Childcare and Early Years Qualifications

Qualifications for Childcarers and Early Years specialists

Whether you are a school leaver; a graduate; or are considering a career change, there is a childcare route to suit your ambition.

With a shortage of over 11,000 Early Years Practitioners and Teachers in the UK, it has never been a better time to join the industry. Read on for more information about some of the qualifications required for professional childcarers below.

 

Childcare Levels 2 and 3 And What They Mean

If you are currently in education and thinking of embarking on a career in Early Years, it would be a good idea to study for a level 2 qualification in childcare. This level enables you to work in Early Years under supervision and can be your first, initial route through the door as a Nursery Assistant. To study for level 2, you will usually need GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) in English, maths and a science. It is also worth noting, you are not required to pass this first if you wish to study for a level 3 qualification. 

A level 3 qualification (Early Years Educator) can be gained as part of an apprenticeship within a setting. Study will be a mixture of on-the-job assessments and distance learning. During their training, apprentices can be included in the unqualified part of the staff-to-child ratios in an Early Years setting. 

Roles which require a level 3 qualification are: Room Leader, Childminder, Playworker, Nanny, Residential Worker, Breakfast and after school club workers. This qualification will cover the full spectrum of childcare – from child development to Equality and Diversity.

In order to work with children, it is essential settings and individuals can respond in emergency situations where first aid is required. An Ofsted recognised Paediatric First Aid qualification is required to be held by all practitioners within 3 months of joining a setting (or immediately if you are a Nanny or Childminder). Settings need to ensure one first-aid qualified practitioner is on the premises and on any outings. 

Working with children will almost certainly mean you will come into contact with food. You may be expected to lead or prepare mealtimes. You may support the feeding of toddlers.  A level-2 Food Hygiene qualification provides you with a relevant overview on the do’s and don’ts of food safety. These can be obtained privately or as part of your ongoing training and professional development. 

EDEXCEL, CACHE and BTEC are the most widely used examining bodies for these levels. Having these qualifications will stand you in good stead if you wish to climb the ladder.

 

Level 4 and Beyond

If becoming an Early Years Teacher appeals to you, a requirement to obtain Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS) is required. You can achieve this by completing an Early Years initial teacher training course. There are several ways to do this:

  • Undergraduate entry if you're taking an early childcare-related degree, and maybe working in an Early Years setting.
  • Graduate entry if you have a degree but limited experience with children and are not currently working with them.
  • Graduate employment if you have a degree and are working in an Early Years setting.
  • Assessment only if you're a graduate with a lot of experience across the 0 to 5 age range and have knowledge of key stage 1 and 2 in schools.

 

Early Years Teacher Status qualifies you to teach children up to age 5. If you want to teach older children, or teach in a primary school, you'll usually need to get qualified teacher status (QTS).

Moving up within different branches of the Early Years sector can see you work in more senior positions such as Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENDCO), or Deputy Manager of a setting where specialist and more in-depth knowledge is required. These are qualified to levels 4 and 5 – which are the equivalent of an undergraduate and postgraduate degree. 

Senior strategic leaders and those responsible for commissioning services are usually qualified to a level 6 and 7 standard – the equivalent to a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Masters (MA). A high level of professional knowledge and expertise will be a minimum requirement. 

In previous eras, the traditional method of recruitment within the early years sector has been matching candidates with early years vacancies via an agency. New routes and qualifications are now aiming to fill those 11,000 vacant positions in a more efficient way.

A comprehensive list of government regulated childcare qualifications (level 2-7) can be found here.  These will enable you to work within Early Years and to become an inspiration to the next generation of children.

Please note that for some positions with older children, employers may consider subject specific qualifications (such as a Bachelor's Degree in English or Foreign Languages, a BA in Education, or a PGCE). Some overseas language-based childcare positions may also be suitable at candidates holding a TEFL or CELTA certificate.