Workforce and Qualifications

The nursery sector is currently facing a recruitment crisis. View workforce and qualification policy updates and guidance below.

Nursery practitioner

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The nursery sector has been facing a recruitment crisis caused, in part, by the Government’s stringent rules on GCSE qualifications required for entry to level three early years educator courses, the ‘industry standard’ to which 75% of childcare professionals are qualified.

The need to have GCSE English and Maths at grade C or above has meant many otherwise suitable candidates could not gain entry to courses and new recruits have been much harder to find. 

Following lobbying from NDNA and the sector, the Government agreed in March 2017 to allow functional equivalents – practical tests showing a good working knowledge of English and maths – to be accepted as an alternative alongside GCSEs.

Other issues are that chronic underfunding from the Government limits the salaries that nurseries are able to pay and levels of training and development. This is leading to talented and hardworking staff members leaving the sector to earn more money and gain better career progression elsewhere.

Also following lobbying from NDNA and the sector, a Workforce Strategy was announced by the Childcare Minister Caroline Dinenage and NDNA looks forward to working with the Department for Education on this. 

Implementation of T Level programmes 

NDNA expressed concern at the lack of work-based learning offered by T Levels. Students won’t have the breadth of hands-on experience and knowledge that apprentices can offer. Level 2 qualifications are still out to consultation and any development of these must also fall within this review. Level 2 students must be work ready for employers to be able to include them within child:adult ratios. Those exiting these qualifications should be experienced hand-on practitioners.

Grading must consider a student’s next steps – for example, to level 3. NDNA agrees that the work placement should be integrated within the programme. A student should be assessed by a standard template which should focus on job specific outcomes. Only settings that are judged as Good or Outstanding by Ofsted should be hosting placements. Students will require additional support over and above ratios which must be considered.


First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced £1.5 million investment for more nursery teachers and graduates in deprived areas of Scotland - read more here