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New competencies help build graduate-led workforce to support children and families


Two University of Wolverhampton students recently graduated in a pioneering new degree that is designed to help build a graduate-led workforce to better support children and families.

Jenny Stanley and Abbie Martin both 21 and from Walsall studied for the degree in Early Childhood Studies with Early Childhood Graduate Practitioner Competencies which was introduced in 2018 by the Early Childhood Studies Degree Network (ECSDN).

The new qualification aimed to enhance the identity of the early years workforce and strengthen the professional practice aspect of early years degree programmes across the UK.  The University of Wolverhampton was one of the first three universities to offer students the opportunity to work towards the new status.

Abbie decided to study for the degree with the aim of becoming a primary school teacher. She said: “The University was brilliant in supporting me throughout my course and beyond.  My tutor, lecturers, staff, and other students were very friendly, reassuring and offered guidance and advice.  The staff there really believed in me.

“The University offered many opportunities for me to take my learning further, whether it was by taking part in research, conferences, tutoring, and others. I am also grateful for my friend, Jenny, for persuading me to take part in all of these exciting and beneficial opportunities (like the Graduate Practitioner Competencies) alongside her, as I may not have without that extra encouragement.

“It still seems unbelievable that I've actually graduated. I'm so grateful to everyone who supported me on this journey and gave me the encouragement and guidance that I don't know if I would have made it through without. I will be completing my PGCE this year and pursuing a career as a primary school teacher, which I am eager to begin and make my mark!”

Jenny studied the degree to become a primary school teacher, specialising in Early Years. She said: “The course caught my eye as its content seemed interesting and up to date, with lots of opportunity for practical work placements.

“University supported me in so many ways. As well as academically, the staff helped to massively improve my confidence, both personally and in my practice. I was given the opportunity to take part in an academic research project about children’s identity, and attend/speak at conferences relating to early childhood – if I wasn’t doing the competencies, I’d never have pushed myself to say yes to doing these things!

“It feels amazing to have finally graduated, and to have completed the competencies alongside Abbie. I’m currently working as an unqualified teacher in a Reception class, on a School Direct route. Doing the competencies, and spending so much time in placement, is one of the reasons why I was offered this opportunity, so I’m hugely grateful!”

Dr Helen Perkins, Senior Lecturer in Childhood and Family Studies at the University, said: “With these Competencies, we are making an important contribution towards building a graduate-led workforce better able to advocate for, and support, young children and their families.

“Embedding the Graduate Practitioner Competencies within the Early Childhood Studies degree has made me really consider how, and what, we teach on this programme.  The course content has always been relevant and students have found it to be in depth and applicable to daily practice but the addition of the competencies have enhanced it even further by bringing together theory and practice.

“Our Graduate Practitioner students have a wider range of skills to enter the workplace with and will ultimately have a positive impact on those with whom they work. 

“I’m so proud that our third cohort of students to have studied these competencies have now graduated.  I strongly believe that having completed the competencies, graduates will stand out when applying for jobs, benefitting children’s development.”

The ECSDN recently announced a major change nationally to the official perception of early childhood graduates as 'professionals' and Early Education and Childcare practitioners are now classified as Associate Professionals instead of ‘Teaching and Childcare Support Occupations’ (non-professional). 

The Early Childhood Graduate Competencies are: 

Advocating for young children’s rights and participation 

Promoting holistic child development 

Working directly with young children, families and colleagues to promote health, well-being, safety and nurturing care 

Observing, listening and planning for young children to support their well-being, early learning, progression and transitions 

Safeguarding and child protection 

Inclusive practice 

Partnership with parents and caregivers 

Collaborating with others 

Professional Development. 

Anyone interested in studying in the Institute of Education should register for the next Virtual Open Day to find out more.



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