Interserve Learning & Employment (ILE) was the first provider to offer the Early Years Educator apprenticeship standard since it was approved for delivery in April 2019.
In recognition of its approach to developing the curriculum to encompass the new apprenticeship standards and outstanding success rates, the company scooped the title of Education and Childcare Apprenticeship Provider of the Year at the Annual Apprenticeship Conference Awards at the ICC in Birmingham earlier this year.
Head of sector for childcare and education at ILE Karen Derbyshire explains more about the new standard and how the company is approaching its apprenticeship offer.
Why are apprenticeships such a good route into childcare and early education?
I started as an apprentice myself at 15 years old. Teachers and career officers advised me to go to college and then university, but I wanted to work with children first-hand and as soon as I left school. Childcare isn’t something you can do half-heartedly, it’s a practical sector that requires commitment to the children and your employer.
Apprenticeships allow people with a passion for working with children to gain real life experience of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and how this supports children’s welfare and development along with the theory behind how children learn and develop.
Apprenticeships also enable apprentices to grow, to fill the gaps left by recruitment shortages and encourage loyalty to the employer. They also provide more scope for internal promotions; apprentices can work their way up to become leaders and managers. Learners can do their team leader qualification with us at ILE too.
What improvements are we seeing as a result of the reform of the Early Years Educator (EYE) Apprenticeship?
The role of an early years educator has changed with the introduction of the EYFS framework and various legislative changes that have been introduced. The sector has had to evolve to meet these changes and new standards were a natural step.
The occupational profile on the EYE standard states learners will be ‘highly trained professionals’ by the end of their apprenticeship. Right from the start of an apprenticeship, we set out the expectations of all involved, discuss the journey and how we get to that end goal - a highly trained professional. There are no surprises and the learners and employers know what they are getting from the beginning.
Now we have the EYE Level 3 standard approved, this is making way for apprenticeship progression routes that haven’t been available previously. Level 5 is currently in development for Senior Practitioners which will allow for further progression within apprenticeship standards.
What are the most important elements of the new standard as an apprenticeship provider?
Throughout the 17 months, at ILE we really focus on the skills, knowledge and behaviours set out in the standard, because that is what the end point assessor will test the learner in. But our qualification is not just based on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF).
The introduction of an end point assessment has been a big change. Any assessment can seem like a scary thing, but it doesn’t need to be. We work with learners on all elements of the standard for 16 months so that by the final, 17th month they can simply demonstrate and showcase their profession; the things they do every day. We talk about the end point assessor, assessment and mocks from day one so the aim is always apparent in the language we use.
How is it different?
Our delivery is different because we speak to our customers and get to know what they want first. Through social media campaigns, industry meetings, weblink questionnaires and face-to-face meetings, we talked to employers from all different types of settings about what challenges they face and shaped our delivery around their requirements. As a result, we have added external webinars on topics which the learners and employers can really benefit from.
A ‘distinction’ grade is also now possible. We teach all of our learners to distinction level and we are seeing first-hand how switching from the apprenticeship framework to the standard is giving them motivation to work harder and achieve more.
What does ILE’s training programme include?
We run nine dedicated webinars, with 13 face-to-face meetings and two remote calls, giving learners 24 interactions with their assessor overall in a 14-month period. The webinars start with the EYFS so learners have an emerging understanding of it by week two of the programme.
How is it going so far?
We had our first sign-ups in April and are on track to have around 40 learners by the end of June. People are quite shocked that we have been so quick to market our apprenticeships, but we started planning in August, as soon as we knew the standard was coming. Whilst we are the first provider to be offering the EYE standard, the design and development has been nine months in the making with consultation taking place and lots of reviewing and changes.
Of course, the first time you run something like this there could be teething problems. But from our very first sessions, everything has gone really well. Learners from all over the country have been logging in, sharing their ideas and gaining new experiences.
How will ILE’s offer develop in the future?
Even after just a month, our emphasis is always on reviewing things and making sure we’re getting everything right. We would like to get learners visiting alternative providers, such as eco-settings, Montessori, Reggio Emilia or Forest Schools, to give them a more varied experience during the programme. We will also keep refreshing our external webinar offer.
The Trainer Assessors are the first point of contact for our employers and learners. They are constantly receiving feedback following their regular conversations. It’s this feedback that helps us to develop offering. For example, one employer asked for more information to be added to our induction, and as soon as this recommendation was made, we acted on it.
This summer we are looking to run a learner forum. Learners are the people doing the qualification so they know better than anyone what it’s like to undertake an apprenticeship. Ensuring their voices are heard will allow us to maintain a fresh, unique and effective apprenticeship offer as we go forward.
Further information on ILE's childcare apprenticeships
Tel: 0333 444 5055
This article has been produced by Nursery World with sponsorship from Interserve Learning & Employment. It was written and produced by Nursery World to a brief agreed in advance with ILE.