The minister responsible for childcare and early years, Nadhim Zahawi MP, has written a letter to the Chair of the Education Select Committee to explain that the Government will not be taking forward the key commitments it made in its 2017 Early Years Workforce Strategy concerning Early Years Teachers.
The Department for Education has decided not to:
- Permit Early Years Teachers to teach in maintained schools
- Conduct a feasibility study into developing a programme to grow the graduate workforce in disadvantage areas.
The minister argues that these initiatives are no longer needed because there are now equal numbers of “good” and “outstanding” early years settings in disadvantaged areas, and evidence from the SEED study has indicated that children in disadvantaged areas are now just as likely to be able to access high quality education as children in more affluent areas. He also points out that permitting Early Years Teachers to teach in maintained schools wouldn’t give them the same pay and conditions as teachers with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). The minister acknowledges that it has been “very challenging” to recruit graduates to work in PVI settings. However, he says the Government has decided to prioritise CPD over qualifications, and is investing £20 million in professional development activity focused on disadvantaged areas.
Earlier this year, PACEY and Voice published research on Early Years Teachers and called on the Government to take urgent action to prevent the loss of more specialist early years graduates.
Commenting on the U-turn, Susanna Kalitowski, PACEY Policy and Research Manager, commented:
"PACEY is extremely disappointed to learn that the Department for Education has reneged on the two main commitments in its Early Years Workforce Strategy vis-à-vis Early Years Teachers. The Government has acknowledged there is a major problem recruiting specialist early years graduates, but has done little to consider why this is, or take steps to improve the situation. Although we welcome increased funding for CPD in disadvantaged areas, this will not address the problem of declining numbers of specialist graduates, who have been found to have a particularly strong impact on the outcomes of disadvantaged children. The underlining issue is that Early Years Teachers do not earn the same or have the same recognition as a teacher with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), even though they receive training of a comparable rigour, and are delivering the same curriculum. If the pay and conditions of Early Years Teachers do not improve, the sector will lose talented and dedicated teachers who understand the uniqueness of a child’s early development."