Survey sheds light on sector-wide early childhood workforce crisis

More than eight in ten early childhood establishments are struggling to recruit staff and half of them have to turn down new parents due to staff shortages, according to a sector study.

The results of a survey conducted by the Early Years Alliance of 1,400 nurseries, nursery schools and childminders reveal the extent of staff shortages in the sector and the impact on the ability of children and families to access health care. childcare and preschool education.

More than 8 in 10 (84%) have difficulty recruiting staff.

The most common reasons given by these respondents were lack of candidates for positions (87%), candidates lacking complete and relevant early childhood qualifications (70%) and inability to meet candidates’ salary requirements ( 52%). .

Staff shortages have an impact on the number of childcare places that childcare facilities can offer, with around half of respondents (49%) having had to limit or stop welcoming new children in their environment during the years. six months prior to the survey.

Indeed, staff shortages are so severe that one in six people (17%) have been forced to temporarily close their entire establishment, a similar proportion fearing that they will force them to permanently close their establishment in a certain location. one year delay.

In response to staffing issues, half of all facilities (49%) said they had been forced to use temporary staff in the past six months to stay operational. Of those who experienced staff shortages, six in 10 (61%) said this had a negative impact on the quality of provision in their community.

Based on the findings:

  • A third (34%) had been forced to temporarily limit the number of children who could attend their establishment on a particular day or days
  • A quarter (24%) had been forced to temporarily close one or more rooms in their environment
  • One in five (21%) were forced to reduce or restrict hours of operation.

Leave the area

More than a third (35%) of those questioned are actively considering leaving the sector (with an additional 3% having already confirmed their departure and 1% having already left).

More than three-quarters (77 percent) of those considering leaving the industry cited “feeling undervalued by the government” as their reason.

Insufficient pay was also identified as a common challenge for recruitment and retention: 57% of those considering leaving the early childhood sector cited poor pay as a contributing factor, while 52% of respondents to early childhood taken with recruiting declared an inability to meet the salary. the expectation of candidates was a contributing factor.

Responses suggest that these feelings were exacerbated by the lack of support and appreciation shown towards the sector during the pandemic, and particularly when early childhood facilities were asked to remain open during school closures and colleges.

Two-thirds (66%) of those considering leaving the industry said their work experience in the early years of the pandemic increased the likelihood of them doing so, while eight in 10 respondents (82%) whose staff have left the early years sector in the past six months said the number of staff leaving the sector is higher today than it was two years ago.

The survey, which looked at recruitment and retention in early childhood facilities, was conducted online between October 21 and November 5 and received 1,395 responses.

Most of those interviewed were nurseries (43%) and nursery schools (48%), with only a small number of childminders (3%). The remaining respondents included managed preschools (1 percent), after-hours clubs (2 percent), children’s centers (1 percent), and specialized early childhood providers (1 percent). ).

The results of the survey are summarized and analyzed in a new report entitled Breaking Point: The Impact of Recruitment and Retention Challenges on the Early Years Sector in England.

Commenting on the results, Neil Leitch, CEO of the Early Years Alliance, said: “It is incredibly concerning, yet sadly unsurprising, to hear not only how difficult it is for early years settings to recruit staff appropriate, but also that so many dedicated, committed and experienced early childhood educators are considering leaving the industry on their own.

“The figures in this report show that we have nothing less than a sectoral crisis on our hands. Parents are already experiencing temporary and permanent closures as a result of these challenges, and it is ultimately families and children who will suffer if this crisis continues.

“There is no one-size-fits-all quick fix. Early childhood education and care has the potential to be one of the most rewarding and rewarding careers in any industry or sector, but for this to be a reality there needs to be a complete overhaul. of how the government views, processes and ultimately finances early. years suppliers in this country. ‘

The Early Years Alliance makes a number of recommendations to the government in its report.

They are:

  1. Determine and publish a set of salary ambitions for the early childhood sector in England, defining what it considers to be appropriate salary ranges for each level of role in the sector – and to ensure that the rights are funded anticipated is defined and maintained at an adequate level to enable early childhood institutions to meet these salary expectations.
  2. Valuing and promoting the early childhood sector as an education profession. This includes:
  • ensure that early childhood is included in all education announcements, debates and discussions, and that any supportive programs or initiatives deployed in the schools and lifelong learning sectors are also rolled out in the education sector. early childhood, where appropriate and relevant.
  • review the use of language in discussions about the sector, with an emphasis on the provision of early childhood services as’ early education ‘and on the workforce as’ early educators ”.
  • In the medium to long term, conduct a high profile campaign to encourage talented and dedicated professionals in the sector.
  • Ensure that there are clear and consistent career paths in and across the sector, as well as funded training and CPD opportunities.
  • Leitch added: “The early educators I speak with every day are passionate advocates for the work they do, but they are tired: tired of being overworked, tired of being underpaid, and tired of being underpaid. be dumped. We urge the government to act on our report’s recommendations and work with the sector to improve the status of early childhood as a profession and help build and maintain a dedicated and stable workforce for this vital sector. , both now and in the future.

    Community Deputy General Secretary (Voice Section) Deborah Lawson said: “The Alliance report gives a stark warning of the staffing crisis in the sector.

    “We know that although they are skilled professionals, many staff move elsewhere for low-skilled but better-paying jobs.

    “Early childhood professionals shouldn’t leave the industry to pile up supermarket shelves to make ends meet. They shouldn’t be underpaid and undervalued by government and society, but receive proper compensation for the incredible work they do, with a proper career development structure.

    “The sector must not be neglected by the government, scratching at insufficient funding, unable to pay the salary levels necessary to end this recruitment and retention crisis and to implement the necessary measures for the long-term recovery. term.

    “The new Education Secretary and his team have indicated that they appreciate the issues facing the sector, and we will continue to work with them to find a solution to these issues.”

    A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: “We recognize that recruitment and retention are key issues for the early childhood sector. We are increasing the hourly rates that child care providers will receive starting next year, reflecting the costs many employers face, including rising wages for their staff.

    “We have not seen any advice reporting a significant number of parents unable to secure a place in child care since the full reopening of early childhood facilities in June 2020.

    “Millions of pounds are also being invested in early childhood recovery, not only to address the impact of the pandemic on the skills of younger children, but also to build a stronger and larger workforce. expert with a focus on leadership and better training. “

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