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A Simple Guide to the Early Years Educator GCSE Requirements

If you’re thinking of a career in nursery or pre-school teaching, you’ve probably heard that the GCSE entry requirements have changed – and to be honest, you’re probably a little confused.

The rules have changed several times since 2014, with politicians battling it out over how best to ensure high-quality education without sacrificing good prospective early years workers.

To make it even more confusing, the rules are different depending on whether you’re doing an apprenticeship or a standalone course, and funding is affected too.

We like things to be simple, so we’ve cut through the jargon and put together some straightforward answers to the questions you’re asking.

Who do the changes affect?

They affect anyone who wants to gain a Level 3 Early Years Educator (EYE) qualification in England, which is the qualification you need to work as an early years teacher.

It allows you to work with babies and children from 0 to 5 years in nurseries, pre-schools, reception classes in primary schools, and private childcare.

Although Level 2 is the minimum, most nurseries require practitioners to have a Level 3 EYE qualification. The government also requires a certain ratio of Level 3 staff to children.

children's school books

What's changed?

There have been several back-and-forth changes made to the requirements for EYE courses over the past few years, all involving whether or not new EYE students should be required to have GCSE English and Maths at at least Grade C.

We won’t bore you with the history: here’s how the situation stands now.

The new rules state that you do not need an English or Maths GCSE to begin an EYE apprenticeship or standalone course.

However, if you’re studying an apprenticeship, you do need to gain at least a C in English and Maths before you can graduate. If you don’t already have those grades, the GCSEs will form part of your apprenticeship study programme.

If you’re studying a standalone course, you don’t need English or Maths GCSEs in order to graduate. You can get your qualification without them.

However, early years employers are required by law to maintain a certain ratio of Level 3 qualified staff to children. Until you have your GCSEs, you won’t count formally as Level 3 staff in these ratios. You will be counted as Level 2.

Furthermore, to have your studies funded by the government, you do need to have or be studying GCSE Maths and English.

To put it simply, you can begin your EYE training without GCSE Maths or English, but you can’t work as a Level 3 Early Years Educator without having at least Grade C in both.


Do the new requirements apply to those who got their Level 3 qualification before the rules were introduced?

No. The rules apply only to those who started their Level 3 on or after the 1st of September 2014. If you already have your qualification, or if you started your studies before this date, you do not need an English or Maths GCSE to be counted as Level 3 qualified staff, and won’t be affected by the new rules at all.

child playing outside

If I’m doing an apprenticeship, will my English and Maths GCSEs be included in my course?

Yes. If you don’t already have the required GCSEs, they’ll form a part of your study programme.

If I’m doing a standalone course, will the provider support me in getting my GCSEs?

They should. The government requires that all course providers encourage and support learners in this.

How can I get the GCSEs I need?

The method you choose depends on your needs.

Attending college part-time is probably the best-known route, and it’s great for those who love being in a classroom. However, college courses have set timetables, so they can be difficult to schedule around your EYE training – particularly if you’re working at the same time.

If you don’t want to commit to set classes each week, taking an online GCSE course is the easiest way to ensure you can shape your studies to your schedule, balance your workload, and beat deadline stress. There are a variety of providers, some offering more flexibility and support than others.

We think our GCSE courses are the best because we design our them especially for people with busy lives. We know how hard it can be to juggle studying, working, family commitments and a social life, so all our courses are super-flexible. There are no set start dates or deadlines, and you’ll have your personal tutor on hand any time you need them – perfect if you want to work at your own pace, on your own terms.

Whichever route you choose, make sure it’s the one that suits you, your lifestyle, and your commitments best.

So what does all this add up to?

Essentially, it means that if you want to become a Level 3 Early Years Educator, you can start your training, but you’ll need to get Grade Cs in English and Maths at some point. Without them, you can’t get funding, complete an apprenticeship, or count as Level 3 staff in the workplace.

And it’s better to get them sooner rather than later. Many other courses and jobs require English and Maths GCSEs as a minimum, so by getting the right grades, you’re investing in your own future – wherever it may take you.

To find out more about taking your GCSEs online with us, click here or contact one of our expert course advisors by phone, email or webchat.

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