Press release

Qualifications are key to high-quality early years education

Professor Cathy Nutbrown deliver the final report in her review of early-years education.

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

Equipping staff with the right skills is the key to ensuring better quality early years education - this is the finding of Professor Cathy Nutbrown’s independent Review of Early Education and Childcare Qualifications, which was published today.

In her independent report, ‘Foundations for Quality’, Professor Nutbrown sets out 19 recommendations to improve the skills and knowledge of those who work with young children.

The report’s other recommendations include:

  • Improving qualifications to make them more rigorous and demanding, with a stronger focus on child development.
  • A focus on improving the delivery of qualifications so that tutors have the support to improve their skills and maintain the current experience of the sector.
  • Asking the early years sector to lead on mentoring new staff, to support them as they enter work and make sure students learn from good practice.
  • Build on progress to encourage graduate leadership in the sector, through Early Years Professional Status, as part of the move towards more teachers in the early years.
  • That the Government should not impose a licensing system for the sector at this stage.

Professor Cathy Nutbrown said:

I have seen many inspirational examples of dedicated staff providing the best environment for playing and learning. I want more young children to benefit from this.

Every child deserves excellent early education and care, and every parent should be confident that their child is getting the best. Early education and care needs to support babies’ and young children’s all round well being and development. That is why I want the workforce to really understand child development, the importance of play, and have good English and maths skills.

There is no doubt that high quality education is important. We need to make sure the early years workforce has the necessary skills, qualifications and experience to provide the very best for our young children.

My recommendations stress quality in ensuring that staff are as good as they can be, and have the skills, knowledge, and understanding to make the most of the government’s investment in the early years. Working in the early years sector should be a recognised and fulfilling career that attracts the best women and men.

There cannot be a compromise on quality and we must be relentless in our desire to improve experience for young children. Taken together, I believe my recommendations will give parents and the early years workforce confidence in the standards of early education and care qualifications.

The report shows that high quality early years provision narrows the gap between disadvantaged children and others, and that staff qualifications improve quality.

The government will now carefully consider Professor Nutbrown’s recommendations before publishing a response later this year.

Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said:

This government wants the best for our young people. It is clear that if children are to have the best start in life, then they must have excellent early education. The evidence that disadvantaged children particularly benefit from quality early education is compelling. This is why we are offering free childcare to hundreds of two year olds across the country.

I warmly welcome Professor Nutbrown’s thoughtful and thorough report. It takes a careful and measured look at the sector, and will be very useful in helping us to shape the future of the early years workforce. We need to attract bright people to the sector so that our young children get the best possible start in life - after all, they only get one chance.

Parents want to be sure that the childcare they use is both high quality and affordable. The review of childcare affordability announced by the Prime Minister will be informed by Professor Nutbrown’s report, for example her suggestion to look at the link between better qualified staff and child : staff ratios.

We will now consider her report very carefully before responding in further detail later this year.

This comes as the Prime Minister has today launched a commission on childcare which will look at how to reduce the costs to families and the burdens on childcare providers. This will explore the effectiveness of current government support and look at how to encourage childcare after school and in the holidays.

It will draw widely on expertise and evidence from within this country and abroad and it will report back in the autumn.

Anne Longfield, Chief Executive of 4Children, said:

4Children is delighted to welcome the recommendations set out in Professor Nutbrown’s review. The clear commitment to delivering the highest quality for our youngest children speaks strongly to the overwhelming evidence showing how crucial the foundation stage is to the social, emotional, cognitive and health outcomes of children.

If implemented, I believe that this review has the potential to lead to a radical change in the early years and childcare support on offer to children and their families in this country - increasing training and skills for workers with challenging and rewarding job opportunities. This report puts forward informed and insightful recommendations to provide the high quality workforce needed to ensure children - especially those with the most disadvantages get the best start possible.

Today 4children is launching a summary of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) for parents. This has been developed with parents and the Department for Education to ensure parents know what the EYFS is about and what they can expect from the professionals working with their child. It was developed following a recommendation from Dame Claire Tickell’s review of the EYFS, that parents should be provided with a brief, simple explanation of what the EYFS is and what they can expect.

Notes to editors

  1. The Professor Nutbrown Review of Early Education and Childcare Qualifications is online at

  2. Children’s Minister Sarah Teather asked Professor Nutbrown to conduct an independent review on early education and childcare qualifications in October 2011. Professor Nutbrown was support by an expert panel which comprised Nicola Amies, Director, Bright Horizons; Michael Freeston, Pre-School Learning Alliance; Julian Grenier - Early Years Adviser, Tower Hamlets; Professor Tricia Maynard - Canterbury Christ Church University; June O’Sullivan - Chief Executive London Early Years Foundation; Helen Perkins - Head of early years, Solihull College; Wendy Scott (TACTYC) Association for the Professional Development of Early Years Educators; Chelle Davison, Joint Chair, SEFDEY; Sue Robb, 4 Children; Ann Headley, former Adviser/Inspector in Bradford LA; Megan Pacey, Early Education; Stuart Turner, National Childminding Association; Purnima Tanuku, National Day Nurseries Association; Sharon Curtis, Ellesmere Children’s Centre, Sheffield; Fiona Pethick, Ofqual.

  3. Professor Nutbrown’s Review will feed into the Commission on Affordable Childcare.

DfE enquiries

Central newsdesk - for journalists 020 7783 8300

General enquiries - for members of the public 0370 000 2288

Published 19 June 2012