£2.3m early years bursary scheme attracts handful of applicants

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Labour has branded the Early Years Apprenticeship Scheme a failure, after just 23 apprentices were successful in applying for the funding.

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Labour has criticised the Government for failing to attract early years apprentices

The Department for Education had guaranteed funding for 1,000 bursaries worth up to £1,500 with a further £300 available for more training.

Figures obtained by Labour through a Freedom of Information request reveal that out of a total of 48 applicants, just 23 were successful.

Last November, the DfE doubled the funding to £3,000 for the first 200 successful candidates, suggesting that interest in the scheme had been lower than anticipated.

Now Labour’s figures reveal that between September and November last year just ten people applied for the apprenticeship scheme.

The scheme, run by the National College for Teaching and Leadership, is intended to support the expansion of places for disadvantaged two-year-olds.

Apprentices were required to have a Grade C in maths and English at GCSE.

They would also need to be enrolled on the Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Children and Young People’s Workforce to be eligible, which will be replaced in September by the new Early Years Educator qualification.

Nursery owners have already raised concerns that stricter entry requirements for Early Years Educator qualifications, which will also require apprenticeship applicants to hold a minimum of grade C in maths and English, could lead to a crisis in workforce recruitment.

Labour’s shadow minister for childcare and children Lucy Powell said, ‘Ministers' failure to attract candidates has seen a woeful take up to this scheme. This is leaving yet more serious gaps in quality childcare provision. 

‘We know high quality affordable childcare is vital to give children the best start in life and to help parents make work pay. Yet under David Cameron we’ve seen childcare costs rocket and Ministers are failing to attract high quality apprentices to work in the early years.’

Commenting on the figures, a DfE spokesperson said, ‘We know that good early education can bridge the attainment gap between children from low income families and their peers.

‘We want a strong, high quality workforce which is why we have successfully introduced Early Years Teachers to build upon the strengths of the Early Years Professionals programme, raising the bar to ensure that candidates meet the same entry requirements and pass the same skills tests as trainee school teachers. We have seen a 25 percent increase in early years teachers this year and Teach First is now being extended to the early years.

‘The apprenticeship bursary scheme aims to support high quality entrants to the profession while new Early Years Educator qualifications are developed. Figures will be released at the end of the scheme.’