Long-awaited early years apprenticeship launches

A long-awaited Level 3 apprenticeship standard for the early years sector is ready for launch after five years of development and testing.

The launch of the Level 3 Early Years Educator Apprenticeship standard has been beset with delays since its development began in 2014.

This included the resignation last year of the standard's early years trailblazer group led by nursery chain Busy Bees, which had been appointed by the government to work alongside apprenticeships approval body the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA).

Busy Bees said it no longer believed the process of developing the standard was early years employer-led.

Despite pulling out of its development role, the nursery chain has said it will offer the training standard to employees across its settings.

It will also spearhead its delivery across the wider childcare sector through its skills and apprenticeship arm BB Training.

Expected responsibilities and skills of those who complete the 18-month apprenticeship - which carries maximum funding of £6,000 per apprentice for employers - include acting with care and compassion, working well in a team and being honest and trustworthy.

They should also have a commitment to improving the life chances of children and work in a non-discriminatory way. In addition, apprenticeships should take into account "fundamental British values", according to an IfA document detailing the role.

This includes respecting those with different faiths and beliefs and advocating democracy, the rule of law and individual liberty.

Specific skills expected of apprenticeships include a knowledge of children's development up to five years of age, as well as an understanding of further development up to the age of seven.

Apprentices should also be able to work in partnership with carers and parents, carry out risk assessments and promote healthy lifestyles through activities and diet.

"It's great to hear that the Level 3 Apprenticeship Standard has finally been approved," said Michael Freeston, the Early Years Alliance's director of quality improvement.

"This will be a major pathway to the qualifications available to those considering a career in the early years. It can't come soon enough; getting these new qualifications online quickly is vital if we are to start seriously addressing the declining numbers of Level 3-qualified practitioners in our workforce.

"It's no secret that this has been a drawn-out process and it's thanks to the employers, training and sector experts who have volunteered their time over the last five years to ensure we've reached this positive conclusion."

Clare Phizacklea, chief talent officer at Busy Bees, said: "As a long-term champion of apprenticeships, Busy Bees is delighted to have successfully led the trailblazer group developing the Early Years Educator Level 3 standard to the point of approval for delivery.

"It has been a long time coming; however, both the group itself and the Department for Education have been in agreement for some time. What is important though is that we have finally reached full agreement."

An IfA spokesperson added: "The sector has been clear about the many pressures it is facing with an ageing workforce and difficulties with hiring a new generation of people to fill the skills gaps.

"We would like to thank the Trailblazer group led by Busy Bees and the wider sector for its support during the development and approvals process. A great deal of effort and excellent team work has gone into reaching this stage."

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