Last week, the BBC reported that teacher shortages are growing in England as a result of the government missing their recruitment targets for 4 years running. Watchdog has stated that because of this, 28% of secondary school physics lessons are being taught by people with only an A-Level in the subject. This growing gap in the number of qualified teachers is putting the future education of school children at risk.

But what does this mean for the early years sector?

With this argument at the centre of the media right now, it becomes easy for people to forget the similarly devastating position the early years sector have been put in.

In 2014, the government altered the entry requirements for those taking a Level 3 in childcare to include GCSEs at A-C in English and Maths. As a result of this, the number of students progressing to Level 3 has dropped by 70% since 2013/14 and the pool of qualified practitioners is rapidly decreasing, with 43% of nurseries reporting that they’re struggling to find suitable candidates for vacancies.

How will the government's GCSE requirements combined with plans for an extra 15 hours childcare affect the sector?

The situation we are now faced with is that the government plan on implementing 30-hours free childcare to eligible parents as of 2017 - this means longer hours for nurseries, many of whom already need to make up the gap in funding for the current 15 'free' hours.

With longer hours comes the need for more staff and with qualifications restricting the workers that nurseries can employ; many settings are finding themselves understaffed. But do Early Years Educators need to be highly qualified in maths and English to do their jobs well?

Laura Henry, an award-winning independent childcare consultant, said:  "Yes, an educator needs to be able to communicate with parents, assess children and plan their next steps." Therefore, English and maths qualifications are essential.

However, she thinks the government need to bring back functional skills, as many good practitioners have been lost as a result of these requirements. Functional skills will allow childcare staff to brush up on their skills without having to revisit subjects they sat years before.

Laura reminds us that the most important thing is an ‘educator’s passion'; they need to be able to connect emotionally with the children. Which leaves us with a troubling question, what is more important: GCSEs or the way our children feel when they’re in the nursery?

Right now the government’s biggest concern should be recruitment: the sector needs to be able to attract and retain qualified and quality educators – without this, the long-term stability of the sector is at risk.

Let us know if your nursery is affected by these changes and how you feel they will impact the sector in the long run.

Click here to have your say

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