Professor Nutbrowns Interim report flags up unnecessary complexity of qualifications and concerns over quality


The Government launched an independent review, led by Professor Cathy Nutbrown, to consider how best to strengthen qualifications and career pathways in the foundation years. Nutbrown has just published her  ‘interim’ report.

Good early years education and care, it is widely acknowledged, and backed by international evidence, can have a profoundly positive impact on babies and young children, reaching into their later childhood and adulthood.

The review looks at qualifications both for young people who are new to the early education and childcare sector, and for those already employed – and also how to promote progression into the labour market, higher level education and other training routes. Professor Nutbrown conducted a large-scale public consultation to gather evidence towards her review. The report of this call for evidence was released alongside her interim report, and can be found via the link below.

The Interim report sets out the shared concerns among the workforce about their qualifications system.

The Review says that ‘Despite the strong evidence on the importance of early education in children’s development, work in early education and childcare is widely seen as low status, low paid, and low skilled. The early years qualifications picture is over-complicated, with significant doubts over whether the content of courses covers the  skills and knowledge that people need to work in the sector.’ The variation in the content of qualifications is significant, and presents real problems to students trying to understand what to study, and employers considering potential applicants for jobs.  And despite the best efforts of the CWDC, it is still not possible to get consistent figures  on the total number of early years qualifications available.

The report concludes that the qualifications currently available do not always equip students to be effective practitioners in the early year’s sector. Nursery staff and childminders are allowed to work at pre-school groups without displaying basic literacy or numeracy skills. Indeed, colleges demand more qualifications for students training to look after animals than for those who will care for babies, the report said.Nurseries are employing staff with no qualifications.

Nutbrown  found that “competence in English and maths” was often not required to complete qualifications. Pupils with the “poorest academic records” were being steered on to childcare courses as an alternative to hairdressing.

Professor Nutbrown is considering the following issues as she develops her recommendations for government:

An effective qualifications structure that motivates people working in the early years and tells employers what skills and knowledge they have.


Courses that prepare people for working in the early years, raise the standards of those choosing to enter the profession, give them the right skills in literacy and numeracy and include the latest cutting edge detail about child development.


The case for expanding the role of teachers in the early years, creating new teaching pathways with an early years specialism, linking more closely the education worlds of the school and the early years.

For further consideration:

How do we ensure that the complex historical, current, and future qualifications picture does not act as a barrier to those  who want to train and learn?

What should be the expectations for the content and agerange for early years qualifications, and the preparation  demanded to achieve them?

Should we seek to raise the minimum level of qualification  required of the workforce, and if so, to what and by when?

What is the best way to ensure that tutors have up-to-date  knowledge and skills and are qualified to the right level?

How can we ensure that settings are supported to play an  effective role in the training of their staff and students on  placement?

What levels of literacy and numeracy should we expect of the early years workforce, and how can we secure these?

How can we best establish clear progression routes for all members of the sector (including black and minority ethnic  groups), and support less well qualified members of the  workforce to progress?

Is there a strong case for introducing an early years initial  teacher education route, and how might the practical  obstacles be addressed?

Is there a case for a licensing system and, if so, what model  might be best?




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