Graduates Nursery Staff: do they really have an impact on children?

From an early age we have an understanding that education is an important and crucial part of life, especially if we want that dream job. However, a new study published by London School of Economics (LSE) suggests that obtaining a graduates degree has little or no impact for nursery staff and children attainment levels in their care.

In order to become an early years practitioner in England by law, you must have various suitable higher education qualifications. The study from LSE found that settings with degree qualified practitioners only performed slightly better than those with none qualified staff, claiming that qualified staff only had a “tiny” effect on attainment.

The study of 1.8 million children analysed their performance in primary education based on the quality characteristics of their early years nursery setting, comparing children who had attended different nurseries but the same primary school.

Ofsted results from various nurseries were also compared within the study, concluding that the quality of a setting does not heavily rely on the qualifications of their staff and there was minimal benefit for those children who had attended a nursery rated outstanding by Ofsted.

I wonder whether those nurseries with outstanding Ofsted ratings all employ degree qualified members of staff and could a nursery with under qualified but capable practitioners receive the same rating? I think to most people these results will be initially surprising as personally, I would presume that practitioners who were educated at degree level would have much more of an educational and development impact on children.

Dr Jo Blanden, one of the authors leading the research told BBC News that she was ‘surprised’ at the results and believes that the true factors which make a setting achieve high standards need to be the main focus. “Our research finding that having a member of staff qualified to graduate level working in the nursery has only a tiny effect on children’s outcomes surprised us, given existing research that finds well-qualified staff have higher quality interactions with childrenBBC News.

It may just be that I can’t shake the ‘norm’ on this one but it was initially hard for me to believe that in actual fact qualified practitioners only slightly affect children’s attainment levels.

The early foundation stages of a child’s development are the most important and when children are more receptive to learning and developing. So it is hard to actually comprehend that qualified nursery practitioners do not have a massive impact on early years development (as most would expect).

However, if you actually sit down and think about it I suppose there are few characteristics that early years practitioners must have that just can’t be taught such as patience, a caring nature and experience. Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, told BBC news “Experience, a caring demeanour and, crucially, an in-depth understanding of child development are all equally vital to ensuring that children get the best possible start in life.”

Would your choice of nursery be based on whether or not practitioners had a degree? Or would you be content with a setting where the practitioners did not have a degree qualification but instead, had personal attributes and skills from previous experience? We would love to know your thoughts.

Leave a comment