June 2012 saw the publication of ‘Foundations for Quality’, an independent review into qualifications in the early years, by Professor Cathy Nutbrown. While this review was welcomed in relation to the urgent need to overhaul the qualifications at level three, the recommendation about removing EYPS was contentious.
RESULTS OF NATIONAL SURVEY The report recognised the valuable work of the Early Years Professional but acknowledged the real challenges faced by those with EYPS in relation to pay and recognition. Consequently it was recommended that Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) should be phased out and Early Years Professionals should have opportunities to complete Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). There was no expectation for early years teachers to undertake any training to gain the knowledge and understanding required to work from birth to three. It was also proposed that a ‘new teacher’ should be introduced for the birth to seven age range. In response to the recommendations a national survey was conducted between July and September 2012 by the University of Northampton to gain the views of Early Years Professionals and early years teachers in the sector. Responses were received from 1,114 professionals who reinforced the welcomed positive comments about the importance of building on EYPS made by Elizabeth Truss in Nursery World (12 November). Respondents were asked a range of questions in relation to their confidence levels and their perceived impact on practice and children. They were also asked about their views about a ‘a new teacher’ and the training they would require if this was to be the direction of travel taken.
EVOLUTION OF EYPS The initial findings clearly illustrated that Early Years Professionals are reflective professionals who are very confident in their practice and believe they are impacting positively on the early years sector and outcomes for children. Seventy one per cent of respondents, for example, indicated that not only had their knowledge of well-being been positively impacted upon but so had the emotional well-being of the babies and children in their settings. A further 86 per cent believed that the quality of observations and planning had been impacted upon to a high level. The initial analysis suggested respondents were divided about a ‘new teacher’ role with 57 per cent in agreement and 43 per cent who disagreed. Those who were in favour clearly indicated that rather than wanting to be teachers with QTS, they saw it as an opportunity for the evolution of EYPS that would enhance practice and really recognise the value and importance of early childhood, development and care. Though there was concern that 0 to seven was too broad an age band.
TIME FOR A NEW TEACHER? At a time when the Government is preparing to announce the future direction of the early years, those with EYPS can hold their heads high. Whatever the outcome, the growing evidence base clearly indicates that they should be essential members of the wider children’s workforce. It is for the Government now to decide how they build on what they have developed, address the inequalities of pay and status in the early years and ensure both the Early Years Professional and early years teacher are valued for their complementary roles. They could even go one step further and introduce a ‘new teacher’ for children aged 0 to seven who understands the importance of schools being ready for children rather than making children ready for school.
Dr Eunice Lumsden is university teaching fellow at the University of Northampton