Clash over GCSE equivalents

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A leading group of employers are at loggerheads with the Government over equivalents to GCSEs for early years qualifications.


Chrissy Meleady at the Nursery World business summit

A leading group of employers are at loggerheads with the Government over equivalents to GCSEs for early years qualifications.

The trailblazer group resubmitted the Level 3 early years apprenticeship standard on Tuesday asking for ‘all reasonable equivalents’ to be accepted as alternatives to GCSEs.

This is despite the Department for Education (DfE) already making it clear that it will not accept the equivalents asked for. Childcare minister Sam Gyimah told delegates at Nursery World’s business summit that the Government had no plans to change GCSE requirements further. These are currently a minimum grade C in maths and English for Level 3 Early Years Educator courses.

The resubmission of the standard with these requirements will place the Government in a quandary over whether to publish it as it is or not, as apprenticeship standards are supposed to be based on what employers want. Ms Meleady (pictured), who chairs the group which is responsible for drafting the standard, said, ‘We are respectfully urging the DfE to put the reasonable equivalents we have identified on the approved GCSE equivalents list.’

Nursery World revealed in July that hundreds of students, many of whom were Early Years Teachers (EYTs), were getting onto university courses with widely accepted GCSE equivalent qualifications from a company called Equivalency Testing. These were not accepted by the Government however, which meant candidates found they were not able to count in ratio at Level 3 at the end of their course, taking them to a Level 2.

In response, the Government changed rules for EYTs, so that they no longer need GCSEs to count in ratio, on the basis that whether EYTs have equivalents or not, standards of numeracy and literacy are quality assured in separate EYT skills tests. But it has not changed the rules for non-EYT courses such as early years degrees or apprenticeships.

Sam Gyimah told the summit that the GCSEs were what employers would want any young person coming into a job to have. However, the childcare sector is facing a Level 3 recruitment crisis.

Employers have told Nursery World the GCSE requirements are putting off potential candidates, and now they are simply unable to find enough staff at Level 3. Apprentice training companies reported drops of up to 96 per cent on numbers between 2014 and 2015, while awarding body CACHE says that the number of registrations for its Level 3 courses has dropped 44 per cent compared to 2013-14.

Asked for a show of hands at the summit, the majority of delegates said the GCSE requirements had made it harder to recruit. Kids Allowed chief Jennie Johnson said she used to take 50 apprentices per year, but this year was only able to take five, some of whom have Ds in English or maths.

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