GRADUATE EARLY YEARS TEACHER SHORTAGE

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Several national newspapers and publications, such as Nursery World and TES, have carried a story about Save the Children' analysis of Government figures revealing England is facing an acute shortage of 11,000 graduate Early Years teachers.

The charity warns that as a result 'over 300,000 children are at greater risk of falling behind before they reach school – and staying behind throughout their lives'.

Save the Children accuses the Government of undermining its target to halve the number of pupils starting school behind in talking and reading skills by 2028 by failing to get the grips with this staffing crisis and lowering its ambitions for childcare quality. 

The charity found that while all childcare providers have staff who are trained to care for children, only 36 per cent in the private sector have a qualified Early Years teacher on their team.

Steven McIntosh, Save the Children Director of UK Poverty, said: “Children who start behind, stay behind. But high-quality childcare, led by graduate Early Years teachers, can ensure children are ready for school.

"So instead of lowering ambitions for childcare quality, the Government should keep its promise to address the crisis in training, recruiting and retaining these underpaid and undervalued teachers.

"All of our little ones should have access to nursery care led by an Early Years teacher. Without action, we’ll be letting down our next generation.”

But is this really as shocking as it sounds?

Are children attending an Early Years setting without a graduate teacher doomed to failure?

I think Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, hit the nail on the head in the education charity's response to the story.

He said: “It’s vital that, in looking for ways to improve quality across early education, we do not reduce the a complex issue to a simple solution and a call for higher qualifications.

"Parents, and providers who do not employ degree-level staff know quality is about more than staff’s academic achievements – and that a degree is not the sole marker of the experience, passion and in-depth knowledge high quality practitioners need.”

Well said Mr Leitch.

Let's not forget, a study published by the London School of Economics (LSE) last year found having a graduate teacher in a nursery has only a tiny impact on children's attainment.

Researchers looked at figures, drawn from the National Pupil Database on about 1.8 million five-year-olds who started school in England between 2008 and 2011. These were the most recent figures available when the project began in 2012.

They cross-referenced the children's attainment at the end of their first year at school with information on the nurseries they had attended the previous year.

The results showed that the children from nurseries with teachers qualified to degree level on the staff performed only slightly better than those who had not had access to qualified teachers.

This amounted to having an overall teacher assessment score at the end of the reception year of just a third of a point higher.

Incidentally, the researchers also found only a minimal benefit for children who had attended nurseries rated outstanding by Ofsted, compared with those who had attended other nurseries.