• Speech by Julie Hyde, Executive Director of CACHE, to Policy UK
  • At the Royal Society of Chemistry in Pall Mall, London
  • On 2nd June 2016

Julie Hyde_high-resCheck against delivery

Many of you will already be aware of our heritage; a heritage of which we are very proud, stretching back to 1945 when CACHE was established under the name of the National Nursery Examination Board (NNEB), by the Ministry of Health.  The Board set the syllabus for the first national examination in 1947, urgently needed for the care of war orphans. Throughout our history there have been many key milestones in policy that have and continue to, influence and impact on the early years sector and therefore affect qualifications and training.

In recent times these have included: in 2011 The Tickell Review: Foundation Stage Report: Foundations for Life, Health and Learning: in 2012, The Nutbrown Review: Foundations for Quality; and in 2013, More Great Childcare: Raising Quality and Giving Parents More Choice.

These culminated in the National College of Teaching and Leadership releasing the revised full and relevant criteria for implementation on the 1st September 2014 for the Early Years Educator: “We will ensure new and better qualifications at Level 3, to qualify people to become ‘Early Years Educators’. Early Years Educator qualifications will be the modern equivalent of the highly respected Nursery Nurse Diploma, which used to be provided by the National Nursery Examination Board (NNEB).”

Cathy Nutbrown talked of Level 2 English and Maths in her review; this was then defined in More Great Childcare as GCSE Maths and English at grade C or above. Currently, the GCSE requirement is on entry to employment as an EYE. If you are delivering apprenticeships it is a completion requirement.

How do we sustain an effective quality workforce with improved fairer outcomes for children and their families with this significant threat to recruitment?

The workforce has already reported concerns in recruitment – just two years following the introduction of the statutory requirement for employment in the workforce of GCSE C or above in both maths and English.

This is alarming and impacts significantly on any investment in the early years care and education of children.

Other sectors have functional skills as an accepted equivalent qualification and the early years sector should have parity.

As already identified there has been an enormous decrease in numbers of level three recruits since September 2014 and whilst it is crucial to continue to raise the status of the early years workforce, one must question the insistence of GCSE here.

The changes experienced by the sector as a result of the National College Teaching and Leadership full and relevant criteria must surely be considered as sufficient to raise and maintain quality when accompanied by a Level 2 qualification in literacy and numeracy.

It is about transferring these skills into emergent literacy and emergent numeracy that then becomes the important factor, and one which, when undertaken skilfully, contributes to the child’s future disposition to learning.

Let’s look at one fact: A total of 43% of nurseries are reporting being unable to find apprentices as a result of the GCSE requirement.

We know if this issue is not addressed, we will not be able to provide the workforce required to provide the places for the 30 hours free childcare regardless of further financial support from the Government or indeed contribute fully to the target for apprenticeship starts. In addition, the skills shortage vacancies create additional pressure on settings.

We need more flexible Maths and English requirements for childcare training, greater investment for workforce development and better career progression pathways to attract learners to the sector.

If ever a policy was designed to decimate a sector, this is it.

And this is hard to rationalise as more than 80% of early years settings are performing well according to Ofsted feedback-so why is this not a question of sustainability rather than experimentation and insistence with policy that is simply detached from the real issues?

We support the Save Our Early Years campaign. Our sector has to be heard.

There have been 1,368 individual letters sent to Nicky Morgan, and more than 1,200 sent to respective

MPs by their constituents. There has been support from across the sector:

  • From membership organisations including Pre-school Learning Alliance, NDNA, PACEY and AELP
  • From nursery groups including Montessori, Busy Bees and London Early Years Foundation
  • From colleges including: North Liverpool Community College and Stamford College
  • From training organisations including Access, Hawk, TQ and Skills First
  • From unions including Voice
  • From politicians including Julie Cooper (Labour MP for Burnley), Nick Small (Liverpool Assistant Mayor and Cabinet Member for Education, Employment & Skills), and Labour shadow ministers Sharon Hodgson and Nic Dakin
  • From parents – with a ComRes poll finding that 72% parents agree that qualifications in English and maths that also equip learners with practical skills in these areas should be accepted as an alternative to GCSEs for Level 3 Early Years Educators

Thousands of messages on Twitter, with 219,000 page impressions.

Nigel Rolfe, Director of Cherry Childcare posted on the 13th May 2016 saying “ At a time when 30 hours is in the press and the Government is looking to increase childcare places for working parents the biggest barrier outside of the funding rate is the ability to staff nurseries and maintain ratios.

Childcare college graduates are down, apprentices are down, and vacancies in Surrey for level 3 are at a high at 45%. We are strangling the industry and putting it at odds with the Governments strategy to increase childcare access. I agree there should be a benchmark for entry and we would welcome a move to functional skills. Every month the situation is getting worse. Change is needed now otherwise it will be more than just the funding rate behind the failure of the 30 hours for working parents!”

We are a workforce that recognises “one size does not fit all”; we encourage children’s learning and development and support children to thrive. We must do the same for the young people we train as Early Years Educators.

More Great Childcare stated “it is our aspiration that over time, group childcare will increasingly be delivered by Early Years Teachers and Early Years Educators” the University of Winchester and Leeds Beckett University have dropped their provision for early years’ teacher status (EYTS) from September 2016.  There is a need for a more coherent career pathway for Early Years with equitable teaching status! We must also be mindful of the rich diverse settings that provide opportunities for babies and young children and how the early years teacher will be supported in the private sector.

To raise the status and the quality of the workforce we must remember our purpose; meeting the holistic needs of children and families and embedding the prime areas of learning and development.  The widening gaps between educational attainment and social disadvantage must continue to be challenged through an engaged, motivated and effective workforce through meaningful and relevant policy

The Ofsted annual report published in December 2015 stated “When parents now research what is on offer for their children in their area, they will be looking at early education that has never been stronger”. However 113,000 children who would most benefit are not taking up their government-funded 2 year old places. This represents 42% of all eligible children. As a result, too many of the most disadvantaged children are not ready to start formal schooling. The places offered for two year-olds are disproportionately being taken up by children from more advantaged households.

Parents can choose between private, voluntary, independent and public nursery and pre‑school provision or a home-based setting with a childminder. The report celebrated how more than 80% of each of these types of provision is now good or outstanding.

80% of this provision is good or outstanding. This is fantastic as all of these practitioners qualified prior to the introduction of the maths and English entry requirement on the 1st September 2014.

CACHE work closely with many organisations to ensure our learners are; competent and confident in skills and knowledge, they are mentally resilient in order to cope with stressful work patterns, well-prepared for the sectors they work within, have developed team-working and communication skills, feel safe, worthwhile, well-prepared for job interviews, in short, they are equipped to be employed.

This sector has fantastic practitioners. Adding functional skills in numeracy and literacy to the NCTL’s list of equivalent qualifications will remove this barrier; will enable progression for young people, recruitment for settings, provide childcare places for families and allow the future of our children to flourish in the early years. It is time to reflect and think again, children deserve better.

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