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Government criticised for ignoring functional skills route to Early Years Educator qualification

Article By: Sue Learner, News Editor

Early years organisations have criticised the Government for refusing to accept the functional skills route as a valid pathway to the Early Years Educator qualification.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership has confirmed that all people wanting to take the Early Years Educator qualification have to have GCSEs in English and mathematics at grade C or above and it has said functional skills will not be accepted as equivalent to GCSEs.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association said she was disappointed and added: “It is important high quality childcare has a high quality workforce and young people who aspire to that must have a viable route into the workforce. We agree with the aspiration of every EYE holding GCSE maths and English but would strongly recommend this is phased in and the importance of functional skills is recognised, with only 60 per cent of young people leaving school with GCSE maths and English.”

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, called the Government’s refusal to recognise functional skills qualifications as valid equivalents to GCSEs “extremely short sighted” and said: “Such a move is likely to deter many prospective applicants who have the skills, passion and knowledge needed to be excellent early years practitioners from pursuing careers in the sector, simply because they do not meet a set of very narrow criteria.”

Nutbrown Report advised consultation with sector

He added: “It’s worth noting that in her Foundations for Quality report, Professor Cathy Nutbrown recommended that Level 2 - not GCSE — English and mathematics should be entry requirements to Level 3 early years courses, and advised that the NCTL should ‘take views on whether GCSEs should be the minimum requirement, or whether other Level 2 qualifications should be accepted to demonstrate literacy and mathematical skills’.

“Unsurprisingly, the sector was never actually consulted on this. Many of those who responded to the Government consultation on the proposed EYE qualification criteria raised concerns about these entry requirements in their responses, but these were dismissed for being ‘out of the scope’ of the consultation.”

Mr Leitch also criticised the Government’s decision to introduce the changes with no transitional or preparatory phase.

Liz Bayram, PACEY’s chief executive, expressed concern “that requiring individuals who want to enter the profession to have A – C in English and Maths at GCSE before they study the new Early Years Educator (EYE) qualification is not the best way forward”.

She believes “it is likely to reduce the number of people willing to enter the profession in the first place, something that is already a challenge given the low salaries for childcare professionals. It also fails to recognise the many different ways in which people enter childcare as a career.

Decision will exclude adult learners

She echoed PSLA and NDNA’s concerns over the Government's decision to ignore the proven functional skills route for adult learners, calling it “a mistake”.

“Functional skills ultimately provide the same outcome as people with strong Maths, English and indeed other core skills. Without this option available to study the EYE qualification many adult learners wanting a career in childcare will find it more challenging to enter the profession,” she said, claiming it risks losing many of the adult learners who currently enter the profession, particularly through the childminding route, who have skills and ability but not yet a formal qualification.

Tricia Pritchard, senior professional officer (Early Years & Childcare) at the education union, Voice highlighted the Government’s silence on the issue of low wages and said: “We are concerned that there seems to be no proposals for higher salaries for those trained as Early Years Educators or for those already employed who up-skill”.

She added: “We hope that the resources and capacity will be made available for training existing level 3 practitioners with 'functional' skills who have proved themselves as good early years practitioners so that they can achieve the same level. Their skills and experience should not be lost to the profession. They need to have a career path too, otherwise there will be problems for recruitment and retention down the line.”

Staff holding existing qualifications will still be able to practice. The new requirements will not be applied retrospectively. This will ensure that practitioners already holding qualifications are not disadvantaged, according to the Department for Education.

'More great childcare’ published in January 2013 set out the Government's vision and plan of action for the early years. This included the introduction of new level 3 Early Years Educator qualifications from September 2014.


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