The Department for Education has doubled the funding available for the early years bursary scheme to £3,000 in a bid to encourage more applicants.

Back in June I reported on the new bursary scheme beginning on 5 September.  The DfE has announced it is increased the funding but only for the next 200 successful applicants.  The move suggests that the number of successful applications to the scheme has been lower than anticipated. Up to 1,000 bursaries are available in total.

The scheme is part of the Government’s drive to attract high-quality candidates to the profession and is the transitional scheme ahead of the Early Years Educator qualifications in 2014.
Unveiling the plans in May, the DfE said that from September, early years students would be able to apply for up to £1,500 with a further £300 available for more training. Apprentices also need to have a minimum of grade C in maths and English at GCSE. The scheme is run by the National College for Teaching and Leadership.

To be eligible for the funding, apprentices must be taken on in an apprenticeship position in a nursery, school nursery, or children’s centre that is offering  early education places for disadvantaged two-year-olds.  They will also need to be enrolled on the Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Children and Young People’s Workforce to be eligible.

Apprenticeships are expected to take an average of 20 months to complete, and include a mixture of study and employment to gain recognised qualifications through various routes, including further education colleges.

In More Great Childcare, the childcare and education minister Elizabeth Truss set out plans to increase the number of skilled staff working in early years, and to improve qualifications.  She is concerned about research showing that a third of children are starting school without basic language and communication skills with this proportion rising in poorer areas to more than a half.

The news has been welcomed in the childcare sector which struggles to recruit young people with good academic qualifications because of perceptions about salary levels and and a “low skills” image.

The government hope that, by building a better qualified workforce, children will benefit from practitioners with increased literacy and numeracy skills and become better prepared for the transition to school.

Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association of Childcare and Early Years, welcomed the increase but raised concerns that the funding would only be available to those working in formal childcare settings.

‘We know that many childminders and nannies are still struggling to receive support from Government and local authorities, and that this is restricting the availability of high quality care for families most in need,’ she said.

She also said that the Advanced Apprenticeship had been criticised for lacking rigour, particularly for those working with two-year-olds.

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