Press release

Childcare qualifications overhaul

The National College of Teaching and Leadership sets out more detail on what will be expected of the new early years teachers and early years educators.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


As part of the government’s overhaul of training and qualifications in childcare and early education, the National College of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) is today setting out more detail on what will be expected of the new early years teachers and early years educators.

Early years teachers will be graduate leaders in early years settings on a par with school teachers. They will need to meet new standards, published today, which closely mirror the standards for classroom teachers, and trainees will need to take the same skills tests taken by classroom teacher trainees. These measures will raise the status of the profession and help attract high-quality graduates into early education.

Early years educators will hold A level equivalent qualifications and provide support to early years teachers. At the moment employers and parents are faced with a bewildering number of qualifications, making it almost impossible to know which staff are best able to provide high-quality early education. Under new criteria published today, only the very best qualifications will earn the ‘early years educator’ label.

Ministers hope that employers and parents will come to recognise the early years teacher and early years educator titles as benchmarks of quality.

NCTL chief executive Charlie Taylor said:

There is nothing more important in early education and childcare than the quality of the staff who are delivering it. The workforce supporting our babies, young children and their parents should be well-qualified, well-respected and well-led.

A third of children start school without basic language and communication skills. In poorer areas, this rises to more than 4 in 10. Highly skilled and qualified staff, who understand how children learn and develop, who inspire and engage children, and who have good curriculum knowledge and teach effectively, are key to changing this.

The new early years educator criteria and Teachers’ Standards (early years) will help ensure children are ready to make the most of the opportunities available to them as they move through nursery, key stage 1 and into more formal education.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said:

Good quality early years education, which is teacher-led, has been shown to be beneficial for children, especially those from low income backgrounds. It makes a difference to young children’s lives and enables them to learn and grow. It is important for parents to have a choice of different approaches in early years - including teacher-led activity such as story telling; singing and dancing; structured group activities where children learn to interact with each other; and free play and exploration.

When parents hand their child over to the care of a childminder or nursery they are not just entrusting them with their child’s physical safety; they are also entrusting their child’s brain. These changes will mean parents and employers can have more confidence in the quality of the staff looking after their children. Early years educators will be expected to have English and maths GCSEs so that parents know the people they are entrusting their children to will have literacy and numeracy skills. The more robust early years educator criteria will help to slim down the number of qualifications in the future so it is easier for parents and employers to understand them.

The criteria and standards are designed to allow for a range of pedagogical approaches or learning styles. This gives professionals the freedom and flexibility to deploy a range of methods and to decide how best to structure children’s activities throughout the day. These include a combination of teacher-led group activities where children learn to interact with each other; such as using shape sorter, using bricks and Lego to build, story-time - and free play and exploration.

Andreas Schleicher of the OECD has said that “staff qualifications are one of the strongest predictors of the quality of early childhood education and care.” Similarly, Sir Michael Wilshaw states that leaders of high-quality early years settings are “not afraid to teach children and to ensure that their staff are highly skilled adults who improve the vocabulary, cognitive and social skills of very young children, particularly when they are not able to gain them at home.”

Early years teachers and early years educators are at the heart of the government’s childcare reforms. Today’s publication of the Teachers’ Standards (early years) and early years educators criteria will offer an opportunity to raise the status of the profession, and deliver better quality care and teaching for children in the early years.

Professor Pat Preedy, GEMS Chief Academic Officer; Early Childhood Education and ISA representative said:

Early childhood is the time of greatest brain development and learning. These qualifications provide a framework to ensure that we have highly trained and skilled professionals who understand child development and how to support children to achieve the best outcomes. We have moved away from the old arguments of play versus formal approaches. Professionals are able to use a range of techniques to meet the age, stage and needs of young children. I am particularly pleased that transition to school is included as education should be a continuous and seamless process.

Dr Jo Saxton, Director of Education, Future Academies said:

The new EYE qualifications criteria and Teachers’ Standards set a high, but achievable standard; one which demonstrates how carefully the government and NCTL have thought about how to ensure that our young are both nurtured and given a head-start in their education. This is in the interest of both the children who will benefit directly, as well as in the interest of our nation. As a nation which formalises education at a younger age than some others, we have a duty to ensure this time is well-used. The new criteria and standards represent the intention of the government, NCTL and the practitioners and experts who contributed to them, to do just that.

Notes to editors

The government’s publication ‘More great childcare’ (January 2013) sets out the vision for quality in early education and childcare. It included the government’s response to Professor Cathy Nutbrown’s report ‘Foundations for quality’ published in June 2012.

NCTL ran a consultation on the Teachers’ Standards (early years), which underpin the training and assessment of early years teachers, and a separate consultation on early years educator criteria. This is criteria that all level 3 qualifications have to meet.

The new early years educator criteria is on GOV.UK. The government’s response to the early years educator criteria consultation can be found on the department’s e-consultations site.

The new Teachers’ Standards (early years) is available on GOV.UK. The government’s response to the Teachers’ Standards (early years) is available on the department’s e-consultations site.

From September, early years teacher trainees will have to meet the same entry requirements as primary trainee teachers - including at least a GCSE grade C in English, mathematics and science, or equivalent. From September 2014, trainees will have to pass the same skills test as classroom teacher trainees before they start their course.

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Published 11 July 2013