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PACEY research confirms early years recruitment crisis

Research conducted by the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) reveals a worrying decline in the number of enrolments on Level 3 Early Years Educator (EYE) courses.

Nearly three quarters (72%) of further education colleges that took part in the survey reported that enrolments on Level 3 EYE courses have decreased this year (2015-16) compared to last year (2014-15). With 56% reporting that enrolments have decreased a lot.

GCSE requirements were highlighted as the main factor in the decline. In fact 94% said that if functional skills equivalents in Maths and English were allowed in place of GCSEs, more Level 2 learners would go on to Level 3.

College leaders across England were invited to share their views on GCSE requirements and the reported sector-wide recruitment issues. 75 respondents from colleges across England completed the survey, which highlighted a clear need for a functional skills equivalent to counteract the declining numbers of early years professionals.

One college leader in the Midlands labelled the GSCE requirements ‘ridiculous’:  “Some students do not do well under the GCSE exam format. It does not mean they cannot perform well in English and Maths when assessed differently. Currently, we are turning away potentially excellent practitioners because they cannot do well in an exam hall. It is ridiculous.”

The survey revealed that 90% of colleges think that more Level 3 learners would gain EYE status if functional skills equivalents in Maths and English were allowed in place of GCSEs. While 57% predict that fewer Level 3 learners will successfully complete the EYE course and receive EYE status this year (2015-16) compared to last year last year (2014-15).

Respondents highlighted challenges that learners face in achieving Maths and English GCSEs, citing that students who are exceptional with children are leaving the profession because of the requirements. Some pointed to the difficulty of achieving a C grade in English when it is a second language, while others cited the complexity of Maths GCSE as a barrier to progression.

Liz Bayram, Chief Executive, PACEY comments:  “This research has reinforced the key challenges that the sector is facing – and it is clear that urgent action is needed. Now that the Childcare Minister has agreed to review the GCSE requirements at level 3, PACEY will be keen to ensure the review recognises the important role robust, improved functional skills qualifications can play as equivalent to GCSEs in Maths and English, just as they are for other professions.

We also need to face the reality that there is a failure in the schools system to support individuals to achieve these GCSEs whilst they are at school. It is vastly unfair if children are being failed at school and then punished again as they try to forge themselves a career in the early years.”

73% of respondents were personally in favour of completely scrapping the GCSE requirements in Maths and English in favour of functional skills equivalents for learners aiming to gain Level 3 EYE status.

Julie Hyde from CACHE, the organisation leading the Save Our Early Years campaign, is calling on the Government to accept Functional Skills as GCSE equivalent qualifications for Level 3 Early Years Educators:

 “These figures are further compelling evidence that the Government’s decision has caused a recruitment crisis in the early years sector. By only accepting GCSEs for Level 3 Early Years Educators, the Government is barring potentially outstanding childcare practitioners. This is catastrophic for the sector, for nurseries up and down the country, and for parents who will be short of high-quality provision for their children.

“We need the Government to work with us so we can attract more practitioners into the sector, not deter them. We are pleased that the Government has announced it is reviewing the GCSE-only policy and it deserves real credit for listening to the sector. But the review will be of no use unless the policy is reversed, for September – any later will be too late.

 “Childcare is the only sector where Functional Skills are not accepted within the apprenticeship framework, so we simply want a level playing field for our sector.”

The survey also highlighted negative perceptions around early years with nearly half (49%) of respondents think that a career in early years is viewed as a less attractive career option today than it was in the past. With the political landscape ever-changing and the Government’s long-awaited workforce strategy still in development, the PACEY research has highlighted an urgent need to improve support for learners within the sector. 


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