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England's childcare sector at tipping point

Childcare providers unable to meet Government’s pledge outlined in Queen’s Speech without adequate support and funding.

The results of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years sector-wide survey: Building Blocks: a report on the state of the childcare and early years sector (summary version) published this month reveals that the childcare sector is at tipping point. You can view the extended version here.

The survey reveals that:

  • Almost seventy per cent of childcare providers say they have no plans to grow their businesses in the next year.
  • Over a quarter of providers are less confident in the future of their business than they were 12  months ago.
  • A fifth of home-based providers are uncertain as to whether they will still be working in childcare in 12 months time.

These findings suggest there is a major threat to the sector being able to deliver against the Government’s ambitious programme to increase access to and uptake of early education, and to double the number of free childcare hours to 30 hours per week as set out in the Queen’s Speech.

The survey, which  was conducted by PACEY in February this year, was completed by 2,442 childcare professionals (childminders, nannies, nursery workers and managers) across all nine regions of England. It provides a detailed picture of the state of the childcare sector at the start of the new Government’s first term. Responses were also received from 180 parents.

The survey reveals a childcare workforce at tipping point - highly motivated by the work they do, keen to develop their professional skills, and highly respected and relied upon by parents, but on the verge of making decisions about whether their businesses are viable for the future.

Liz Bayram, Chief Executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, said:

“These findings should provide serious cause for concern for the Government. Now that a commitment has been made to extend the number of free early education places, the challenge remains how to ensure the childcare sector is supported to deliver these places at the level of high quality that children deserve.

"PACEY wants to see the Government implement a workforce strategy that supports childcare professionals to improve their skills throughout their career, so they are encouraged, rewarded and in turn motivated to remain in their chosen profession.

"Childcare professionals have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to rise to new challenges and our survey finds them keen to learn and grow professionally, but discouraged to do so by the removal of support for training and by ever-rising costs. The cost of a Level 3 childcare course, for example, has increased exponentially in the last three years, from £250 in 2012 to £1,900 currently.

"Our survey clearly demonstrates that investment in skills development pays – it reveals a direct link between CPD and business confidence. Commitment to a workforce development programme would help grow a confident and motivated workforce able to deliver the Government’s ambitious targets to increase access to high quality childcare.

"We also call on the Government to urgently review the free entitlement funding formula so that childcare workers receive an appropriate level of funding for the early education they provide.

"Unless the investment is there to provide childcarers with the professional development they need to incentivise them through their careers, and the funding for the huge increase in free childcare places the government is offering, then we risk stagnation across the sector and a significant shortfall in affordable childcare places across the country.”