Qualification Levels: Part 5 – Five Stars


There was a lot of interest in the new level 5 learning. Charlotte Goddard discovers everything

After four years of wrangling, the early childhood sector finally has a level 5 apprenticeship. The level 5 early childhood primary practitioner apprenticeship was launched in August. It has been hailed as a “huge boost” for the sector, enabling practitioners to advance their careers and develop their leadership skills while enhancing their practice and knowledge of child development.

Interest in the new qualification has been high, says Diana Lawton, general manager of the Our Monkey Club nursery group and a long-time member of the pioneer group that developed the apprenticeship. “I was contacted by 500 people within ten days of the launch who wanted more details,” she says.

Career progression

Laura Upton, Workforce Improvement Advisor at Leicestershire County Council and President of the Pioneer Group, says Level 5 learning has been developed to address the growing recruitment and retention crisis and strengthen professionalism in the early childhood sector. It aims to offer a way to advance a career in the early years by practicing leadership rather than administration and office work.

“We’re looking for a lead practitioner, but they don’t necessarily lead a team or manage an executive,” says Lawton. “It’s about enabling practitioners to step into mentoring and supervisory roles, not distracting people from focusing on leadership and management. We don’t want our brilliant practitioners to be dragged into offices.

Senior Early Childhood Practitioners are expected to work with children in the same way as their colleagues at Levels 2 and 3. At the same time, they will draw on a wide range of theories and pedagogies and a deep knowledge of the field. child development to act as a child advocate and lead through their best practice.

Target market

The apprenticeship is aimed at new hires in the sector, newly graduated practitioners and established and experienced practitioners who wish to progress but do not wish to pursue a university course. The DfE added Level 5 learning to its list of comprehensive and relevant qualifications in October. Practitioners with Level 3 qualifications from other sectors will now be able to progress in their learning while achieving a “comprehensive and relevant” qualification that allows them to count in ratios, says Lawton.

“Home care workers, teacher assistants, and health and social service workers come to level 3 expecting to be able to work in the early years and find they can’t,” says she. “This learning allows them to convert their level 3 into a complete and relevant level 5 so that they do not have to redo level 3.”

Childminders are generally not able to follow the learning because they are independent. “The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education has specific guidelines: you have to have someone, or a group of people, with whom you can learn and be an apprentice,” says Upton.

Complementary diplomas

The pioneering group had hoped that apprenticeship would include a basic qualification, but it was decided that since the ‘license to practice’ in the early childhood sector is at level 3, apprenticeship should instead include a qualification. Early Childhood Educator Level 3. “The Institute for Apprenticeships is determined not to embed a qualification into an apprenticeship unless it is mandatory for those working in the sector,” Lawton says.

However, universities and colleges should still accept level 5 learning as a qualification that can be “supplemented” with further study to become a degree, in the same way as basic degrees. “We’ve worked with universities to make sure everyone is happy with the standard,” she says.

Upton adds, “We believe we have developed a final assessment strong enough to ensure that those who pass can be considered for a further degree program as a means of achieving early childhood teacher status.

Aaron Bradbury, a senior lecturer in early childhood at Nottingham Trent University, says his institution will most likely allow Level 5 apprentices to ‘top up’ their qualification with an additional year of study to earn a degree. “There will be a large cohort of professionals who will want to continue their education because they get a feel for higher education,” he says.

Apprenticeship offers an alternative to the basic level 5 diploma, popularized in the 2000s. Another option is the “full and relevant” level 5 diplomas, which are offered by NFCE CACHE, Pearson and City & Guilds. “I am particularly pleased that the Level 5 Professional Qualifications are now becoming a solid alternative to the Level 5 academic pathway, Basic Degrees,” says Emma Harvey, Lecturer and Assessor, Early Years and Education at Suffolk New College. “The basic degree route is still very popular for practitioners wishing to move into education, social work and other graduate professions, but for those wishing to obtain a higher level professional qualification and continue practicing in a framework, the options were previously quite limited. ‘

The other benefit of Level 5 career paths is that they include a license to practice at Level 3, Harvey explains. “Foundation degrees only include a license to practice if the university is enrolled in the Early Childhood Studies Diploma Network (ECSDN) and includes ECSDN graduate practitioner skills,” says she.

Suffolk New College has developed links with a university that allows those who have completed the CACHE Level 5 diploma for senior early childhood practitioners to move on to a one-year add-on program to earn an Honors Baccalaureate (see box) . “The university realizes that the quality of work produced by our level 5 graduates on career paths, as well as the excellent real-life experience of practitioners in leadership and supervisory roles, mean that our graduates are in a very good position. to complete a complementary year to graduate, ”says Harvey.


Level 5 apprenticeship gives practitioners the opportunity to advance their learning without having to fund it themselves – for small employers the program is 95 percent government funded, with employers paying only 5 percent of costs (around £ 400). The CACHE Level 5 Diploma for Senior Early Childhood Practitioners, launched in 2019 and which can be completed part-time through distance learning, is another option for practitioners looking to develop their careers. It costs around £ 3,500 and can be funded with an Advanced Learning Loan. Basic degrees are a third option; these cost around £ 12,000 to £ 16,000 and can be funded by student loans which have to be repaid when a student starts earning a salary of £ 26,500 per year or more.

“In the past, funds were available to develop a graduate-led workforce from the Transformation Fund and the Graduate Leadership Fund,” says Bradbury. “We won’t be seeing this kind of funding again, but as a sector we should embrace this level 5 learning as an opportunity for practitioners to get a feel for higher education. “

Level 5 Student – Caz Cockcroft, Suffolk New College

Caz Cockcroft, 56, works as a tertiary education assistant and educator at the Forest School at Handford Hall Primary School, Ipswich. She recently started her own outdoor learning organization, Suffolk Outdoor Learning, which aims to get families involved in activities such as archery, building dens and lighting fires. . Holding a level 3 qualification in games, she wanted to move on to a level 5 qualification and deepen her knowledge of the development of young children.

She decided to complete the CACHE Level 5 Diploma for Senior Early Years Practitioner at Suffolk New College, obtaining the qualification in August of this year. The knowledge part of the course was delivered remotely and Cockcroft was able to complete the practical part of the qualification as part of his work at the school.

During the pandemic, Cockcroft had to take on more responsibility, teaching small bubbles of receiving children, first and second graders, offering online learning and this year, teaching a receiving course for seven months. She was able to take this opportunity to practice the skills she was learning.

“During the training, we covered a range of issues ranging from the role of SENCo to working with other professionals, and all aspects of child development,” she says. “We carried out around twenty missions and two projects, which was quite intense. For one project, she created an outdoor learning area at the school, with kitchens and earthen dens, which is now used by reception, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.

Cockcroft is now participating in a one-year online program, which will progress her to an Honors BA in Early Childhood Studies, and after that, she has her eyes set on teacher training.

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