Childcare sector calls for return of Functional Skills as entry option

Childcare qualification providers have called for Functional Skills to be reinstated as entry requirements for early years educator (EYE) qualifications after Skills Minister Nick Boles showed his support for the qualifications.

The government announced in February it would only fund EYE apprentices who had already gained at least a grade C in GCSE maths and English, rejecting Functional Skills.

But the debate has been reignited after Mr Boles said he wanted to make Functional Skills “legitimate, valid, respected [and] admired” and pledged an Ofqual review into how they could improve.

Currently, all publicly-funded learners over 19 need the GCSEs to do a level three EYE qualification and all apprentices will have to from September next year. At the moment learners without the qual have to complete them by the time they finish the course.

Marc Ozholl, funding and apprenticeship specialist at the Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education (Cache), told FE Week Mr Boles’s comments “gave hope”.

“I passionately feel it would be very good for the sector if Functional Skills were to
be offered as an alternative — it’s encouraging that the minister is stopping to think about it,” he said.

However, director of charitable learning provider Alt Valley Community Trust Gilly Mason warned damage had “already been done”.

“I know of several providers who have dropped EYE provision because demand for it has fallen,” she said. “They also don’t have the staff to deliver GCSEs so even if just the exit requirement remains in place many won’t be able to keep offering it.”

She added: “A lot of young people looking to go into childcare now will have known what they wanted to do at 14, but at the time thought they would only need Functional Skills and so didn’t pursue a GCSE grade C.

“Back then Functional Skills was a recognised qualification, but now they can’t go down that route.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said there had “never been any plans to drop Functional Skills” and that they were “a part of our plan for education and are a vital tool”. But he declined to comment specifically on EYE qualifications.

An Ofqual spokesperson said: “Ofqual has completed a programme of audit work looking at Functional Skills qualifications.

“We are now reviewing our findings with awarding organisations where we will be following up on certain aspects, before reporting publically.”

He declined to say when the report would be published.