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.

Overview

All early years providers working with children from birth to 5 years old must follow the regulations on 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 statutory framework for the early years foundation stage (EYFS). Providers must make sure staff have the appropriate qualifications to count in the ratios, including the need to have at least 1 staff member trained in paediatric first aid.

Qualification requirements

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

If a person holds a level 2 qualification that meets the level 2 full and relevant criteria (see below), you can count them towards the EYFS staff:child ratios at level 2.

If a person holds a qualification at level 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 that meets the level 3 full and relevant criteria, you can count them towards the EYFS staff:child ratios at level 3.

Depending on whether the qualification was started before or after 1 September 2014, you may also need suitable level 2 literacy and numeracy qualifications.

Qualifications started before 1 September 2014

Staff who completed or registered for a qualification before 1 September 2014 must hold a qualification that meets the full and relevant criteria for early years qualifications in order to count towards the level 2 or level 3 EYFS staff:child ratios. They do not need to hold level 2 literacy and numeracy qualifications.

Search our full list of pre-September 2014 early years qualifications.

Qualifications started after 1 September 2014

Level 2

From 1 September 2014 until 31 August 2019, all level 2 early years qualifications are full and relevant if they are:

Appropriate to early years practice means that the qualification needs to be relevant to working in an early years setting that covers childcare and child development for the 0 to 5 age range. A level 2 qualification in babysitting, for example, would not be appropriate to early years practice.

From 1 September 2019, all level 2 qualifications must meet the level 2 early years practitioner criteria.. Awarding organisations are currently developing these qualifications which will be available from 1 September 2019.

A list of level 2 early years practitioner qualifications that meet the criteria will be shown when they have been approved.

Level 3

From 1 September 2014, all level 3 qualifications must meet the early years educator criteria. This means that all staff who have registered for a qualification since that date can be counted in the EYFS staff:child ratios at level 3 if they hold:

Search our full list of early years qualifications that meet the early years educator criteria.

If a person holds a level 3 early years qualification but does not have suitable level 2 literacy and numeracy qualifications, you can only count them at level 2 in the EYFS staff:child ratios.

These are the minimum qualification requirements that we expect staff to have if they want to work in an early years setting. However, employers can set their own requirements when recruiting staff if they wish.

We also do not set entry requirements for early years training courses. Training providers set their own entry requirements for entry to courses.

Paediatric first aid (PFA)

Newly qualified staff with a level 2 or level 3 early years qualification, awarded after 30 June 2016, must also have either a full paediatric first aid (PFA) or an emergency PFA certificate within 3 months of starting work. If they do not have this you cannot count them in the EYFS staff:child ratios at level 2 or level 3.

You may also wish to encourage new staff to complete PFA training so that your early years setting can apply for Millie’s Mark. This is a voluntary quality-mark awarded to settings where all staff have an appropriate PFA qualification.

Staff who graduated since 1 September 2014 with a degree in early childhood studies (ECS), or a related degree, vcount at level 3 in the staff:child ratios, as long as they:

Qualified teacher and early years teacher status

Staff count towards the EYFS staff:child ratios at level 3 or 6 if they have been awarded:

  • qualified teacher status (QTS)
  • early years teacher status (EYTS)
  • early years professional status (EYPS)

They do not need separate level 2 literacy and numeracy qualifications. This applies to people awarded QTS, EYTS or EYPS before and after 1 September 2014.

Overseas qualifications

We have worked with UK National Recognition Information Centre (UK NARIC) to develop a bespoke Early Years Service for people with an overseas qualification.

Prospective staff with an overseas qualification should use the UK NARIC website to:

  • determine if the Early Years Service is appropriate for them
  • find out what the Early Years Service will provide and the charge made for the service
  • find out how to apply

Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish qualifications

The early years educator qualifications that started on 1 September 2014 are for England only. Anyone with a qualification from another nation of the UK, who you want to count at level 3 in the EYFS staff:child ratios may need to:

Qualifications started after September 2014 for learners from Wales and Northern Ireland

People with a Level 3 children’s care learning and development (Wales and NI) qualification must have achieved the following 4 optional units:

  • R/504/2191 - Support children’s language, literacy and communication
  • L/504/2190 - Support children’s mathematical development
  • A/601/0121 - Work with babies and young children to promote their development and learning
  • M/502/3812 - Engage with parents in their children’s early learning

Qualifications started after September 2014 for learners from Scotland

People with a Scottish Vocational Qualification 3: children’s care, learning and development at SCQF level 7, who wish to count at level 3 in the EYFS staff:child ratios, also need to achieve the following 5 optional units:

  • DA09 04 (CCLD 345) – Support literacy development
  • DA0A 04 (CCLD 346) – Help pupils to develop their numeracy skills
  • DT1N 04 (CCLD 325) – Support children and young people during transitions in their lives
  • DT1G 04 (CCLD 321) – Support children with additional support needs and their families
  • DR8M 04 (CCLD 309) – Plan and implement curriculum frameworks for early education

People with a Scottish Vocational Qualification 3: SVQ 3 Social Services (Children and Young People) SCQF level 7, who wish to count at level 3 in the EYFS staff:child ratios, must have achieved the following 4 optional units:

  • SCDCCLD0303 - Promote the development of children and young people
  • SCDCCLD0309 - Implement frameworks for early education through the development of curriculum planning
  • SCDCCLD0339 - Promote the care, learning and development of children with additional support needs in early education settings
  • SCDCCLD0345 - Promote literacy, numeracy and language development for children’s early learning

Nursing qualifications

Nurses registered before 1 September 2014 count towards the EYFS staff:child ratios at level 3, if they are designated as follows on the Nursing and Midwifery Council register for nurses, midwives and specialist community public health nurses:

Nurses register – sub part 1

  • RN8: children’s nurse, level 1
  • RNC: children’s nurse, level 1
  • RN1: registered adult nurse, level 1

Nurses register - sub part 2

  • RN7: general nurse, level 2

Midwives register

  • RM: midwife

Specialist community public health nursing register

  • RHV: health visitor
  • HV: health visitor
  • RSN: school nurse
  • SN: school nurse
  • SPC: specialist practitioner
  • children’s nursing
  • SPCC: specialist practitioner: community children’s nursing

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.

Nursing qualifications for nurses registered on or after 1 September 2014 do not meet the full and relevant criteria for early years qualifications and do not count in the EYFS staff:child ratios.

Qualifications that do not meet the criteria

A person must have a qualification that meets the full and relevant criteria for early years qualifications to count towards the early years EYFS staff:child ratios.

Health and social care qualifications do not meet the full and relevant criteria.

Level 2 literacy and numeracy qualifications

Staff who have registered for a qualification since 1 September 2014 that meets the full and relevant criteria must also have suitable level 2 literacy and numeracy qualifications to count towards the EYFS staff:child ratios at level 3.

These are:

English

  • functional skills qualification in English at level 2
  • GCSE/International GCSE qualification in English language and/or literature to at least grade C (grade 4)
  • key skills qualification in communication at level 2
  • A level or AS level qualification in English language and/or English literature to at least grade E
  • O Level qualification in English to at least grade C
  • CSE grade 1 English (language)

Also recognised Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh equivalents.

Maths

  • functional skills qualification in maths at level 2
  • GCSE/International GCSE qualification in maths to at least grade C (grade 4)
  • key skills qualification in application of number at level 2
  • A level or AS level qualification in maths or pure maths and/or further maths to at least grade E
  • O level qualification in maths to at least grade C
  • CSE grade 1 maths

Also recognised Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh equivalents.

Early years apprenticeships

During their training, early years apprentices can be included in the unqualified part of the staff to child ratios in an early years setting, if their employer is happy that they are competent and responsible.

Because an apprenticeship at level 2 or 3 includes a full and relevant level 2 or 3 qualification – no matter when it was achieved – all those who have achieved an apprenticeship can be counted in the staff ratios at level 2 (if they have achieved a level 2 apprenticeship) or 3 (if they have achieved a level 3 apprenticeship).

The Institute for Apprenticeships is working with groups of employers to develop and publish new apprenticeship standards for a range of sectors. This includes a level 3 early years apprenticeship standard (other levels will be developed in the future).

Special educational needs and disability (SEND)

All early years providers are required to have arrangements in place to:

  • identify and support children with special educational needs or disabilities
  • promote equality of opportunity for children in their care

These requirements are set out in the EYFS framework.

The Department for Education (DfE) has worked with organisations specialising in SEND to create a level 3 early years special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) qualification specification and job description for those working in non-maintained early years settings.

The documents developed by the group, are intended as guidance for early years providers and practitioners to help to clarify the role of the early years SENCO. They should be read alongside the ‘Special educational needs and disability code of practice’.

The SENCO qualification specification and job description are available on the following websites:

Awarding organisations will use the qualification specification to develop qualifications for anyone wanting to specialise at level 3 as an early years SENCO. However, it is not a mandatory requirement for an individual in non-maintained settings to hold a level 3 early years SENCO qualification.

SENCOs in local authority maintained schools are required to have qualified teacher status (QTS) and to gain the Master’s-level National Award for Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator within 3 years of taking up the post.

We have developed a level 2 early years SEND qualification specification, which provides continuing professional development (CPD) for level 2 practitioners who achieved a qualification before the introduction of the new level 2 early years practitioner criteria.

The level 2 SEND specification is intended as guidance for early years providers and level 2 practitioners who wish to develop knowledge and skills of working with babies and children with SEND. It also provides guidance for awarding organisations and training providers to develop qualifications or training courses.

The level 2 SEND specification can be found on the following websites:

Free SEND resources

NASEN was funded by the DfE to produce a package of free SEND resources specific to early years, including:

  • webcasts
  • miniguides
  • training materials

Early years career progression map

A career in early education and childcare will help you support young children as they learn, develop and prepare for school. It is rewarding, full of variety and offers progression and different career paths as you grow in experience and confidence.

DfE has worked with an expert reference group to develop an early years careers progression map. It is a tool for staff to plan their careers and for those interested in working in the sector to see the range of job roles and opportunities on offer.

The map provides detailed information about different early years job roles, entry points and progression routes. It’s aimed at:

  • 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

The map is also available on the following pages:

Contact us

Use our contact us form if you have any queries.

Published 25 April 2014
Last updated 5 October 2018 + show all updates
  1. 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.
  2. Added a section for the 'Early years career progression map' and updated the apprenticeships, SEND and post-September 2014 sections.
  3. Updated 'Qualifications started after 1 September 2014' and added section on 'SEND'.
  4. 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.
  5. Clarified the information about early years apprentices not counting towards the EYFS staff:child ratios until they have qualified.
  6. Updated Scottish qualification requirements
  7. Updated text to show policy changes to literacy and numeracy requirements and revised apprenticeships information.
  8. Content updated and new links added to the level 3 educator qualifications.
  9. New apprenticeship standards
  10. First published.