Kingston University is one of the first universities in the country to produce a group of graduates bearing Early Years Professional Status – a new qualification for people working with children under five. The award, which for the first time puts nursery nurses and teaching assistants on a professional par with teachers, was developed by the Childrenâ€™s Workforce Development Council to help early years workers develop their management and leadership skills.Â Kingston was one of only 11 institutions chosen to pilot this and 38 candidates were awarded Early Years Professional Status after successfully completing the Kingston course earlier this year.
Principal lecturer in early years education at Kingston University, Anne Rawlings, was instrumental in designing the Universityâ€™s pioneering early years education degree five years ago and has since been campaigning for nursery nurses, teaching assistants and early years workers in the private, voluntary and independent sector to be given the recognition they deserve. â€œThe new award will equip people who work in early years settings and childrenâ€™s centres with the skills and know-how to help them develop in their profession,â€ Mrs Rawlings said. â€œThere has never been a clearly-defined career path for early years workers before and we hope this will mean they become much more widely acknowledged for the important contribution they make to education in this country.â€
A gala evening was held at Kingston University in April to celebrate the success of the first Early Years Professional Status graduates. â€œAll the candidates fitted full-time jobs around their studies and their dedication, perseverance and enthusiasm was inspiring,â€ Mrs Rawlings said.
Alison Hopkins, an early years practitioner working at Surbiton Childrenâ€™s Centre was one of Kingstonâ€™s first EYPS graduates and believes attaining professional status has helped her gain recognition for her specialist knowledge and skills. Â â€œTo achieve EYPS we had to prove we met 39 rigorous standards by undertaking a number of activities ranging from written tasks, to role-play scenarios and projects specific to our work,â€ Mrs Hopkins explained. â€œIâ€™ve worked within the field of under 5â€™s education for more than 20 years and for me personally the greatest benefit was that the course gave me a chance to stop and think about my role, assess the techniques Iâ€™ve acquired during my career and pinpoint areas of further professional development.â€
As of September 2007 those working with young children would be able to choose from four different pathways towards achieving professional status through Kingston University, Mrs Rawlings said. â€œDepending on their circumstances, options range from three-month courses for graduates working in an appropriate setting to a 15-month pathway for those with a foundation degree and more limited early years experience,â€ she said. â€œTo be able to achieve professional status alongside colleagues teaching older children is highly motivational for early years workers. It also allows them to develop in their roles, achieve credit for their efforts and thereby raise the standard of provision across the private, voluntary and independent early years workforce.â€
The early years education team forms part of Kingstonâ€™s School of Education. Staff at the School are no strangers to success and have earned widespread acclaim for the quality of their courses and for producing a string of high-achieving graduates. The Guardian newspaperâ€™s recent university guide ranked Kingstonâ€™s School of Education second in the country – hot on the heels of Cambridge – across a range of measures such as teaching quality, student satisfaction and job prospects. Within the last National Student Survey the School received a glowing report card from undergraduates which led to it being rated the best in the United Kingdom for the quality of its BA (Hons) in Primary Teaching. In the same survey it also achieved fifth place in the country for education studies – the classification covering the Early Years Foundation Degrees.
Anyone interested in the Early Years Professional Status courses should call 020 8547 8145 or visit the webpages on www.kingston.ac.uk/earlyyearsprofessional.