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Government publishes long-awaited early years workforce strategy

The Department for Education (DfE) has published an early years workforce strategy for England, for which PACEY has long been calling.

The strategy is divided into two parts. The first half focuses on attracting new joiners to the sector, whilst the second looks at retaining and developing existing members of the workforce. Below we summarise the key commitments made by the Government.

Attracting staff to join the sector

Qualification requirements at level 2 and level 3
  • Staff with a level 3 EYE qualification and level 2 English and mathematics qualifications (including functional skills) will now be able to count in the level 3 staff:child ratios
  • Level 2 childcare qualifications will be reviewed and strengthened by September 2019
Specialist graduates
  • Consult on amending regulations to allow those who hold EYTS, and its predecessor EYPS, to lead nursery and reception classes in maintained schools
  • Review early years initial teacher training routes
  • New programme to develop the graduate workforce in disadvantaged areas
  • Consider how strengthening QTS could raise the status and parity of early years teachers
Careers advice
  • Encourage employers to engage with schools and colleges and talk directly to students about working in the sector
  • Improve links between the profession, job centres and the National Apprenticeship Service
Quality of training
  • Conduct a training needs analysis for early years tutors
  • Trial a Professional Exchange to enable tutors to share challenges and effective practice
  • Provide new support to help tutors keep their practice relevant and effective from September 2019
Diversity of the workforce
  • A task force of early years sector stakeholders will look at how to increase gender diversity in the sector

Retaining and developing staff

Development of career pathways
  • As part of the implementation of the Skills Plan, a panel of professionals, including employers from within the early years sector, will advise on the development of the childcare and early education occupational route
Continuous professional development
  • New online portal that sets out career paths, brings effective online CPD together in one place and provides online training modules
  • Support for training on SEND, speech and language development and effective business management
Supporting children with SEND
  • Develop new early years SEND qualification
  • New guidance from September 2017 for local authorities and providers
Sector-led quality improvement
  • Expand relationships between schools and early years providers via the teaching school network with up to £3 million funding in 2017/18 and 2018/19 and up to £1.5 million in 2019/20
  • Support the development of ‘buy back’ models for quality improvement services in some local authority areas, whereby early years settings purchase support

Responding to the publication of the early years workforce strategy, Liz Bayram, Chief Executive of PACEY, said:

“Our sector’s greatest asset is the over 450,000 people working in settings so we are delighted to welcome the publication of the long-awaited early years workforce strategy.

"The change to GCSE requirements marks a fantastic step forward in encouraging more people to enter the profession. We also applaud the Government’s commitment to strengthening level 2 childcare qualifications and setting out clearer career pathways for the sector, and are pleased that it has recognised the importance of CPD as a crucial means of supporting the current workforce to retain and develop talented practitioners.

"Permitting Early Years Teachers and Early Years Professionals to lead maintained nursery and reception classes would be a positive step forward, but it is crucial that they have a simple means of gaining Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), so that they have access to the same pay and conditions as the wider teaching profession. PACEY has long called for action to support our dedicated early years practitioners to progress their careers and be better rewarded and valued for the vital work they do.

"There are still critical areas that Government needs to address to ensure that the sector is able to respond to the challenges of 30 hours. The funding rate will continue to be a major concern for many providers, and we are disappointed not to see more financial  commitment from government in the strategy to support early years professionals training and development – particularly when they have found £3 million to support early years in schools.

"But this is a welcome first step towards recognising the vital work that practitioners do every day to support children’s learning and development and we will keep a watchful eye as implementation of the strategy progresses.”