Two early years teacher courses 'require improvement'

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Two early years teacher training providers have been rated 'requires improvement' by Ofsted for two years running.

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Manchester Metropolitan University

Both Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Sunderland have had their 2017-18 EYT allocations withdrawn as a result.

However, both universities told Nursery World that they were not planning to continue to run the EYITT programme before the Ofsted ruling. Neither university ran the course last year either.

A spokeswoman for the University of Sunderland, which had run three routes to Early Years Teacher Status for two years, said, ‘We were not surprised by the Ofsted judgement. Though disappointing, the challenges presented by moving from Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) to Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS) were a contributory factor, particularly the difficulty our students with the new qualification had in gaining graduate-level employment.’

Manchester Met had run two courses: a three-year undergraduate route and a one-year employment-based route. A spokesman said, ‘The decision to close the course was taken in response to declining interest and prior to the EYITT provision coming under the Ofsted framework. No places were requested by the university following the closure of the course.’

The news comes as EYT numbers fall across the country. There were just 654 new entrants to EYITT in the academic year 2016 to 2017, not including those on the assessment-only route. This compares with 2,327 EYTs recruited in 2013-14 out of a target of 2,400.

Other universities also cutting courses this year include the University of Northampton, which is running one work-based route this year, as opposed to its original three. A Nursery World investigation last year found that 18 EYT-accredited training providers decided not to offer early years initial teacher training (EYITT) last year, many citing recruitment difficulties as the reason.

The Ofsted results came to light in Ofsted data published last week, which showed that all 15 other EYITT providers were rated good. None were outstanding, and none of the other providers inspected (in primary, secondary, or further education) were rated less than good. NCTL guidance says it will consider withdrawing accreditation of a provider where ‘provision is repeatedly of requires improvement or lower quality.’

Sunderland

At the time of the inspection, in May 2016, there were eight full-time students, six on the part-time pathway, and none on the assessment-only route.

Key areas of weakness were students’ understanding of early mathematics and phonics. Tutors’ targets in this area were not always meaningful and relevant. ‘Not all trainees are clear in how to use and organise these ideas into a planned sequence of teaching for different ages of children in the early years. In addition, few trainees (from both routes) can explain what they have learned about babies’ mathematical development even though this has been a focus for reading and discussion during the programme’ the report said.

The inspector also found ‘the partnership is not checking trainees’ understanding of safeguarding issues well enough. As a result, the level of understanding about safeguarding varies.’

It acknowledged though that ‘valuable improvements have been made since the previous inspection’, including to students’ portfolios, and joint observations of trainees by university tutors or mentors. Despite this, it said, ‘Leadership and management of the programme continues to require improvement…Not all members of the early years partnership board have a clear understanding of [its] functions.’

It added, ‘The university is held in high regard within the city and wider region for its work to promote the early years.’

Manchester

The Manchester Metropolitan University early years ITT partnership comprises approximately 50 settings in 12 local authorities. There were nine trainees on the undergraduate route and 16 on the employment-based route when the inspection took place in May 2016.

Inspectors noted the partnership requires improvement ‘because the quality of ongoing support to trainees is not consistently good. Consequently, while all trainees at least meet the teachers’ standards (early years), they are not all achieving their potential.’

It said, ‘Wider aspects of quality assurance are not always identifying the quality of settings, nor are they always ensuring that priorities are followed through into actions. A few mentors do not carry out their agreed roles in regularly checking the progress trainees are making. It … means that important evidence to support the assessment of trainees against the teachers’ standards (early years) is lacking.’

Improvements included the introduction of quality development processes and new sessions and workshops for students.

Inspectors added that all but one of the 16 trainees who left in 2015 got jobs and that staff had remained committed to the programme despite uncertainty over its future.

A spokeswoman for Sunderland said, ‘We made the decision not to run these courses prior to Ofsted’s inspection.

‘Instead we advised new applicants to apply for our teaching programmes (with Qualified Teacher Status) meaning they could meet their career aspirations and, because specialisms are offered in early years, still work within their chosen sector.’

Early Years Teacher courses are Government funded: up to £14,000 is available on some routes. The Department for Education has acknowledged in March’s workforce strategy that recruitment needed to be improved. It has said it will consult on amending regulations to allow those with EYTS, and its predecessor EYPS, to lead nursery and reception classes in maintained schools as a way of broadening EYTs’ career choices. It will also review the early years initial teacher training routes in 2017 ‘to make sure we are maximising the impact of the programme’.

A DfE spokeswoman has previously told Nursery World that the Government was ‘making a significant investment in the early years sector, working closely with the profession to help improve its status – and as a result salaries have increased, numbers of qualified staff have risen, [and] the number of graduates in the workforce continues to rise’.

  • For more information on the EYT programme and the Workforce Strategy, see  Nursery World, 2-15 October, pages 36-37.
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