Build the foundations

Nursery World
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Level 5 Qualifications in Early Years Education and Childcare

These intermediate, work-related higher-education qualifications have been designed in conjunction with employers to meet skills shortages at the higher technician and associate professional levels.

A foundation degree is the equivalent of the first two years of an honours degree, and may be studied full or part-time. The course consists of academic study integrated with relevant work-based learning undertaken with an employer. It may be studied as a stand-alone qualification or upon completion you may progress to the final year of an honours degree.

Universities and colleges set their own entry requirements for each course. Typically a candidate would have to have a relevant Level 3 qualification and at least three years experience. Institutions will sometimes offer Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) for those who are unsure of the current value of their qualifications.


New level 5 apprenticeship

In a first for the sector, those wishing to study at level 5 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 5 'Early Years Senior Practitioner' who will

  • have specific responsibilities for room leadership and/or safeguarding and SEND
  • have responsibilities over curriculum planning
  • work alongside others to provide high-quality learning environments.

For more on this see here.


A small number of level 4 courses have so far met the early years educator criteria   to be considered full and relevant and to be counted in the level 3 ratios. These are available on this list.

To count in the EYFS staff:child ratios at level 3, staff holding an early years educator qualification must also have achieved suitable level 2 literacy & numeracy qualifications.

Montessori International also now provides a foundation degree focusing on Montessori and the EYFS, leading to the Early Childhood Studies degree with Montessori.

Historic qualifications

Practitioners who completed or registered for a qualification before 1 September 2014 must hold a qualification that meets the full and relevant criteria to be counted in the level 3 ratios.

The following level 5 qualifications are considered as such:

  • A Foundation Degree in early years, early childhood studies, childcare or playwork. These are offered by universities and colleges such as Canterbury Christ Church, Bedfordshire and Kingston.
  • A Foundation Degree in Supporting Learning where the practitioner had their practice assessed in the Early Years Foundation Stage in the maintained sector.
  • A Diploma of Higher Education in early years, early childhood studies, childcare or playwork with an element of assessed performance in an early years setting.
  •  A Higher National Diploma in early years, early childhood studies, childcare or playwork with an element of assessed performance in an early years setting.


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.


For more information about early years level 5 qualifications, see here

A direct link to Early Years Qualifications List is here.


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