Apprenticeships get year's reprieve on GCSE entry requirement

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A one-year stay of execution has been granted over maths and English GCSEs for apprentices.

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Trailblazer chair Chrissy Meleady

In a move that will be welcomed by employers, the new level 3 apprenticeship standard published yesterday makes minimum GCSE standards an exit, rather than an entry requirement.

The standard will be used to design apprenticeship assessments and was the result of an employers' group working under the Government’s 'trailblazer' initiative.

The move follows lobbying by employers concerned that a GCSE entry requirement of grade C or above for maths and English would put thousands of students off from applying.

However, the move is just a ‘transitional arrangement’, said the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL).

From 1 August 2015 all early years Level 3 apprentices will need English and maths GCSEs at grade C or above to start their course.

Nevertheless, the Level 3 standard published yesterday had employers’ recommendations for an exit requirement left intact. It says, ‘employers who recruit candidates without English and maths GCSE at Grade C or above (or DfE approved equivalencies…) must ensure that the candidate achieves this standard prior to the completion of the apprenticeship.' 

The conflicting announcements follow previous confusion over advice from the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills over differing entry requirements for Early Years Educator courses and apprenticeships.

Entry requirements apply only to those seeking funded places. People who fund the EYE qualification themselves can start it without the relevant GCSEs, but must still achieve these before they can use the EYE to count at level 3.

Interim framework

The new standard will not come into force immediately. Between 1 September this year and late 2014/early 2015, an interim version of the apprenticeship framework will be in place. Here, the GCSE requirement will be an exit requirement. This is a change on the previous version of the interim framework, as GCSEs were originally an entry requirement for funded places, with functional skills also required to complete the course.

Trailblazer chair Chrissy Meleady said the year-long break over the minimum GCSEs entry point gave valuable ‘breathing space’ to training providers and students.

 ‘It is an extremely helpful step by Childcare and Education Minister Sam Gyimah, which we must take full advantage of. However, we must bear in mind that this decision will only be in place for the first year, and then reviewed. It is therefore extremely important training providers use this transitional period to ensure apprentices achieve their GCSEs by the time they complete their apprenticeship.’

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, added that the fact that non-apprentices doing a work-based EYE qualification will have to meet an entry requirement was ‘inconsistent’. He said, ‘While we welcome the decision to make GCSEs an exit requirement for the coming year for the Early Years Educator Apprenticeship programme, we are extremely disappointed that this change has not been extended across the board.

'Such an inconsistent approach will put trainees who have chosen to undertake a standalone EYE qualification at a real disadvantage, and is likely to deter many potential practitioners from applying.’

The new standard states

Successful apprentices must:

  • Support and promote children’s early education and development;
  • Plan and provide effective care, teaching and learning that enables children to progress and prepares them for school;
  • Make accurate and productive use of assessment;
  • Develop effective and informed practice;
  • Safeguard and promote the health, safety and welfare of children; and
  • Work in partnership with the key person, colleagues, parents and/or carers or other professionals

Additionally, apprentices should be able to:

  • handle food safely;
  • respond appropriately to accidents and injuries; and
  • support children’s use of ICT and use ICT appropriately  to record children’s development, communicate with parents etc

See our story on the apprenticeship standard in the next issue of Nursery World, published on 25 August.