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UEA plans to scrap training for nursery professionals

Regional excellence at risk

The University of East Anglia (UEA) intends to withdraw from providing professional training for staff in infant day care centres across Norfolk. The university will drastically reduce the provision of training for ‘Early Years Professionals’ in September 2012 and close the programme entirely from February 2013. UEA is currently the only provider of this ‘EYPS’ training in Norfolk.

UEA also runs Secondary and Primary PGCE courses, which are top-rated by Ofsted. EYPS education thus complements and completes UEA’s training of educational professionals working with age ranges up to 18.

UEA is part of the Early Years East consortium for early years training. According to the Eastern Leadership Centre (ELC), the East of England ‘has almost 12,000 early years day care settings, employing thousands of early years practitioners to provide children across the region with some of the highest quality early years education in the country.’

The EYPS course was featured on the front page of the University’s bi-monthly internal newsletter Broadview in January, which hailed a ‘boost for early years training’ on its cover page, where it was announced that the UEA share of £3.4 million consortium funding over three years would allow the university to provide fully-funded graduate-level courses with no tuition fees. And yet within a few weeks the University had announced its intention of withdrawing completely from EYPS training.

The University and College Union (UCU), which represents academic staff at the university, says closure will mean the loss of a prestigious and valued regional resource and may lead to the redundancy of existing staff teaching the Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) programme, and could potentially affect nursery provision in Norfolk.

UCU members lobbied a meeting of members of the University Council on Monday 5 March and urged the university’s decision makers to explore alternatives to closure.

UCU was surprised and disappointed to learn that the University has forbidden the School of Education and Lifelong Learning to bid for additional EYPS funding that recently came available which could have substantially reduced, or even eliminated the identified shortfall in the funding on offer under the new contract. UCU was informed on 12th December 2011 of proposals to reduce EYPS provision, and was informed on 21st February that UEA intends to pull out altogether. This information was confidential until such time as other members of the consortium had been informed of UEA’s decision.

UCU union spokesperson at UEA, Paul Grassby, said:

‘UCU is very disappointed to discover that despite the UEA share of a new regional contract and other business opportunities that have recently arisen, including over one million pounds in potential additional funding, the university is proposing to close Early Years provision at UEA.

‘UEA’s proposal to end EYPS training, if carried out, may soon lead to a shortage of professionally trained nursery staff in Norfolk. UCU has written to the Dean of the Social Science Faculty and the Vice-Chancellor, asking for a detailed explanation.

‘We are asking that UEA put full effort into exploring alternatives rather than just taking the option of closing courses with consequent risk of staff redundancies.

‘Coming so soon after the announcement of the closure of the UEA School of Music, this is a disturbing development, which will further reduce the diversity of UEA and its educational and social contribution to the Eastern region. UCU will do its utmost to persuade UEA to retain this valued course.’

Quotes from a former student of the course:

‘The EYPS course was, quite frankly, transformative. On a wider level, if you rob the Early Years sector of its equivalent of the PGCE, you are sending a clear message: that it is not deserving of such an equivalent as it is not as important.’

A final decision regarding the redundancy of the EYPS course teachers will be made by the University’s Council on 21 May.

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