Providers cut EYT courses due to low demand

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At least 18 EYT-accredited training providers, 16 of which have previously run the courses, have decided not to offer early years initial teacher training (EYITT) this September. These include the University of East London, which is the largest provider of early years courses in the capital.

A spokesman for London Metropolitan University said the course would not run ‘this year or for the foreseeable future’ as ‘there isn’t a high enough demand’.

SCITTELS, a school-led consortium, said it ‘couldn’t get the numbers or quality of candidates to make the course viable’.

Professor Kenneth Newport, executive dean of education at Liverpool Hope University, said, ‘Our decision not to offer EYTS was largely driven by student demand for QTS and by the funding arrangements.’ He added that a primary QTS course with a 3-7 specialism is ‘a popular choice for students, as it opens up more opportunities to work in maintained schools as fully qualified teachers’.

Roehampton, which has never run EYITT, said, ‘We sought accreditation but we decided that it did not fit into our overall education strategy.’

Several providers reported attracting just a handful of students to the EYT course. Kathy Bird, ITT programme manager at Services for Education, said it only ran the course from 2014-15. She said, ‘We just couldn’t recruit enough to make it viable for us. In the first year about ten completed it out of 12. But then NCTL approved other providers, so we were all competing for the same small numbers. We only got about four firm students.’

The news is a blow to the Government, which has tried to use the status to raise standards in the early years workforce – which many in the sector have welcomed. But its statement that ‘EYTS is the equivalent to QTS, as the entry requirements to early years teacher training are the same as for primary teacher training’ has been questioned. EYTs do not have a national payscale and often work in private settings, which means much lower salaries and often more hours than their ‘equivalents’ in schools.

Deborah Harris, senior lecturer in early childhood education and care at Birmingham’s Newman University, which is running EYITT courses from September, said the fact EYTs are not given QTS ‘is one of the major reasons for under-recruitment nationally to EYTS programmes’.

The Department for Education refused to disclose information on the number of EYTs trained each year since the programme started. A spokeswoman said, ‘We can’t provide the data because it is currently being reviewed.’

Despite so many EYITT providers dropping the course for this September, the overall number has remained relatively stable (currently 43) because new providers have come onto the market. In 2014-5 there were 46 EYITT providers listed, including those offering School Direct routes, though two of these opted not to offer EYTS but QTS 3-7 instead. One of these was Redcliffe Nursery School, whose head, Elizabeth Carruthers, said, ‘We never backed it and not a lot of students were interested – there are a lot of people moving from EYTS to QTS because of pay.’

Deborah Lawson, general secretary of Voice, called EYTS ‘getting qualified people on the cheap’. She said, ‘It’s a little alarming when established providers are closing courses because we can be assured that [course] quality is not an issue. The issue is there still isn’t proper career progression.’

CHANGES AFOOT

Current plans to make all schools into academies could mean the ‘dismantling’ of QTS anyway, she added – but either way, ‘both early years and teachers should be properly rewarded’.

Existing providers are also shrinking the number of routes. Last year, Kingston University axed its graduate entry route for September 2015 because of poor recruitment. It will continue running a graduate employment-based route from this year. Worcester University has also dropped the undergraduate pathway to EYTS while retaining postgraduate courses. A spokeswoman said, ‘A reduction in applicants to the course and a decrease in funding meant that the course was no longer viable.’

Providers of existing courses are also reporting that some newly qualified EYTs with previous experience in early years are going straight onto short assessment-only courses to gain QTS.

Eunice Lumsden, head of early years at the University of Northampton, estimated that about 70 per cent of her undergraduate EYTs are going onto QTS courses, or into other professions such as social work.

She said, ‘We tell them very clearly what EYT is but the message they receive is that because of the pay and conditions in the early years sector, being in a school is where you should be.’

Services for Education’s Ms Bird added, ‘You can’t blame people for not wanting to do it. A couple of our young women had ambitions to be teachers but would have to take an unqualified job in a school. Why would they?’

Other providers reported being forced to move graduate-entry EYT students onto QTS programmes because the bursaries provided did not meet their living costs.

EYT bursaries for the next academic year range from £2,000 for a 2.2 to £5,000 for a first, but while postgraduates applying for QTS courses can get a student loan, potential EYTs cannot.

FINANCING

Sarah Gordon of St Edmund’s Nursery School, part of the Bradford Birth to 19 Teaching School Alliance, said 14 of 15 of last year’s intake were transferred to a 3-7 QTS route last year for this reason. ‘Some EYTs get their course fees paid [a grant of £7,000] and a bursary and that’s it – but a lot of people can’t live on £5,000 for the year. But on the QTS programme they can apply for a student loan.’

She said she is now aiming to encourage more candidates with jobs already in early years to apply through salaried routes – for which they would get £14,000 in funding for fees and to cover employer costs.

Many of those doing the course do already work in the early years, Ms Gordon said, adding, ‘A lot of people want to do the EYT training and they will go into jobs in the early years.’ But she called for a ‘level playing field’ with qualified teachers.

University of Northampton’s Ms Lumsden added, ‘Many professionals in other services don’t know EYTs exist or even what they are. EYTs need to be recognised in their own right.’

The DfE spokeswoman said the Government was ‘raising the bar and making a significant investment in the early years sector, working closely with the profession to help improve its status – and as a result salaries have increased, numbers of qualified staff have risen, the number of graduates in the workforce continues to rise, and a record number of providers are rated Good or Outstanding’.

PROVIDERS NOT OFFERING EYITT COURSES FOR 2016-7

Note: some providers have reported they are hoping to offer the course in 2017-8. Some will run QTS 3-7 routes from 2016-7.

Most providers who commented cited recruitment issues, though some said course admin, or not fitting with an overall strategy, was the reason for dropping the course this coming year.

  • Doncaster ITT Partnership
  • Leeds Beckett University
  • Liverpool Hope University
  • London Diocesan Board for Schools
  • London Metropolitan University
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • North West Shares SCITT
  • Primary Catholic Partnership*
  • SCITTELS
  • Services for Education SCITT/S4E
  • Somerset SCITT Consortium
  • The Pilgrim Partnership*
  • University of East London
  • University of Hull
  • University of Portsmouth
  • University of Roehampton*
  • University of Sunderland
  • University of Winchester

*accredited but never actually ran the course

A further university, Bath Spa, which is not currently running the course, is ‘awaiting official confirmation as to whether or not this programme will run during 2016/17’, said a spokeswoman.

Read Eunice Lumsden in 'The time is right for a Royal College for Early Childhood'

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