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The early years minister Caroline Dinenage is considering reinstating Functional Skills as an alternative to GCSE English and maths for Level 3 nursery practitioners and is urging the early years sector to tell her what skills the workforce should have.
On 5 November, the Minister launched the Government’s consultation on the literacy and numeracy qualification requirements for the childcare workforce.
Caroline Dinenage said: “Making sure our children learn, develop and flourish at this critical time in their lives is vital – we want to recruit and retain the very best staff for this, that’s why we are looking at the skills needed.
“The findings will help inform my upcoming workforce strategy which, along with our record investment in the sector, will support nurseries, preschools and other early years providers to offer high quality, free childcare for thousands more families across the country.”
In 2014, the Government changed the requirements so that all Level 3 Early Years Educators (EYEs) must have at least a C grade in GCSE English and in GCSE maths but before this Functional Skills (essential ‘soft skills’) had been accepted as an alternative to GCSEs.
Many in the sector hope the feedback from the consultation – which runs until Monday 28 November- will result in Functional Skills being reinstated.
Julie Hyde, associate director of CACHE, the organisation leading the Save Our Early Years Campaign, said: "Caroline Dinenage deserves real credit for listening to the sector and to our concerns, and for launching the consultation.
“This is very encouraging and we hope it paves the way to remove the barriers to recruitment in the early years. I would encourage everyone to respond to the consultation so that the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is amended to again include Functional Skills."
Stella Ziolkowski, director of Quality and Workforce Development at National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: “We welcome this much-awaited open consultation on literacy and numeracy skills ahead of the forthcoming 30 hours childcare reform and urge everyone including practitioners in early years to get involved and have their say. NDNA has long campaigned for a review of these requirements as part of wider strategies to make sure the nursery sector has a well-qualified, professional and highly-trained workforce.”
Anyone who wishes to give their view on what skills they think the childcare workforce should have, can visit the Level 3 requirements consultation here
The childcare minister is also gathering views on how the country can get the skilled workforce it needs to deliver the 30 hour free childcare offer from September 2017.
30 hours free from 6am-8am
After receiving more than 3,500 responses to its consultation (3 April-8 June 2016) covering how the 30 hour free childcare for three and four-year-olds can be delivered, the Government has decided to allow childcare providers to extend the times parents can use the 30 hour offer to earlier in the morning and later in the evening.
Early years providers can now offer the 30 hours over the extended period of 6am-8pm instead of 7am-7pm. However, the offer is up to a maximum of 10 hours per day for each child.
The Department for Education (DfE) said: “Insight from parents, professionals and councils – which formed the government’s response to its consultation on delivering the 30 hours offer – showed there was increasing support for better inclusion of children with additional needs and also demand for more flexible childcare.”
A summary of the consultation responses received on the 30 hour free childcare offer and the government’s response can be viewed here
£3m contract to help rollout
To help local authorities prepare for the introduction of 30 hours free childcare next September, the Government has awarded a £3m contract to ensure early years settings and councils can create the estimated 45,000 childcare places needed to rollout the 30 hours policy.
With the money, the DfE has appointed experts at the national support programme Childcare Works which will support councils who need to implement the childcare offer.
Childcare Works will be run by early years specialist consultancy Hempsalls and Mott MacDonald, which will monitor local authorities to see if they are creating the places needed, including providing access for children with SEND.
A spokeswoman for the DfE said: “Childcare Works will be working with every council in England to share best practice.”
The DfE also said it expects councils to share best practice from the 30 hour early implementer pilot areas set up last September.