Back to news listing

Open letter calls for immediate action on GCSE requirements in England

PACEY has joined other early years organisations in calling for the GCSE requirement for English and Maths for level 3 to be scrapped and for functional skills to be reinstated in England.

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. Last 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 responded to the government’s consultation at the end of last year. More than 4000 responses have been received to the consultation and Save Our Early Years is calling for publication of all the responses through a Freedom Of Information request.

PACEY is a founding member of the Save Our Early Years campaign, and an open letter from the group was published in the Mirror newspaper today. 

The text of the letter says:

Dear Sir,

There is now an overwhelming need for the catastrophic qualifications policy for early years staff to be scrapped – and for Functional Skills to be reinstated without further delay.

The Government promised earlier this year to respond on this issue before 2017 and a consultation re-opening the debate closed last month – we now need the Government to make its decision urgently.

Nearly half (43%) of all nurseries say they are struggling to recruit because of the requirement that Level 3 Early Years Educators must have GCSEs at C or better in English and maths. The situation is worsening all the time with talented potential new recruits, capable of contributing so much to childcare, blocked from joining the early years workforce, and existing staff are prevented from progressing.

There is no doubt that English and maths are important for those working in childcare – but early years practitioners also need those real-life skills that help them solve the everyday problems that their jobs entail. Functional Skills provide not only good standards of literacy and numeracy, but also the all-important soft skills that all early years staff should have.

Nursery places are in ever greater demand because of an increasing number of working parents. The 30 hours a week free childcare promise also means there is a need for additional staff to meet this demand, but the difficulty of recruiting these extra staff is having a negative impact on childcare settings’ ability to deliver this care. Hard working parents are therefore left with increasingly limited childcare choices.

We must not forget that early years is primarily a care and child development profession, where knowledge of developing children and the quality of that care, alongside good English and maths, are the key attributes for successful, professional practitioners. The Government can solve the problem by reinstating Functional Skills now, before it is too late.

Yours faithfully,

Julie Hyde, Associate Director, CACHE, NCFE
Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive, National Day Nurseries Association
Neil Leitch, Chief Executive, Pre-school Learning Alliance
June O’Sullivan, Chief Executive, London Early Years Foundation
Liz Bayram, Chief Executive of PACEY (Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years)
Sue Learner, Editor,
Lindsay McCurdy, CEO, Apprenticeships 4 England
Catriona Nason, Managing Director, NEYTCO
Sue Reilly, Chair of Gravesham Early Years collaboration and Manager Christ Church preschool
Guy Helman, Director, Childcare Company
Zoe Raven, Chief Executive, Acorn Childcare
Donna Beynon, Business Manager, Little Elves Community Pre-School Ltd
Allan Presland Managing Director, Parenta
Katie Orr, Head of Awarding Organisation, TQUK
David Bessell, Owner/Director, Poppets Day Nursery
Jane Freeman, Owner, Little Faces Childcare Ltd
Mark Dawe, Chief Executive, AELP (the Association of Employment and Learning Providers)
Gill Mason, Principal, North Liverpool Community College
Joy Scadden, Owner of Sunny Day Nurseries
Nigel Rolfe, Director, Cherry Childcare
Ken McArthur, Owner, Polly Annas Nursery
Sarah Steel, Managing Director, The Old Station Nursery
Corrina Hembury, Managing Director, Access Training (East Midlands)
Lisa Jenkins, Business Development Manager, Skills First
Penny Webb, Childminder, Penny’s Place