Stories from the sandpit: Telling the narratives of early years teachers’ experiences in employment

Amanda Tayler Staffordshire University, United Kingdom (

Background: The early childhood sector globally has undergone professional transformation in recent years. Yet despite this attempt by successive government policies the literature from the field suggests that those working in early years remain the ‘Cinderellas’ of the education sector (undervalued and underpaid). This doctoral study is looking at the experiences of early years teachers (EYTs) in England, UK and preliminary analysis has highlighted some significant findings in that the participants do not feel undervalued and do feel able to perform in their role.

Aim: To explore what it means to be an early years teacher in this place at this time.

Method: An online questionnaire was distributed via social media and professional networks and 20 responses were received, of these 14 agreed to an interview though not all those who offered this responded to a later request. The interviews happened and are happening via Microsoft teams and employ the use of a sand tray with fantasy toy figures inside which participants then utilised to recreate their working day. The interviews are recorded for the purposes of analysis and are ongoing.

Results: Preliminary findings from questionnaires and interviews suggest that those who hold the qualification of EYT for the most part do not feel undervalued and used words like ‘specialist’ and ‘expert’ to explain what they considered the role entailed. This study is ongoing so these are early results.

Conclusions: It is too early in the study to offer any firm conclusions however what appears to be emerging is that in the UK, those who responded and who hold the EYT qualification do feel they are having a positive impact upon both children’s outcomes and in their support of their colleagues practice too.

Implications for children: Your teachers have told us that they feel they can help you learn at your schools and nurseries and to help you grow.

Implications for families: Early years teachers have told us that they feel confident in their role in supporting families and ensuring positives outcomes for children.

Implications for practitioners: The EYT qualification appears to be having a positive impact upon practice and outcomes for children and families.

Key words:  professionals’ voices, workforce issues, education, policy, government, qualitative methods, theory.

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: