30 hours: Trying to keep the focus on high quality

While sector organisations continue to make the case that 30 hours funding does not cover the cost of training, Karen Hart examines where skills are lacking and looks at how this can be addressed.

The London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) provides staff with 32 hours of CPD each year
The London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) provides staff with 32 hours of CPD each year

Cost is currently the biggest bar to providers accessing the training they so desperately need. Since the extended, 30-hour ‘free’ childcare offer rolled out in September 2017, it has been well documented that current Government funding levels do not cover the cost of continuing professional development or qualifications which provide essential, ongoing development of practice. The longer this situation continues, the greater the skills deficit becomes.

To many it appears that the 30-hour offer is prioritising quantity of places above quality of care and education. While skilled, well-trained practitioners are needed to ensure the extended offer delivers high quality care, providers are struggling to afford the wage bills for those who are well qualified. At the same time they cannot afford to upskill existing staff.

As qualified staff become fewer on the ground, and able to command higher salaries, providers have a battle to recruit and maintain the staff they need to deliver 30 hour entitlement.

According to Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of NDNA, many of its members are genuinely concerned that they won't be able to deliver 30 hours if numbers of qualified staff continue to drop.

According to the NDNA, many of its members are genuinely concerned that they won't be able to deliver 30 hours of funded childcare if numbers of qualified staff continue to drop.

Meanwhile there is a small chink of light at the end of the tunnel. The recent approval of the long-awaited Level 3 Apprenticeship Standard promises to provide a boost to the number of Level 3 practitioners coming through the pipeline, and it is hoped this will be swiftly followed by a Level 2 standard.

Where are the training gaps?

Independent early years research group Ceeda recently produced the About Early Years Sector Skills Survey, based on 2018 data, which provides a detailed insight into workforce challenges, based on research with 557 childcare providers employing 8,511 staff.

The survey covers qualification levels and trends, sector pay, staff turnover, internal skills gaps and workforce development.

The biggest gaps in sector specific skills – experienced by more than one in five settings were:

  • Knowledge of stages of development (26 per cent)
  • Methods and practice of supporting children's learning (27 per cent)
  • Observation, assessment and planning (26 per cent)
  • Understanding and managing children's behaviour (22 per cent)
  • Identifying and supporting children with special educational needs (19 per cent)
  • Establishing good relationships with parents (17 per cent).

Gaps were highest for staff at Level 2 or below, but only slightly higher than at Level 3.

Demand for SEND experience

With more than 200,000 parents now accessing the 30-hour offer according to latest figures from the Department for Education (DfE), early years settings are welcoming many more children who have a wide variety of special education needs and disabilities. It is particularly concerning that many settings say they lack the skills to support these children.

Mike Abbott, operations director at London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) Nurseries, corroborates the requirement for practitioners to both identify and support children with a wide range of special needs.

‘There does seem to be an additional demand on our special needs skills and expertise since the start of 30 hours and we're currently recruiting a specific SEND manager to work alongside our SENCOs across all nurseries in our group,’ he says.

‘When it comes to language provision, there are inevitably more children coming to us with additional language requirements now, especially as many of our nurseries are in very diverse ethnic communities also rated as most deprived, such as Hackney, Stoke Newington and Dagenham. And with over 300 languages spoken across London schools, communication training in this area needs to be ongoing and increased as required.’

Settings are working together to undertake group training

As a ‘training-led organisation’ and not-for-profit, charitable social enterprise, LEYF says it has to make sure it invests the money it spends on staff training wisely. ‘We then reinvest all profit back into the business,’ Mr Abbott says.

‘Our Learning and Development Team ensures all nursery staff benefit from at least 32 hours of professional development each year, using a combination of internal and external trainers and facilitators. We always ensure our staff are inducted properly which is even more important now with the 30 hours offer, as we recognise the fact that to retain staff we need to offer ongoing training and progression opportunities.’

LEYF runs seven training days a year but is planning to increase this. ‘Our goal is for 50 per cent of our new leaders to come from within the organisation,’ says Mr Abbott. ‘Our Aspiring Leaders Programme provides staff with their Level 3 Award in Leadership and Management, and many of them have already progressed from Apprentice to Nursery Manager and beyond.’

LEYF also now offers a Foundation degree course from The University of Wolverhampton, which follows its teaching methods, known as the LEYF higher education staff development programme, and which launched in September last year.

He adds: ‘We use a combination of training methods at LEYF including online training, outside training coming to us to cover specific areas such as first aid, along with three permanently employed staff trainers who help run action learning sessions, which involve working on “real life” challenges, using the skills and knowledge of our leaders as support for learners to develop the thinking skills of an effective leader.’

Trainer's view

Owner of Bright Kids Nursery Group, Tricia Wellings, uses her long experience to advise on training. She has worked in early years for more than 19 years, during which time she gained her NNEB, BA (Hons) in Early Educations Studies, Early Years Teacher Status and more recently PTLLS, CTLLS and A1 Assessors award.

She also runs early years training company MBK Training, which delivers business support workshops to support settings delivering the 30 hours. These not only look at all aspects of running a childcare business but include training on how to ensure the 30 hours is sustainable.

‘Training needs in the sector have grown since the withdrawal of subsidised or free training from local authorities,’ she says. ‘The changing expectations of Ofsted have also created a need for staff teams to be better trained in all aspects of their jobs. This will also be the case when the new Education Inspection Framework comes into force in September, with its greater emphasis on speech and language and SEND provision.’

The company's original business funding course was developed from sharing the ideas that were being used in Bright Kids with other business owners in a training forum, and this was then extended when the local authorities said they wanted a more detailed business support workshop. This now includes working on a company vision, understanding legislation, place planning and financial analysis for 30 hours, understanding customers' needs, knowing your numbers, marketing and partnership working. According to Ms Wellings, when it comes to accessing training, there is a trend towards more online learning. ‘We are also seeing settings joining together in small networks in order to make training more affordable,’ she says. ‘But the fact is that many settings are not accessing enough training, or are trying to do it themselves and this ultimately impacts on their overall quality as the input of external training is shown to have a positive effect.

‘There may be one or two courses that the local authority can put on if they have received funds from a specific initiative but in general there is little of this. Our business support workshops have been funded from such a pot of money, which was provided to help support the roll out of the 30 hours. Despite the cut-backs, it is important for providers stay tuned to what may be on offer locally.’ www.mbktraining.co.uk

Assessing individual setting needs

Training needs vary widely between settings, depending on their location, size, staff team and child cohorts. At Childcare Works, which works with providers and local authorities on the implementation of 30 hours, partner James Hempsall has tailored his training to meet the individual needs of settings who are working hard to deliver the 30 hours sustainably.

‘Business planning may be standard across all sectors but the modelling element for each may be different,’ he says. ‘For example, childminders' ratios are one major difference, as are the training requirements of specific local authorities, taking into account the number of children with English as a second language. This may make language support training a priority. Also, the number of SEND children on roll will impact the number of staff needing specialist SEND training.’

He says that full day providers are experts at offering flexibility whereas schools and sessional providers may need to think very differently if they are to consider some of the day-to-day practicalities and risks associated with moving from a traditional am/pm model, to one of longer days and increased flexibility across a week or year.

‘This could lead to an increase in staff, with induction training becoming the main focus,’ he says. ‘Also there is a need to ensure there are always enough practitioners trained in child protection awareness and health and safety.’ He cites a specific example of tailoring training to meet specific sector needs as Childcare Works' recent programme of events, ‘Making the 30 hour offer work for disabled children and children with SEN’.

‘The aim of these was to improve knowledge of what high quality SEND provision looks like and to support settings in knowing where to go for help, such as how to use the Disability Access Fund or access funding via inclusion funding,’ explains Mr Hempsall. ‘The events were a direct response to the increased need for SEN training resulting from the 30 hours. We found many settings were recognising this was an increasingly important area that needed addressing.’

Key points

  • DfE findings show some settings are feeling ‘overwhelmed’ by demand for SEND places but feel under-trained to cope
  • In some instances, settings are joining together to form small networks in order to make training more affordable
  • The Government published an early years workforce strategy in March 2017 which outlines a series of measures aimed to attract new joiners to the sector, as well as retain and develop existing members of the workforce, but according to Ceeda the skills gap continues to widen
  • The case for prioritising quality over quantity of childcare places remains strong
  • Responses to the consultation on the proposed 2019 education inspection framework are now being considered by the DfE.

Useful resources

  • Early Years Workforce Strategy 2017: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/early-years-workforce-strategy

  • Find out about the new Level 3 Apprenticeship Standard: https://www.earlyyearseducator.co.uk/news

  • Early Years Business Zone – Support and advice for early years businesses: https://www.earlyyearsbusinesszone.org.uk/

  • Hempsalls Training – Includes training on preparing businesses for 30 hours childcare and the extended free entitlement: https://www.hempsalls.com/services/training

  • NDNA – Early Years Business Zone: https://www.earlyyearsbusinesszone.org.uk/

  • DfE 30 hour mixed model partnership toolkit: https://www.familyandchildcaretrust.org/dfes-30-hour-mixed-model-partnership-toolkit

  • Childcare Works: The Childcare Works resources page includes lots of information relating to the 30 hours including nursery case studies looking at the impact of 30 hours on staffing, training needs and the need to address your business model. https://www.childcareworks.co.uk/resources

  • MBK Training – Diverse range of early years training to support settings which are struggling with making their 30 hours provision sustainable. https://www.mbktraining.co.uk/training-courses/

  • EduCare – Market leading provider of easy-to-use safeguarding and duty of care e-learning services: https://www.educare.co.uk/early-years

  • Send Gateway – Online portal offering childcare professionals information on SEND. https://www.sendgateway.org.uk/

  • About Early Years – If you'd like to join the panel and get involved with the About Early Years research programme. Details can be found here: http://aboutearlyyears.co.uk/the-panel/

  • LEYF higher education staff development programme: https://www.wlv.ac.uk/about-us/news-and-events/latest-news/2018/july-2018/innovative-nursery-teaching-degree-to-be-launched.php

Keep up to date with Early Years!

Sign up for our newsletter and keep up to date with Early Years education, process and events! We promise we won't spam you!