Concerns over 'inaccurate' qualifications consultation

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The deadline is looming for the end of two consultations into the Government’s reforms of childcare training.


Both relate to the streamlining of all childcare qualifications as part of plans to simplify all vocational qualifications under the Skills Plan.

One consultation is on the occupational maps produced (see above) showing how this new system will be organised. However, sector leaders have said this 'has been done with no knowledge of the sector' and a consultation document has been amended since errors were flagged up by Nursery World.

New routes

The maps show vocational qualifications organised into 15 ‘routes to employment’. One route is Education and Childcare, and will contain all childcare qualifications.

The route is subdivided into clusters of occupations which have ‘similar training requirements’ such as ‘early education and childcare assistant’ and the qualifications associated with them, which, according to the document, is a Level 3 Early Years Educator qualification.

Occupations are defined not as specific jobs or job titles but as sets of jobs ‘requiring similar knowledge, skills and behaviours’. 


Sector bodies have voiced concerns that these maps as they stand do not link the correct qualification with correct area of work. For example Level 3, which allows for staff to manage a setting under the EYFS, is aligned with ‘assistant’.

Michael Freeston, director of quality improvement at the Pre-School Learning Alliance said, ‘It appears that this has been done with no knowledge of the sector. The levels do not reflect accurately the qualifications matrix as it stands in the EYFS.’

The consultation documents originally also said that ‘Early Years Educators’ are defined as ‘Early years teachers, also known as nursery teachers, are specialists in early childhood development’.

In fact, an Early Years Educator qualification is a Level 3 qualification while Early Years Teacher (EYT) is an entirely separate status which requires a qualification at level 6.

The matter is confused further under ‘early years teaching professional’, where the description reads ‘As an EYT, you'll work with children aged 0-5 in various settings such as nurseries, preschools and reception classes’. Early years professionals are the predecessor graduate-level qualification to EYT.


Since Nursery World raised the matter, the IfA has admitted that the description for Early Years Educator is 'misleading' and it has now been amended.

The map will be used to develop T-levels, classroom-based programmes of study which take two years and are an alternative to apprenticeships.

The IfA has said the consultation is to help ensure the planned maps are accurate and contain all relevant skilled occupations. It also says they will be regularly reviewed and updated.

A spokesman for the IfA said, 'DfE undertook a lot of analysis to develop the maps and reviewed their content with various employers and professional bodies, before transferring ownership to us in November. This is the first time the maps have been subject to public consultation, which will allow us to iron out any major issues before publishing a revised version in the spring.'

He added:

  • 'An apprenticeship standard for Early Years Educator is under development at Level 3. Occupations which typically require qualifications at Levels 2/3 have been grouped into the ‘Technical Qualifications’ column. ‘Assistant’ may not be the best term for occupations with management responsibilities such as Early Years Educator, but ‘assistant’ or ‘technician’ or ‘operative’ are the typical terms used for clusters of occupations at this level throughout the maps and we’ve tried to maintain a consistent format.'
  • 'The maps are supposed to capture occupations rather than qualifications and we will have to consider how early years occupations should be reflected at levels 6/7.

This consultation closes on 25 January. You can take part here

T level consultation

A separate consultation on the Government’s T-levels programme is also underway after being delayed for a year. T-levels will be based on the same standards as apprenticeships (devised by trailblazer groups) where these are available.

T-levels are pitched as the new ‘gold standard’ technical qualifications, which are expected to roll out from 2020. Childcare and education T levels are among the first to launch.

Confusion has reigned over whether T-levels - which are so-called because they represent a loose technical equivalent to A-levels - will start at Level 2 or Level 3. However, Justine Greening (as education secretary) said last year that she expects them to be Level 3 only.

There have also been concerns about plans for a ‘high-quality’ three-month work placement requirement, which must be successfully completed for the T level to be awarded. Colleges are concerned about the feasibility of securing sufficient work placements from employers and some employers are concerned about the burdens this could place upon them.

However, Mr Freeston said, ‘Historically the challenge has been that people come out of college with a certificate at Level 3 not able to demonstrate effective competence from skills learned at a work placement. If this solves that problem then we support it.’

The three-month placement rule does not form part of the consultation.

The T-levels consultation closes on 8 February. You can take part here.

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