Save the Children has called for investment in good-quality childcare to ensure healthy brain development for children aged five and under – especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The charity states that the early stages of life “set the foundations” for a child’s future, and play a crucial role in brain development.
"We want the government, working closely with nurseries, to do more to ensure that every child has access to high-quality childcare," the charity’s Lighting Up Young Brains report states.
"This will help ensure that every child, especially those living in poverty, benefits from the best early learning opportunities in these critical years."
The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) annual workforce survey, reported last year that 88 per cent of settings employ an early years teacher, who is required to complete teacher training, and must have GCSE maths and English at a grade C or above. This compares with 80 per cent in 2014.
Despite this increase, settings reported difficulties in recruiting early years teachers, mainly because of the hours of work involved and pay.
And Save the Children's report claims that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are least likely to attend private, voluntary or independent settings (PVI) with an early years teacher, despite being those who could benefit from it the most.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said he welcomes calls for a more educated early years workforce, but added that a lack of funding makes it difficult to attract more graduates to the sector.
“Without the funding needed to enable providers to pay graduate-level wages, this ambition, while admirable, will be impossible to achieve in practice," he said.
“What’s more, it’s important to remember that being a good early years practitioner is about more than just having certain academic qualifications – experience, a caring disposition and crucially, an in-depth understanding of child development are all vital and these valuable attributes should not be overlooked.”
Stella Ziolkowski, director of quality and workforce development at NDNA, said all nurseries should aspire to employ teachers, but many cannot afford to.
“NDNA believes that all nurseries should aspire to employ teachers but some simply cannot afford to, given the chronic underfunding of the government’s free places for three- and four-year-olds," she said.
“We are now campaigning for funding levels to be raised before the government doubles its free entitlement to 30 free hours for three- and four-year-olds with working parents from next year. A well-qualified workforce is vital to ensure that standards continue to rise in the nursery sector.”