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Worcester has stopped offering its Early Years Initial Teacher Training course, which has run under various titles since 2007, and will not run it during the 2018-19 academic year.
The university is looking into offering apprenticeship routes instead.
A University of Worcester spokesperson said, ‘We are passionately committed to early years education and have a strong history of education and training for those working within the early years sector, offering a range of programmes from foundation degrees through to MA study.
‘The university constantly reviews its course offering to ensure the most relevant and purposeful programmes are available to students. We have recently been reviewing our early years portfolio and made a decision to phase out the Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT) programme at this time.
‘We are currently working towards engaging with the new apprenticeship route into early years and hope to be able to announce new developments in the coming months.’
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Learning support practitioner and teaching assistant Bethany Tibbetts, who studied on the 2017-18 course at Worcester, told Nursery World she believed demand for the course may be limited as Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS) is not recognised by primary schools.
‘After speaking with peers, I realised a lot of people do not want to complete the course as it does not lead to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), and mainstream schools will not recognise Early Years Teacher Status,’ she said.
She added, ‘I consider this detrimental to the professional status that early years educators deserve, and to courses such as EYITT, which provide meaningful education to practitioners.
‘I feel disheartened at the closure of the course as I believe it provided professional recognition for early years educators. I know it has provided me with valuable resources and education, which have impacted my practice, and the children I have worked with, positively.
‘I hope the closure of the course at Worcester will not start a catalyst of closures in other areas as I know this course has enabled me to become a better practitioner and to support children in their most crucial years.’
There were just 620 new entrants to EYITT courses in the academic year 2016-17, and 595 in 2017-18, compared with 2,327 in 2013-14.
In the last academic year (2017-18), both Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Sunderland had their EYT allocations withdrawn as a result of receiving an Ofsted grade of ‘requires improvement’, while the University of Northampton reduced its offering to one work-based route from its original three.
Greenwich intake up
Meanwhile, the University of Greenwich has more than doubled its EYT course intake this year, which has risen from 12 students in 2017-18 to 27 for 2018-19.
Louise Atkins, EYTS co-ordinator at the University of Greenwich, suggested students could be starting to respond to the recruitment problems facing the sector.
‘We haven’t been doing anything differently, so it may be to do with the current climate, as the sector is crying out for people. A lot of our students seem to be very conscious of being advocates for the early years, where past cohorts were more focused on getting their QTS and becoming primary school teachers.
‘We are also one of the only universities still offering the option to get EYT Status in the third year of an undergraduate course, so we are seeing quite a lot of our numbers come from this route.’
However, Ms Atkins warned that without extra support, the course at the university could face the same future as others across the country.
She said, ‘Our numbers were down last year and the year before, and we could have gone under then. The course brings in very little capital and barely pays for the teaching, and we are really lucky that our head of department and the wider university see it as important.
‘Our employers are also very supportive and want to get involved and help trainees because they don’t want to lose them. It’s very unfortunate that other universities have had to get rid of their courses, but if the course doesn’t make money it becomes about the university making a broader commitment to the early years through training, otherwise we could have gone the same route.’
Susanna Kalitowski, policy and research manager at PACEY, said, ‘If the number of graduates continues to decrease, two things are likely to happen. The quality of early years provision will decline, and the early years will become a less attractive profession; the two are mutually reinforcing.
‘There is still time to act to ensure all practitioners are incentivised to continuously improve their skills, gain higher qualifications and progress their careers.
‘Studies from around the globe have found that this is the most effective means of ensuring that all children have access to high-quality care and education, improving their cognitive and socio-emotional abilities, and eliminating the persistent gap between the most and least disadvantaged children.’
In August, the charity Save the Children found there was a shortage of 11,000 EYTs in PVI settings in England.
Charlotte Lynch, Save the Children UK policy adviser, said, ‘Early years teachers are crucial in raising quality and supporting the most disadvantaged children. Yet the announcement that Worcester is closing its EYITT course is further worrying evidence of declining routes into the vital graduate workforce.
‘Only 595 people enrolled on [EYITT courses] last year, despite latest analysis showing that there are nearly 11,000 settings across the country not employing a graduate.
‘None of this is surprising when official figures show that the Government’s investment in promoting EYT training is less than 1 per cent of what it spends on the promotion of teacher training for primary and secondary schools.’
She added, ‘By failing to invest in EYT recruitment and retention, the Government is risking the futures of a generation of children.’
Stella Ziolkowski, director of quality and training at the National Day Nurseries Association, added, ‘There’s little motivation or incentive for Level 3 practitioners to study for this qualification because employers cannot afford to pay them the salary they deserve. If this continues we will barely manage to keep to statutory framework requirements of 50 per cent at Level 2, with room leaders and managers qualified to Level 3.
‘If we’re not careful this could have a detrimental impact on children’s social mobility and the quality and availability of early education and childcare for working parents.’