Level 3 GCSE-Only Requirement Must Be Abolished

Subscribe to our Newsletter to keep up to date with everything happening at Riverside Training (Spalding) Ltd.

Published by Riverside Training (Spalding) Ltd

There is no doubt the requirement for nursery staff to have GCSEs is exacerbating existing recruitment and retention issues currently being experienced in Early Years education.

Level 3 Early Years Educators can only count in ratios if they have GCSEs at C or above in English and maths - with alternative qualifications, such as Functional Skills, no longer accepted.

Everyone in the sector knows GCSEs are not the be-all and end-all.

There is no doubt that young children should be cared for, and their learning supported by, literate and numerate practitioners.

But the question is whether staff need to have GCSEs to demonstrate these skills.

Childcare is the only sector where Functional Skills - a tried and tested route - are not allowed.

If they are accepted for many other professions and vocations, surely this approach should be applied to the Early Years sector?

I find it even more frustrating, and it highlights the lack of parity, when you consider that there is no set entry-level requirement for a Level 3 Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools - teaching assistant - qualification.

Even Britain’s Childcare and Early Years Minister Caroline Dinenage has stated that: 'I'm clear that exam grades, while important, are not the only proof of quality.'

She has committed to looking at the exam requirement in the near future.

I can only hope the Government sees sense and acts sooner rather than later.

It urgently needs to rethink this narrow-minded policy and include Functional Skills equivalents as a substitute for GCSE grades.

Functional Skills not only provides the good level of English and maths required by practitioners, but also the soft skills essential to ensure the delivery of high-quality childcare.

Early Years is a care profession and academic ability in English and maths does not guarantee a good quality practitioner.

The message from parents is also loud and clear - they too are calling on the Government to reverse the policy.

A poll commissioned by the Save Our Early Years campaign , which also wants to see Functional Skills reinstated as a suitable alternative, found more than seven in 10 parents disagree with the GCSE-only policy.

The campaign believes it will have a 'catastrophic impact' on recruitment at a time when many childcare providers are struggling to fill vacancies and recruit appropriately qualified staff needed to maintain the staff rations required by regulation.

And I agree.

GCSE requirements are undoubtedly a major factor in the number of excellent Level 2 learners being put off from progressing to Level 3 and, worse still, they may turn their backs on the Early Years sector altogether.

It's ridiculous that potentially high-quality practitioners are being rebuffed simply because they do not perform well under the GCSE exam format.


At a time when the Government is preparing to double the free entitlement for three and four-year-olds to 30 hours, where is the common sense in creating obstacles to prevent smart, enthusiastic and capable practitioners from joining or progressing their career?