Trainers report Level 3 apprentice surge

Published: 05 Jun 2017

There has been a sharp increase in the number of apprentices signing up for Level 3 Early Years Educator (EYE) since the GCSE rule change, a Nursery World analysis shows.

We contacted 13 training providers, along with awarding body CACHE, to find out if they had seen a rise in the number of apprentices applying to do the Level 3 this April, compared to the same time last year. Of the 11 responses received, eight reported an increase, while three were unable to provide figures.

It follows the move by the Government in March to reinstate functional skills as an alternative to GCSEs in English and maths for Level 3 qualifications.

CACHE said there had been more than a 50 per cent increase in the number of Level 3 starts compared to last year.

Talking about the increase, CACHE’s associate director Julie Hyde told Nursery World, ‘The GCSE rule change is what the sector was waiting for – it is definitely a significant factor. There will obviously be other contributory elements; however, to have this level of increase is too coincidental.’

Aspire Training, part of the Hadland Care Group that operates Tops Day Nurseries, has seen its number of Level 3 apprentices grow from just three in 2016 to 44 this year, which it said was ‘without a doubt due to the GCSE rule change’.

The training provider also revealed it had seen an increase in enquiries and web traffic around the same time as the rule change.

Cheryl Hadland, founder of Tops Day Nurseries, said, ‘Reinstating functional skills has enabled early years settings to hire and train the practitioners we need to provide love, care and education to children in our nurseries. Parents and their children will directly benefit as this change will increase the numbers of Level 3 qualified staff in the nurseries and will enable those nurseries with waiting lists due to staff shortages to re-open places, which will be increasingly important if working parents respond to increased Government funding for childcare by increasing their working hours, and therefore their need for more childcare hours.’


Jace Training has experienced an 85 per cent increase in people starting the Level 3 compared to last year, while Parenta has seen the number of Level 3 apprentices rise from 47 in 2016 to 177 this year, which it said was solely due to the changes in the GCSEs rule.

Riverside Training in Lincolnshire has had its number of Level 3 apprentices more than double in the past year, from six to 14. The training provider said the main motivation for learners to sign up, especially mature apprentices, is that they can now go for functional skills, rather than re-take their GCSEs.

BNG Training – the training arm of the Bertram Nursery Group – reported a significant increase in the number of Level 3 apprentices, with an average of five signing up per week.

Susan McGhee, director of BNG Training, told Nursery World, ‘This uplift is partly due to some of our large commercial customers now choosing the apprentice route to utilise their levy funds. However, the GCSE rule change has most definitely had an impact – we had open apprentice vacancies that we were struggling to fill with suitable candidates from the small applicant pool that met requirements prior to the rule change. These vacancies are now filling rapidly, with our client nurseries having a much bigger pool of suitable candidates to choose from.’

She added, ‘We have heard anecdotally from candidates applying for apprentice posts that they previously felt it wasn’t worth them applying as they wouldn’t get through due to difficulties with the GCSE requirement – these candidates are now successfully applying for vacancies. We have also reviewed our applicant records and gone back to candidates previously [deemed] suitable in all aspects [except] the ability to pass the GCSEs. We have now successfully placed [such] candidates.’

Crackerjack Training has had a rise in the number of Level 3 apprentices from two to eight.

Ross Midgley, director of PBD Training, revealed it received a big increase in sign-ups this April – 53, compared with 26 in April 2016. However, he said this could not be solely attributed to the re-introduction of functional skills.

He said, ‘It is certainly the case that the GCSE requirement pushed many potential students away from early years in 2015 and 2016, but most of these were already lost to the sector. There will be some who might not have signed up in April 2017 if the rules had not changed, but there is no evidence of a pool of people languishing at Level 2 and waiting to sign up as soon as the GCSE requirement was dropped.’

Mr Midgley said he thought the increase in April was mainly the result of employers ‘rushing’ to get apprentices signed up before the 1 May introduction of a new funding system and 20 per cent paid training time for apprentices (see Work Matters, page 28). He said PBD’s recruitment since May has been lower than normal.

Back to listing