Monday, 25 June 2012

"Feeling a bit offended" - the Nutbrown Review and Early Years Professional Status (EYPS)

As someone who was involved in supporting the Nutbrown Review of early years qualifications, I'm really pleased to see that it's being so well received. On the whole.

The main exception to this seems to be the proposals about Early Years Professional Status. This was always going to be contentious, and I think that today's piece in Nursery World does a good job of covering that. I imagine that Alexandra Skvortsov is speaking for many when she says that "Teaching a class of children is very different from interacting with a six-month old baby. I didn't want to be a teacher, I could have got QTS at any point. I feel a bit offended, as if EYPS is a second-rate qualification for people who can't get into teaching. We think of ourselves as specialists in our chosen work."

I think her feelings are understandable. It must be a matter for regret, when changes are proposed to a qualification or exam, leaving people feeling that something they have worked hard for isn't valued any more.
But I think she, and others, are coming at this from the wrong place.

Yes, there is a clear difference between interacting with a baby and teaching a reception class. But so is there a difference between being a hospital teacher working with small groups of children, and a secondary school PE teacher; or between teaching a Year 3 class in a primary school and working individually with a child on the Reading Recovery programme. There are important similarities as well as differences. What Professor Nutbrown is recommending, is that we think of early years pedagogy, and pedagogical leadership, running right through the EYFS. There are some similarities to this idea and the developments in New Zealand towards a teacher-qualified early years workforce, or the Danish model of social pedagogy for all those working with children up to 6 years old. The Nutbrown Review is calling for an end to the traditional model, where those working with children up to three are lower in status and qualification, and less trained, than those working with older children in schools who have the title of "teacher" and much better pay, too. 

Early Years Professional Status aimed to deal with that, but it failed. EYPs are nowhere near as well paid as teachers. According to the DFE's evaluation of the scheme [opens as a PDF], the large majority either work with older children in the EYFS, or do not work directly with children much at all, as they are managers.
There are several structural problems with EYPS beyond the issues of pay and status. Most notably, you can gain EYPS without ever being formally observed and assessed on your practice by an experienced, external tutor. That gap means that whilst there are lots of good EYPs, there are also some who are much less good, have only had narrow experiences in their own setting, and may be better at putting together files and evidence than actually caring for and teaching young children.

At the same time, teacher qualifications need urgent reform. Current routes do not meet the requirements of the EYFS, which is a holistic curriculum barely covered in some PGCE courses. A specialist, birth to seven teaching qualification will be a big step forward.

It is difficult for people with EYPS who now have to study more, and be assessed more. That is regrettable. There are parallels - for example, those teachers with the non-graduate teaching certificate who then had to top up their qualification to degree-level. But that probably is not much consolation.

However, the big, important message is that we need - urgently - to improve the status, pay and conditions of many graduate-level practitioners in the Early Years. Cathy Nutbrown has faced up to this problem and proposed a decent solution, which is controversial, bold, and ultimately right.


  1. I would totally agree that we need to improve the status, pay and conditions of graduate practitioners.

    However, giving the qualification a new name is not the answer. PVIs will not be able to afford to pay teacher's/EYP/Graduate wages, whatever you decide to call the qualification.

    There are some practical issues with going from 0 to 7years old. In Denmark the children start school at 6 years old ( so you are working within one curriculum.

    In England 0 to 7 crosses from EYFS in the Primary Curriculum and into Key Stage1. Will the QTS (early years) have to know the National Curriculum, just as EYPs had to have baby room experience, even if they were in a pre-school? What will the benefits be to this?

    As with any profession, there are going to be some candidates stronger than others. Changing the name to QTS and doing further assessment is not going to change this. The government has already identified this with 'performance related pay' for teachers. Will the QTS (early years) be subject to this too?

    And that's before we address the issue of an NQT year - who pays for the CPD, mentor etc? - pension, non-contact time.

    There are lots of qualified teachers with early years knowledge and experience already in the job market. Why aren't they working in nurseries or as childminders?

    I absolutely, totally applaud the sentiment behind the recommendation. Professionally qualified practitioners need the recognition and pay they deserve and earn every day.

    Changing the name and adding a new qualification is unlikely to do this.

  2. Hi Kathy, very interesting comments. I agree about the issue of paying wages - this will depend on government subsidy, there is no way most smaller settings will manage. There is a precedent for this with the Graduate Leader Fund and there might be several mechanisms including a top up paid with the Nursery Education Grant (NEG) for 2, 3 and 4 year olds that recognises the quality where there is a qualified teacher. Although that's a lot of money, equally I would argue that the overall sum spent on NEG has been huge, yet we haven't really seen much benefit to children from the free entitlement yet because there has not been enough emphasis on quality. These are arguments I make elsewhere on my blog in more detail. It's true that just changing the name of a qualification to QTS won't make it better; but QTS is, I think, a more rigorous qualification than EYPS and it is also worth noting that the EPPE Project found that having a qualified teacher was strongly associated with better quality and better outcomes for the children. Finally, I don't agree that there would be no benefits for a practitioner working with the youngest children knowing about the whole 0-7 age phase. Too many people see the "Baby Room" or "Toddler Room" as a kind of poor relation and don't value the learning of the youngest children (even though this is the period of most rapid learning). It was the same in primary schools when I first worked as a nursery teacher. Practitioners need to be confident educators, who have a bigger picture of child development and learning; and they also need to be specialist carers. Again, these are arguments I have been making for many years on this blog. Thanks again for your thoughtful comments and the points you make so strongly.

  3. Dear Julian, here's my two-pennyworth:

  4. Hi Nick - thanks for your comment, and I really like your final point: "But until the sector bites the bullet and calls teachers teachers (and pays them accordingly), and recognises that expertise, we will continue to have this rather odd and too-casual upskilling of some of the most important people in our society."