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New report shows workforce challenges in the sector

The Education Policy Institute have published a comparative analysis on the early years workforce in England using the Labour Force Survey. It examines the early years workforce in relation to demographic characteristics, education and training, and employment conditions, and explores how key features have changed over time. 

Read the full report

Key Findings

  • The childcare workforce is less qualified than both the teaching workforce and the general female workforce.
  • There are important differences across individual occupations in terms of highest qualification held.
  • Qualification levels of childcare workers are increasing very slowly and sometimes erratically. 
  • Qualification levels might be even lower in the future as the workforce is ageing and fewer employees are upskilling. 
  • The childcare workforce lacks diversity. 
  • Our data shows that childcare workers are often in a position of high financial insecurity. Pay is low, both is relative and absolute terms, and a high proportion of workers are claiming state benefits or tax credits. 
  • With pay in real terms decreasing for childcare workers, and increasing for hairdressers and beauticians, gross hourly pay for the two occupations has been converging over time, with a difference of less than 20p per hour in 2018. 
  • The proportion of childcare workers claiming state benefits or tax credits remains very high at 44.5 per cent and is the highest among the four groups analysed. 

Liz Bayram, Chief Executive at the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) comments:
“The Education Policy Institute’s (EPI) latest analysis of the early years workforce makes for depressing reading and reinforces all the concerns PACEY has consistently raised with government over the years. Early years practitioners are caring and educating our youngest children but are poorly paid, unable to access or afford to undertake relevant qualifications. Most disheartening of all, practitioners are being expected to take on more and more responsibility for early interventions that support children, especially our, most disadvantaged, to have the best start in life. PACEY members have told us that they love their job but could earn more as a dog walker. This cannot be right. Government’s and society’s attitude to the early years profession has to change.

“It is simply wrong that low levels of government funding for early education forces nurseries, pre-schools and childminders into having to pay low wages; stops them investing in the qualifications and training that support high quality childcare. All of which leads to high staff turnover, less qualified practitioners and people less financially reward than teachers, teaching assistants, hairdressers and beauticians. Many practitioners are living with the stress of financial insecurity and should not have to rely on tax credits and other state benefits to make ends meet when the job they do is so important to children and families.”

“Funding levels must increase and government needs to recognise the early years profession as equivalent to teaching in the same way that many other countries do. This is the only way we are going to stem the tide of reducing levels of qualified practitioners, of good people leaving the profession they love because they simply cannot afford to stay.”