On most issues relating to early years provision, the sector is largely agreed. Supporting children to learn through play is good, too much unnecessary paperwork is bad and the government should be doing much more to support providers financially to deliver high-quality early years care and education.

When it comes to GCSE requirements for level 3 early years educators, however, opinions aren’t so clear-cut. While some strongly oppose the change, and the barriers it creates for new practitioners looking to join the sector, others argue that ensuring competency in maths and English is an important part of raising standards in the sector.

We at the Pre-school Learning Alliance believe both points are valid. There is no doubt that young children should be cared for by, and their learning supported by, literate and numerate practitioners. The question: do people need to have GCSEs to demonstrate these skills? We don’t believe they do, especially when so many other employment sectors are happy and able to accept functional skills qualifications as evidence of literacy and numeracy.

It’s true that some have expressed concerns about the quality of some functional skills qualifications, but surely this is an argument for pushing for more consistency among functional skills providers, not for dismissing the value of these qualifications altogether.

We are already seeing the impact of these changes, with level 3 early years educators seeing a sharp fall in sign-ups. At a time when the government is preparing to double the free entitlement for three- and four-year-olds, we simply cannot afford to be blocking smart, eager and passionate potential practitioners from joining the sector, just because they don’t have the right type of qualification.

As we have seen with the recent U-turn on baseline assessments and the decision to move early years inspections in-house, when the sector speaks with one voice, we really can achieve meaningful, positive change. That is why we are proud to be backing the Save our Early Years Campaign, and why we hope that you will do the same.


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