Lack of action threatens Early Years Teacher Status

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Frustrated university lecturers have said inaction by the Government over Early Years Teacher Status risks the loss of a graduate-led workforce in the sector.

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  • DfE not planning any further consultations on Early Years Workforce Strategy
  • Number of Early Years Teacher courses drops by a quarter in two years
  • Concern EYTS will be lost

It is more than a year since the Early Years Workforce Strategy promised a consultation on allowing Early Years Teachers (EYTs) to lead nursery and Reception classes in maintained primary schools, as well as other measures aimed at boosting the dwindling number of graduates.

But the Department for Education is now not planning on holding any consultations on the strategy, Nursery World understands, while a recent review of Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) made no mention of Early Years Teacher Status.

Sue Wilcockson, partnership co-ordinator at the University of Derby, said, ‘If we are not careful there won’t be an EYT qualification any more.’

She added, ‘The Workforce Strategy offered so much, and a year on we are no nearer to an answer.

‘When it was issued we were delighted. It talks in the ministerial foreword about development of the whole workforce. Everything within the introduction is about the quality of the early years, which is very positive.

‘But nothing has happened. It is really, really frustrating.’

The number of EYTs has declined every year since the scheme’s launch in 2013-14, with just 595 recruits this academic year, 40 per cent of the Government’s target. This is despite the programme attracting up to £14,000 in Government investment per trainee.

‘The continued upskilling of a sector and a graduate-led workforce are now at risk,’ said Debra Laxton, early childhood lead at the University of Chichester. ‘It is vital that the Government takes action by recognising and addressing the issues and completing the actions it set out in the Workforce Strategy’.

Save the Children also called the DfE out earlier this year, highlighting that the Government has ‘broken its promise’ over its March deadline for a feasibility study into expanding early years teaching in disadvantaged areas.

A review of different routes into Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT), that the strategy said would happen in 2017, has also not taken place.

Stella Ziolkowski, the National Day Nurseries Association’s director of quality and workforce development, said, ‘We are concerned about the lack of visible movement within this part of the strategy at a time when the recruitment and retention of staff have reached crisis point.

‘NDNA would like to know how the DfE will tackle this element of its Workforce Strategy and when. We need urgent action to support the sector now.’

In the Early Years Workforce Strategy, released in March 2015, the Government promised:

  • To ‘consult on amending regulations to allow those with EYTS and EYPS to lead nursery and Reception classes in maintained schools’.
  • ‘The Government will review the EYITT routes in 2017 to make sure they are maximising the impact of the programme.’
  • To ‘conduct a feasibility study by March 2018 into developing a programme that specifically seeks to grow the graduate workforce in disadvantaged areas’
  • ‘The Government will consider how wider work on strengthening QTS could offer positive opportunities for raising the status and parity of Early Years Teachers.’

However, a DfE spokesperson told Nursery World last year that it was not planning on holding any further consultations on any elements of the strategy.

When asked for clarification of this, given that two reviews, a feasibility study and a consultation were promised, the spokeswoman would only say that ‘work is still under way’ on the proposals for graduates.

She said, ‘We are considering a range of approaches to increasing the number of graduates employed in the early years sector, but work is still under way.

‘We will engage the sector in exploring ways to target support where it is most needed.’

Meanwhile, the number of providers offering EYT courses has dropped, from 43 in 2016 to 33 accredited providers currently listed, with only five of these being in the north of the country.

‘Providers are facing challenges with recruitment as applicants question the value of EYT status,’ said Ms Wilcockson. She added that the University of Derby was planning to scrap the undergraduate route to EYT status next year, though it will continue to run the graduate entry and graduate employment based routes.

Recent research from PACEY and Voice, released last month, found that most EYTs don’t receive equivalent pay to qualified teachers. Nearly half of current students say they are likely to go on to take QTS so they can work in a school, where hourly pay is double on average than that of EYTs.

Ms Laxton said it was a ‘concern’ to hear that EYTs were choosing to move into QTS programmes in schools ‘rather than making a difference to children’s outcomes in their formative years’.

‘I think they should add a Q in front of the EYT to make “QEYT” because there is no parity with QTS. But any action to boost status would have to be look into the impact on PVIs,’ said Ms Wilcockson.

She added, ‘That is the issue. Maybe the Government is stalling because they know it will have a negative impact on the PVI sector [if they give QTS to Early Years Teachers].’

The DfE has consulted over other elements of the workforce strategy, such as changes the Level 2 qualification.

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