It is very welcome news that the government's long-awaited Workforce Strategy for the early years sector has been announced today.
There is an encouraging hint in today's policy document that the government recognises the problematic lack of parity between Early Years Teacher (EYT)/Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) and qualified teachers status (QTS). We would be concerned about opening up possibilities for those with EYT/EYPS to teach in school nursery and reception classes unless and until measures were in place to allow practitioners with these specialist graduate qualifications to achieve QTS, so we welcome the commitment to consult on this issue. We believe that the only way to achieve full parity between EYT, EYPS and QTS is to bring the EYT qualification fully within the QTS route.
Many in the sector will welcome the decision to extend the GCSE maths and English requirements for Level 3 practitioners and enable other level 2 qualifications such as functional skills to be used as a valid alternative. However, we also know that many within the sector would wish government to share our ambition that new entrants to the early years sector should be those with enthusiasm and aptitude for education; it should not be seen as a soft option for those who have not achieved academically. In the longer term we would we would wish to see recruitment boosted by raising pay and status of early years practitioners, and making this an aspirational career choice.
We welcome the government's commitments to improving careers advice about the breadth and diversity of roles within the sector, and also to attracting a more diverse workforce, including a greater number of men. This matters not because children need male role models, but because men and women are equally capable of being excellent early years practitioners, and we want to ensure that we are recruiting the best candidates regardless of gender.
The government's commitment to supporting CPD is welcome, but fails to recognise sufficiently the challenges facing practitioners and providers in relation to time and funding. While some limited support is to be offered via the government's VCS grant scheme and encouraging the sector to buy in training, more needs to be done to make high quality, affordable CPD opportunities available to all. It is vital that all staff have access to meaningful opportunities to extend their pedagogical knowledge and develop as reflective practitioners, not merely to access training on the bare essentials of their statutory responsibilities. The commitment to address the specific knowledge base required to support children with SEND is an area where it is vital to ensure all settings can be accessible and supportive of every child's needs.
We welcome the commitment to sector led improvement through the early years teaching schools. Where other teaching schools are funded to deliver quality improvement programmes, it will be vital that they can demonstrate how they will provide appropriate early years expertise.
Finally we also welcome the recognition of the importance of CPD for staff delivering childcare qualifications in further education, and would encourage all such staff to make greater use of the resources available from professional associations such as Early Education, which are ideally placed to connect them with current research and best practice in the sector.
The greatest challenge presented by the workforce strategy will be to achieve its aims without significant additional funding at a time when local authority early years services are being cut and the combined introduction of the new funding formula and the 30 hours is raising great uncertainty for the sector's financial viability. This makes it particularly crucial for government to work with sector bodies such as Early Education to make best use of all the good work already in place to support professional development and practice, and build capacity within the sector.
Early Education (The British Association for Early Childhood Education) is the leading independent national charity for early years practitioners and parents, campaigning for the right of all children to education of the highest quality. Founded in 1923, it has members in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and provides a national voice on matters that relate to effective early childhood education and care of young children from birth to eight. The organisation supports the professional development of practitioners through publications, training, conferences, seminars and access to a national and regional branch network. For more information on the work of Early Education visit www.early-education.org.uk