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A leading childcare organisation is calling on the Government to scrap the GCSE requirement for career progression in nurseries or risk problems implementing its plans to double free childcare for three and four year olds.
The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) says its latest Workforce Survey shows qualification levels dropping for the first time since the survey began, with staff turnover high at 21% for level three qualified staff.
The main reason for staff leaving and a lack of suitable candidates is the requirement for qualified staff to hold GCSE grade C or above in maths and English, says the NDNA.
Stella Ziolkowski, NDNA’s Director of Quality and Workforce Development, said: “The results of our latest workforce survey show the breadth of this recruitment and retention crisis, backing up anecdotal information from our members.
“Numbers of qualified staff are dropping too low, which will have a detrimental impact on the quality of early years education, the single most important factor in reducing the attainment gap and supporting children to achieve.
“Unless the current double whammy of staff leaving and few staff applying for practitioner positions is addressed urgently, we risk that there won’t be enough nursery places to be able to deliver the 30 hours free childcare promise.
“The majority of employer respondents tell us that changing the GCSE requirements for staff would have a positive impact on their business. More than half the current level three staff and more than two thirds of level two staff do not hold these qualifications. They feel undervalued and cannot progress in their career.
“This requirement is preventing many good candidates from applying for positions or progressing to higher qualifications within the nursery.
“We urge the new childcare minister Caroline Dinenage to change the GCSE requirement to one for practical everyday maths and English as part of her promised early years workforce strategy to ease this escalating crisis. Quality, experienced candidates without GCSEs at these grades must be allowed to demonstrate their skills and knowledge to support our children to reach their full potential.”
The survey of 278 nursery owners and managers employing 12,500 practitioners caring for more than 58,000 children also includes responses from an additional 385 individual practitioners.
The survey found:
The NDNA is calling for increased funding to cover the delivery of 30 hours and the National Living Wage increases, for a change in the requirements for grade A*-C in maths and English GCSEs to accept revised functional skills, whilst maintaining a continued focus on improving quality and for the Government to give a long-term commitment for the development of the early years workforce with clear progression pathways that predict the skills gaps for the next five to ten years as well as doing more to attract and retain candidates.