With official figures having revealed that qualifications from the Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education (Cache) featured among the most popular for FE loans, Marc Ozholl discusses the awarding organisation’s success.

As the awarding organisation synonymous with quality in the childcare sector, we were delighted to learn that three of our qualifications appeared in the top ten most popular 24+ loan-funded qualifications.

We pride ourselves on offering a portfolio of qualifications that meet the diverse needs of the care sector, so it was especially pleasing that Cache qualifications, which cover the care of children and young people from birth to age 19 in a wide range of settings, from nurseries to residential care homes to school classrooms, were among the most popular loan-funded qualifications.

The introduction of 24+ loans was widely predicted to lead to a dramatic fall in the number of adult learners undertaking vocational qualifications.

With increased rigour and responsiveness demanded by government, we took up the challenge of ensuring a highly-skilled, appropriately-qualified workforce continued to offer the highest standards of care for children and young people.

This has certainly not been an easy task.

Despite the vital importance of the provision of high-quality childcare, the sector remains among the lowest paid of all employment sectors.

With a lack of funding available for learners aged 24 and above, who traditionally make up the majority of the childcare workforce, and in the absence of a national advertising campaign for 24+ loans, we continued our long-standing tradition of providing a personalised service to Cache centres.

The introduction of 24+ loans was widely predicted to lead to a dramatic fall in the number of adult learners undertaking vocational qualifications

Our regional team visited providers to explain the benefits and opportunities 24+ loans brought, while our funding team supported customers in understanding the detail around loans, providing regular guidance and updates about loans policy.

In the midst of government austerity measures, reticence from learners to take out a loan was expected. With the cost of living increasing, studying for a qualification could have been considered an unjustifiable luxury.

However, once we informed providers of the key points from the loans policy, including that loans wouldn’t need to be paid back until learners were earning over £21,000-a-year and that repayments would be minimal due to the low pay of the sector, they were better-equipped to advise and guide learners about the feasibility of studying a qualification. Our strong relationships with care departments within providers allowed us to communicate pertinent information directly to those who advise learners.

Starting with the NNEB in 1945, Cache qualifications and assessment methods have been designed by early years experts, with input from employers, providers and learners, to ensure they instil the knowledge and skills required to provide the highest quality care for children and young people.

It has been well-publicised that careers advice in schools often fails to promote vocational education as a high quality route for younger learners, so it is especially pleasing that adult learners, who are more likely to base their decisions on quality and affordability, choose Cache as their preferred provider.

As unemployment in the UK remains high, it is a testament to the quality of our qualifications that learners see Cache as the standard to aspire to, and continue to study towards a career in childcare despite the low pay and lack of funding available.

A significant number of adult learners studying childcare qualifications return to work after a break, often after starting a family of their own. As a registered charity our objective has always been to ensure all children and young people are given the highest quality care to give them the best possible start in life.