Working in early years requires staff to develop a complex skill set to support children’s development at the most formative time in their lives. Additionally, managers within early years settings need skills to effectively deal with change, high pressure and, most importantly, mentor their staff.

The COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on UK businesses, reducing income due to restrictions, closures and staff shortages. In early years, there was a 35% increase in nursery closures during the height of the pandemic compared to the same period the previous year. These closures accounted for a reduction of more than 3,000 registered providers between April 2020 and March 2021

The early years foundation stage (EYFS) statutory framework requires all early years settings to have at least one Level 3 Early Years Educator or above qualified staff member on-site during operational hours. With this essential framework in place, staff holding lower levels of qualifications were more likely than others to be made redundant between March and November 2020.

This means having more staff members with the  Level 3 Early Years Educator qualification – or working towards it – will create more leaders and make staff deployment easier.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of early years settings have a small training budget to support the careers of their staff during the best of times. To mitigate the effect of the current hardships facing the industry, we’re highlighting some cost-effective solutions to help your early years setting to access training today.


The Apprenticeship Levy is a tax on large employers with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million which is used to fund apprenticeship training. 

Smaller businesses, who don’t pay the Apprenticeship Levy, have access to the government’s co-investment scheme which helps businesses to pay for apprenticeship training costs. 

With co-investment, the government pays 95% up to the maximum amount of funding set for the apprenticeship chosen – meaning employers contribute just 5% towards the funding of the apprenticeship.

Advanced Learner Loan

Advanced Learner Loans give financial support to fund training for individuals to pay for their own education, similar to what’s available in higher education through Student Finance England. These loans are paid directly to the college or training organisation on behalf of a learner and are arranged by the learner.

The Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) frequently updates a list of approved qualifications that are available for funding, with a large number of early years qualifications on the list. You can learn more about Advanced Learner Loan funding rules for 2021-2022 via the government website and if you’re eligible in our free Advanced Learner Loans guide.

As a gateway for Advanced Learner Loans, we’re able to secure training opportunities for individuals aged over 19 to undertake training qualifications. 

European Social Fund (ESF)

The European Social Fund (ESF) aims to enhance employment and fairer life opportunities for all through skills training. ESF funded qualifications are available to develop the skills of young people and adults in 38 local enterprise partnership (LEP) areas across England. Funding is available until March 2023, regardless of the outcome of Britain leaving the European Union.

At Connect2Care, we work with a number of LEP’s to provide fully-funded training to employees within early years organisations to gain lifelong skills.

Adult Education Budget (AEB)

Funded by the Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), the Adult Education Budget (AEB) provides funding to improve skills and learning of adults to help them progress into work, equip them for an apprenticeship or other learning.

For example, early years employees use mathematics and english skills in their day-to-day duties. AEB funding can be used to help your workforce achieve Functional Skills Level 1 or 2 in maths and English if needed.

You can learn more about funding rules in our free e-guide, Funding to Fire up Your Business. Additionally, you can get in contact with our friendly team today to discuss the funding opportunities you want to take advantage of for your business.

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