Common sense has prevailed with the Government's decision to reinstate functional skills as alternatives to GCSEs in English and maths for Level 3 qualifications.
The current minimum requirement for Level 3 Early Years Educators to hold GCSEs at C or above in the two subjects to count in staff:child ratios has been broadened to include other suitable level 2 qualifications, including Functional Skills.
The move comes after massive pressure not only from the Early Years sector, but also concerned parents.
The sector blamed the requirement for exacerbating existing recruitment and retention issues andparents backed their viewpoint. A poll commissioned by the Save Our Early Years campaign found more than seven in 10 parents disagreed with the GCSE-only policy.
In the Government consultation response, Caroline Dinenage, Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Women, Equalities and Early Years, says:
"We received an overwhelming response, with over 4,000 written responses. Indeed, they show that many in the sector welcome the ambition of the GCSE requirement. However, they also confirm that employers and training providers are experiencing difficulties with their recruitment at level 3. This is because the qualification requirements are not broad enough to enable them to attract, retain and develop people with the right skills and passion for this rewarding profession."
After careful consideration, I have decided to broaden the qualifications in English and mathematics which can be achieved by early years educators (Level 3) to count in the staff: child ratios. This means that level 2 Functional Skills will be accepted alongside other suitable level 2 qualifications including GCSEs.
"Based on the feedback to our consultation, I believe that this will strike the right balance between a system that supports people to reach their potential, but also ensures that they have the right skills to support children’s development at this crucial time in their lives."
The consultation, in November, received 4,072 responses from the Early Years sector and workforce.
Just over three-quarters of respondents (76.8%) stated they had experienced difficulty recruiting to their setting or training course in the last two years - since the GCSE requirements were instated - with almost two-thirds (64.9%) blaming applicants’ lack of the required GCSEs as the main recruitment difficulty.
Half (50.2%) selected Level 2 Functional Skills as the ‘most appropriate’ literacy qualification and appropriate mathematics qualifications followed a similar pattern with 53.8% supporting Functional Skills.
Just 4.4% of respondents believed the GCSE requirement had had a beneficial impact on the quality of childcare applicants.
The new requirement will come into force from 3 April, at the same time as the new Early Years Foundation Stage framework.
As I have clearly stated previously, everyone in the childcare sector knows GCSEs are not the be-all and end-all - that academic ability in English and maths does not guarantee a good quality practitioner.
The sector has now had it"s say and respondents" considerable concerns have been heard and heeded.
Thank goodness the Government has done the right thing for the benefit of everyone - settings, practitioners and our young learners.