Just a thought – but all this stuff about needing GCSE’s to work with under fives …….   Leave a comment

………. are the Government focussing on the wrong people and the wrong sector?

Read on and I will explain where this thought has come from.


I think most readers of this blog will know by now that I am personally very much in favour of appropriate qualifications for those who work with young children – indeed for those who work with all children and young people.

After all, I am a trainer myself and have always had high expectations of myself as a trainer and of those undertaking my courses. In fact when I used to teach and assess NVQ’s – the external verifier accused me of asking too much of my students – I disagreed – anyone who completed a course with me or who was assessed by me, would be equipped with the skills, knowledge and understanding to carry out the role that their qualification enabled them to undertake, regardless of the sector the worked in at the time of undertaking the qualification – or the sector that they worked in post qualification.

However, those who know me well / read my blog / read my comments on social media – will also know that I am against the Government plans to have GCSE’s as the entry requirement in the future to undertake formal early years qualifications – and for these qualifications to be the only acceptable qualifications for new entrants to the profession to be counted for ratio purposes.

I am concerned because some people find taking exams to be very stressful and in fact so stressful that no matter what their functional level is – they will never ‘pass’ a written exam. Furthermore – it is not a exam pass that says that a person is able to use those skills on a daily basis or in practical terms – because some people can remember facts long enough to pass an exam – but can not remember the facts in the long term.

I am also concerned that some people have other skills that are vital in those that work with young children – such as being empathic, caring and nurturing. And that those with these skills should be valued and be included for ratio purposes. It seems to me that those who have the paper qualifications may not have the other skills needed – and indeed might not actually like the ‘hands on’ side of childcare – preferring the paperwork side of things – and may have their eye on a quick career ladder to a management position.

When providing for appropriate care and education for young children, ALL aspects of their care and education should be considered, and that means having a range of skills in those who are providing that care and education.

But the point of this blog is not to focus on the GCSE requirement for those undertaking early years qualifications in the future – it is about the Governments rather hypocritical expectations of others who care for children and young people.

I am talking about parents/ grandparents and foster carers of children and young people.

As a parent, grandparent or foster carer you are expected to be able to support the child with their homework – no matter what your own level of educational attainment is – and no matter how long ago it was since you last did Maths or English or indeed any subject.

And this of course includes children who are studying for the GCSE’s .

Now  –  I am not degree educated nor do I have the ‘right’ GCSE’s – but surely common sense would say that to support an  under five with their education, you need a GCSE in Maths and English far less than you do to support a child in High School with their education.

And yet as a foster carer of an almost 12 year old, I am required to be able to support the child concerned with all subjects – and of course he has not yet started his GCSE’s. However, because it is so long since I was at school – or indeed since my own children were at school – I really am a bit rusty, and I really do not have a clue which is the current preferred method of teaching. Will I be any better informed by the time the child starts his GCSE’s?

And what makes things worse is that like many foster children,  my current foster child is not accessing his full 5 hours education a day in school (time in school less breaks) – and as I do not want him to fall any further behind than he is already (due to his life circumstances, not his ability) I am trying to support him to at least match the number of hours education that most children have provided within school – so 25 hours a week, by providing homework support and extra educational activities at home.

I have not had any ‘training’ from the school to carry this out important role, the Government do not insist that I have GCSE’s to be a foster carer – there are of course plenty of other ‘requirement boxes’ that have to be ticked – such as all those caring skills, all the child development knowledge that I have, all that understanding of personal, social and emotional development that I have, all those listening to the voice of the child skills …… and of course all that love I have to give a child – and all that passion I have about wanting every child in my care – both childminded children and foster children – to reach their full potential. The Government also do not insist you have GCSE’s to be a parent or a Grandparent, you are just expected to care and educate the children – and to do a good job.

How can this be right? – it is acknowledged that qualified teachers status is vitally important when it comes to implementing the National Curriculum. Teaching is a skilled job – and people not only have to be competent in their subject knowledge – they also need to understand how to teach.

Certainly as someone who teaches adults, I have a qualification in teaching adults and I am competent in the subjects I teach – I would not dream of teaching a subject that I am not competent in.

However as a foster carer (and the same for many parents / grandparents), I (we) are required to support and in some cases when a child does not understand the homework – for whatever reason – we have to actually teach that subject in the specific area covered by the homework.

So my thought process is going like this;

The Government are saying that if people want to work with under 5’s and be counted for ratio purposes, in the future they are going to need a Maths and English qualification to do so.

And yet the caring skills that support the social, personal and emotional development are just as important – if not more important than  the formal educational side of things for an under five. The Government even acknowledges this within the EYFS – as the Prime Areas need to be secure before the Specific Areas become a focus – at least that is how it should be.


The Government are saying that a degree led workforce – which of course includes teachers with QTS – are vital and produce the best outcomes for children.

And yet the Government consider it appropriate for parents and foster carers and grandparents, to support children and young people with their homework and with their studies in general without any qualifications (including any GCSE’s ) in those subjects or in teaching.

And with the increasing amounts of homework – children can spend as many hours studying without qualified teacher input at home, as they do at school in actual lessons with qualified teacher input. Of course some children are very able and can do their homework without any input because they have understood what they are supposed to do and can follow the instructions – but for many children their homework is impossible to do without help.

So why the double standards and expectations.


In the  case of  my foster child – and for many other children / young people for whom the current education system is not working in terms of expectations to fit neatly into the ‘school tick box’, they spend more of their ‘education time’ either at home with no educational input at all, or they have support of a willing adult who is not only not qualified but who could through best intentions do more harm than good – and confuse the child / teach the wrong method / give too much help  – and in simple terms get it wrong.

When you add in the fact that in many homes – parents work long hours, having other commitments such as caring for elderly relatives or younger siblings, or maybe studying themselves or doing some voluntary work, or just stressed due to financial worries, or are dealing with poor housing or domestic violence or ill health (including mental health) – you will realise that the children of this country really are up against it – and so are their parents


My solution;

The Government should stop worrying about the care and education of the under fives – and implementing new ideas and new qualifications without first fully consulting with the early years sector and the wealth of research evidence. There is no evidence to support the fact that the interference and constant changes to early years has made any difference to outcomes for under fives – or indeed to achievement in later school life. Children need to be ‘school ready’ but not in the way the current Government think. They need to be able to dress and undress themselves, toilet themselves, ask for help and communicate their needs, to listen, to have respect for adults, to be able to make friends, to think, to be creative in their play, to be ready to try new things.

In my opinion – graduate led early years settings can be a good thing – but that does not even have to mean a graduate in every setting, because good practice can be shared – and the old LA  Early Years Mentors (different names in different areas) who had QTS were a good way of ensuring settings practice  was informed by a graduate. Experience and a track record of ‘doing a good job’ should also count and be relevant, and there should be more research and data  so show the true picture of the impact on outcomes of children who have not been to a graduate led setting, or have been to range of settings – and include those who did not attend any early years setting and stayed at home with parents or grandparents. As to the need for every person who is to counted in ratios in early years settings to have a GCSE in Maths and English it is just not needed – yes some sort of functional skills ability test is needed but not a GCSE), what will that achieve?


The Government need to start to look at the needs of older children in having qualified teacher input and thinking about a slightly longer school day / compulsory homework clubs- so all school work is completed at school and not at home. If children could do all their educational input at school and not have any homework, children to would be able to relax, to have hobbies, to sleep better, to have time for their brains to absorb the information from school,  to be more focus in school  – and not to be discriminated against just because their home life does not support completion of homework. In my opinion homework should be scrapped or at the very least limited to back ground reading from text supplied by the school.


Home life – family life would be enhanced, parents would be under less pressure, children would be under less pressure and maybe society would be under less pressure and we would all benefit.


In my opinion – this Government means well , they have good intentions – but they are making a complete mess of things because they are not qualified in the areas they are making changes to – and worse they are not listening to those who have the expertise in these areas.












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