Setting out the Liberal Democrats’ plans, schools minister David Laws said, ‘Many passionate people ask why they should teach in the early years when they receive proper pay and qualified teacher status only for teaching in primary education.
‘In the next Parliament, we will ensure that Early Years Teachers can secure qualified teacher status and we will promote this standard across the sector.
‘By 2020, every early years setting should aim to employ at least one person who holds qualified teacher status.’
Mr Laws, who was speaking to the Centre Forum think-tank, also revealed that an aim of the Liberal Democrats is to significantly increase pay in the early years sector, starting with staff working in settings serving areas of high disadvantage.
He added, ‘The early years profession has had too little attention from policy makers. The pay is very low and qualifications and status are lagging behind many other developed countries.’
The party’s other commitments include extending the ring-fence to early years funding and the funding of education for 16- to- 19-year-olds, which Mr Laws said makes them the only political party to promise to protect all of the education budget, ‘from cradle to college’.
The schools minister reiterated Liberal Democrats’ plans to extend early education places to all two-year-olds, along with increasing the Early Years Pupil Premium from £300 per year per child to £1,000.
He also said they would insist on all teachers being qualified, including those in free schools and academies, and make this a legal requirement.
Liz Bayram, chief executive of PACEY, said, 'We very much welcome the minister's comments recognising the fantastic contribution that childcare professionals make. When so much of recent debate has focused on the cost of childcare, it is heartening to hear quality taking a centre stage. Our members would wholeheartedly agree that they remain undervalued and poorly rewarded in comparison to other professions.
'Expanding the Early Years Pupil Premium and supporting qualified teacher status are welcome steps. PACEY has long been calling for a national workforce development strategy that recognises childcare professionals’ vital contribution and supports their continuous professional development (CPD). With more and more responsibility being placed on childcare professionals, most recently with the integrated review and SEND requirements, they deserve support to remain up to date and deliver high quality services.
'We look forward to engaging with all political parties in the run-up to next year's election to persuade them of the value of investing in the early years workforce. It's the best way to ensure families have the choice of high quality childcare in a range of settings that suit their individual needs.'