When the Pre-school Learning Alliance pledged its support for the Save Our Early Years campaign back in April, few could have predicted the political upheaval that would ensue in the following months. With a new prime minister, education secretary, and early years minister now in place, now more than ever it is vital that we continue to make a strong case for a sensible and practical approach to early year qualifications.
The seriousness of the current situation cannot be underestimated. Providers nationwide have told us of the staffing challenges they are facing as a result of the current GCSE requirements. The sector is in the middle of a recruitment crisis, one that will only worsen if the government doesn’t take action soon.
That said, there are signs of progress. Before changing roles, former childcare minister Sam Gyimah promised a review of GCSE requirements for Level 3 practitioners as part of the long-promised Workforce Strategy – and so it’s imperative, now, that Caroline Dinenage follows through with this review and looks to remove this barrier, which is preventing many promising, passionate and able candidates from entering the early years workforce.
What’s more, the government has shown that it can listen, and respond, to the sector concerns. The recently published early years funding consultation, while only a first step to addressing the many significant sector funding challenges, contained many positive proposals, including a universal base rate for all providers. Of course, funding is only part of the problem, and so unless there is a similar effort to listen to the sector on the issue of qualifications and ensure that there are sufficient staff to meet the demand for places, the planned move to 30-hours is unlikely to succeed.
No one in the sector wants to see the 30-hours scheme fail, but time is running out to build the necessary infrastructure required for it to succeed; there’s only a year to go until the introduction of the extended offer, less than eight months until the promised implementation of a new funding system, and under a month until the start of the pilots.
The government must act now, for the sake of not only the sector, but also the parents we support and the children we care for.