The government has finally confirmed that it is u-turning on the requirements for early years educator apprenticeships.

Currently early years learners must achieve at least a grade C in English and maths GCSE to pass the level three course, but from April this will be broadened to include functional skills.

The announcement was reported to have been made by Caroline Dinenage (pictured above), the early years minister, at the Childcare Expo in London this morning, and was later confirmed in the Early Years Workforce Strategy published by the Department for Education.

“We will broaden the current English and mathematics requirement for level 3 early years educators (EYE), including for apprenticeships, to level 2 qualifications, including functional skills,” it said.

The change, which will take effect from April 3, will “impact anyone who already holds an EYE qualification, began studying an EYE since September 2016 or takes up an EYE in the future”, it said.

The news comes almost three weeks after FE Week reported that a u-turn was expected, but that the final decision was understood to have been delayed by the Prime Minister’s office.

Campaigners have been pressing the government to change its GCSE requirement for the EYE qualification since it was first introduced in 2014.

They argued that the stringent requirement – which was unique among apprenticeships – was hitting recruitment in the childcare sector.

More than 4,000 people responded to a government consultation into the literacy and numeracy qualification requirements for level three early years educators, which ran in November

According to the strategy published today, there had been a 40 per cent decline in the number of people starting a level three childcare apprenticeship since the introduction of the GCSE requirement.

The consultation responses “indicated that the GCSE requirement is impacting negatively on the size and shape of the workforce”, with “applicants’ lack of the required GCSEs” being an issue for more than 2,300 people who responded.

Crucially, it said: “The literacy and numeracy skills identified by respondents as being most necessary for a level three practitioner can be covered by level two functional skills qualifications, along with requirements already included in the EYE qualifications criteria.”

Today’s news was greeted with enthusiasm by early years organisations.

Julie Hyde, associate director of CACHE and leader of the Save Our Early Years campaign, said she was “absolutely delighted” that the “government has done the right thing”.

“This decision will enable early years settings to again hire the excellent practitioners they need, and to allow staff to progress and remain in the workforce,” she said.

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  1. LRoding

    The powers that be were told back in 2013 that their plans would be a complete fiasco. Of course, they knew better; finally an outbreak of common sense. This should be added to the growing list of idiotic decisions which have blighted education and training. When will they ever learn? (I’m guessing never)

  2. As with most policy changes, it looks like like things won’t be as easy as first seems. I’ve never known an apprenticeship Framework to be changed retrospectively so Sep 16 – Mar 17 starters could be in a position where they need GCSEs to complete the framework but only Functional Skills to be occupationally qualified. I think we know what they’ll do. Similarly anyone studying for a standalone EYE that started before September could just withdraw and re-start with a new AO and Bob’s your uncle. I wouldn’t blame the learners but I worry about the impact on success rates!