EYT qualification’s ‘uncertain future’

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The future ‘looks bleak’ for the Early Years Teacher (EYT) qualification as numbers taking up the training plummet and more providers drop the course.

early-years-teachers

EYTs cannot lead nursery classes in maintained schools PHOTO Magda Rakita/ Save the Children

  • Providers struggling to recruit to EYITT courses
  • Blame placed on lack of parity and DfE commitment

The future ‘looks bleak’ for the Early Years Teacher (EYT) qualification as numbers taking up the training plummet and more providers drop the course.

The latest figures on take-up of Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT), published by the Department for Education, reveal the number training to be an EYT has dropped by a third since last year.

This academic year (2018-19), 185 fewer people started the EYITT course than in 2017-18. There were 365 new entrants in 2018-19, as opposed to 550 the previous year.

It follows the abandonment of plans in the early years workforce strategy by the DfE in July to allow EYTs to lead nursery classes in maintained schools.

As a result, an increasing number of providers are dropping the course.

The DfE accredited providers’ list for 2018-19 shows the number running EYITT courses has fallen by a third since it launched in September 2014.

This year there are 30 training providers running an EYITT course, compared with 46 four years ago. There has been a year-on-year gradual decline in the number of providers.

Among those providers that have dropped the course this year are the University of Worcester and Edge Hill University in Lancashire, which said it stopped the course due to lack of demand.

A spokesperson for Edge Hill said, ‘We found that our students were increasingly looking for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) rather than EYTS and EYPS, citing better pay and conditions in line with the wider teaching profession. As a result of demand, we stopped offering EYITT Early Years Teacher Status Routes from July 2018. Our Early Years Education Department offers a variety of routes within early years education, which continue to meet the demands of both students and the sector.’

However, another provider, Essex Primary SCITT, is adding to its offer. From next year, the training provider will have five places available on the graduate entry route. Currently it offers just the employment route for graduates wanting to become Early Years Teachers.

EYITT lead consultant Nicky Brewer said it is adding the route as it is passionate about the training. She attributed a drop in numbers taking up the qualification nationally due to the EYITT not being well known and not leading to QTS.

This echoes new research from Save the Children, which found that EYITT course leaders are struggling to recruit because of a lack of parity with QTS and limited career opportunities. Course leaders told the charity it was common for trainees to:

  • do EYITT as a back-up in case they are not accepted onto a QTS course
  • switch to a course with QTS once they realise they will not be able to work in maintained settings after EYITT
  • use EYTS as a stepping stone to QTS.

Michael Freeston, director of quality improvement at the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said that like Children’s Centres, he fears the EYITT will be ‘left to wither on the vine’.

‘The Government’s inaction on the Early Years Teacher routes is indicative of how little priority is given to the qualification. The only motivation to train as an EYT is individuals’ drive for self-improvement.’

He added, ‘The future looks bleak for the qualification.’

National Day Nurseries Association director of quality and workforce development, Stella Ziolkowski, agreed that the EYITT has ‘dropped off as a priority for the Government. It’s been a challenge recruiting on the course for many years.

‘There should have been a commitment in policy to the qualification. Research has shown time and time again that settings with graduates provide higher quality of care. It is children in disadvantaged areas that would benefit the most from being in settings with an EYT, but without Government support this is unlikely to happen.’

Save the Children

The charity’s new report, It All Starts Here: Tackling the crisis in the early years teacher workforce, reveals widespread dissatisfaction with pay, status and conditions is deterring people from becoming Early Years Teachers.

It is based on findings from 368 responses to an online survey and interviews with 51 people in the PVI sector.

Many of the Early Years Teachers who Save the Children spoke to had left the PVI sector to work as unqualified teachers in maintained schools. The conditions and pay were perceived as more favourable, even though they were given less responsibility, they could not lead classes and their status as a graduate was not recognised.

Challenges and barriers

Those who had gained the qualification and managers who employed Early Years Teachers both identified a range of challenges, including the low pay that practitioners receive after qualifying.

They said the wage differential between those with and without the status is ‘insubstantial’, with EYTs often earning little more than the minimum wage. In many cases they are paid the same or only slightly above the salary of a Level 3 practitioner.

As a result, many EYTs were considering leaving the sector to increase their pay.

However, a lot of managers and providers who responded to the online survey were not aware that they are entitled to £7,000 if they support a member of their staff to train to become an Early Years Teacher.

Other challenges cited by Early Years Teachers who took part in the research included limited opportunities for progression, with promotions largely limited to management roles that do not require the qualification and that take practitioners away from the children, as well as not being able to lead classes in maintained schools.

Recommendations

Save the Children says there is ‘no quick-fix’ solution, but there are steps the DfE can take to improve EYT support and to help grow the workforce.

It recommends improving awareness of funding to boost recruitment to EYITT courses. It also suggests the DfE trial ‘early career payments’ for newly qualified Early Years Teachers working in disadvantaged areas and a funding top-up for providers in disadvantaged communities to cover the cost of employing a graduate.

Comments

Dr Eunice Lumsden, head of early years at the University of Northampton, which runs the EYITT graduate employment based route, said, ‘The debate has got too complicated and focuses too much on numbers. It is a debate we need to stop. The focus needs to be on young children, what they need and deserve, as well as ensuring staff caring for them are of the highest calibre.

‘We know there is low pay in the sector, but the rewards are immense, and the new careers map clearly shows how practitioners can progress.’

She added, ‘It is hard to sustain a graduate workforce when there has been a reduction in the number of 18-year-olds, a drop in Level 3 practitioners, changes to A-levels and Level 3 vocational qualifications.’

A DfE spokesperson said it ‘continues to support graduates into the sector through funding of the EYITT programme, including fees, bursaries and employer incentives. Also… employers are responsible for setting the pay and conditions for their employees.’

The department stated, ‘A skilled and highly dedicated workforce is essential to our ambition for high-quality education to be delivered to all children in early years settings.’

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