This academic year saw the government introduce the GCSE requirement into L3 Early Years qualifications and apprenticeships. Initially the government made GCSE English and Maths A-C grades an entry requirement but after much squawking from the sector it relaxed this to an exit requirement for the first year. Unsurprisingly this new requirement has had a devastating effect on the numbers of L3 learners and apprentices this year – as a Centre we have seen a 50% decrease numbers and according to CACHE, nationally the decrease has been 40%.
In a sector where traditionally-speaking early year’s practitioners have been much more of a ‘care’ profession the emphasis has not been on academic achievement so good grades in GCSE Maths and English have not been an issue. However, with the focus on education, quality and ‘raising the bar’, it is no secret that the government has been trying to ‘professionalise’ the early year’s sector in recent years with varying degrees of success.
2007 saw the introduction in of the Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) which was heavily funded at the time, and each one came with a free laptop, almost a BOGOF offer! Although this qualification initially seemed attractive, the shine soon wore off when the government failed to give it equivalency with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) which resulted in a highly qualified but demotivated and underpaid workforce! This was further compounded by the ensuing Conservative government who oversaw a drop in funding as well as prestige for the EYPS, further ‘nose-rubbing in it’ by changing the qualification to Early Years Teacher status, but still no equivalency with QTS!! Laughable really when the government appears to want to put an ‘education’ spin on the early years, almost to the extent of sneering at the ‘care’ aspect.
Meanwhile in 2008 we welcomed the introduction of the new Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), finally a logical and consistent early years’ curriculum with the intention of raising quality and thus improving children’s outcomes. Research for many years has endorsed the importance of good quality early years experiences for children to ensure good levels of educational attainment and resilience so the focus on qualified early years staff and a minimum quality framework really is a ‘no brainer’. Moreover the EYFS thankfully reinforced the holistic nature of ‘care’ and ‘education’
So here’s the rub….what sort of ‘big’ people do we want looking after our ‘little’ people? Do we want highly qualified staff, educationalists who will lead the curriculum to teach our children to be ‘school ready’ with emerging reading and writing skills or do we want caring, spontaneous and fun-loving staff who foster children’s imaginations, inspiring their creativity and giving them a thirst for knowledge? Even Einstein is quoted as saying, ‘The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination’. Of course, it shouldn’t have to be an ‘either/or’ option if we are able to recruit staff who can do both….however we certainly won’t achieve either if we ‘scare’ away 50% of our potential workforce with a GCSE English and Maths A-C entry requirement…..especially when achievement levels for these nationwide continue to be under 60%……uh oh, watch out, MIND THE ‘SKILLS’ GAP!