The Children & Families Minister has today written to the Education Select Committee to reveal that the government is not moving forward on two of its commitments under the Workforce Strategy.
The first of these was a commitment to undertake a feasibility study into developing a programme to grow the graduate workforce in disadvantaged areas, to narrow the quality gap between settings in disadvantaged and more affluent areas. DfE will not now go ahead with this, citing Ofsted's figures that the proportion of providers rated Good or Outstanding is now virtually identical in the most and least advantaged areas, and the difficulty of recruiting graduates and evidence from the SEED study that children in less advantaged areas are equally likely as children in more advantaged areas to access high quality provision. The minister also cites difficulties in recruiting graduates to the PVI sector.
Instead, DfE will be investing £20 million in professional development activity focused on disadvantaged areas, details of which are yet to be announced.
We regret that government has made a U-turn on this important commitment. We know that Ofsted ratings are a not a measure of quality which correlates well with the kind of high quality provision which improves children's outcomes in the early years, The SEED findings are also of limited comfort - in order to close the gap there need to be more children in disadvantaged areas than in advantaged ones who are accessing high quality provision if they are to close the gap with their better-off peers. To boost the number of graduates working in PVIs, it is clear that we need to improve funding in a strategic and targeted way to incentivise and enable PVIs to attract graduates by paying salaries commensurate with what teachers earn in schools.
The minister has also announced that government will not move ahead with proposals to allow practitioners with Early Years Teacher and Early Years Professional Status to teach in schools, following a consultation with some stakeholders, noting that changing the regulations would not address the issue of pay and conditions. We agree it would be quite wrong to allow EYTs and EYPs to teach in schools as second class citizens. Instead government needs to bring EYT status within QTS to ensure parity of training, induction, pay and conditions. Clearly this needs to be done in such a way as to ensure this does not pull teachers away from working in PVIs, but that can only be done if - as indicated above - PVIs are enabled and incentivised to pay teachers comparably to the maintained sector.
We call on government to be more ambitious in relation to both of these issues and not to abandon these important commitments.