In October 2021, the Department for Education (DfE) announced that £153 million will be invested to strengthen teaching in the early years and address the impact of the pandemic on the youngest children. Together with the previously announced Nuffield Early Language Programme (£17m), and further investment (£10m) in the second phase of the Professional Development Programme, this represents an investment of up to £180m of recovery support in the early years sector.

These proposals build on the reforms to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) to accelerate and embed real change for young children, which is more important than ever in light of the impact of the pandemic.

One of the ways DfE are supporting early years practitioners is through the DfE Experts and Mentors programme.

About the programme

This programme offers early years support, delivered either face-to-face or virtually, by trained experts and mentors to:

  • early years practitioners
  • leaders
  • whole settings

The offer to early years settings includes:

  • leadership support
  • coaching for leaders
  • mentoring for practitioners
  • whole-setting support depending on a setting’s priorities and needs

The programme is being piloted in two Regional Schools Commissioners (RSC) regions, Lancashire and West Yorkshire and the North of England from April – July 2022.

Full rollout

The full programme roll-out will begin on a national scale, across England, in September 2022 (covering academic years 2022 to 2023 and 2023 to 2024).

Early years professionals will fulfil the roles of:

  • Mentors, to provide online or remote support to early years practitioners as they complete a new online child development training package
  • Experts, to provide face-to-face support to leaders of settings
  • Area leads, to act as a first point of contact in their region for Experts and Mentors, and to provide face-to-face support to setting leaders

All roles will focus on helping children recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, including narrowing the gap between disadvantaged children and others.

Applicants must have:

  • at least 3 years’ experience and are currently working in an early years setting that is Ofsted rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ (or equivalent independent school inspection rating)
  • a level 6 or above early years qualification

Applicants may be working in:

  • schools
  • nursery schools
  • private, voluntary or independent (PVI) nurseries
  • other early years settings
  • early years roles within local authorities or universities

Childminders are not eligible for this programme at this time. Information on how childminders can get involved will be announced in due course.

You can find out more about how to take part in the programme here.


The formal closing date to submit an application for the roles of Area lead, Expert or Mentor for the full rollout have closed, but the application window may re-open later in the year.

Please submit any questions you have about the programme to 

You can read the privacy notice here.