Voice supports the campaign to ask the Government to change its position to accept functional skills, as assessed by awarding bodies, to be accepted as equivalent or alternative, in order to avoid a recruitment and retention crisis in the childcare workforce.
Voice represents students and qualified early years and childcare staff across the sector, and has campaigned for many years for the introduction of minimum entry standards for the childcare profession. We therefore welcomed with caution the introduction of minimum academic qualifications. Caution because the requirement fails to consider how to retain experienced people within the workforce, especially those who want to achieve higher level qualifications but who, although able to demonstrate that they have equivalent functional skills, lack the necessary academic qualifications to support their aspirations.
The greatest resource of the sector is, of course, staff. The links between the level of staff qualifications and outcomes for children are well known and evidenced. Sound literacy and numeracy skills are the necessary foundation of a professional workforce charged to deliver high quality early years education and care.
However, Voice believes that the current requirement presents a significant risk to the early years profession, especially for those seeking long-term career development. An entry level requirement which is not accompanied by any intention to consider how the current workforce could be supported to achieve or have functional skills recognised as equivalent, in order to provide progression routes, is short sighted.
An over-reliance on academic qualifications and the introduction of a blanket requirement as a panacea for quality assurance and improvement demonstrates a failure to understand the profession, its needs and the sector.
The fact that functional skills, or some form of equivalent assessment, are not an accepted qualification for people already in the sector is going to have an impact on those progressing through the system who see childcare as a viable long-term career prospect.
It also demonstrates a failure to understand or appreciate the dedication and commitment childcare professionals show in order to achieve their childcare qualifications. Many of them have funded, and continue to fund, their own training, undertaken in their own time, in the absence of investment from government. Without this level of dedication and commitment, the sector would be even more fragile.