Professor Nutbrown’s final report was published on 19 June and contains a number of specific recommendations. The government will respond to the report ‘later in the year’ and although we do not know whether, and over what timescale, it will implement the report’s recommendations, it is important that everyone should be aware of them. The report and the list of recommendations can be found here: this briefing summarises these and discusses the likely implications.
Professor Nutbrown believes that a Level 3 qualification should be the minimum standard for the early years workforce and that staff with only a level 2 should not be considered ‘qualified’ . She recommends a phased move to a fully level 3 workforce: 50% of staff in a setting by September 2013, 70% by 2015 and 100% by 2022.
She argues that the present qualifications system is “not systematically equipping practitioners with the knowledge, skills and understanding they need to give babies and young children high quality experiences” and that the Diploma, “which can be completed in one year, may not allow sufficient time to study the depth and breadth required”.
Rather than having a single, one size fits all, qualification, Professor Nutbrown suggests that level 3 qualifications should have to pass a more demanding test before being accepted as ‘full and relevant’. This should include more on child development and play, more on special educational needs and disability, and more on inclusivity and diversity: it should also focus on the birth to seven age range. While there should be flexibility to cater for different levels of prior learning and experience, and for different teaching methods, a level 3 qualification for someone new to the sector would normally need around two years of full time equivalent study. This approach is consistent with that in the Tickell Report which favoured a return to the “gold standard” of the NNEB.
Some of the findings and recommendations appear to be rooted in the idea of full time college study: while there are nods towards work based learning and apprenticeships as being equally valid and offering benefits to settings, these sometimes seem to be a bit of an afterthought. For example, Professor Nutbrown states that practice placements are an essential part of training and recommends that college students should spend 20% of their total course duration on placement. However she also says that all students, including apprentices, should spend time in at least three different settings. Given the recent changes in the law which require that all apprentices must be employed, it is not clear how this will work in practice.
One recommendation which is likely to be controversial concerns the need for level 2 qualifications in English and maths. Professor Nutbrown argues strongly that literacy and mathematical abilities are essential for anyone working with young children. She finds it unacceptable that a full and relevant qualification can be obtained without having level 2 English and maths – as, for example, someone choosing to take a standalone Diploma because they are unwilling or unable to do the functional skills components of an apprenticeship. However, she goes further than this, saying that even requiring these skills as a condition of completion is unlikely to provide the rigour required. Her report recommends that, in future, level 2 English and maths should be an entry requirement for level 3 training.
Other recommendations deal with the progression opportunities available to learners and the qualifications of tutors Professor Nutbrown wants to see a structured career path, with opportunities beyond level 3 which allow practitioners to move straight to higher education and thence to a new early years specialist Qualified Teacher Status which will build on, and eventually replace, current routes to EYPS. Alternatively, those who wish to progress beyond level 3 can undertake level 4/5 training which can either be an end in itself or provide a bridge to higher education in future. This is very similar to the model which PBD has been proposing to City & Guilds.
The report also recommends that all tutors should be qualified to a higher level than the course they are teaching. They should have relevant and current early years practice experience and should be allowed time for CPD and for practice in settings. CPD and practice experience are simple enough to achieve but, particularly given the lack of practice based qualifications beyond level 3 but below degree level, it is not clear how this can be achieved in the short term.
Professor Nutbrown acknowledges that many of her recommendations – in particular strengthening level 3 qualifications, increasing the proportion of level 3 qualified staff, demanding level 2 English and maths as an entry requirement, insisting that tutors have regular CPD and contact with the sector; and introducing the new specialist route to QTS. It is possible that the government will want further consultation before implementing these. However, we need to be prepared for some changes in the qualifications we deliver. Cathy Nutbrown has done a valuable job in bringing some of the issues and concerns into the open and the report is an easy and interesting read.