The Nursery World Business Summit last week certainly brought to the fore the huge challenges facing the early years sector at the moment.
Many delegates will have had a wry smile to themselves when childcare and education minister Sam Gyimah proclaimed that this is ‘a golden age for childcare’.
The question mark over the funding rate for the 30 hours offer for working parents of three- and four-year-olds loomed throughout the day, and Mr Gyimah faced some insistent responses from providers.
But this issue cannot be seen in isolation from other pressing matters, coming together in what was described as ‘a perfect storm’. It was evident that the recruitment crisis, caused at least in part by the new GCSE workforce requirements, is a major problem for nurseries at the moment.
Our panel of experts for the centrepiece debate on this certainly spelled it all out. Jennie Johnson of Kids Allowed said that while she usually takes on 50 early years apprentices a year, this has been reduced to five as the risk of hiring anyone with less than a D for maths and English is too great.
Look again at the GCSE syllabus or allow equivalents to count was the conclusion. Asked whether recruitment is much harder because of GCSE requirements, and whether quality and sustainability are being hit, delegates overwhelmingly raised their hands.
The Apprenticeship Trailblazer Group is standing firm on the need for equivalents to be accepted as part of the new standard, and will use the Summit support as evidence. The early years sector needs to work together to back them and bring about change.