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Early years education is about developing learning through play for all children from birth to five years old. In schools, this is provided by qualified teachers in nursery classes or reception classes, who have often trained on a BEd or PGCE specialising in early years education. They typically work closely with other professionals such as teaching assistants or nursery nurses.
The government wants to attract more high-quality graduates to early years teaching, and has introduced the specialist role of early years teacher to support this. Early years teachers work with children from birth to five and are expected to meet the same entry requirements and pass the same skills tests as primary school teachers.
The Teach First and School Direct programmes now cover early years education.
Teaching in the Early Years Foundation Stage
The Early Years Foundation Stage framework for under-fives focuses on key areas such as personal, social and emotional development, physical development and communication and language. It is used by all professionals who work with children of this age, including childminders, and in settings such as children’s centres, pre-schools and day nurseries. All three and four-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours a week of free early education, and two-year-olds from the least advantaged backgrounds are also entitled.
Graduate career options: early years teacher
Early years initial teacher training leads to early years teacher status (EYTS) which is deemed to be equivalent to QTS.
The pay and conditions for early years teachers are largely determined by employers at a local level. Early years teachers may be employed in any early years setting including primary and nursery schools, free schools and academies, as well as private and voluntary establishments.
Leadership roles in children’s centres
Children’s centres were established to provide high-quality, integrated early years services to communities. This can include family support and health services and activities for parents as well as early education and childcare. Children’s centres may also be based in schools that offer extended services. Children’s centre managers need at least three years’ experience of managing services for children and their families, plus a relevant degree-level qualification.