Do you know that your childcare could be in jeopardy? Why? Because a decision made in 2014 by the then Minister for Childcare is having a detrimental effect on recruitment? She required all childcare students and apprentices to have a GCSE Level A to C in English and Maths in order to complete their Level 3 Diploma in Childcare but as we warned then there were insufficient numbers of students available to complete a childcare qualification with both those grades.
The sector can’t fix in a short time what 11 years of schooling have failed to achieve.’ We have suggested a practical solution which was allowing us to use the Functional Skills as an alternative entry requirement. These qualifications are Government approved and the acceptable entry requirement for all other apprenticeships.
Sadly, this was refused and the consequence is a catastrophic decline in available qualified staff. There has been a 72% drop in students enrolling in Level 3 courses and a 96% drop in apprentices. The sector has now reached crisis point. The pipeline for new staff is dry and those who replace staff leaving through natural attrition are few. We certainly cannot meet our growth targets for the 15 hours or the 2 year old offer (80,000 places short) let alone plans to increase to 30 hours.
There is no benefit to having this barrier to entry. In fact it will lead to a reduction in quality as nurseries are forced to take more unqualified staff as they can be employed without the A to C GCSEs. However, to maintain quality we must have a balance of qualified staff. Right now, our committed staff are tired, worried and at breaking point. Depending on agency staff is unsafe, expensive and not conducive to quality for children. We need to be able train and recruit staff who want to work with children and who can be supported, developed and retained to provide the quality service that every child deserves.
The irony is that the solution is simple. Change the wording of the regulations to include the option for Functional Skills as the entry requirements and do it before the 1st September so new students can be enrolled on their courses. But who can intervene on our behalf? We have neither a strategy nor a Minister for Childcare.
We need parents to help us get this fixed.
Parents realise the impact having no childcare could have on their daily lives. Today nurseries are part of the infrastructure of a modern society; they are not a “nice to have”. Please can we see the necessary change from the Government in order to support those childcare organisations which enable ordinary working families to work.