders and nannies are still struggling to receive support from Government and local authorities, and that this is restricting the availability of high quality care for families most in need,’ she said.
‘We would like to see more support and attention paid to those wanting to start their careers as a childminding assistant or nanny to ensure a diverse sector that offers real choice for parents.’
She added that the Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in the Children and Young People's Workforce had also been criticised for lacking rigour, particularly for those working with two-year-olds.