Exclusive: Survey reveals barriers to training and employing EYTs

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Findings from a survey by Save the Children in collaboration with Nursery World reveal the barriers to employing and becoming an Early Years Teacher (EYT).

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The biggest concern cited, both for managers and staff, was pay

Findings from a survey by Save the Children in collaboration with Nursery World reveal the barriers to employing and becoming an Early Years Teacher (EYT).

For the majority of respondents (79 per cent), the main barrier to employing an EYT is the cost of their salary.

A number said the higher wage cost is an issue due to a lack of funding for the 15 and 30 hours of funded childcare.

One respondent said, ‘I would love to [employ an EYT] and have a couple of suitable candidates to do it, but I can barely afford wages now, let alone any rises.’

The findings also reveal that there is a lack of interest among practitioners to undertake the qualification, because they do not think it will improve their salary or career opportunities.

Department for Education (DfE) statistics published last month showed just 595 students enrolled on Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT) courses last year. It is the third year the number of students has fallen.

Charlotte Lynch, policy advisor at Save the Children, said, ‘When children attend a nursery setting led by an EYT, they are 10 per cent more likely to reach expected levels of development at age five. Yet recent DfE figures show the number of people completing EYITT continues to fall.

‘Save the Children hears regularly from the sector about the challenges behind the shortfall, but anecdotes are not enough to ensure the DfE understands and listens. That’s why we asked Nursery Worldreaders in November to share their experiences of the barriers to graduates entering the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) workforce. More than 350 people responded, including nursery managers, staff and EYTs.

‘They told us that the sector is passionate about a qualified workforce but struggling to overcome the barriers caused by the lack of funding, status and the career opportunities for EYTs.

‘The sector is supportive of EYTs and their skills. Three-quarters of managers who employ an EYT said they are valuable for children’s development and education, while 77 per cent of EYTs themselves said completing the qualification improved their skills to work with children. EYTs also indicated that completing EYITT helped to improve confidence in their role and enhance their leadership skills.

‘One teacher explained, “The knowledge I gained during my training empowered me as a practitioner in supporting children and other practitioners within my setting. It also increased my confidence and ability to reflect on my practice.”’

THE CHALLENGES

Ms Lynch added, ‘Yet there are multiple challenges preventing EYTs from working in PVI settings. Four out of five nursery managers without an EYT told us that they could not afford the cost of employing a graduate. Half of staff not considering becoming an EYT said they didn’t think the qualification would increase their salary, while four in 10 said it would not improve their career prospects. EYTs expressed frustration that their pay had not increased since completing the qualification or that they were unable to find graduate positions. They feel underpaid and undervalued.’

The findings of the Save the Children and Nursery World survey show:

  • More than 27 per cent of EYTs had not found the qualification valuable for career progression.
  • More than a third (37 per cent) had not found it valuable in terms of wages.
  • Half of EYTs said they would not recommend doing the qualification. The main reason was pay.
  • Many EYTs said they felt frustrated they had undertaken training with no real reward.
  • Some EYTs said settings did not know how to utilise their skills.

One respondent said, ‘It [the EYT qualification] has not helped me at all in my career because it is not recognised or understood widely enough.’

Another said, ‘If there was more of a defined role for EYTs and a clear pay and progression scale among early years practitioners then I would absolutely recommend it.’

Ms Lynch said, ‘While some support is available – EYITT courses are funded, and the Government offers financial support to providers if a member of their staff takes time out to train to be an EYT – there is inadequate awareness of initiatives.

‘Nearly 70 per cent of managers whose setting did not employ an EYT and 58 per cent of those who did were unaware of government funding available when an employee is training to be an EYT. Much more needs to be done to raise awareness of these programmes.

‘Nine out of 10 respondents agreed settings should be helped to employ at least one EYT, while 94 per cent said the Government could be doing more to support EYTs into the workplace.’

Ms Lynch also called on the Government to invest more in the graduate workforce.

She said, ‘The DfE committed in the 2017 Early Years Workforce Strategy to completing a feasibility study by March this year, for a programme that seeks to grow the graduate workforce in early years settings in disadvantaged areas. This was a welcome step, but progress has been slow and it’s not clear the Government will meet this looming deadline.

‘Our survey findings and conversations with the sector show just how important it is that the Government is held to account on this commitment. Through the feasibility study, it must explore how graduates in the sector can be funded and how to increase the appeal of EYT roles, through clear routes to career progression and fair wages. If we want to invest in the futures of young children, we must also invest in a qualified workforce.’

MAIN FINDINGS OF THE SAVE THE CHILDREN/NURSERY WORLD SURVEY

Barriers to employing EYTs

  • Managers without an EYT cited the cost of employing an EYT as the main barrier (79 per cent), followed by the cost of training an EYT (39 per cent) and a lack of interest among staff to get the qualification (35 per cent).
  • Funding was frequently mentioned as a barrier – with the shortfall for the funded hours and the need to pay graduates higher wages cited as issues.
  • 94 per cent of all respondents said the Government could be doing more to support EYTs into the workplace, and 89 per cent said the PVI sector should be given more support to employ EYTs.

Managers’ views on EYTs

  • Managers without an EYT seemed interested in employing one, with only 12 per cent saying they did not see the value of an EYT.
  • 68 per cent of managers without an EYT said they would support a member of their staff to complete training to become an EYT, such as allowing them to take time off for placements and training.
  • Of managers with an EYT, more than half employed a graduate because of their knowledge of early child development, 45 per cent because they wanted to upskill other team members, 39 per cent because a member of staff wanted to complete the qualification, and 29 per cent for their leadership skills.

Barriers to becoming an EYT

  • More than half (58 per cent) of practitioners said they would consider completing the training in the future.
  • Of those who did not want to, the main reasons were they did not think it would improve their salary (46 per cent) or their career opportunities (42 per cent), while 27 per cent said they were happy in their current role and did not see EYT as a valuable qualification.
  • Of those who did want to, the main reasons were to increase their skills to work with young children (68 per cent), improve their understanding of child development (56 per cent) and career progression (56 per cent).
  • The cost of the course (62 per cent) was the main barrier to doing the qualification, followed by a lack of graduate positions available in the setting (35 per cent).
  • Funding to cover the costs of the course (71 per cent) was the main support that would help them to do it, along with employer support (53 per cent) and funding to cover time off work (47 per cent).

EYTs’ experiences

  • 77 per cent said they had found the qualification valuable or very valuable in terms of their skills in working with young children, and 72 per cent for their understanding of children’s development.
  • Recognition and understanding of EYTs’ roles was mentioned as a problem by many, with EYTs saying they did not feel recognised and valued, and that settings did not know how to utilise their skills. Many suggested having a clear role and pay structure would be helpful.
  • The lack of parity with QTS was frequently cited as an issue – both in terms of pay disparity and recognition and status of the role.

Save the Children is keen to hear from people in the sector about what the barriers are to EYTs working in settings. If you are an EYT or work in a PVI setting and would be happy to share your views, email Charlotte Lynch at ukcampaign@savethechildren.org.uk

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