Cheryl Hadland, Managing Director of Tops Day Nurseries and the Aspire Training Team, puts her argument forward that the newly proposed Early Years Educator (EYE) needs to be more practical for both employers and employees:
“The EYE criteria is reasonable but as an employer I don’t believe the qualification alone will prepare students to be competent at work.
Employers need staff to be able to make observations, assessments, plan, set up activities, care for and play with the children.
It’s a very practical job and we are increasingly using technology to reduce the paperwork to spend more time with the children, but the EYE does the opposite with an increased loading on theory and academic rigour.
Whilst we do need staff to know why they do what they do, of course, I think it’s gone too far.
Students will need to learn and practise academic diligence, referencing etc. But if they want to go straight to work they need to able to be responsible for a number of key children, communicate with their families, contribute to the team and to staff meetings.
There’s not enough of that in this EYE. An apprenticeship including an Early Years qualification prepares them far more effectively for work, but not so well for University and Awarding Bodies have brought out several versions of the EYE to try and accommodate this.
My ideal would be an access to HE course after a Level 3 apprenticeship for those wishing to, and an access to employment after a college course (unless they’ve done an apprenticeship), as I don’t think one course fits all well enough for the employers.
All my nursery managers have at least a Level 4 or 5 and most have degrees, so we need to make sure the route through from Level 3 to Level 6 or 7 is facilitated – but not at the expense of the children.
Doing a placement is so different from being employed, for example students are not in ratio, don’t have key children, and don’t go to staff meetings.
Attendance of 80 percent might mean you pass a college course, but would give you the sack in employment.
There’s also nothing in the EYE that covers HR, so I could not let a Level 3 graduate come straight in to ‘supervising’ as in a day nursery this inevitably means leading/supervising staff as well as children and they need supervisor and leadership/mentoring/coaching skills for that.
If someone applied to work at Tops Day Nurseries with just a college EYE, I could employ them at the level of nursery assistant and it would probably take three months before I could offer them the position as a key person and a year or more before they could lead another adult, never mind a team.
An apprentice at Level 3 would probably have key children before they finished the EYE as they would probably have been working in ratio for the last year.
I don’t agree with the requirement for Level 3 staff to have GCSE maths and English at grade C, some of the maths will never be used in a day nursery and yet students can achieve this grade without the functional skills that they do need to work effectively because they aren’t on the syllabus.
An English GCSE doesn’t test listening or speaking, crucial when communicating with small children, their parents and colleagues. The government seems to be using the GCSE as an intelligence and general education test and I think there are far better ways to assess this for the workplace.
The effort to professionalise people working in day nurseries is a great one. But I think the input to the EYE has been dominated by academics and is not as informed by employers as it could have been, leaving employers still to deliver a lot of training post EYE to produce effective employees, and particularly employees who can lead or supervise a room.”