In a sign of how bitter the row has become between the Department for Education and Chrissy Meleady, the former chair of the early years apprenticeship group has threatened legal action if the Government doesn’t reconsider the sacking.
A letter to apprenticeships minister Robert Halfon, seen by Nursery World, states ‘We consider that the decision to withdraw the right to develop standards and assessment plans was misconceived and reached unreasonably.
‘We therefore ask you to confirm within the next seven days that you will reconsider the decision failing which we will take instructions on issuing proceedings by way of Judicial Review to quash it.’
The move has been backed by former trailblazers Jennie Johnson, CEO of Kids Allowed, and Cheryl Hadland, chief executive of Hadland Care Group, who have also written in support. Other former members, such as the Pre-school Learning Alliance and NDNA, are not involved.
Ms Meleady, who has accused the Government of ‘bullying’ the group, told Nursery World that she was seeking the review because of the ‘reputational damage inflicted by the decision’. ‘Inaccuracies were peddled as facts,’ she added.
She is taking issue with the Government’s claim that ready-to-publish drafts of three standards were not submitted by 19 January 2017, saying that they were ready ‘save for the issue over the required maths and English qualifications. This was awaiting a ministerial decision which had been promised from November 2015.’
One standard was published, at Level 3, but without the associated assessment plan, and with the trailblazers' desired phrase ‘all reasonable equivalents’ to GCSEs removed.
The Government U-turned on the GCSE requirement two weeks after sacking the trailblazers. This means that functional and key skills are once again considered acceptable GCSE equivalents for early years courses at level 3.
A new trailblazer group is now in post, with Busy Bees at the helm. But Ms Meleady says that much of the work on drafting the standards has been done, and the judicial review is to prevent ‘the work of three years of many stakeholders in the sector [being] negated.’
Last month, skills minister Robert Halfon said, ‘All nine standards that the Early Years Trailblazer was approved to develop in 2014 remain in development. We are committed to ensuring all standards and assessment plans are developed in a timely manner. We have therefore notified the trailblazer that we have withdrawn their right to develop these standards.’
A DfE spokesman added, 'Quality is at the heart of all our apprenticeship reforms. While there is currently an apprenticeship framework for early years practitioners at level 2 and 3, we are committed to supporting employers to develop apprenticeship standards for use in the early years sector.
“Our new Early Years Workforce Strategy also sets out clear plans for making a practical difference to early years employers and staff, by addressing the barriers in attracting, retaining and developing staff, to ensure we have the right expertise across the profession.'