Early years initial teacher training: a guide for providers

Find out how you can get involved in recruiting and training early years teachers.


Early years initial teacher training leads to the award of early years teacher status.

Training and assessment are designed around the teaching standards for early years (known as the Teachers’ Standards (Early Years)). These standards focus on the birth to 5 years old age range.

Early years teacher status is equal to qualified teacher status (QTS).

From September 2014, early years initial teacher training (ITT) will be run by accredited ITT providers only. These providers will cover both QTS and early years teacher status.

This new approach is designed to ensure the highest quality training and to encourage more high-quality graduates into early years education.

Types of training and funding

There are 4 ways for early years teacher status to be awarded. For trainees commencing training in September 2014, funding is available from the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) for 2 of these routes.

Graduate entry mainstream (full-time)

This route is for graduates studying full-time through an academic-based route. Typically this will be over a 1 year period.

The following funding is available from NCTL:

  • grant of £7,000 for course fees – available to all graduates

Or for trainees with high academic achievement:

  • bursary of £9,000 for graduates with a first class degree
  • bursary of £4,000 for graduates with a 2:1 degree

Training providers receive the grant funding on behalf of trainees to cover course fees. You will also receive the bursaries and pass these on to your trainees.

Graduate entry employment based (part-time)

This route is for graduates in an early years setting who require training and further experience to demonstrate the Teachers’ Standards (Early Years).

It is also for graduates who are newly recruited to an early years setting and are undertaking early years ITT through an employment-based route.

Training typically takes place over a 1 year period.

A £14,000 incentive from NCTL is available to employers. This covers the training course fees of up to £7,000. It could also contribute to supply cover for the trainee and other support costs such as salary enhancements.

Training providers receive the funding to cover the course fees. The remaining funding is then transferred to the early years employer.

Undergraduate entry (full-time)

This route is for those who wish to undertake a level 6 degree in an early childhood related subject along with early years teachers status. It is typically a full time 3 or 4 year route for those entering the profession.

Funding is not available from NCTL for this route. Funding for course fees can be accessed by eligible trainees through tuition fee loans from Student Finance England (SFE).

Assessment only

This route is for graduates with experience of working with children from birth to 5 years old who can demonstrate the teaching standards without further training. An example of this is an early years teacher from overseas.

Assessment typically takes place over 3 months.

This is a self-funded route.

Training places

Requesting places

Accredited ITT providers can request training places to run early years ITT on an annual basis. You can do this by submitting an expression of interest to NCTL.

View a list of providers awarded training places for September 2014 (PDF, 203KB, 1 page) .

More information about requesting places for training starting in September 2015 will be available later in the year.


NCTL allocates training places to ensure:

  • training is of a high quality
  • we maintain a balanced supply of early years teachers, at a national and local level

We provide training places to the highest quality providers. Our role is to meet government priorities on a year-by-year basis.

This is a new approach. We no longer contract providers to offer training for a predetermined number of places over an agreed period.


We can’t guarantee that every provider will receive the number of places they request. This is because the number of funded training places is limited and we need to ensure a geographical spread.

If we receive more requests than we can offer, we prioritise using our allocations criteria. We look for providers who have:

  • strong evidence of working in partnership with local early years settings and schools
  • an outstanding grade from Ofsted
  • a good track record in recruiting to their allocated places
  • successful employment outcomes for their trainees
  • a high proportion of trainees with first class and 2:1 degrees
  • a large group of partners which enables a regular supply of places and consistent levels of training each year

After we have received applications for places and supporting evidence, we confirm funding decisions.

You can choose to apply for unfunded places only.

Becoming an accredited training provider

To offer early years ITT, you must be accredited to run at least 1 programme leading to the award of QTS. You must not hold a grade 3 or 4 rating from Ofsted.

Potential new providers need to secure accreditation to request places. Find out more about becoming an accredited provider.

Working in partnership to provide training

If you are not accredited to provide early years ITT training, you can work with an existing accredited provider.

A partnership agreement must be in place between the accredited provider and any other organisations providing training. This should explain the roles and responsibilities of each partner.

Recruiting trainees

Once we have confirmed your allocation of early years ITT places, you can start recruiting candidates.

For training starting in September 2014, candidates submit applications directly to providers. You are responsible for managing this process.

Entry requirements for candidates

Entry requirements for early years are the same as for primary ITT.

You must ensure candidates:

  • have achieved a GCSE grade C (or equivalent) in English, mathematics and a science subject
  • hold a first degree from a UK higher education institution or equivalent qualification (in the case of graduate routes)
  • have taken part in a rigorous selection process designed to assess their suitability to teach
  • have passed the professional skills tests


You will need to design your training programme to meet the needs of your trainees. This will include the content they must cover and how you structure and assess their training.

All your trainee teachers will need to meet the teaching standards for early years. You should not recommend the award of early years teacher status until they have met all the standards. A shorter training programme may be suitable for some, but for others you may need to extend training so they can meet the standards.

Trainee teachers must be trained to teach across the Early Years Foundation Stage (from birth to 5 years old). They must also understand how early education links to education beyond age 5 and into key stages 1 and 2 in school.

Your training programme will need to provide trainees with enough time in early years settings or schools to allow them to show they meet the standards.

Assuming trainees are full time, this would mean:

  • 160 days (32 weeks) for a 4 year undergraduate programme
  • 120 days (24 weeks) for a 3 year undergraduate programme or graduate (university-based) route

Placements should take place in at least 2 schools or early years settings and include at least 2 weeks in a school in key stage 1.

For graduates on an employment-based route, the amount of time will be determined by their specific training programme.

Quality assurance and inspection arrangements

You must ensure:

  • your management structure supports the effective operation of the training programme
  • you establish a partnership agreement setting out the roles and responsibilities of each partner, demonstrating the significant role of early years settings or schools in recruiting, selecting, training and assessing trainees
  • you monitor, evaluate and moderate all aspects of provision rigorously and show how these contribute to securing improvements in the quality of training and the assessment of trainees

Employment-based requirements

If you are offering employment-based early years ITT, trainees working at maintained schools must be:

  • employed as unqualified teachers
  • paid in accordance with at least point 1 of the unqualified teacher pay scale for the period of their training

The salaries for trainees employed in academies, independent schools and early years settings are set at a local level by the employer.

Employers must not expect trainees to carry out more than 90% of the duties normally required of a full-time early years teacher.

Find out more

More guidance on programme requirements and design can be found in the early years ITT requirements: supporting advice document (MS Word Document, 115KB) .

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