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Guidance: Check early years qualifications

Department For Education

October 13
16:08 2021

This guidance is for anyone who wants to find out information about early years qualifications.

All early years providers working with children from birth to 5 years old must follow the regulations on early years foundation stage (EYFS) staff:child ratios. This is the number of qualified staff, at different qualification levels, an early years setting needs to have in order to meet the needs of all children and ensure their safety. These regulations are set out in the statutory framework for the early years foundation stage (EYFS).

Providers must make sure staff have the appropriate qualifications to count in the ratios, including the need to have at least one staff member trained in paediatric first aid.

Qualification requirements

The Department for Education (DfE) defines the qualifications that staff must hold to count in EYFS staff:child ratios.Providers can use our early years qualifications lists to:

  • check if a persons qualification meets the approved full and relevant criteria for early years qualifications
  • confirm if a person counts in the EYFS staff:child ratios

If a person holds a level 2 qualification that meets the level 2 full and relevant criteria, you can count them towards the EYFS staff:child ratios at level 2.

If a person holds a qualification at level 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 that meets the level 3 full and relevant criteria, you can count them towards the EYFS staff:child ratios at level 3.

If a person holds a qualification at level 4 or 5 (completed as part of a level 6 course), unless the level 4 or level 5 qualification is listed as meeting the full and relevant criteria, they cannot be counted in the EYFS staff:child ratios at level 3.

Depending on whether the qualification was started before or after 1 September 2014, you may also need suitable level 2 literacy and numeracy qualifications.

Qualifications started before 1 September 2014

Staff who completed or registered for a qualification before 1 September 2014 must hold a qualification that meets the full and relevant criteria for early years qualifications in order to count towards the level 2 or level 3 EYFS staff:child ratios. They do not need to hold level 2 literacy and numeracy qualifications.

Search our complete list of all approved pre-September 2014 early years qualifications.

The title of the qualification on the spreadsheet has to match exactly the title on the qualification certificate. If it does not match exactly, then it is not an approved qualification for working in the staff:child ratios.

If your qualification is not listed or is listed but is not full and relevant, level 3 and level 2 early years qualifications that are approved for working in staff:child ratios after 1 September 2014 can be found in the EYFS staff:child ratios - DfE approved qualifications guidance. These can be used if anyone wants to undertake a DfE approved early years qualification.

Qualifications started after 1 September 2014

Changes to NCFE CACHE and Pearson early years educator (EYE) and early years practitioner (EYP) qualification certificates

When employing a member of staff, you will need to check NCFE CACHE and Pearson qualification certificates to establish:

  • whether the learner has achieved a knowledge only pathway early years educator (EYE) or early years practitioner (EYP) qualification
  • if the qualification has not met the EYE criteria

This will be clearly displayed on the certificate.

Where the achievement of the qualification is knowledge only pathway or does not state the EYE status, the holder cannot be counted in the staffing ratios. The knowledge only pathway EYE or EYP qualification allows the learner to progress to further education or higher education.

You can:

Level 2

From 1 September 2014 until 31 August 2019, all level 2 early years qualifications are full and relevant if they are:

Appropriate to early years practice means that the qualification needs to be relevant to working in an early years setting that covers childcare and child development for the 0 to 5 age range. A level 2 qualification in babysitting, for example, would not be appropriate to early years practice.

From 1 September 2019, all level 2 qualifications must meet the level 2 early years practitioner criteria. Awarding organisations have developed these qualifications and they have been available from 1 September 2019.

Search our list of approved early years qualifications that meet the level 2 early years practitioner criteria. We will update this list when new qualifications are added.

Level 3

From 1 September 2014, all level 3 qualifications must meet the early years educator criteria. This means that all staff who have registered for a qualification since that date can be counted in the EYFS staff:child ratios at level 3 if they hold:

Search our full list of early years qualifications that meet the early years educator criteria.

If a person holds a level 3 early years qualification but does not have suitable level 2 literacy and numeracy qualifications, you can only count them at level 2 in the EYFS staff:child ratios.

If a person holds a level 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 that is not on our list of approved early years educator qualifications, they may be able to count in the EYFS staff:child ratios at level 2 providing that:

  • the qualification was taken between 1 September 2014 and 31 August 2019
  • the qualification is 0 to 5 years related
  • the qualification is appropriate to early years practice

Appropriate to early years practice means that the qualification covers childcare and child development for the 0 to 5 age range.

From 1 September 2019, level 3 (or above) qualifications started on or after this date cannot be counted in the level 2 staff:child ratios as shown above. From 1 September 2019, level 2 qualifications must me

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