A new Kingston University qualification is offering key workers in infant education and childcare the chance to become teachers. The Early Years Foundation Degree gives classroom assistants and nursery nurses formal academic credit for their professional skills as well as offering them a route into teacher training.
Run by Kingston’s School of Education and taught through a mixture of work-based learning, tutorials and online activities, the three-year programme allows participants to specialise in the 0-3 or 3-5 age groups. It is currently available at four partner institutions – Kingston College, North East Surrey College of Technology, Richmond upon Thames College and Whitefield School and Centre in Walthamstow. From September, it will also be offered at Spelthorne and West Thames Colleges.
Diana Kill, a classroom assistant at Coombe Hill Infant School, was one of the first students to enrol for the qualification and attends classes at Kingston College once a week. “I’ve been a teaching assistant most of my career, only taking time off to bring up my four children, and my job is very rewarding. It can involve anything from helping pupils with their reading to cleaning up grazed knees. I have always wanted to become a teacher myself but never had the opportunity, so the Foundation Degree could help fulfil a burning ambition,” she said.
As part of the course, each student is supported by a workplace mentor. “I recently completed an assignment about working with special needs children and my mentor, class teacher Christine Harding, helped me examine the issues,” Diana said. “I haven’t been a student for more than 20 years so I find it really helpful to have someone to turn to for advice. Another advantage of the course is that every time I go to college I come into work the next day with new ideas that I try to share with the school.”
The Foundation Degree is recognised by the Government’s SureStart Unit, which aims to increase the availability of childcare and improve the health, education and development of young children. Students successfully completing the course will earn senior practitioner status, paving the way for them to move into managerial roles. They will also have the option to top up to an honours degree or qualified teacher status through further training. Course director Anne Rawlings said the qualification reflected participants’ commitment to the welfare of young children. “It finally gives teaching assistants and nursery nurses long-deserved recognition of the important contribution they make to education in this country,” she said.