Government Report Finds 27% of Early Years Staff have Level 7 or Higher
The Annual Early Years Sector Profile Report 2019/2020 has found that 27% of staff working directly with children now hold a NFQ Level 7 qualification or higher.
What does this mean?
The early years sector is growing steadily towards being graduate led.
This means that having a Level 7 degree in early childhood studies is becoming more and more necessary for roles in the early years setting.
It is estimated that 30,883 staff work in the sector, 85% of whom worked directly with children.
This means around 26,250 early years staff work directly with children. Almost one third of those now hold a Level 7 degree or higher.
This is contributing to the professionalisation of the sector as more practitioners commit to degrees there has also been a reduction in staff turnover down 7% from two years ago, according to the report.
The motivation for completing a Level 7 degree in early childhood studies has mainly come from Higher Capitation.
This is a grant system based on the qualifications of those working in the setting whereby having a recognised level 7 degree (DCEDIY approved) means more money for the setting per child.
Having a Level 7 degree Ba (Ord) in Early Childhood Studies creates improved employment opportunities and the ability to negotiate working conditions.
On publishing the report, which is the result of a survey answered by almost 3,000 providers in Ireland last year, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) Roderic O’Gorman, T.D., said the sector continues to move towards a ‘highly qualified workforce’.
“Notwithstanding the impact of Covid-19, I am struck by the positive developments across the sector and through the data evidenced in this report.
“This report reveals another year-on-year increase in the number of children with additional needs receiving support under the Access and Inclusion model.
“The continued progress towards a highly qualified workforce is also very positive, with a significant increase in the number of staff qualified to level 7 or higher,” he said.
Portobello Institute College Director and Head of Early Years, Denise Flood, says this increase in Level 7 graduates working in the sector will be greatly helped by blended learning which allows people to study in their own time from anywhere in the world.
"It is fantastic to see the upward trend in the number of early years staff working directly with children now holding a qualification at NFQ Level 7 or higher.
"This sector continues to move to a graduate led workforce and I believe that in the next ten years that new entrants will be required to have a degree to work in creches and preschools.
"I believe that the sector will become a fully government-funded sector with teachers potentially paid from a central fund. Having a degree is going to be vital for all practitioners. If you intend to stay in the sector, then you will need to upskill your current qualifications.
"At Portobello Institute we make gaining your degree while working a possibility with our blended learning delivery we have seen an increase in those able to access their degree without needing to travel to classes in different parts of the country while still receiving support and quality education through our online programmes.
"This flexibility is helping people to gain their degrees around work and family life, keeping to sector moving towards a graduate-led workforce,” she said.
Childcare is no longer just a job, it is a professional career where having a degree can open doors to opportunities that you may not have previously considered.
In recent years, the focus on improving the quality of childcare provided in all settings has stemmed from the upskilling of core practitioners as they apply their learning in their day to day work.
As a result, the role and contribution of early years practitioners is becoming increasingly valued by education and government agencies and more importantly by parents and the wider general public.
The report is produced by Pobal on behalf of the DCEDIY. Read the report in full here.