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GCSE students across the UK are anxiously waiting to collect their GCSE results on Thursday (25 August) and make choices about their futures.
Across the country, nursery practitioners will also be finding out if they have passed their GCSE English or maths to progress from a Level 2 to a Level 3, or to a degree level.
Charlotte Renwick is just one of many early years practitioners anxiously waiting for their results. Charlotte works as a Level 3 nursery nurse at . She was previously involved in the NDNA Champions programme and already has her Level 3 qualification. She said: "I just missed out on my GCSE at school by a few marks and I will be over the moon if I pass on Thursday. I think it will help in my work here at the nursery and I need the GCSEs to progress to my Level 5 and 6 degree.”
Chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association, Purnima Tanuku said: “This Thursday it’s not just schoolchildren who will be anxiously anticipating their GCSE results.
“Across the country, hundreds of nursery practitioners will be finding out if they can progress from a level two to a level three, or even to degree level as a result of sitting their GCSE maths or English exams.
“And many more young apprentices will be counting on getting at least a grade C in maths and English to complete their two-year level three apprenticeships in Early Years.
“That their career progression is stalled by getting a minimum grade in both maths and English is a huge concern among our members, who are struggling to recruit qualified early years professionals.”
At the NDNA conference in July, the then Childcare Minister Sam Gyimah promised a review of requirements for qualifications as a priority and acknowledged that the most common issues associated with attracting staff at Levels 2 and 3 was the GCSE requirement.
Ms Tanuku continued: “Our members tell us that half of their Level 2 and 3 existing qualified staff do not have these GCSE requirements. They have been struggling to recruit newly qualified staff and apprentices who are choosing different sectors, with early years the only sector in which this requirement exists.
“We have recommended that the DfE accept functional skills as an interim solution until enough school leavers are achieving the required grades at maths and English. Functional equivalencies would enable vocational candidates to demonstrate their skills and knowledge relevant to their workplace environment and show a practical application of learning to inspire young children into numeracy and literacy.
“This review along with the Government’s promised workforce strategy for early years are among the issues I will bring up with the new childcare minister at our first meeting. If the private and voluntary nursery sector is expected to deliver the Government’s flagship policy of a 30-hour entitlement, they must be supported to find ways out of the current recruitment crisis.”
The NDNA has collated evidence over the past three years through a series of surveys and consultations with more than 5,000 member nurseries across the country.
There has been gradual decline in the number of applications for Early Years Educator courses and up to 60 per cent less apprentices in some parts of the country with almost half of people failing to achieve grade A* to C in maths and English at school.
Since the Department for Education introduced the GCSE requirements in 2014, they have acted as a barrier to applicants with the number of applications dropping, leaving nurseries to struggle to fill staffing vacancies as a result.
Nursery leader at Emerald Nursery and Children’s Centres in County Durham and NDNA trustee, Karen Veitch, said: “We decided to support several of our team in being able to take either a GCSE maths or English course this year, after we identified that not having the pass grade was really holding them back from progressing from Level 2 to 3 or in being able to do higher qualifications.
“We arranged special evening classes for them, with tutors from Derwentside College. Claire Fletcher, our nursery leader, took on the difficult task and was fantastic in liaising with the college to get the courses underway last autumn.
“We are keeping everything crossed for a positive result for our staff for Thursday.
"We are so proud of them for doing this, especially as it is such a big commitment when you are working during the day and have family commitments as well.”