Following on from my blog earlier this week about the Treasury Committee report, I thought it pertinent to write about another new study about the state of Early Years - this time focusing on the workforce in England.
And, once again, the findings make for uncomfortable reading.
It examines staff composition, qualifications, pay along with other trends and assesses the implications of these findings for the future of Early Years provision.
Naturally, I am most interested in qualifications. Here's what the report found:
- Government data shows 79% of group-based staff, 77% of nursery staff, 74% of reception staff and 69% of childminders have at least a level 3 Early Years qualification. But, for the first time in years, these qualification levels are on a downward trend. Separate survey data shows that, overall, those with at least a Level 3 fell from 83% in 2015, to 75% in 2016.
- Almost half of highly qualified staff (Level 6 and above) are aged over 40, with 21% over 50. Findings around incentives and current enrolment in Level 3 initial teacher training cast a doubt on the capacity of the younger workforce to keep the proportion of graduates steady, let alone increase. This potentially means the Early Years workforce in the future could be even less qualified than today.
- Career progression has slowed, with fewer staff now working towards higher qualifications. In 2016, the proportion of staff not working towards a higher qualification stood at 79% for group-based providers, 82% for nursery schools and 92% for childminders. These findings reinforce the downward trend in qualifications levels and may be due to, among others, the increasing financial strains on the sector and lack of financial and status incentive to pursue higher qualifications.
What's more, the analysis found there is a decline in the number of highly-qualified staff. The percentage of two-years-olds with a graduate in the classroom has decreased from 45% in 2014 to 44% in 2016.
Turnover of Early Years staff is increasing, with rates at 14% for group-based providers and 8% for nurseries.
While wages are low generally, they vary considerable from on average £8.30 for staff working in group-based providers to £14.40 for nursery staff in school-based providers.
And the average pay for more junior staff in school-based provision is actually higher than more senior staff in group-based Early Years provision.
The report also reiterates what the sector has been saying about the introduction of the National Minimum and Living Wages. While it is a positive development for workers, planned staff wage increases are likely to drive up overall costs significantly, threatening to put some providers out of business. To compensate, they may end up charging parents higher fees, or hiring less qualified staff.
I think the response to the report by Neil Leitch, Chief Executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, speaks for everyone in the sector: “If the government wants to ensure accessible, quality early care and education for all children, it needs to ensure that we have a well-qualified professional workforce to deliver this – this means investing in the sector and ensuring that childcare is, and remains, a viable career choice.”