Level 3 consultation generates huge response

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A consultation on literacy and numeracy qualification requirements for Level 3, due to close today, had received more than 3,000 responses last week.


A bespoke alternative qualification to GCSEs is one popular idea

A consultation on literacy and numeracy qualification requirements for Level 3, due to close today, had received more than 3,000 responses last week.

Early years minister Caroline Dinenage said the feedback has been mixed, but Nursery Worldis not aware of significant support for retaining the maths and English GCSEs requirements.

A surprise proposal that has been gaining traction is a new alternative qualification to both grade C or above GCSEs and functional skills Level 2.

The DfE’s consultation, the results of which will feed into the awaited workforce strategy, asks respondents which literacy and numeracy qualifications requirements at Level 2 they think are most appropriate for Level 3 Early Years Educator.

One of the four options is, ‘No suitable qualification currently exists, developing a bespoke qualification on effective practice to engage in [literacy/numeracy] learning would be most appropriate for this role.’

Tricia Wellings, chief executive of Bright Kids Group, is supporting the bespoke qualification idea, and believes it would be best to require it on exit from Level 3 training.

Ms Wellings, who offers up to two apprenticeships at each of her three settings, said time spent in a setting could be used to develop the skills.

‘As a sector, we often lack the confident skills to progress children in all areas of maths and so this is much more useful,’ she said. ‘[It should not be a requirement in order to start Level 3 training] as they can develop this competency as they progress through their qualification and learn about the EYFS itself.’

She added, ‘I feel the maths you need to know in respect to teaching children in early years is very different from anything you might learn in functional skills.

‘I would like to see a competency test in relation more to how you teach children maths – that encompasses similar aspects that are in the EYFS, e.g. space, shape and measure, rather than in the often unused maths that comes through in functional skills.’

In her response to the Department for Education, Ms Wellings said she has had to reject otherwise suitable applicants because some have not achieved the relevant GCSE grades, and others because they did not have the relevant knowledge and skills.

She told the consultation, ‘We have had periods where we have not been able to recruit staff to allow us to stay in ratio.

‘We had to spend over £8,000 for agency staff for just a few weeks, which has had a huge impact on the stability of the provision for the children and our profitability.’


Alison Simpson, an operations director at Lifetime Training, told Nursery World that literacy and numeracy are key skills for working with young children, but was supportive of alternatives.

She said that she and colleagues ‘disagree that this needs to be delivered through GCSEs’, adding, ‘Functional skills are equally valuable, if not more so, as these qualifications contextualise the learning through role-relevant examples and activities. The key is for Government to work through the practicalities of the workforce achieving a core level of skills.’

Ms Simpson added that an early assessment of individual trainees might be made before an appropriate pathway is chosen.

‘If it is decided to follow the GCSE pathway, then we’d advise the overarching apprenticeship was completed prior to the GCSE,’ she said.

‘If functional skills, then this can easily be incorporated within the apprenticeship year and in fact would enhance the existing qualification and training.’

Stella Ziolkowski, director of policy and workforce development at NDNA, said she would be flagging the importance of a ‘tailored approach for individual practitioners’ in her response.

‘If someone is employed at Level 2, they may not aspire to Level 3, or they may want to become an early years teacher or a manager,’ said Ms Ziolkowski.

‘Everybody is different. Changes must reflect what the qualification needs are for the workforce. For the majority of staff, functional skills in literacy and numeracy are enough to enable them to support children’s development.’

She explained that flexibility is needed to address the fact that only 60 per cent of school-leavers are achieving GCSEs at grade C or above in maths and English.

‘Until that changes, the danger is that great candidates could miss out on their chosen career because of a lack of these grades, as nurseries struggle to recruit enough good-quality staff.’

Michael Freeston, director of quality improvement at the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said the organisation has had to reject suitable applicants because of their GCSEs in the past year.

He added additional costs have been incurred in preparing and entering people for GCSE exams.

The organisation is supporting functional skills in English and maths at Level 2, though Mr Freeston indicated he would not object if ‘other suitable equivalent qualifications’ were approved.

Mr Freeston said they should be achieved by the time the practitioner completes Level 3.

He told Nursery World, ‘We are pleased that this consultation has given us the opportunity to represent the views of our members, and to report the dramatic impact that the GCSE requirements have had on the sector over the past two years.

‘As a training provider, we’ve experienced first-hand the effects of the reduction in enrolments to the Level 3 EYE course.

‘We are confident that the information provided by the consultation responses will clearly demonstrate to the minister the need to include functional skills, and other suitable equivalent qualifications, on the list of approved Level 2 English and maths qualifications.’

The NDNA’s Ms Ziolkowski said the charity’s Maths and Literacy Champions schemes had informed recommendations.

She added: ‘Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications must be reviewed and include the development of practitioners to support effectively children’s literacy and mathematical development as they too develop their skills.’

The three-week consultation was launched on 5 November and closes today (28 November).


DfE papers outline practical English and maths skills that might apply to working in settings, including:


  • A range of speaking and listening skills to develop relationships with children, parents and other professionals.
  • Comprehending written material.
  • Confidence in understanding the literacy requirements in the EYFS and how to impart them to young learners (creating and thinking critically, listening and attention, understanding, speaking, reading and writing).
  • An appreciation of the importance of reading in supporting own development and that of young children.
  • An understanding of how to experiment with and use language creatively.


  • Confidence in understanding mathematical terms and concepts relevant to the job role and how to apply them in an early years setting, e.g. addition, subtraction and percentages.
  • Confidence in understanding the numeracy requirements in the EYFS and how to impart them to young learners.
  • Ability to identify opportunities for children to develop and improve their skills in counting, understanding and using numbers, calculating simple addition and subtraction problems; and to describe shapes, spaces and measures.
  • Understanding how to use everyday mathematical vocabulary to talk about size, weight, capacity, position, distance, time and money, to compare quantities and objects and to solve problems.
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