BUSY BEES QUITS TRAILBLAZER GROUP

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Busy Bees has resigned from the chair of the Early Years trailblazer group, established by the Government to develop training standards, over claims the process is 'not employer-led'.

The training academy arm of Busy Bees, the UK's largest nursery chain, led the 11-strong provider group which is working alongside the Institute for Apprenticeships (IFA) panel - responsible for approving apprenticeship standards - on developing the Level 3 Early Years Apprenticeship.

But, as reported in Nursery World and Children and Young People Now, Busy Bees training academy Chief Executive Fay Gibbin released a statement in which she said: "We are stepping down because we truly believe it should be an employer-led process and unfortunately this has not been the case.

"To reach the outcome we all desire as practitioners who really care about the industry, these decisions should be made by people at the coalface.

"Childcare is, and should be, a highly regulated sector. Therefore, our industry input and knowledge should be vital when agreeing new measurements that ensure future standards work effectively alongside any mandatory regulations.

"I would urge the IFA to listen to the views of employers and give them more involvement in setting the overall standards being discussed."

The announcement comes just a month before the Level 3 Early Years Educator standard - the process for which started in 2014 - is expected to finally be available for new apprentices.

Nursery World reports that sources say the trailblazers were at loggerheads with the IFA panel - with one of the bones of contention being that the panel is believed to have tried to impose a GCSE requirement on apprenticeships.

The trailblazer group was set up in March last year to look at developing Early Years Apprenticeship standards from Level 3 through to degree Level 6.

After several hold-ups, the Level 3 standards were submitted last on 26 September and Ms Gibbin said a compromise on the assessment methods had been reached which 'will result in a stronger, more skilled workforce'.

The Nursery World article also reported that Ms Gibbin had said the group became involved in the process of determining the most appropriate requirements for Level 3 practitioners so that it could help 'create a framework that incorporates robust training and effective, meaningful qualifications with agreed standards in place' and that members had gained 'incredible insight' into the IfA and 'thoroughly enjoyed working with our fellow Early Years industry experts to this end'.

Ms Gibbin has said she won’t officially leave the group until the Level 3 standard is approved, and will stay on for a time in the event it is rejected. There will be a handover later this month, when the new group chair will be announced.

I imagine this was not a spur-of-the-moment decision by Busy Bees and is indicative of the difficulties Ms Gibbin has encountered.

At a time when there is clearly a recruitment crisis, the IFA should be paying more heed to what experienced representatives of the Early Years sector are saying and not losing knowledgeable and valuable members such as Ms Gibbin.