Over the past few years, skills gaps have grown in a number of sectors, and in extreme circumstances led to severe shortages in certain career paths. One key career path which has seen growing skills shortages in recent years is early years, with a lack of new qualified nursery teachers.
According to the Save the Children charity there are more than a quarter of a million under-fives attending non-state nurseries that don’t have any fully qualified teachers. This problem has been exacerbated even further because Early Years teacher training applications have plummeted in recent years, leaving nurseries struggling to recruit appropriate staff. This issue is only likely to get worse as instead of 15 hours a week of free nursery care, the Government is offering 30 hours of free nursery care for two year olds.
Head of Early Years at East Kent College in Folkestone, Helen Brooke, said: “Fortunately we have seen a growth in Level 2 student applications for Early Years courses with 27 full time students and 242 students across all the courses in the overall programme area on the Folkestone campus.
“This is a very popular career path and we have the capacity to offer additional courses if more students want to apply. However the requirement for new nursery staff in England to attain Grade C or above in English and Maths, because alternative equivalent qualifications such as Functional Skills Level 2 is no longer acceptable, as well as completing their Early Learning qualifications, is causing a real problem. It’s leading to an enormous staff shortage, even though there are many potentially wonderful staff entering the profession.”
According to the ‘Save our Early Years’ campaign, which wants the GCSE Grade requirement to be scrapped, the main problem surrounds staff ratios at nurseries.
Helen said: “Under current rules staff are only allowed to look after a specific number of children with one member of staff in charge of three children who are one year old and under rising to one member of staff per eight children for three and four year olds.
“Although nurseries are still able to hire staff without good GCSEs those staff don’t count towards these ratios so many small nurseries cannot really afford to employ them. Ironically this means that highly able nursery staff cannot get jobs despite having the appropriate Early Learning qualifications to do the job, while at the same time those nurseries are suffering from severe staff shortages – it seems crazy.
“In the meantime, while we hope the Government will relax the rules, we are doing everything we can to support the students in their quest to achieve the appropriate GCSE grades in Maths and English.”
If you’d like to develop a career in Early Years, you can find out more information about our courses in Folkestone and Broadstairs here.