'Dramatic' drop in early years teacher trainees

The disparity in pay, career progression and professional status is 'deeply problematic', warns the Sutton Trust

Claudia Civinini

An early-years teacher kneeling on the floor with a small child

Boosting the qualifications of early years workers – including the creation of Early Years Teacher status – has failed to create a crucial influx of highly qualified staff, according to a new report.

A Sutton Trust analysis, published today, sets out how recruitment to early years teacher courses has dropped "dramatically" over the past five years.

The report focuses on recommendations from the 2012 Nutbrown review, which criticised the qualification system and training for early years staff and put forward 19 recommendations to government, of which only five were taken up.

Among the five were new Early Years Educator and Early Years Teacher qualifications.

But the Sutton Trust report suggests that the new teaching qualification has not taken off as hoped. While there were 2,327 new enrolments in early years initial teacher training in 2013, the provisional number for the year 2019-20 is 354, it shows.


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The report says: "The creation of the new qualifications of Early Years Educator and Early Years Teacher has not led to a boost in recruitment of higher qualified staff in the sector.

"In fact, recruitment to early years teacher (EYT) courses has dropped dramatically over the last five years, significantly limiting progress towards securing highly qualified leaders in all settings."

Early years teachers 'need better pay and recognition'

Early Years Teaching Status is different to Qualified Teaching Status in that it only allows practitioners to work with children up to the age of 5.

Early years teachers do not have QTS and are not on the same pay scale as teachers in schools. Their pay will be set by their employer.

The report points out that disparities remain in how early years teachers and qualified teachers are considered in the sector.

It reads: “They are not viewed as having equal status as professed by government, due to differentials in pay, career progression and professional status."

A lack of equal recognition in pay, career progression or professional status between EYT and QTS roles is “deeply problematic” and can be considered “central to the current recruitment crisis", the report warns.

These findings echo a report earlier in the year by NatCen Social Research, which said early years teachers should be paid the same as primary school teachers, to combat the view that jobs in the sector are "easy" or "unskilled".

Today's Sutton Trust report also assesses how the qualifications and working conditions in the early years sector overall have changed since the 2012 Nutbrown review.

Recruitment problems among early years staff persist, it says.

The report reads: "Current evidence indicates that this crisis has worsened over recent years, as funded provision has expanded and demand for early education and childcare has soared at a time of better-rewarded employment being available in other sectors of the labour market."

The report also says there is a high turnover in the workforce, meaning that more experienced and qualified staff are being lost, due to low salaries and lack of career benefits.

This has led to an increase in staff with lower qualifications in many settings, it adds.

The report urges the government to improve training, pay and conditions of early years staff – especially levelling up funding and conditions between the private and maintained sector – to support children's learning and development and avoid losing "generations of talent".

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “The early years workforce should be given the pay and training they deserve.

"First and foremost, we need a clear vision for the early years workforce that addresses disparity in pay amongst staff and provides them with adequate development and qualifications.

 “Investing in the people who work in our early years sector will bring benefits to all young children – but particularly the most disadvantaged – for years to come.”

The authors and the Sutton Trust offered five priority areas for urgent action:

  1. A vision for the workforce: The sector needs a clear vision for the early years and childcare workforce and a restatement of the crucial importance of achieving a well-qualified, high-status and better-rewarded profession to achieve a world class early years service.
  2. Access to qualifications: Barriers to accessing entry-level (1-3) qualifications should be addressed urgently to encourage new recruits into the sector, with a view to establishing a Level 3 (A-level equivalent) qualification as the benchmark for the sector.
  3. Access to professional development: CPD, which follows on from initial training, needs to be a requirement for all staff throughout their careers and be properly funded, and the current barriers to access need to be addressed.
  4. Graduate leadership: Incentives for graduate leaders to be employed in all early years settings should be reinstated through a "Leadership Quality Fund", but especially for those working with less advantaged children and those with particular needs.
  5. Pay and conditions of employment: The enormous disparities on pay, conditions of employment and status across the maintained and private sectors – with higher quality pay, qualifications and provision more likely to be in the maintained sector – must be addressed and funding levelled up if progress is to be made on professionalising the early years workforce and ensuring the sustainability of the sector.

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.

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Claudia Civinini

Claudia Civinini

Find me on Twitter @claudiacivinini

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