Sector risks becoming unsustainable - commission calls for change

The Early Years Workforce Commission, which includes NDNA and a range of early years organisations, providers and research groups, has released a new report on the crisis in the early years workforce. Early Years Workforce Commission logo

A Workforce in Crisis: Saving our Early Years reveals that the sector is at risk of becoming unsustainable, with almost 70% of settings anticipated operating at a loss over the last six months of 2020 and 33% suggesting they would leave the sector past their current job role.

Other findings from the report include: 
  • 44% of the early years workforce respondents feel their learning and development has been negatively impacted during the pandemic 
  • 64% of early years workforce respondents have not had a pay rise in the last one to two years or more
  • More than 50% of the early years workforce respondents said low pay was the main factor resulting in people leaving the sector. 

Many of the challenges have been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic and weakened provision which was already struggling. 

The report also details key recommendations that must be taken to prevent further damage and aid recovery including: 

  • Funding, equity and clarity - The Government should provide additional resources for settings which are needed to ensure sufficiency of provision but which are not viable based on current funding rates 
  • Changing the narrative - There must be a shift away from the ‘childcare’ terminology so frequently used to ‘early childhood education’, in order to position the sector as a phase within the education journey rather than only a means of enabling parents to work
  • Fair pay, recruitment and retention - Early Years staff must be recognised and rewarded with a level of pay that reflects their essential role, and which allows them to focus their time and energy.  

Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of NDNA, said: “Academic research has repeatedly shown that a motivated, highly qualified early years workforce is crucial to achieving the best possible outcomes for children and reducing the inequality gap.

“This report from the Sutton Trust underlines the workforce crisis in early years that we have been highlighting for the past few years.

“There are some shocking statistics in this report around low pay, lack of meaningful wage increases, feeling undervalued and lowering qualifications.

“We strongly back the recommendations that change the emphasis on how early years is viewed. As we learned in the Duchess of Cambridge’s Royal Foundation report in November, even parents don’t always recognise the impact that high quality early education has on a child’s development and lifelong learning, so it is important to change attitudes outside the sector.

“The pressures of the pandemic have thrown early years into the spotlight where it has been viewed as the fourth emergency service. If the Government is truly committed to ‘Building Back Better’ then what greater opportunity than by focussing on those who shape our children’s earliest years, that lay the groundwork for their educational outcomes and life chances.”

Read the full report here.