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NEWS: Coalition report reveals the scale of the workforce crisis in early years

New research published today by the Early Education and Childcare Coalition and the University of Leeds reveals the scale of the workforce crisis in early years with 57% of nursery staff and 38% of childminders considering quitting the sector in the next year. 

The study, Retention and return: delivering the expansion of early years entitlement in England, comes as the Government prepares to roll out the first phase of the ‘biggest expansion of childcare in history’ which will offer 30 hours of ‘free childcare’ to eligible parents of nine-month-olds by 2025. 

When turnover intention rates are combined with new demand, it is estimated that almost 50,000 additional staff could be needed in 2024 and again in 2025 to maintain existing provision and provide the expanded entitlement. 

The research also found a notable increase in the number of children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) in early years settings with 87% of nursery respondents and 63% of childminders reporting that they were working with or assessing more children with SEND, often without the necessary specialist support that the child needs. 

The report sets out a number of recommendations that could help tackle the staffing crisis in the short term, alongside longer-term reforms to improve sustainability. These short-term ‘rescue’ measures include: 

  1. Increasing early years funding rates with the expectation that providers will use this to boost pay 

  1. Reestablish a career development hub at the Department for Education 

  1. Provide more on-site training to reduce the need to spend time away from a setting 

  1. Ensure access to funded, universal, high-quality SEND training 

  1. Develop a system for bank staff at Local Authority level which enables staff to take time out for training, with no negative implications for their setting 

  1. Ensure the ‘Experts and Mentoring Scheme’ for childminders becomes a permanent programme 

  1. Restart the Graduate-led Grant Scheme. Set a target to achieve a graduate led workforce by 2028 

Read the full report here.

Read The Guardian article here.

Sarah Ronan, Director of the Early Education and Childcare Coalition, comments:

“Promising more free childcare without the infrastructure to deliver it is raising false hope among already struggling families. If the Government is to have any chance of delivering this expansion, it must listen to the people on the ground educating and caring for our children. Years of underfunding have left them 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.” 

Ka Lai Brightley-Hodges, Head of Membership and Marketing at PACEY adds:

“We already know that sector wider, the under- funded, 30 hours ‘free childcare’ scheme is one of the main reasons that providers are leaving the profession. By expanding the scheme to eligible parents of nine-month-olds, the government is worsening the crisis. In a recent PACEY poll 32% of our members said they were looking to leave the profession primarily due to the expansion.  

The government must fund the scheme properly so that we retain the hard-working and dedicated early years providers, whilst also looking to recruit and train new providers. 

PACEY also wants the government to review the rules for related children under the 30 hours ‘free childcare’ scheme. 72% of PACEY members in a recent poll said they would be incentivised to offer more funded places if the 30 hours ‘free childcare’ scheme was expanded to include related children. 

PACEY is a proud member of the Early Education and Childcare Coalition, and we welcome the publication of this study that shows just how far away the sector is from being able to provide the expanded entitlement and the toll it is taking on existing providers. We hope the government will respond and act fast."