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Early years’ workforce: Why new graduate competencies will mean children get best start in life

Sharon Bell, Head of Discipline: Education, Childhood and Inclusion, discusses the new level of recognition introduced for Early Childhood Studies degrees and what this will mean for children.

By Sharon Bell - 24 August 2018

Children’s experiences in their early years can have a significant impact on their future life chances.

The importance of high quality early learning is well documented in research and successive government policies. Indeed, current government ministers continue to recognise the need to enhance early learning provision as a positive way to tackling disadvantage and long term poverty. Despite such commitments however, the development of a highly skilled graduate workforce continues to be illusive.

Early Childhood Studies degrees - what are they and why were they introduced?

One important development that began a quarter of a century ago was the introduction of the first Early Childhood Studies (ECS) degrees. The motivation behind this was to enable higher-level study opportunities for anyone working in the early childhood education and care sector; the need for a highly-skilled graduate workforce remains the same today. Such courses continue to offer those wishing to or already working in the early childhood education and care sector an opportunity to study an interdisciplinary academic subject focused on developing a depth and breadth of knowledge of child development, especially the formative early years from conception to the age of eight. Alongside many of these degrees there has more recently been the opportunity to develop professional competencies qualifying with the Early Years Educator qualification at Level 3.

New level of recognition

In recognition of the positive impact that a committed and skilled early years workforce can have on the lives of children, members of the Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network (ECSDN) continue to call for the recognition of a graduate early years’ workforce. Significantly, the ECSDN has worked together to develop the new Early Childhood Graduate Practitioner competencies as an optional study route alongside the Early Childhood degree programmes. The development aims to further strengthen the degrees with placements, enhance employability for the students and provide some clarity for the employers (as there remains some confusion about the level that some Early Childhood graduates should be employed and the relevant skills they should possess).

Students who achieve the Early Childhood Graduate Practitioner competencies will meet the nine competencies through a combination of assessed observations during their 80 days of practice, work-based tasks and academic assessment. The Early Childhood Graduate Competencies are:

  1. Advocating for young children’s rights and participation
  2. Promoting holistic child development
  3. Working directly with young children, families and colleagues to promote health, well-being, safety and nurturing care
  4. Observing, listening and planning for young children to support their well-being, early learning, progression and transitions
  5. Safeguarding and child protection
  6. Inclusive practice
  7. Partnership with parents and caregivers
  8. Collaborating with others
  9. Professional Development

Students at Derby

In recognition of the importance of this development, we are incredibly proud and excited that the University of Derby, alongside three other universities who belong to the ECSDN, will be the first to offer the Level 6 practitioner route from September 2018. The Programme Team believes in the importance of working together with the Early Childhood Studies Degree Network to provide a strong and essential voice for our sector to ensure the children receive the best possible start in life. We are making an important contribution towards meeting our ongoing aim of building a graduate-led workforce for children and families.

Having the graduate level competencies as part of the degree will enable our students to be distinctive when applying for jobs. They will have a breadth and depth of theoretical knowledge about the key concepts that matter in early education and will be able to put their understanding into practice at a highly-skilled, graduate level.

Find out more about Education, Childhood and Inclusion courses

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About the author

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Sharon Bell
Head of Discipline: Education, Childhood and Inclusion

Sharon Bell, Head of Discipline for Education, Childhood and Inclusion at the University of Derby. 

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