Case study

Building on Success: supporting early years practitioners in Covid-19 recovery

Lyn Challender
Olivia Miller

The early years sector has faced multiple challenges in recent months, with disruption from the pandemic converging with staff shortages, increased safeguarding concerns, higher numbers of children identified with additional needs, and a new statutory framework to implement, as well as pressure to ensure businesses remained financially viable. Despite this – or perhaps as a result – there was demand from the sector for high quality professional development to give practitioners the tools to support children effectively. The ‘Building on Success’ programme has emerged as an effective response to this – well-designed and responsive to the needs of early years professionals.

The Early Years Professional Development Programme (EYPDP) is a key element of the national government initiative to improve children’s outcomes in early language, literacy and mathematics. Fully funded by the Department for Education, it has offered training to thousands of early years practitioners since inception. In September 2021, an adapted version of the EYPDP, ‘Building on Success’ was conceived as part of the UK government’s early Covid-19 recovery plan. The aim was to recruit more early years practitioners in pre-reception settings and offer a revised version of the training, with additional new content in response to the pandemic.    

 

High levels of interest and involvement  

The process to recruit programme participants was driven by determination to find eligible practitioners from across the country – from the North East to South West of the country. Setting Managers and Local Authority Leads, ably supported by the Building on Success programme team, disseminated key messaging on the benefits of taking part and stressed that places were limited. By December, all 2,000 places had been filled and the programme team set about onboarding practitioners to the Learning Management System. Participants expressed enthusiasm for the programme and its content focus, mentioning also that the timing felt right. 

‘This programme is coming at the right time – people want more direction. They’ve had a go at the EYFS [Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework], battled Covid and seem to be coming through the other side of that trauma. Their normality is different to before. This programme is going to be fantastic, focusing on the key things – it fits beautifully with what is needed.’  Early Years Practitioner, Sandwell 

 

Fast-paced, demanding and flexible  

The first set of content, which was developed using Elklan Training Limited’s speech, language and communication expertise, was released to practitioners in early January 2022.  The programme is fast-paced and demanding, with participants required to access separate units of eLearning content, followed by a live webinar with a Programme Trainer each subsequent week.  The speech, language and communication content has covered key elements such as how children learn to communicate, how children develop language, the importance of early narrative skills and how practitioners can incorporate language development into children’s play. As a result of the course, 98% of participants reported feeling more confident in supporting children’s speech, language and communication development. 

Due to the online nature of the programme, participants have been able to select from a vast range of options to attend the webinar element, offering them much-needed flexibility of access, including twilight, evening and weekend sessions. The benefit of a virtual delivery model has meant that practitioners from all over the country have been brought together in learning sets in a way as never before. Feedback has been positive – 97% of participants reported that the course was effective or very effective in helping them improve their day-to-day practice, and many gave examples of demonstrable impact following only a few weeks on the programme: 

 

‘This course is altering the way I connect with the children in my care so much. I look forward to the learning part and interaction with my group and practitioner every week.’  Early Years Practitioner, Reading
 
‘The training has really made a difference. I have been working in Early Years for over ten years, but I have learnt so much in the last four weeks! The impact has been so much more language and vocabulary being used in my setting – and this in a short space of time.’  Childminder, West Sussex
 
‘It is difficult to find appropriate training that can challenge higher qualified and experienced practitioners, but we can already see that our member of staff will be able to bring her increased knowledge and resources into our whole setting.’ Staffordshire Nursery 

 

Having completed seven units of Speech, Language and Communication training, participants have now moved onto six units of Early Mathematics training, written by subject experts Dr Sue Gifford and Dr Catherine Gripton, and then onto five units of training on Personal, Emotional and Social Development. This content has been written by the Anna Freud Centre, the world-leading mental health charity, whose patron is HRH the Duchess of Cambridge.  

 

Looking ahead 

The programme will conclude in July 2022, with practitioners devising an action plan with the support of their Programme Trainer on how they can implement what they have learned longer term, ensuring key messages and strategies are embedded throughout their settings. Participating practitioners will then receive a certificate of completion from endorsing body, OCN London, recognising their commitment to their own professional development and evidencing that they have taken part in a high-quality training programme.  

Visit the Early Years Professional Development programme website here