Case study

Early Years Professional Development Programme

The Early Years Professional Development Programme (EYPDP) provides high quality, evidence-informed continuous professional development for practitioners working with children between the ages of two and four in some of the most disadvantaged areas in the country. Over the course of the programme, around 3,000 practitioners will gain Level 3 and Level 4 qualifications in Language and Literacy, as proof of the difference they are making to increase children’s communication skills and improve outcomes in language, literacy and mathematics.

This two-year initiative is funded by the Department for Education in England, and is being delivered by Education Development Trust.

The challenge

The programme forms a key part of the Government’s plan to improve social mobility through education. The ‘Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential’ plan sets out the Government’s commitment to improving outcomes for disadvantaged children and close the ‘word gap’ in the early years between more advantaged children and their less advantaged peers.

This is crucially important: although development gaps and word gaps can emerge early in a child’s life, their effects can be felt throughout their school lives – and even into adulthood. For instance, an average of 40% of the development gap between disadvantaged 16-year-olds and their peers has already emerged by the time they are five years old. Moreover, by the age of three, disadvantaged children are, on average, almost a year and a half behind their peers in their language development. Children who are behind in language development at the age of five are six times less likely to reach expected standards in English by the age of eleven, and are eleven times less likely to reach these standards in mathematics.

Early years interventions for less advantaged children are therefore hugely important to promoting their success later in their education, ultimately contributing to social mobility. The EYPDP seeks to help address this problem by ensuring high-quality training and development for those practitioners working with vulnerable and disadvantaged children. These practitioners have a critically important role in enabling the best possible outcomes for these children, and helping them to overcome the challenges that can hold them back.

Our approach

We have designed the EYPDP to ensure a large number of practitioners are able to learn and share excellent practice in early years language and literacy skills development. To do this, we use a cascade framework, with expert knowledge provided by our partner, Elklan, which writes and delivers accredited, evidence-informed courses responding to speech, language and communication needs.

In collaboration with over 50 Local Authorities (LAs) across England, more than 1,300 school-based, private, voluntary and independent early years settings were selected (by the LAs) to receive sustained, intensive training and support as part of ‘professional development partnerships’.

In the early stages of the programme, around 400 practitioners from these partnerships were recruited to act as Champions. These Champions received high-quality, accredited training in early years language, literacy and mathematics, learning both how to embed that training into their own work and workplaces, and how to make a difference across their local areas.

Once trained, the Champions enable a much wider cohort of practitioners to also gain Level 3 and Level 4 qualifications by cascading their knowledge. To facilitate this most effectively, a team of expert trainers provides support to help Champions to build their own Communities of Practice. In this way, good practice can be shared and sustained more broadly – far beyond the lifetime of the programme.

Moreover, to support their learning and their role in the cascade, each Champion is provided with a comprehensive set of printed and online training materials to support their learning. To promote further professional development and open up access to a greater range of research and resources, all Champions also receive free membership of the Chartered College of Teaching.

Our impact

By the end of the programme, around 3,000 practitioners will be newly qualified in Level 3 Language & Literacy for 2-to-4-year-olds, as accredited by OCN London. Moreover, 1,500 early years settings will have achieved Communication Friendly Setting status, meaning that they are equipped to help to improve communication for every child, whatever their needs – extending their vocabulary, encouraging spoken language and working with families.  An estimated 60,000 children will have been reached by the programme, among whom speech and language difficulties are more likely to be identified early, and impactful interventions can be made prior to the start of formal schooling. This marks a significant step towards closing the ‘word gap’ and thereby improving the life chances of many of our most vulnerable children.

We are already seeing our Champions gaining in confidence and expertise. In the words of a few of our champions:

“The EYPDP experience has been fabulous so far. We are incredibly well supported by [the Programme Trainers] and have an awesome team of colleagues who I have enjoyed working with and learning from. The Elklan content has been superb.” 

“We have observed huge improvements in our children’s development and had fantastic feedback from parents about their own confidence at home.”

“I have been working in this sector for well over 20 years and have a Level 5 [qualification], an honours degree and Early Years professional status – and in every session I learned something new and or came away with ideas to improve the practice of myself or my team. It was refreshing for it not to be theory-based but purely developmental, clinical facts of how and when children develop in these areas, why they at times don't, and what to do about it.”

To find out more about the Early Years Professional Development Programme, please visit the EYPDP website.