Early years staffing crisis ‘major barrier’ to planned childcare expansion
Monday, November 6, 2023
An expected mass exodus of early years workers could undermine government plans to expand funded childcare hours, new research warns.
A report by the Early Education and Childcare Coalition and the University of Leeds reveals that 57 per cent of nursery staff and 38 per cent of childminders are considering quitting the sector in the next year.
This could coincide with government plans to extend funded childcare hours to children as young as nine months old by 2025, researchers have said.
According to the report “even by conservative estimates the number of childcare places in England would need to grow by six per cent in order to meet the demand created by the government’s planned expansion”.
However, just 17 per cent of nursery managers said it was likely they would increase the number of places they offered, while 35 per cent said they would limit the number of places they offered unless there was more government support to enable them to recruit and retain staff.
Two thirds of nurseries were already reporting average waiting times of almost six months for a place.
The report’s authors estimate that 50,000 additional staff could be needed in 2024 and again in 2025 to maintain existing provision and provide the expanded entitlement.
The Early Education and Childcare Coalition has put forward a series of recommendations to improve the staffing crisis and boost long-term sustainability for the sector.
Increasing early years funding rates with the expectation that providers will use this to boost pay.
Re-establish a career development hub at the Department for Education.
Provide more on-site training to reduce the need to spend time away from a setting.
Ensure access to funded, universal, high-quality SEND training.
Develop a system for bank staff at local authority level that would enable staff to take time out for training, with no negative implications for their setting.
Sarah Ronan, director of the Early Education and Childcare Coalition, said: “Years of underfunding have left early years staff underpaid, overworked and feeling disrespected. It doesn’t matter if it's more free hours from this government or wholesale reform from Labour, the fact is nothing will change for parents or children unless we have a well-paid and valued workforce.”
Abby Jitendra, principal policy adviser for care, family and relationships at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation added: “Government needs to value workers to attract them to the sector – this means development opportunities and ultimately, higher pay. We need to rethink how we fund providers, moving beyond funding a race to the bottom in quality to investing in driving up standards.”
The research adds that staff were four times more likely to quit their jobs if there was a lack of training opportunities while half of staff reported that they do not have regular access to paid leave to undertake training.