Sonia Blandford – Untapping potential in early years practitioners

Professor Sonia Blandford is the founder and CEO of Achievement for All, a charity working with thousands of schools in the UK to raise the educational attainment of pupils, and particularly those facing barriers to learning.

Writing for Schools Improvement, here Sonia talks about how to untap the potential in early years practitioners.  

Everyone agrees, high quality early education has a positive impact on children’s learning, development and well- being leading to better academic, social and emotional outcomes.  The Fair Education Alliance Reports (2015, 2016) and previous Nutbrown Review (2012) placed teacher quality firmly at the heart of improving outcomes for all children in early years settings.
The recent report by Save the Children- Untapped Potential: How England’s nursery lottery is failing too many children (2016)- suggests that children who attend a nursery with a highly qualified member of staff are almost 10% more likely to reach the expected level of development by the time they start school. Although the number of early years settings employing a member of staff with Early Years Teacher Status is increasing, many do not have this. The government is addressing the issue.
In the meantime there is a lot that can be done. This involves developing existing practice across the four areas of leadership and management, working together, progress and learning and health, happiness and well- being. This is what Achievement for All is doing through the award winning Achieving Early programme.  Since 2014, the charity has worked with over 200 settings across England and Wales and supported more than 2000 early years children who were at risk of achieving poor outcomes. 
During the Achieving Early pilot involving 388 children vulnerable to underachievement, the proportion of children reaching an age-appropriate level in key areas, including communication and language, and personal, social and emotional development, rose by 50%. Out of the 33 settings inspected during the two years of the pilot, the number of outstanding settings rose from two to eight. Two of these settings were previously graded as requires improvement. The number of good settings increased from 17 to 29, while the number previously rated Inadequate dropped from five to zero. This could be the response to the improving outcomes in early years settings; by untapping potential in early years practitioners.

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