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Nursery World
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Level 2 Qualifications in Early Years Education and Childcare

A Level 2 qualification allows you to work with children under supervision. Under the Early Years Foundation Stage, early years providers must employ at least one member of staff with a relevant level 3 childcare qualification and at least 50% of other staff working with children must hold a level 2 childcare qualification. The qualifications are seen as a progression route to the all-crucial level 3.

New qualifications will be badged ‘early years practitioner’ to show that they are based on new Level 2 criteria developed by the sector and the Department for Education. These qualifications, which are expected to become available from September 2019.

Awarding bodies are expected to use the new title to indicate the qualification is full and relevant. For example, Cache/NCFE’s new level 2 course will be titled the ‘The level 2 Diploma for the Early Years Practitioner.’

All Level 2 early years practitioner qualifications will require candidates to demonstrate skills, knowledge and understanding in the following areas:

  • Knowledge of child development
  • Safeguarding
  • Health and Safety
  • Wellbeing
  • Communication
  • Support the planning of and deliver activities, purposeful play opportunities and educational programmes
  • Support children with special educational needs and disabilities
  • Own role and development
  • Working with others – parents, colleagues and other professionals

Separately, the department has also published a specification for a Level 2 Early Years SEND qualification.


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 2 ratios.



Available from CACHE, City and Guilds, Edexcel  , OCR

The level 2 award in support work in schools has been designed to be accessible to those not yet working in school as well as replacing the non-accredited induction training for those new to working in schools.


Available from City and Guilds, Edexcel , various

This qualification is for those members of the school workforce who directly support the teaching and learning of pupils.

The following historic teaching assistant and supporting teaching and learning qualifications are also considered full and relevant at level 2 where the practitioner achieved them and had their practice assessed in the Early Years Foundation Stage in the maintained sector:

  • Level 2 NVQ for Teaching Assistants
  • Level 2 NVQ Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools

Health and social care qualifications are not considered to be full and relevant.



Available from CACHE, City & Guilds, Edexcel

Only the diploma is considered full and relevant, as is a Level 2 NVQ in Playwork 


Apprenticeships are on-the-job learning. Many nursery chains see them as a way of ‘growing their own’ talent by employing people on apprenticeship contracts, training and mentoring them and then offering them a job with the company. They are packages of qualifications, and include a qualification at the relevant level, and literacy, numeracy and ICT qualifications.

The apprenticeship system has been reformed recently, with new rules for funding, and the way apprenticeships are assessed. Under the previous system, apprentices were informally assessed on-the-job, but now apprentices must undertake an assessment with an external examiner from an independent company at the end of their course. Apprentices must spend 20% of their employment hours in off-the-job training, which the Government has said can include studying, practical training such as shadowing, and time to write assignments. The rest of the time is the employment part of the apprenticeship.

Level 2 (intermediate) level apprenticeships will include core qualifications at Level 2, plus additional qualifications such as Functional/Key Skills or GCSEs.  They can support progression towards Advanced Apprenticeships at level 3.

A guide to apprenticeships is here

For more information on Apprenticeships, visit the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) website.  www.apprenticeships.org.uk


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.


If in doubt, search here https://register.ofqual.gov.uk. From 1 September 2014, all level 2 early education and childcare qualifications that have been approved by Ofqual and are listed on this list will also be considered full and relevant.

For full information on early years level 2 qualifications, see http://www.education.gov.uk/eypqd/level2.shtml

There is a direct link to Early Years Qualifications List here.


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