Degree level qualifications are sought-after in early years staff. With a body of evidence showing that high-quality interactions make a real difference to children's outcomes, graduates should be a key driving force behind using theory in practice to create high standards.
Degree-level qualifications include Early Years Teacher Status, which is Government-funded and takes between three months and several years, depending on the route.
Other options are early years degrees, and QTS, which can be achieved via the Postgraduate Certificate In Education.
EARLY YEARS TEACHER
The Early Years Teacher qualification was launched in 2013. Candidates have to meet the same entry requirements as primary teachers – English, maths and science grade C and above and literacy and numeracy skills tests. They must also have an undergraduate degree. Though the Government says this makes it ‘equivalent’, the award does not, however, confer qualified teacher status (QTS), and thus enable a practitioner to work in a primary school as a teacher, nor does it usually entitle the same pay and conditions that teachers receive.
EYT Status replaces Early Years Professional Status, which was launched in 2007 and was then the gold standard of graduate-level early years training and qualifications. EYPS was designed to realise the goal of a graduate-led workforce.
EYTS has provide controversial in the sector because of the lack of parity with teachers pay and conditions. This has been felt through difficulties filling places on courses. The Government has admitted that recruitment levels have been a ‘worry’ (365 Early Years Teachers were recruited in 2018-9. The target of 2,400 was largely met only in the first year of the scheme's launch.) Some universities have closed courses have closed due to low demand.
In recognition, the Government’s workforce strategy included plans for a consultation on allowing those with Early Years Teacher Status or Early Years Professional Status to lead nursery and Reception classes in maintained schools. It also has plans for ‘Considering how wider work on strengthening QTS could offer positive opportunities for raising the status and parity of early years teachers.’
However, these were not carried forward, to the sector's dismay.
Around 30 universities and higher education institutions currently offer early years initial teacher training. A list can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/early-years-initial-teacher-training-itt-providers/early-years-initial-teacher-training-itt-providers
There are four routes to becoming an EYT:
- Graduate entry 12 months
- Graduate employment-based (12 months part time)
- Undergraduate (3-4 years)
- Assessment only (3 months)
It is also possible to become an EYT via School Direct’s early years arm, which is an on-the-job training scheme and replaces the Graduate Teacher Programme. Route 1 is delivered by a nursery provider or school along with a training provider. Another scheme, Teach First, is for high achieving graduates and gives an award of QTS (not EYTS). For institutions offering this click here
For funding, see here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/early-years-initial-teacher-training-funding-guidance
QTS and PGCE
To achieve QTS you’ll need to hold an undergraduate degree, and a grade C or above in GCSEs in English and mathematics or standard equivalent in England. Applications to in Wales may be different. See https://www.ucas.com/ucas/teacher-training/getting-started/entry-requirements
You can achieve QTS through a programme run by a SCITT (School-Centred Initial Teacher Training) as well as at through degrees (see below) at universities and colleges.
If you intend to train to teach pupils aged 3-11 (early years and primary), you must also have achieved a standard equivalent to a grade C or above in a GCSE science subject.
A PGCE course focuses on developing teaching skills rather than specific subject areas so candidates are expected to have a good understanding of their chosen subject. Courses are generally one year full-time and are available at universities and colleges nationwide.
Practitioners who started a training programme leading to the award of Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS) or Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) from 1 September 2014 are considered full and relevant when they have been awarded the status. These teachers can count in the EYFS staff:child ratios at levels 3 and 6 without separately achieving GCSEs in English and maths at grade C or above.
DEGREE LEVEL APPRENTICESHIPS
In a first for the sector, those wishing to study at level 6 will be able to take an apprenticeship at this level in future. A trailblazer group of employers started working on apprenticeship standards at Levels 5 and 6 in January 2019. The group, which is chaired by Laura Upton, workforce improvement advisor at Leicestershire County Council, is devising a standard for a Level 6 'Early Years Lead Practitioner' who will
- be a room leader
- lead curriculum planning
- supervise others and manage staff
- be responsible for recordkeeping and lead safeguarding.
For more on this see here.
Some 80 universities and higher education institutions offer early years degrees, with an additional handful offering playwork courses.
Most are three-year courses with an entry requirement of at least two A-levels or equivalent, although each institution will have its own entry requirements and syllabus. Some universities will accept students with work-related experience rather than formal academic qualifications.
Practitioners who started an early education and childcare qualification from 1 September 2014 must hold a qualification that meets the early years educator criteria to be considered full and relevant. To count in the staff:child ratios at level 3, they must also have achieved GCSEs in English and maths at grade C or above.
BA (HONS) IN EARLY CHILDHOOD STUDIES
This is probably the best known early years degree. It concentrates on the academic knowledge and professional awareness required by those working to meet the needs of young children up to the age of eight, and their families.
Early childhood studies (ECS) and related degrees which are consistent with the QAA subject benchmark statement for early childhood studies, and have an element of assessed performance in an early years setting, are considered full and relevant. To count in the staff:child ratios at level 3, these graduates must also have achieved GCSEs in English and maths at grade C .
BACHELOR OF EDUCATION
A BEd is an honours degree in education. Course contents vary, but all BEd graduates in England and Wales attain QTS in addition to their degree, and in Scotland and Northern Ireland a teaching qualification. The course generally takes three or four years full-time or four to six years part-time.
However, if you have undergraduate credits from previous study you may be able to complete it in two years.
To train as a teacher, on any programme, you must achieve a standard equivalent to grade C in GCSE English Language and maths.
The course is tailored to primary or secondary levels. Specific course content will vary according to the university or college that is providing it.
BA (HONS) PLAYWORK
This degree focuses on reflective playwork practice and usually includes an element of placement in the first and second years. It is provided by a number of universities over three years full-time (and sometimes up to six years part-time) as well as being offered by blended/distance learning. Entry requirements vary across institutions. The sector skills council for playworkers is: www.skillsactive.com
Note: Graduate Competencies
The Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network (ECSDN) has introduced Early Childhood Graduate Practitioner competencies, as an optional route in degree programmes. The overall aims are to strengthen degrees with placements, enhance employability for our students and bring clarity to the sector. They are available to members of the ECSDN and it will be up to individual institutions if they want to use them.
Practitioners who started or completed a qualification before 1 September 2014 must hold a qualification that meets the full and relevant criteria to be counted in the level 3 EYFS staff:child ratios.
The following early education and childcare qualifications are considered full and relevant, which means anyone holding one of these qualifications can count in the level 3 EYFS staff:child ratios.
- Ordinary degrees and honours degrees at level 6 in early years, early childhood studies, childcare or playwork with an element of assessed performance in an early years setting.
- A joint degree and joint honours degrees at level 6 in early years, early childhood studies, childcare or playwork where the mandatory core content includes a focus on early years, childcare and playwork with an element of assessed performance in an early years setting.
- An honours degree at level 6 in education studies where the core content includes a focus on early years, early childhood studies, childcare or playwork with an element of assessed performance in an early years setting.
- Post graduate certificates and diplomas at level 6 in early years, early childhood studies, childcare or playwork with an element of assessed performance in an early years setting.
Practitioners who started a training programme leading to the award of Early Years Professional Status (EYPS), Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS) or Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) before 1 September 2014 can count in the EYFS staff:child ratios at levels 3 and 6 when they have been awarded the status.
NQF or QCF?
Early years qualifications had been migrating from the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) to the new Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) since 2010.
Now however both are being replaced by RQF, Regulated Qualifications Framework, which is designed to be simpler, and will help people understand 'better how qualifications relate to each other, by setting consistent measures of size (how long, typically, a qualification takes to study and be assessed for) and level of difficulty', according to the Government.
Definition of full and relevant
This is deemed as being a qualification which demonstrates depth and level of learning appropriate to specified outcomes of full early years, childcare or playwork qualifications, has valid, reliable assessment and awarding procedures, and include an element of assessed performance evidence.
Only qualifications which are deemed full and relevant will enable a practitioner to count in ratio.
For more information about early years level 6 qualifications, see here
A direct link to the Early Years Qualifications List is here.