Take care to give all young women a chance to work

Wednesday 6 August 2014


Apprenticeships in an area of work traditionally of interest to many young women are now being restricted to applicants with English and Maths grade A* to C.

Doesn't that rather seem to go against the whole ethos of apprenticeships? These should enable young people who didn't have successful school careers for all sorts of reasons, to put this behind them to pursue fulfilling employment in areas that interest and suit them.  In many cases they will be able to study while doing so.

Apprenticeships have differing entry requirements and some, according to the government's Apprenticeships website, specify few or none at all. For example, you can become an apprentice journalist with just a good level of general knowledge and "a passion for news" and you can assist with passenger planes as ground crew at our airports with just a CRB check specified.

But two GCSEs are specified for the new early years apprenticeship from 1 September, for those who work with children from birth to 16 years in a variety of settings and services such as nurseries. Children's, care, learning and development is vitally important work and the government rightly wants to attract high calibre applicants; it is even offering 200 early years apprentices a bursary of £3,000 - up from £1,500 - and an extra £300 for training and study.

However, as the industry itself acknowledges, it is possible to be a good candidate without having GCSEs. The Early Years Trailblazer Group, made up of employers, hopes its own proposal for candidates to be assessed on Maths and English at the end rather than the beginning of their apprenticeships will be approved by the government next year.

The third of girls not achieving five GCSEs including English and Maths A* to C  have fewer options open to them than any other group. They are in a much worse situation that their male counterparts - directed towards a narrow range of employment sectors and competing for fewer actual jobs. These girls will find it hard to escape the consequences of not getting their grades and they will pay the price for years to come. Many will become trapped in poverty.

Unless we give them more options. More options, not fewer options.