Upskilling the early years workforce

Velda Bartholomew, Training Operations Manager, Early Years Alliance

When your nursery or pre-school signs up to the Early Years Nutrition Partnership you are sending a clear message to the local community that you are making the health and well-being of the children in your care a top priority. With the support provided by your dedicated nutrition professional, your team will be able to work together to make sure that you are providing a strong, healthy nutritional foundation for the children. To mark your progress on the journey, the EYN Partnership Quality Mark scheme will help you showcase growing achievement.

But what about the individual early years practitioners within settings? To ensure that the nursery or pre-school has in-house expertise, and to provide recognition to the staff leading this work, the EYN Partnership programme provides access to tailored training and assessment for practitioners. With the support of your dedicated nutrition professional, they will be able to study for and achieve the Cache Level 3 qualification unit “Promote nutrition and hydration in early years and childcare settings”.

Course content

Practitioners embarking on this training will access vocational training online with learning materials that have been written by the British Nutrition Foundation.

The modules cover the principles of a balanced diet for young children, including information on healthy portion sizes and how a child’s dietary needs change over their first five years.

Creating healthy menus is a core activity and clear guidance is provided about what needs to be included and what should be avoided. Modules on hydration provide evidence-based advice on how to ensure children maintain their health and the most appropriate drinks for them to have. The module about infant feeding includes up-to-date advice on weaning.

Many settings have children who have special dietary requirements and so there is a module that looks at allergies, intolerances and other related issues.

“You don’t hear about many nutrition learning opportunities. You get some short courses, maybe a couple of hours, but this is actually a full qualification, and it is giving our staff the knowledge they need to make meaningful and not just tokenistic changes that make a real difference to the children.” 
- Sarah Parker, Manager, Tender Years Day Nursery, Solihull

Study support

The training resources are online on the EYN Partnership website so your practitioners can access them whenever it suits them, which means that they can fit their study in around busy lives, with work and other responsibilities. They can also return to a lesson as many times as needed, to make sure they are confident and get a full grasp of the subject matter.

Included in your settings’ EYN Partnership subscription is access for one practitioner to the training. The course takes about 16 weeks to complete. During this time practitioners will have access to an online learning community where they can find motivation and support from learners in other settings also undertaking the course. You also have the option to purchase access to the course for additional practitioners in your setting if you think your practitioners will benefit from having a ‘study-buddy’!

You should think carefully about which member or members of your team should undertake the training. As a Level 3 course it is the same academic level as the Early Years Educator and requires commitment to study by the learner. He or she also has to demonstrate how their new knowledge is supporting improvement in practice in the setting so the person you choose must be in a position to influence this.

It is important that practitioners have support and encouragement from their setting manager and other colleagues when enrolled on the training. Acknowledging their commitment to personal development and providing opportunities to share their knowledge with colleagues in the setting can be a way to reinforce your settings’ commitment to improving nutrition.

The course takes about 16 weeks to complete and as well as providing support throughout the training process your setting’s nutrition professional will carry out the assessment.  A set of assessment tasks focus on implementing healthy eating in the setting, and include making posters and information sheets to share.

Training benefits

This award means that the practitioners leading the changes within your nursery or pre-school can achieve a personal accreditation for their efforts. Achieving the qualification can give a real boost to personal confidence and colleagues and parents will recognise and respect the staff members’ commitment and knowledge. It’s also great addition to any early years staff member’s CV!

“It’s given me a lot of confidence, I feel I’ve got much deeper knowledge now around food groups, and the confidence to make decisions especially for children with special dietary requirements, if they have allergies or they are vegetarian. The study is really interesting and the practical side is great, I’ve enjoyed making leaflets and handouts, it’s got my creative side going!”
- Donna Graham, Deputy Manager, Tender Years Day Nursery, Solihull

Feedback from our nutrition professionals

We asked our EYN Partnership nutrition professionals how they are finding the course so far.

Lucy told us, “It has been a real source of satisfaction for me, sharing and supporting the learners' journeys, as they progress through the course. I love hearing about the exciting food related activities they are doing with the children, seeing the fabulous work products on display in the setting and witnessing the learners becoming more confident and able to talk about nutrition and hydration. This is real proof to me that we are able to empower early years settings to promote healthy eating and drinking habits.”

Gill is enjoying the experience of helping learners too. “I think that this is a great course as it really gets the practitioner thinking about good nutrition and hydration and how this can be practically applied in their own early years setting. The work is centred around practical tasks that will benefit the setting, like the task to design a poster to promote good hydration within the setting and the task to create an information leaflet for colleagues around malnutrition.  The results I’ve seen so far have been amazing and I am looking forward to seeing these practical examples of coursework actually being used within the settings!”

As you can see our nutrition professionals are excited to see so many practitioners looking to upskill and become confident promotors of good nutrition, and gain credit for their enthusiasm for this vital area. Well done to anyone taking the course, the more nutrition experts there are involved in the early years sector, the better for the health of our current and future pre-school generations.