Graduate Practitioner Competencies

Please note that the Graduate Practitioner Competencies can only be embedded in degrees mapped on to ECS QAA Benchmark Statement.

The Rationale for Early Childhood Graduate Practitioner Competencies
A real strength of ECS degrees is the variety of study and career pathways.

However, this can present challenges for future employers. Different HEIs use different titles for degrees mapped on to the ECS QAA Benchmark Statement and it is not always clear how the degree maps against sector qualifications.

To proactively address these issues and strengthen degrees with placements, or that are work-based, the ECSDN has collectively developed assessed practice competencies awarded at Level 6, that evidence the students holistic understanding of Early Childhood development and their ability to apply, critically evaluate and communicate theoretical knowledge to practice. These can be embedded in a variety of ways, including:

  • in a specifically designed degree
  • as a pathway option

HEIs can award Early Childhood Graduate Practitioner to students who successfully meet all the competencies.

The Early Childhood Graduate Practitioner Competencies Booklet
Originally published in October 2019 and further revised in July 2020, a copy of the current booklet can be downloaded from the link below.

The Early Childhood Graduate Practitioner Competencies aim to:

  1. Remove the confusion in the sector about how ECS Degrees are aligned to practice requirements in the four nations of the UK.
  2. Address the inherent challenges of different types of Early Childhood degrees and study pathways, enabling the wider workforce to be clear about individual early career graduates’ expected level of knowledge, skills and actual experience in practice.
  3. Acknowledge the different pathways that lead learners to undertake the degrees, enhance their practice experience and enhance employability skills.
  4. Ensure that Higher Education academic routes are responsive to the changing needs and training routes in early years practice, education and the wider Children’s Services workforce.
  5. Make a significant contribution to strengthening a graduate-led Early Childhood workforce that is responsive to workforce needs and improves outcomes for children.
  6. Afford students with placement opportunities to critically apply theory to practice in a range of Early Childhood settings and/or schools, social care and health settings. This will enable students to develop graduate skills in the application of the inter-disciplinary Early Childhood knowledge base to reflective practice.
  7. Provide new opportunities for graduates who want to strengthen their practice in Early Childhood and/or progress to post-graduate academic programmes or professional training, including Early Years Teacher (0-5), Teacher (3-11), Social Work and health professions.

More details (ECSDN Members only) can be found here: GPC Toolbox


As I begin to prepare to take on a master’s degree I reflect upon my career so far and wonder how a timid and self-conscious nursery nurse has come so far.

Although my current role as a Family Support Worker has taken me from my early years comfort zone, I still consider myself to be a passionate and dynamic early years advocate and have worked within a wide range of settings. I firmly believe in the holistic approach to education and care and I am fully committed to empowering positive outcomes for children and their families. My experience so far dictates that nurture and high quality intervention and provision should be at the heart of this.

I qualified as a BTec Nursery Nurse in 1996. I have since spent my entire career being proud to work within the early years sector and hold my nursery nurse qualification close to my heart. However, as a nursery nurse I reached a point where I felt that status was gradually being diminished and referred to by many other titles, EYP, EY teaching assistant, childcare assistant etc. This often made me feel the job role was not valued. I was always someone’s assistant. As such I reached a point whereby my experience and skill base was not always appreciated or even respected at times by my professional peers as I remained a Level 3. Although the role I had at the time was one of leadership within a Two Year Old provision in a primary school, the responsibility, skillset and expertise I was expected to have was not reflected in my salary or status, regardless of my achieving and maintaining “Outstanding” Ofsted judgements. I became tired of feeling inadequate and realised knowledge was power.

This then became the motivation for me to gain graduate status. Working full time and studying for my degree at University of Sunderland was not easy however I was able to connect the two and benefit both my studies and my knowledge for the role. The opportunity then arose to pilot the Early Childhood Graduate Performance Competencies. This has been fantastic in drawing and reflecting on existing knowledge and developing new knowledge. To be able to have the role validated in this way I believe can only be a positive in transforming the often belittled attitudes towards the early years sector. Most importantly it will ensure our youngest learners have the highest quality resource available to them – the practitioner!

I have a constant aspiration to learn more and apply to existing knowledge and experience, and a strong desire to support the next generation of workforce to achieve graduate status, improving standards within the sector. My goal eventually is to work someway in supporting practitioners to improve and develop, nurturing their skills as I have with young children all of my career and support them in realising how much of a privilege it is to contribute to young children’s journeys.

Helen Haygarth


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