Improving outcomes for local children through early years skills development

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It has been widely reported that a staffing crisis in early years and childcare continues to have a significant impact on the sector, writes Fay Albans-Ross, Senior Lecturer, Nottingham Institute of Education, Nottingham Trent University.

In Nottinghamshire, there are more than 1,000 Ofsted Registered Early Years providers, including private; voluntary; independent settings; and Schools. However, survey findings show that nearly three quarters (71%) of local authorities determine that local childcare settings are finding it ‘very difficult’ to recruit staff with the required qualifications and experience.

Data indicates that between 2016 – 2021, there were 335,071 vacancies in primary and nursery education professionals in the East Midlands (EMSI LMI, 2021).

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The number, qualifications and experience of childcare staff has a significant impact on the quality of childcare provision, meaning that this large number of vacancies is very concerning.

Fay Albans-Ross, Nottingham Trent UniversityFay Albans-Ross, Nottingham Trent University
Fay Albans-Ross, Nottingham Trent University

We believe that recruitment and retention of high-quality practitioners within the sector can be achieved through investing in employees’ development and future potential. By increasing the scope and challenge of their roles, management and leadership skills will be developed, enabling them to improve their effectiveness and maximise their contribution to the organisation.

To achieve this, the Nottingham Trent University Mansfield Hub is launching a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Early Childhood Education and Care: Leadership and Management from September 2024.

The course, which will become a Higher Technical Qualification (HTQ) HN in Early Years Professional Leadership in September 2025, is designed for those working, or aspiring to work, with and caring for children from 0–5 years, with knowledge of 5–8 years, and who are looking to gain the practical, skills-based training and education needed to become an early year’s leader, manager or progress onto further study.

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It is a work related higher education qualification, created in collaboration with employers, so that graduates are ‘work ready’. There is a focus on play-based learning, and students will have access to dedicated facilities such as an early years simulation suite to create their own play scenarios for children.

Learners will be equipped with both the practical skills needed as an early childhood professional, and the knowledge and understanding to achieve high performance in the global early childhood sector.

HTQs are Level 4 and 5 qualifications (such as HNDs/Foundation Degrees/Diploma HE) that sit between A and T Levels and degrees. Whilst this may not be a traditional undergraduate route for many into Higher Education, it will enable more people to study at Higher Education (HE) and develop the technical skills in leadership – with progression from Level 4 to Level 7 with the option of a BA Top Up (online) or transfer to Year 3 of BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies before progression onto a professional postgraduate course.

With this new pathway, we are aiming to scale up the ambition of Mansfield students to continue studying after leaving school, progressing their knowledge and skills and building on the quality of care they can offer for children. In turn, we believe this will improve outcomes for local children.

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The HND Early Childhood Education and Care is suitable for those already working in, or aspiring to work in Early Years childcare, with responsibility for leading other practitioners or groups who hold a Level 3 qualification in Early Years.

Find out more about the course at the NTU Undergraduate Open Event (NTU Mansfield) on Wednesday 15 May2024 at 4.00 pm - 6.00 pm, NTU Mansfield, University Centre, Nottingham Road, NG18 5BH