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Nurseries calling for U-turn on government policy to avert childcare recruitment 'catastrophe' in the East

Reading session at Owlets Pre-school in Langford Photo: ITV News Anglia

Nurseries and childcare campaigners across the East are warning that a childcare recruitment crisis is looming.

They fear that new requirements for nursery practitioners to have good GCSE's will discourage promising candidates from applying.

The new rules, which start in September, will mean that nursery practitioners wanting to progress to their 'Level 3' qualification, will need at least a C grade in GSCE maths and english.

Alternative qualifications, such as Functional Skills, will no longer accepted.

Playing with sand at Owlets Pre-school in Langford Credit: ITV News Anglia

A Comres poll of people in the East of England found:

  • 65% thought the maths and English qualifications would exclude potential applicants
  • The same number favoured an alternative where young people without the qualifications should be allowed to to complete an apprenticeship with a nursery instead.
  • Though 85% did agree there should be qualifications standards in place for early years staff.

Joanne Rockall, who runs Owlett's Preschool in Langford, Bedfordshire, said the new policy was already causing recruitment problems.

I find it's really putting staff off. A lot of my staff have very good life skills - they've worked in the profession for a lot of years and they've coped very well. It's putting a lot of pressure on when recruiting new staff, and staff with good experience. It's putting people off.

– JOANNE ROCKALL, MANAGER, OWLETS PRE-SCHOOL

Under government rules nurseries have to have one member of staff to every eight children aged 3 and 4. Under the new requirements nurseries will still be able to hire staff without good GSCE's, but they won't count towards their ratios.

Michelle Shaw has worked at Owlets Pre-school for ten years Credit: ITV News Anglia

Michelle Shaw has worked at Owlett's Preschool for the last ten years.

Being an older practitioner who then has to go on to do Level 3 with GCSE's is too much. We have to do coursework, take on another 2 exams, and I have a family. Functional skills for ages 2 to 4 should be enough - I'm not going to sit with my children and teach them trigonometry.

– MICHELLE SHAW, PRE-SCHOOL PRACTITIONER

A spokesperson from the Department for Education said:

"This Government is raising the bar and making a significant investment in the early years sector, working closely with the profession to help improve its status ... Strong numeracy and literacy skills are essential for staff working with young children."

– Department for Education