Numbers training to become early years teachers plummet

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The number of people starting the Early Years Teacher course has dropped by a third since last year, new figures reveal.

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The number of Early Years Teacher trainees has fallen for a fourth year

New Department for Education (DfE) statistics on initial teacher training show that 185 fewer people started the Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT) course this year than in the 2017 to 2018 academic year.

According to the figures, there were 365 new entrants in 2018 to 2019, as opposed to 550 the previous year.

The majority of people starting the course were postgraduates taking up the graduate employment-based route. More than 60 per cent of them held a first class or 2:1 degree, which is slightly up on last year.

Comparing this year’s figures to those of 2013 to 2014, there has been an 84 per cent drop in the number of people starting EYITT.

In 2013-14, there were 2,327 recruits, falling to 860 the next year. There is no available data for 2015-16. The reason the DfE gave Nursery World for this omission is that the data collected was not considered sufficiently robust.

The charity Save the Children, which has published a new report looking at the deterrents to becoming an early years teacher, warns that unless the Government ‘gets to grips with the early years staffing crisis, a generation of children are at risk of being left behind’.

Steven McIntosh, director of UK policy, advocacy and campaigns, said, ‘This steep decline in early years teacher trainees represents a crisis in the childcare workforce. Highly qualified early years teachers play a crucial role in helping children catch up, and are especially needed now with recent figures showing that poorer children are still so much more likely to fall behind by the time they start primary school.

‘The Government’s commitment to close this early learning gap is welcome, but it is failing to invest in what we know works – a highly qualified childcare workforce.’

The report reveals that widespread dissatisfaction with pay, status and conditions is driving existing practitioners from the sector.

Save the Children calls on the Government to address the ‘staffing crisis’ as a priority and invest in trial schemes to support recruitment and retention of early years teachers in some of the most disadvantaged parts of England by boosting salaries.

Stella Ziolkowski, National Day Nurseries Association's (NDDNA) director for quality and training, said, 'Government aspiration for a professional high quality workforce has fallen off the agenda, replaced with getting the quantity of places they need to deliver their promise. 

'We know that Early Years Teacher training is being used as a stepping stone into QTS. 

'Sadly the biggest barrier to becoming EYT qualified is pay. As nurseries become ever more constrained because their biggest customer – the Government – does not pay them the going rate, they cannot afford to reward graduates and qualified staff with the salary they deserve. It’s no wonder the number of candidates has dropped dramatically.

'This challenge is broader as we see the recruitment crisis in early years getting worse.  Government must look at the detrimental impact that the depletion of qualified staff in the sector will cause and put measures in place to address this.'

  • See more on Save the Children’s report in the next issue of Nursery World magazine, 10 December.
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