Guidance

Check early years qualifications

Find out if a person’s qualifications allow them to work in an early years setting, and if you can include them in staff:child ratios.

This guidance is for anyone who wants information about early years qualifications.

All early years providers working with children from birth to 5 years old must follow the regulations on early years foundation stage (EYFS) staff:child ratios. This is the number of qualified staff, at different qualification levels, an early years setting needs to have in order to meet the needs of all children and ensure their safety. These regulations are set out in the early years foundation stage (EYFS) statutory framework.

Providers must make sure staff have the appropriate qualifications to count in the ratios, including the need to have at least one staff member trained in paediatric first aid.

Qualification requirements

Qualifications and ratios

The Department for Education (DfE) defines the qualifications that staff must hold to count in EYFS staff:child ratios. Providers can use our early years qualifications lists to:

  • check if a person’s qualification meets the approved ‘full and relevant’ criteria for early years qualifications
  • confirm if a person counts in the EYFS staff:child ratios

The guidance on Early years qualifications and ratios covers:

  • which qualifications are acceptable to work in early years
  • paediatric first aid (PFA)
  • how to contact the department and disputes

Qualifications achieved in England

The Early years qualifications achieved in England guidance details the list of qualifications gained in England that are all full and relevant and accepted by DfE to work in an early years setting.

It covers:

  • qualifications started before 1 September 2014
  • qualifications started after 1 September 2014
  • level 2 and 3 qualifications
  • special educational needs and disability (SEND)

Qualifications achieved outside England

If you did not get your qualification in England you will have to make an application for recognition to work in early years education in England.

The Early years qualifications achieved outside England guidance covers the information you will need to apply for recognition of overseas qualifications to be counted in the EYFS staff:child ratios in England.

This applies to those in:

  • Scotland
  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland
  • Europe
  • Rest of the world

Qualifications that do not meet the criteria

Some qualifications do not meet the ‘full and relevant’ criteria set by DfE, meaning you cannot count them, at the appropriate level, in the EYFS staff:child ratios.

Based on certain criteria this could include:

  • nurses
  • midwives
  • specialist community public health nurses

The Early years qualifications that do not meet the criteria guidance provides further information.

Pathway into early years

The Pathway into early years education guidance is for:

  • anyone considering a career in the sector
  • careers advisers
  • Department for Work and Pensions work coaches
  • early years practitioners who wish to progress their careers
  • employers

It contains planning information and tools for those interested in working in the early years education sector including an Early years career progression map.

Published 25 April 2014
Last updated 10 February 2022 + show all updates
  1. Updated with links to pages containing existing early years qualification information in a new format.

  2. We have updated the link to the level 3 early years special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) qualification specification and role description.

  3. Added information about Pearson knowledge-only pathways to explain that staff with these qualifications cannot count towards the staff:child ratios. Also updated to inform that the level 5 early years lead practitioner apprenticeship is now live. Removed the content relating to the temporary flexibilities for qualifications during the COVID-19 pandemic as they no longer apply.

  4. Updated 'Overseas qualifications' with additional information on how to request recognition of overseas qualifications.

  5. We have updated the 'Overseas qualification' section with information about the Statement of Comparability (SoC) which will need to be provided with the qualification information.

  6. Added information about the qualifications affected by changes to NCFE CACHE early years educator (EYE) and early years educator (EYP) qualifications.

  7. Updated 'Overseas qualifications' section with instructions on how to apply for recognition.

  8. Updates to the 'Overseas qualifications' and 'Qualifications started before 1 September 2014' sections with clarification about qualifications information.

  9. Updated information on 'temporary flexibilities' that may apply to this guidance to reflect changes to regulations.

  10. Updates to level 3 qualifications early years educator criteria, level 2 early years practitioner apprenticeship standards and level 2 literacy and numeracy qualifications.

  11. Updated sections: Qualifications started after 1 September 2014, Early childhood studies (ECS) and related degrees, and Level 2 literacy and numeracy qualifications.

  12. Added information about level 4 and 5 qualifications completed as part of a level 6 course.

  13. Added information about T Levels and early years apprenticeships.

  14. Added information on the level 3 early years educator qualification.

  15. Added a link for early years qualifications that meet the level 2 early years criteria.

  16. Clarification of criteria for level 2 early years qualifications from 1 September 2014. Revised information about overseas qualifications for working in the early years sector. Addition of links to websites housing the early years careers progression map.

  17. Added a section for the 'Early years career progression map' and updated the apprenticeships, SEND and post-September 2014 sections.

  18. Updated 'Qualifications started after 1 September 2014' and added section on 'SEND'.

  19. Change to nursing qualifications, adding: The DfE consider that it would not be practical for an individual to maintain their registration if they no longer practice as a nurse. If it can be evidenced that a nurse has been on the register before 1 September 2014, then they continue to be full and relevant.

  20. Clarified the information about early years apprentices not counting towards the EYFS staff:child ratios until they have qualified.

  21. Updated Scottish qualification requirements

  22. Updated text to show policy changes to literacy and numeracy requirements and revised apprenticeships information.

  23. Content updated and new links added to the level 3 educator qualifications.

  24. New apprenticeship standards

  25. First published.