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Save the Children highlights importance of early years teachers

Save the Children today has released a new report, Untapped Potential, which points to the importance of early years teachers in nursery settings.

The charity states that children are almost 10% more likely to reach the expected level of development at age five if they attend a high-quality nursery with an early years teacher. Government figures currently show that one in three children started school in 2014/15 without having reached the expected level of development, a figure that rose to half of the most disadvantaged children.

Save the Children’s analysis reveals that the majority (62%) of private, voluntary and independent providers who offer 15 hours free early education, do so without an early years teacher or equivalent working directly with children. This equates to more than 17,500 settings. It also points to vast differences in numbers of early years teachers within settings, from region to region, which the charity believes leads to further inconsistencies in the quality of early years provision.

The report, however, is focused on nursery settings and excludes the home-based childcare delivered by childminders.  In fact, nearly all studies pertaining to quality have looked at 3- and 4-year-olds in group settings. PACEY believes that more research is needed around the factors influencing high quality in home-based settings – and the impact of higher qualifications there.

However there is little doubt that a highly qualified and trained workforce is at the heart of high quality childcare provision. PACEY has repeatedly joined our sector colleagues in calling on the Government to implement an ambitious early years workforce strategy to help practitioners develop their skills and progress their careers, as well as encourage talented new entrants into the sector.

Liz Bayram, PACEY Chief Executive comments: “Save The Children has highlighted that early years teachers are vital to providing high quality early education in group settings, and PACEY strongly supports the report’s recommendation for a workforce quality supplement in the new early years national funding formula. We also share their call for a workforce strategy to be published as soon as possible.

“However, increasing the number of early years teachers is not in itself a magic bullet. It is also crucial to recognise the contribution that non-graduate practitioners, including childminders, make to providing high quality care and education for children. Most practitioners hold a Level 3 early years qualification, and they need to be supported to further develop their skillsets and progress within their profession.

“Whilst qualifications have an important role in raising the quality of childcare, research has shown that continuing professional development (CPD) is equally essential in order to maintain a high quality and up-to-date early years practice. The Government’s workforce strategy must recognise and support the need for more high-quality CPD delivered in flexible, cost-effective and innovative ways.”