The London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) degree, known as the LEYF higher education staff development programme, is being welcomed as a breath of fresh air by many early years professionals. It is felt by those in the sector that the role they play in educating and nurturing the development of children is still not respected as it should be, particularly when compared to professionals in other areas of education.
This new degree course, developed and delivered in partnership with the University of Wolverhampton, is being taught at the LEYF training centre, based in Pimlico, central London, with lectures delivered by both LEYF teachers and lecturers from the university.
During the degree course, students will study the full LEYF approach for children aged from birth to five years. Initially, it will be available only to LEYF staff, although the partners hope to develop the degree so it can be offered as part of the portfolio of Early Childhood Studies degrees available at the university.
So far, LEYF has provided the funding for ten of its staff to complete the first two modules of the foundation degree: Induction to the LEYF Pedagogy and Role of Play in Childhood. When it is fully rolled out, staff will be able to access student loans, with payment taken out through salary sacrifice.
The aims of the course are to strengthen confidence in articulating pedagogy and to promote a more thoughtful and multi-layered approach, bringing the course in-line with the new inspection framework. This will centre on curriculum and quality of learning, with early years settings being evaluated on ‘cultural capital’ and required to show how well their leaders ensure the curriculum they use or create enhances the experiences and opportunities available to children, particularly the most disadvantaged.
Steps for progression
Dr Helen Perkins is senior lecturer of Childhood and Family Studies at the University of Wolverhampton and visits students for training once a month. Dr Perkins believes the current cohort are ‘engaging brilliantly’ and working together to share knowledge and experiences of early years.
LEYF is prioritising on upskilling staff to benefit all children in its nurseries
The new degree is structured to gives students the opportunity to step back at different points in their academic journey, providing flexibility to study while they work.
‘New OFSTED inspection criteria requires settings to explain their pedagogy and be able to show this in action,’ says Dr Perkins. ‘The LEYF degree provides the theoretical and practical knowledge to do this, to be able to focus on different aspects of early years teaching, development and care and have all the background knowledge to articulate the importance of each aspect.’
She says the degree is also important as it will undoubtedly raise the profile of those working in the early years workforce.
Students on the course, as well as being a part of the LEYF family, are also students of the University of Wolverhampton, which means they have access to a wide range of resources, from the library and online resources, to the students' union.
‘In developing this course, we felt it was important to build steps for progression, so after the foundation degree, students will have the opportunity to top up to BA Hons Early Childhood Studies (LEYF) and eventually go on to gain a Masters,’ she says.
The programme has been designed so that students can specialise in a specific area of interest, for example, special educational needs and disabilities.
The course aims to give students a full understanding of the entire LEYF teaching philosophy in practice, and reflects the organisation's social enterprise approach, which is designed to strengthen children's social and cultural capital through language, social opportunities, cultural experiences and friendships.
LEYF early years degree programme
- Single Module - The LEYF Pedagogy (1 module)
- Foundation Degree (LEYF) - 11 further modules (2 RPL) Level 4 &5
- BA Hons Early Childhood Studies (LEYF) - Level 6 Honours top up (4 modules + Dissertation)
- Masters - Part time, 2 years (3 core modules + 4 options)
Institute of Education Foundation Degree (Arts) Early Years Services
Individual Module Breakdown:
- The Reflective Practitioner
- Child Development
- Role of Play in Childhood
- Safeguarding and Promoting Well-Being
- Growing Up in the 21st Century
- Power, Inclusion and Diversity
- Children, Family and Society
- Developing knowledge and understanding with young children
- Developing Critical Reflection and Practice
- Language and Literacy in the Early Years
- Families and Communities in Context
- Research Methods
Case study: ‘To bounce ideas around with fellow students has been extremely beneficial’
Ricky Bullen, is deputy nursery manager of Bird in Bush Nursery in Peckham, south London and has just completed his first year of study. He says:
‘I'm no newcomer to the early years environment; I've been working in the early years sector for 18 years, ten of those years being in a LEYF nursery. The LEYF degree has really opened my mind to the way I see early years, for example, I believed I already had a good foundation about children's play and what it meant, but the module on play really pushed my thinking on the subject.
‘To share, support and bounce ideas around with fellow students has been extremely beneficial. I don't feel overwhelmed because of this support network. So far, we've completed module one which looked at supporting quality in the workforce and was also an introduction to the LEYF pedagogy. During this module we reviewed our current pedagogy, exploring the methodology behind each area and how these methods were created. Our task was to review one area of our pedagogy within our setting and to work with our team, families and wider community to increase standards and awareness of the LEYF approach in this context. Module two looked at the role of play in childhood. We reviewed a variety of styles of play and we tried to define what is meant by play and the importance it has on our children.
‘Starting this September, I'll be taking on a new role of Pedagogy Mentor, contributing to our Learning Development Team, which will be a further opportunity to share my learning with colleagues. When I'm planning, I now draw on what we've been learning on the course – my skills and practice have already improved. The course challenges your mind-set and you start to think in a deeper way. Our opinions on aspects of early years practice have changed, for example, we question our own practice and also ask, where can we go within the organisation? Am I best suited to teaching children or would I be better suit moving forward to reach a wider community with what I've learned?
‘Of course, there's still an awful lot of stereotyping of nursery teachers. When I tell people I work in a nursery, they're often surprised to hear a man works in early years. Also, traditionally poor pay compared to other areas of education is a big reason early years can be seen as the least accomplished sector of education – the LEYF degree is helping to change this by lifting the stigma attached to a career in early years education.
‘Growing up on a council estate, it was very rare to hear that anyone I knew went to university. I'm dyslexic too, which made me think there was even less chance. I always wanted to learn but I felt there was a barrier. Now, I'm thinking I could go further.’
- Find out how individual students are progressing in next month's issue of EYE.
The LEYF approach – leyf.org.uk/
Early Childhood Studies at the University of Wolverhampton – wlv.ac.uk/education