There is no doubt that English and maths are important for those working in childcare – but early years practitioners also need those real-life skills that help them solve the everyday problems that their jobs entail.
That is why the sector is urging the Government to think again and reinstate Functional Skills as an equivalent alternative to GCSEs in English and maths for Level 3 Early Years Educators. They are qualifications that, if achieved, demonstrate goods standards of literacy and numeracy, and also soft skills.
But the current policy is proving to be a wholly unnecessary barrier that is blocking talented people, capable of contributing so much to childcare, from joining the children’s workforce, or from progressing from Level 2.
Apart from its inherent unfairness, the policy is also causing a recruitment crisis in childcare settings. There is a growing body of evidence that nurseries are simply no longer able to find the people they need – at a time when recruits are needed more than ever – because people are not coming through the system.
New nurseries are needed, and are opening, to meet the demand caused by the ever increasing number of working parents and the 30 hours a week free childcare promise – both in themselves very positive developments, of course – but now almost half of all settings are reporting they cannot find the Level 3 practitioners required to work in them. And that is in turn leaving parents with reduced childcare choices.
Early years is primarily care profession, where knowledge of looking after children and the quality of that care, alongside good English and maths, are the key attributes for successful, high-class practitioners. If the Government cares about childcare, it needs to re-think this policy, before it is too late.