Hollow words from Sarah Teather



 I was due to attend training to become an assessor for EYPS on Wednesday this week. This has now been cancelled. This is because, despite Teather’s commitment to graduate leadership, Brighton University is not able to take on any more students for EYPS. The current cohort will complete their courses but the University has to re-tender for the right to offer courses in the future, none of which will start before January 2012. Presumably, the government is going to try and get the University to provide high quality training for less money, otherwise why expect them to tender again for a course which has been running perfectly well? And how is having a gap of nearly a year with no new intake of students going to provide lots more highly qualified graduate staff for Early Years settings in Brighton and Hove?

Yesterday, Sarah Teather confirmed the Government’s commitment to graduate leadership in Early Years settings.


Good news it would seem. Different studies have supported the idea that graduates leading Early Years settings improve outcomes for children attending those settings. The EPPE study found that graduate level leaders of settings led to better quality settings. This study from Wolverhampton’s Centre for Development and Applied Research in Education found that Early Years Professionals are ‘a force for good’.

Early Years Professional status was introduced in 2006 under the previous government in order to ‘up-skill’ the early years workforce and, particularly in private and voluntary-led settings, improve the level of staff qualifications. In stark contrast to countries like Finland, daycare staff in private nurseries in England have traditionally had low levels of qualifications. Existing graduates were encouraged to get their EYPS through University based study and a rigourous assessment process. The training programmes were fully funded through the CWDC (losing it’s governmental status as part of the bonfire of the quangos) and daycare settings got supply costs to enable students to be released to undertake this new ‘status’. I got my EYPS in 2007 and, like many others, have found it to be extremely beneficial in enabling me to manage my nursery and implement changes which have led to improvements in the quality of the setting and hence the outcomes for children. This high quality was noted by Ofsted who rated the nursery ‘outstanding’ last year.

Ms Teather said:

“ we will continue to invest funding in graduate programmes in 2011-12, and the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) will continue to deliver both the Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) and the New Leaders in Early Years (New Leaders) programmes.”

The money which Teather is committing to spending on training programmes for EYPs may well be a waste; how are the successful candidates going to get jobs which pay anything close to a graduate salary? And without the prospect of enhanced rates of pay there is very little incentive for people to complete their EYPS. The level of pay in day nurseries for non-graduate staff is extremely low and is often at or little more than minimum wage levels.

Teather goes on to talk about continued funding:

“As I’ve said before in these pages, the Department secured a good spending review settlement for Early Years services against a difficult economic backdrop. The Early Intervention Grant brings together funding for Sure Start, youth and family support for the most vulnerable children and will give local authorities greater freedom and flexibility in designing local services. This includes the recruitment and deployment of graduate leaders and investment in other qualifications to support the wider workforce.”

Under the previous government, a Graduate Leader Fund was created which local authorities administered to provide incentives to daycare settings to employ EYPs by subsidising salaries. This helped significantly with recruitment and retention. This is something which Ms Teather implies is a good thing which she would encourage councils to retain. But the funding is contained in the Early Intervention Grant which is being cut by 10% locally. And it is not ring fenced, so cash-strapped councils may not be able (or willing) so continue to provide the Graduate Leader Fund, certainly at the levels required to top up salaries adequately.

The previous government created a requirement for full daycare settings (open all day) to have an Early Years Professional by 2015. This, coupled with funding incentives under the banner of the Graduate Leader Fund, provided a significant incentive for nurseries to ensure at least one member of staff worked towards EYPS. This requirement has now been scrapped. Without a requirement and without adequate subsidies to wages, I can’t see how or why most profit-driven nurseries (or even those like mine which are just trying to break even) will continue to recruit or retain graduate level leaders such as EYPs. The other funding (for free nursery education for 3 and 4 year olds) is only enough to pay non-graduate level staff, and with increases in VAT and other costs, even this will be difficult.

Ms Teather: “There is a lot to feel confident about in the Early Years workforce.”  I wish I could agree.

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2 Responses to Hollow words from Sarah Teather

  1. MazHappy says:

    Whilst we would all argue that the current level of funding isn’t even sufficient to pay non-graduate (but still qualified) practitioners, much less EYPs, I agree with Sarah Teather when she says there’s a lot to feel confident about in the Early Years workforce.

    She and her colleagues know that the Government’s ‘free’ 15-hour flexible offer relies on the goodwill of settings and practitioners. Whilst Local Authorities have a duty to ensure that there is sufficient childcare available to enable eligible children to receive their entitlement, they are unable to provide this for themselves. They need us to provide our high quality services for the inadequate funding available. They know that without our co-operation their policy will disappear in a cloud of chalk dust.

    Sarah Teather is confident because she knows that we will continue to underpin her policy by providing our goodwill and working for a lower hourly rate than most cleaners get paid. She is confident because she knows groups like yours and mine will continue to put our responsibilities to the children and families we support before monetary gain. She is confident because she knows that we will rise to yet more challenges and changes and do everything in our power to put children’s well-being at the heart of everything we do.

    Well most of us will. Some of us will shake our heads with regret at the families who will no longer be able to push their child to pre-school in a buggy because that group closed its doors having failed to remain sustainable. Some of us will end our days as ‘front line’ early years practitioners and seek to find new careers in allied organisations and assume supporting or teaching roles. Some of us will take our degrees, and the knowledge and skills that Sarah Teather talks about in such glowing terms and walk away from the sector altogether.

    Perhaps this is why the requirement for an EYP to be in every full daycare setting has been scrapped – maybe in her heart Sarah Teather knows that there is a very real chance that we just won’t be there in the numbers she would require to fulfill that particular policy?

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