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Level 3 Early Years Educator GCSE requirements FAQs

Confused about the announcement that Level 3 GCSE entry requirements have been removed in England? Don't be. Check out our FAQs... 

What is the change?

The requirement of GCSE English and Maths for entry to standalone (non-apprenticeship) Early Years Educator courses in England at Level 3 is being removed by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) from 1st August.

The change is to do with ‘when’ you have to achieve the GCSEs. The GCSE requirement only applies to Early Years Educator qualifications in England and not historic Level 3 qualifications. It’s not a formal exit requirement but if you wanted to be counted in the ratios in a group setting you would need to achieve both GCSEs.

Why has this change happened?

This brings the requirements in line with the recent change to apprenticeships and is something that PACEY has been campaigning for since its introduction in Sept 2014. Importantly, however, it still keeps the standard of the Level 3 qualification.

What does PACEY think about it?

Liz Bayram, PACEY's Chief Executive, said, "We are delighted the Department for Education has taken time to understand the challenges the GCSE requirements have presented for settings looking to recruit staff and for practitioners keen to progress their early years career . This development is welcome news. It strikes the right balance between ensuring the high standards children deserve and supporting individuals to enter the profession, or, for many already in childcare, to progress beyond Level 2.

"PACEY has valued the opportunity to work with the Department for Education on this, and other workforce issues. It is positive progress on which we hope to build, so we can ensure everyone working in childcare is supported to gain the skills and knowledge they need to deliver high quality care and progress in their chosen profession."

What if I already work in a nursery or if I’m working as a childminder in England?

This change will not affect you.

What if I'm already qualified to Level 3, do I have to have GCSE grade C or above now?

The GCSE requirement only applies to Early Years Educator qualifications in England and not historic Level 3 qualifications.

I don’t have GCSEs grade C or above – does this mean I can’t work in a nursery?

Nurseries, of course, employ people with all sorts of levels of qualifications and apprenticeships, so you can still get a job in a nursery without a Level 3 qualification, but it will most likely be at a lower salary level than a qualified Level 3 member of staff. The EYE Level 3 qualification is recognised as the minimum that nursery staff need to be qualified Early Years Educators, and to progress to Early Years Teacher status, if they wish,

Also, under the EYFS framework, a nursery can only count a member of staff as part of their required adult to child ratio, If that staff member holds the Level 3 EYE and has Maths and English GCSE, minimum grade ‘C’.

So this change doesn’t stop you working in a nursery, but it does remove a significant barrier to progression. Anyone already working in a nursery at Level 2 can now study to Level 3, and at the same time take their GCSE Maths and English (rather than having to secure the required GCSEs before they begin their EYE).

It also means school-leavers attending college or undertaking an apprenticeship who don’t have the required GCSEs, can retake them at the same time as studying for their Level 3 EYE.

Ultimately you can study the EYE for your own professional development, without doing the GCSEs. It just means the nursery could not count you in its adult to child ratios and, perhaps, you might find it more challenging to secure an Early Years Educator role when they are advertised.

What does this change mean to me if I want to become a childminder in England?

There is no specific requirement to undertake an Early Years Educator qualification to become a childminder, however you must ensure you have knowledge of the EYFS. PACEY offer a suitable course for registration.

What if I have an equivalent?

The following qualifcations have been agreed as acceptable equivalencies to GCSEs in English and Maths at Grade C or above:

  • UK recognised predecessor qualifications: ‘O’ level A – C or CSE Grade 1
  • Recognised Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh equivalents
  • AS and A/2 levels
  • Accredited iGCSEs which count towards the English Baccalaureate
  • International qualifications defined by UK NARIC as meeting GCSE A*- C.

What if I have a grade C or above in English but not in Maths? Do you need both?

Yes you need to have both.


You can always contact PACEY for advice about issues affecting your career, through our website, by calling 0300 003 0005 or social media channels.