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Early evidence that rising costs are impacting on early years training and qualifications

Rising costs for childcare providers are leading to a decline in the number of practitioners undertaking a qualification, according to PACEY’s latest Building Blocks research.[i] The survey of 2,129 early years professionals across England revealed:

  • A majority of practitioners reported increased costs across the board, especially for learning resources, council tax, food, business paperwork, insurance and training.
  • The number of childminders reporting that they do not hold any childcare or early years qualifications increased by three points since our last survey to 12 per cent. Childminders who have been in the sector for seven years or less were nearly twice as likely to hold no qualifications as more experienced childminders (19 per cent compared to 10 per cent).
  • The number of childminders reporting their highest qualification is a full Level 3 qualification fell by three points to 45 per cent. Again, the gap between more experienced childminders and those in the sector under eight years is large at 22 points.
  • Group based practitioners reporting their highest qualification was a full Level 3 qualification fell by four points to 24 per cent.
  • The number of group practitioners reporting their highest qualification as a Level 6 (graduate) was up five points to 61 per cent; for childminders it stayed the same at eight per cent.
  • Only around half of practitioners reported doing 20 hours or more of CPD a year (no increase on last year), and those who joined the sector in the past eight years are less likely to have done specialist training.
  • As before, the greatest investment in qualifications and CPD was seen in settings graded “outstanding” by Ofsted.
  • Just two per cent of group practitioners and one per cent of childminders reported they were currently studying for a qualification; around a fifth of practitioners achieved their last qualification over 10 years ago.

“With all the evidence highlighting the positive impact a highly qualified workforce has on the education and care that our youngest children receive, as well as on career progression and staff retention, we are concerned to see our latest research reinforcing evidence from others that the tide is turning in terms of early years qualifications,” says Liz Bayram, chief executive of PACEY.

“After years of progress, the early years workforce is at risk of stagnation. More and more practitioners gained their qualifications many years ago. Newer are less likely to pursue a relevant qualification and undertake less CPD.

“We know that when a childcare providers’ funds are tight, the first thing that goes is their training budget. Without urgent action to address the chronic underfunding that 30 hours and other early education entitlements are causing, we are only going to see this decline accelerate. All practitioners, but especially new entrants to the profession, need to be supported to continue their professional development through CPD and formal qualifications. And they need to be motivated to do so, with the prospect of improved career progression and salary linked to their qualifications and training plan. It’s not rocket science. Many other professions have this in place but, despite numerous attempts to implement a comprehensive workforce strategy, early years continues to struggle to recruit and retain its people.”

Building Blocks makes clear that, whilst practitioners love working in the sector, the number one reason they leave is inadequate pay for group based practitioners and low earnings for childminders (linked to a lack of demand for their places). The research also shows that the one thing that would support them to undertake more regular CPD is to make it more affordable and more accessible. Just last week, official government statistics revealed that nearly 22,000 practitioners have left the sector since 2016, including 5,700 childminders.[ii]

Liz Bayram continues, “PACEY was disheartened to see Government drop its commitment to look at the feasibility of growing the graduate early years workforce in areas of disadvantage. The Department for Education’s investment in the Early Years Professional Development Fund is to be welcomed, but it has to be backed up with a long term strategy that addresses underfunding, so that childcare providers can recruit and retain their staff through career progression and salary reward. Without this, workforce initiatives will only ever patch up the challenge of supporting the sector to deliver high quality care and early education through a well-qualified, graduate-led workforce.”

Download a copy of the full Building Blocks report.

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Press enquiries:

Holly Clarke, Communications Officer
T: 020 8290 2537
E: media@pacey.org.uk    

Susanna Kalitowski, Policy and Research Manager
T: 020 8290 2417                                           
E: susanna.kalitowski@pacey.org.uk 


[i] PACEY Building Blocks 3. Base sample: 2,129 research carried out 20th March to 8th May 2018.

[ii] Department for Education (2018), Childcare and early years providers survey: 2018 (London: Department for Education).