Our Governments response to our Save Our Early Years letter

Earlier this month we wrote to the Government in support of the #SaveOurEarlyYears campaign regarding the well warranted fears over future childcare provision, and to ask them to reverse their decision that will have a catastrophic effect on the childcare sector.

In 2014, the Government altered the requirements for those taking a Level 3 in childcare. Now, all Level 3 Early Years Educators (EYEs) must have at least a C grade in GCSE English and maths to count in the ratios – with alternatives such as Functional Skills no longer considered as an option.

So what are the effects of this policy?

First of all, the current policy is turning away a workforce. How are providers expected to meet the demand for childcare along with the additional 30 hour free entitlement when they are experiencing a shortage of staff members?

The Government’s current policy is at odds with the wider approach it has taken, both in Apprenticeships policy and in other sectors where Functional Skills are accepted. Without Functional Skills accepted as an alternative to GCSE English and maths for Early Years Educators to count in the ratios:

  • Childcare providers cannot recruit enough staff
  • Potential new recruits, who have all the skills, including good English and maths, to be excellent Early Years Educators, will be barred from the sector.
  • Parents childcare bills will rise as the cost to providers of employing highly qualified staff is passed on
  • The Government is limiting its own chances of hitting its target of achieving three million apprentices by 2020.

Here at Profile we also agree that English and maths are important – but the insistence on GCSE as the only accepted qualification for those wanting to work in my sector, without the consideration of equitable alternatives such as Functional Skills, is short-sighted and potentially disastrous and believe the English and Maths skills should be relative to their sector. We are sure that you do not need to understand Pythagoras Theorem or how to solve trigonometry when working with 0-5 year olds.

So what was the response?

“Dear Mrs Webb MA

I am writing on behalf of the Secretary of State to thank you for your email of 14 May about the qualification requirements for Level 3 Early Years Educator staff. I have noted the concerns you raised as part of the Save Our Early Years campaign.

We recognise that early years staff do an incredibly important job and want to make sure that those working with our youngest children have the specialist knowledge and skills they need to support early learning and development. Strong numeracy and literacy skills, amongst others, are essential for staff working with young children because a key part of their role is to help children learn how to communicate effectively and understand basic mathematical concepts.

In 2013 government introduced the Early Years Educator qualifications criteria to make sure that level 3 qualifications prepare learners for the role they may hold in a childcare setting. Individuals can gain Early Years Educator status either through a standalone qualification or via the apprenticeship route which will support them to achieve GCSEs. Staff working in level 3 roles can have a range of responsibilities, all of which require them to be highly skilled and well-qualified. Level 3 staff are likely to work directly with children, many will have additional responsibility as room leaders and some will lead and manage an entire childcare setting.

The requirement for level 3 staff to hold a GCSE maths and English at grade C or above was introduced to make sure that new entrants to the workforce have the numeracy and literacy skills they need to operate in a level 3 role. Government chose to require GCSEs because they cover a wider breadth of content than functional skills and because they are designed to support further study, which is important for career progression.

I note the concerns you have expressed about a reduction in the number of learners taking up level 3 early years qualifications. Our position on GSCEs is designed to develop a well-qualified and highly skilled early years workforce. The provider survey (2013) showed there was a substantial increase in the number of staff working in full day care providers between 2008 and 2013, with the number rising by 31 per cent, from 178,500 to 233,200. We also know from the provider survey that there were 13,500 apprentices employed in full-day care settings. That’s equivalent to 6% of all staff in full-day care settings.

We do not want to unintentionally undo the excellent progress that has been made over the past few years in which qualification levels have continued to rise. In 2013 an impressive 87% of the 233,200 staff working in full day care settings held at least a level 3 qualification. When early years employers expressed concerns about GCSEs as an entry requirement for level 3 early years courses, we listened and moved to an exit requirement. We continue to value the views of those who work in the sector and the views of parents and we will make sure that we consider all of the evidence available to us on such an important matter.

As part of the work to develop an early years workforce strategy, Minister Gyimah and policy officials have been talking to childcare employers and training organisations about early years qualifications, including the GCSE requirement. Officials have also been considering the available data on the take up of early years training routes. We want to understand the challenges that some childcare employers are telling us they are experiencing, and find ways to tackle these whilst ensuring a quality workforce remains.

We are considering the information that we have gathered on this matter.

Thank you for writing on this important matter.”

The effect it’s had so far?

We found it rather interesting that when they quoted the figures in their response that they only included up to 2013, when the policy was beginning to change. Below we have included figures of the number of apprenticeships within the Early Years setting from 2013 and the steady decline since the inclusion of these new government rules.

2012/2013 – 26,300

2013/2014 – 24,320

2014/2015 – 21,900

Our MD Mrs Andrea Webb has Functional Skills in Level 2 and a Masters Degree in Education and has taught in schools for nearly 16 years and even Andrea would be unable to work in a childcare setting.

How do you show your support?

To show your support for #SaveOurEarlyYears campaign:

  • Share this post by using any of the social media icons below
  • Visit their site http://www.saveourearlyyears.org.uk and share it across social media site using the hashtag #SaveOurEarlyYears
  • Send a message to the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan that this policy needs to be amended.

If you are a childcare provider and you are looking for more information on apprenticeships, please contact us on 01843 609300 or email us at enquiries@profiledt.co.uk