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Call for more graduates oversimplifies problem, says Alliance

By Rachel Lawler
Child playing nursery teachers
The government's target to halve the number of children starting school without expected early reading and speaking skills is being undermined by a lack of graduates in the early years sector, according to research from Save the Children.
Save the Children says that there is a shortage of 11,000 graduate early years teachers in England. It argues that this means that 300,000 children are "at greater risk of falling behind before they start school".
A Freedom of Information request revealed that 48% of children attending an early years setting in England do not have access to a graduate teacher.
But the Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said that this risked reducing a "complex issue to a simple solution".
Early years teacher training
Save the Children also found that the number of people enrolling on Early Years Initial Teacher Training courses has fallen for the past four years in a row, with only 595 people starting a course in the past year.
This update comes shortly after the Department for Education withdrew its plans to undertake a graduate feasibility study.
More than academic achievements
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “No one would argue that a child’s background should prevent them from realising their potential, and it’s right that recent ministerial pledges to get children school-ready are tested - particularly at a time when the early years sector faces a funding crisis.
“But 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.”
Access to teachers
Steven McIntosh, director of UK poverty at Save the Children, said: “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.”


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