EXCLUSIVE: Level 3 apprenticeships standard ready to go in February

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Early years apprenticeships have been a much-needed boost as the new Level 3 standard has now been submitted.

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Early Years Trailblazer head Fay Gibbin said the recomended funding band for the Level 3 apprenticeship will be £5,000-£6,000

Announcing the news at Nursery World’s Business Summit, Fay Gibbin, who heads the new trailblazer group, said apprentices are expected to be able to sign up to it from February next year.

The news follows years of delays, political wrangling and the eventual sacking of the former early years trailblazer group. It also means more money for early years apprenticeships, as it will replace a Level 3 apprenticeship framework, which is currently funded at a basic rate of £2,500. The new standard will attract more generous funding of double this at least if the trailblazers’ recommendations are accepted.

Ms Gibbin said, ‘We need to give an indicative funding band when we submit the standard.’ The recommended funding band will be £5,000-£6,000, she said.

The band indicates how much the training costs, with 90 per cent met by the Government for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) and the Department for Education (DfE) will have the final say on which funding band is chosen. The Level 3 standard will be considered at the next IfA Childcare and Education Panel meeting, which is understood to be in January.

Ms Gibbin also said the group was ‘now working on the [Level 3] assessment plan’, which it hopes to submit ‘in the next month’.

The standard has been a political hot potato as its drafting coincided with the Government’s introduction of a GCSE requirement for Level 3s, which was watered down after sector pressure this March.

An initial version was published in November 2014 after being submitted by the former trailblazers, but it omitted their specification that GCSE equivalents should be allowed. It was never used.

Ms Gibbin, who is Busy Bees’ training manager, said the current trailblazer group had also suffered delays. She added, ‘The early years was in a unique position in that knowledge and skills have already been defined by DfE in the form of the Early Years Educator qualification, which gives the practitioner licence to practice.

‘The difficulty we had with Level 3 is because the content is defined by DfE, the balance [between knowledge and skills] has been written by the DfE and approved by them. When that has gone to the IfA, the feedback has been “this hasn’t got the correct balance”. So we have had to work [with] them a lot more closely.’

Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief Mark Dawe said, ‘We’ve had this strange situation where one part of the DfE is setting skills and behaviour and the other part is saying “sorry, that’s not adequate’’.’

Other levels

The DfE is writing the criteria for Level 2, which it will consult on. The trailblazer standard, based on the same criteria, will take its lead from that.

Ms Gibbin said the group is now ‘looking at’ assessment for Level 2. ‘What we don’t want to happen is to get into the same situation where we have criteria that don’t fit into apprenticeship standards’, she said.

‘DfE are hoping that Level 2 will go live in September 2018. When the Level 2 qualifications go live, so will the apprenticeship standard for Level 2.’

On the higher-level apprenticeships, she said she hoped the group would have more freedom as it is starting from scratch rather than having to take DfE criteria into account. ‘We are also looking at Level 4. We want that progression. This is for people already qualified at Level 3, who want to develop their skills in specialised areas.’

The Level 6 apprenticeship is for ‘people who lead on early years practice to raise quality in early years settings’, she added.

Ms Gibbin said consultations for Levels 4, 5 and 6 ‘will be a lot more in-depth, adding, ‘We need employers and sector engaged to make sure that these standards do actually match the needs of the sector. [These] apprenticeship standards are going to be easier – we can work with the IfA to make sure [they are] framed how it wants them to be.’

PROVISIONAL TIMETABLE FOR APPRENTICESHIPS STANDARDS

Level 2

Sector consultation: Will follow a DfE consultation for new Level 2 criteria.

Delivery: September 2018 for new Level 2 qualifications and apprenticeship standard.

Level 3

Sector consultation: Took place in May 2016.

Delivery: February 2018.

Level 4

Sector consultation: Taking place in February 2018.

Delivery: August 2018.

Level 5

Sector consultation: Feb 2018.

Delivery: August 2018.

Level 6

Sector consultation: April 2018.

Delivery: October 2018.

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