01/09/2016 13:36 BST | Updated 30/08/2017 06:12 BST

Government Rethink Needed On Early Years' Entry Requirements So Families Don't Suffer

Graham Monro/gm photographics via Getty Images

Back in 2014, the then Coalition Government changed the policy on entry requirements for level 3 childcare courses, where Level 3 Early Years Educators must now have at least a grade C in GCSE English and Maths; two years down the road and we are now seeing a crisis unfold in childcare settings.

The worst aspect of the crisis is that this was all predicted by experts in the field, including the Pre-School Learning Alliance, the London Early Years Foundation, PACEY (the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years) and the National Day Nurseries Association. Yet, the Government acted like a petulant child and stuck their fingers in their ears and ignored the evidence put before them.

It is important that we continually work towards a highly-skilled workforce, as it not only benefits our economy but the individuals in question also, especially those working with our children in the early years. But when a scenario unfolds where the Managing Director of a multi-award-winning and outstanding nursery in North London for the last 25 years, who herself does not have maths GCSE, had to turn down an applicant with both BA and MA degrees because they did not have Maths GCSE, then a rethink is needed.

This is all compounded by the exclusion of other qualifications, such as Functional Skills, which ensure good standards of literacy and numeracy as well as the soft skills which are vital to working in a childcare setting, which has barred highly capable potential childcare staff from joining the sector, and has blocked the progression of existing staff - forcing them out of the profession altogether.

Since the changes were brought in, around half of individual early years providers across the country have highlighted that they are already struggling to recruit the staff they need, while almost three-quarters of further education colleges reported last month that enrolments on Level 3 EYE courses have decreased this year (2015-16) compared to last year.

It is our youngest children and their parents who are feeling the impact of this. When childcare costs have soared under this Government, they cannot be causing more strife by creating a staffing crisis that will only impact other worthwhile policies which aim to support families, such as the jam-tomorrow 30-hours free childcare for working parents which will simply not be delivered if early year's providers are not sufficiently staffed.

However, there is a sliver of hope, when the Government announced a review into its decision on functional skills, a step which is hopefully the first of many towards reversing this short-sighted decision which is causing havoc in a sector that is vital to the early stages of a child's development.

There is no time to lose. The crisis is already upon the sector, and it is vital that the new Education Secretary, Justine Greening, and the Childcare Minister, Caroline Dinenage, get to work immediately to address the problems left behind by their predecessors and ensure our childcare sector is properly staffed to deliver on important childcare support for parents.