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PACEY responds to government consultation on GCSE requirements

Since 2014, early years practitioners have been required to hold GCSEs in Maths and English at Grade C or above in order to receive a Level 3 Early Years Educator qualification and count in the ratios in group settings.

Early years employers, representative bodies and colleges have been warning for many months that the GCSE requirements are having a negative impact on recruitment – and preventing many capable practitioners from progressing their careers. Earlier this year, PACEY conducted a survey of colleges which found a steep decline in the number of enrolments on Level 3 courses and widespread opposition to the GCSE requirements.

PACEY is a founding member of the Save Our Early Years campaign, which is calling for Functional Skills English and Maths at Level 2 to be recognised alongside GCSEs, as they are in other professions. 

We stated this clearly in our response to the Government’s consultation on literacy and numeracy qualification requirements for level 3 Early Years Educator staff, which closed on 28th November.

In our view, Level 3 staff require a wide range of literacy and numeracy knowledge and skills to perform their role effectively, including:

  • A range of speaking and listening skills to develop relationships with children, parents and other professionals;
  • Being able to communicate effectively, verbally and in writing, with parents and other professionals;
  • Being able to write meaningful documentation with good spelling and grammar;
  • Being able to comprehend written material;
  • Confidence in understanding the literacy requirements in the EYFS and how to impart them to young learners (creating and thinking critically, listening and attention, understanding, speaking, reading and writing);
  • An appreciation of the importance of reading in supporting own development and that of young children;
  • An understanding of how to experiment with and use language creatively;
  • Ability to select/adapt speech/writing to different situations and audiences;
  • Independent thinking and working;
  • Confidence in understanding mathematical terms and concepts relevant to the job role and how to apply them in an early years setting (e.g. simple concepts such as addition, subtraction and percentages and skills required to manage a budget);
  • Ability to present numerical information appropriately and to interpret numerical information (e.g. review performance data or budget information(;
  • Confidence in understanding the numeracy requirements in the EYFS and how to impart them to young learners (numbers, space, shape and measures);
  • Ability to identify opportunities for children to develop and improve their skills in counting, understanding and using numbers, calculating simple addition and subtraction problems; and to describe shapes, spaces, and measures;
  • Understanding how to use everyday mathematical vocabulary to talk about size, weight, capacity, position, distance, time and money to compare quantities and objects and to solve problems, using mathematical language to describe them,
  • The ability to apply mathematical knowledge successfully to different contexts including every day and real world situations, Independent thinking and working; and
  • Developed problem-solving skills.

Liz Bayram, PACEY’s Chief Executive, commented:

“PACEY knows how critical it is for children to be supported in childcare settings that have highly qualified and well-rewarded practitioners. We know there are significant barriers to attracting and retaining people working in early years including current GCSE requirements. This consultation is an important first step, so we welcome it. But it must be part of a coherent workforce development strategy or we risk losing great practitioners, who feel undervalued just when the sector needs them to help it meet the expected demand for the enhanced 30 hours entitlement.

“PACEY is keen to work with government, regulators and others to ensure quality is supported, career progression is improved and practitioners fairly rewarded in England's childcare system.”