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Number of people training to become early years teachers plummets by a third in England



  • New data shows that only 365 people are training to become early years teachers, a drop of a third from last year and the fourth year running the number has fallen.
  • Figures released on Thursday show that two in five children in poverty start school without basic skills, such as being able to speak in full sentences.
  • New Save the Children report, It All Starts Here, reveals underlying causes of the childcare staffing crisis which, if resolved, could help stop disadvantaged children from falling behind



LONDON, November 29—There has been a steep decline in the number of people training to become early years teachers, new government figures show. Data released on Thursday shows that only 365 people are embarking on the course – a drop of a third since last year, and a decrease of 84% since 2013/14.

At the same time, new government figures show two in five (43%) children in poverty in England were unable to speak in full sentences, follow basic instructions and express themselves in their first year of primary school.

Official figures reveal a dramatic and persistent gulf between rich and poor. One in four (26%) better-off children are struggling with basic skills at the age of five, meaning there is a 17-percentage point gap between poorer children and their peers across England. This gap has widened slightly since last year (by 0.3%) for the first time in four years.

One of the key ways to help children catch up is high-quality childcare. Yet the number of people obtaining a key qualification that could help narrow this gap between rich and poor has fallen for the fourth year running.

Save the Children has previously identified that there are 11,000 nurseries across England that do not employ an early years teacher. In the most disadvantaged areas, where the need is most urgent, 2,000 early years teachers are needed.

To create an enriching and nurturing environment that supports children’s development, nurseries and other childcare settings need a workforce with a mixture of skills, experience and backgrounds, all with key roles to play.

As part of the right mix of skills and expertise, evidence shows that childcare settings led by a graduate early years teacher are able to provide higher-quality care and education. Early years teachers are trained to support children’s early development, and to identify and support those who are struggling. This includes providing parents with help to support their children’s development at home. Evidence shows early years teachers benefit disadvantaged children the most.

Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds recently pledged to halve the number of pupils starting school behind in talking and reading skills by 2028, but earlier this year the government axed a key commitment to address the early years teacher shortage – a decision criticised by charities, schools and nursery leaders.

Save the Children’s Director of UK Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns, Steven McIntosh, said:

“This steep decline in early years teacher trainees represents a crisis in the childcare workforce. Highly qualified early years teachers play a crucial role in helping children catch up, and are especially needed now with recent figures showing that poorer children are still so much more likely to fall behind by the time they start primary school.

The Government’s commitment to close this early learning gap is welcome, but it is failing to invest in what we know works – a highly qualified childcare workforce. Unless the government gets to grips with this staffing crisis, a generation of children are at risk of being left behind.”

The charity has today published a report, It All Starts Here, which reveals that widespread dissatisfaction with pay, status and conditions is driving existing professionals from the sector and deterring people from becoming early years teachers.

Save the Children would like to see the Government address this staffing crisis as a priority and is calling for trial schemes to support recruitment and retention of early years teachers in some of the most disadvantaged parts of England by boosting salaries, especially in the first five years following graduation.

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  • 57% of disadvantaged pupils achieved a good level of development in 2017-18, compared with 74% of non-disadvantaged pupils – an attainment gap of 17pp. The gap has not changed since last year.
  • The proportion of children achieving a good level of development has increased slightly, with 71.5% of children reaching this, up from 70.7% last year.
  • Nationally, this year’s figures cover 652,400 children. 28.5% (185,934) failed to achieve a good level of development.
  • Girls do better than boys – 78.4% of girls attained a good level of development, compared with 65% of boys. The gender gap is decreasing, but very slowly, from 13.7 percentage points last year, to 13.5 percentage points this year.
  • Poor children are those who have claimed eligibility for free school meals through a qualifying benefit such as income support or universal credit.
  • This year’s full EYFSP results can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/early-years-foundation-stage-profile-results-2017-to-2018
  • This year’s early years training enrolment figures can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-trainee-number-census-2018-to-2019
  • There is mounting evidence of a recruitment crisis in early years teachers. Universities have stopped delivering the courses because the numbers are not sustainable. And Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee set out major concerns that childcare funding pressures are leaving providers cutting back on higher-qualified staff.
  • Save the Children’s report, It All Starts Here: Tackling the crisis in the early years teacher workforce, draws on 368 survey responses and 51 phone interviews with the early years sector, including early years teachers, course leaders for the EYT programme, academics, and members of the wider early years workforce.
  • Save the Children is calling for the government to invest in recruiting and retaining EYTs in the most disadvantaged areas by:
  1. Trialling early career payments for the first five years of working in private, voluntary, and independent settings in disadvantaged areas mirroring an existing scheme for secondary maths teachers.
  2. Trialling a salary supplement scheme to top up wages, to enable providers to afford the additional cost of employing a graduate.
  3. The government to work with the sector to create an example job description for early years teachers to ensure that settings place graduates in roles where they can have the greatest impact.
  4. The government to work with the sector to establish a national induction resource for all newly qualified early years teachers.