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Low paid, poorly skilled nursery staff limit children's education, says report

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Albert, Angeline
Publication Date: 
17 Jan 2019


The childcare workforce is low paid and poorly educated, hindering children's ability to get a high quality education, a new report suggests.

Childcare staff pay has fallen by almost five per cent

With a workforce that is overwhelmingly female, childcare staff earned 40 per cent less than the average female worker in 2018, analysis by the Education Policy Institute reveals.

A childcare worker’s average hourly pay was £8.20 last year and the sector has suffered a fall in pay of nearly five per cent since 2013, according to the EPI report ‘The early years workforce in England’.

Workforce skills 'going in the wrong direction'

The report also stated the skills and sustainability of the workforce is 'going in the wrong direction.'

Last year, 25 per cent of childcare workers with a NVQ as their highest qualification were qualified at Level 1 or 2, 62 per cent at Level 3 and only five per cent at Level 4 or above.

In 2018, 25 per cent of the childcare workers had completed a degree, 36 per cent A levels or equivalent and 24 per cent GCSEs or below.

The EPI report concluded: ‘The childcare workforce is often portrayed as mostly female, low qualified and poorly paid and our analysis confirms this.

‘The evidence clearly indicates that a skilled and qualified workforce is a key driver of high quality provision. High quality early years provision can have a positive and lasting impact on children’s socioemotional and cognitive development.’

Staff are not upskilling

Childcare providers have highlighted difficulties in hiring staff, particularly well qualified staff that have full ‘Early Years Educator’ status (level 3 qualification). Many workers are not undertaking further training to upskill and gain further qualifications 'in part due to fewer opportunities provided by employers'.

Childcare workers are in a position of ‘high financial insecurity’, with almost half (44.5 per cent) claiming state benefits or tax credits.

Staff have seen a decrease in hourly pay in real terms in the last few years, leaving them more dependent on benefits 'at a level that is significantly higher than for most other workers.’

The report stated: ‘While early years practitioners are tasked with the important work of helping close the disadvantage gap, pay and some employment conditions are keeping the very same workers in a position of socio-economic disadvantage’.

Last year, approximately 90,000 childcare workers were aged 55 years old or older and a 'significant number are likely to exit the workforce in the next decade'.

Some 5.1 per cent of childcare workers (more than 37,000 people) were EU nationals in 2018 and only 1.8 per cent of nursery nurses and assistants and four per cent of childminders, are male.

The EPI's report urges the government to improve early years provision by offering “well-informed incentives” to motivate workers to enter and remain in the sector with “opportunities to upskill, better wages and improved financial security.”

Liz Bayram, chief executive at the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) has said low levels of government funding for early education forces nurseries, pre-schools and childminders to pay low wages and stop investing in qualifications and training to support high quality childcare.

Ms Bayram said: “Early years practitioners are caring and educating our youngest children but are poorly paid, unable to access or afford to undertake relevant qualifications. PACEY members have told us that they love their job but could earn more as a dog walker.”

DfE 'only focussing on volume not quality'

Stella Ziolkowski, NDNA’s director of quality and training, said: “The findings of this detailed study echo exactly the recent results the NDNA workforce surveys 2018 that nurseries and the early years workforce are struggling with pay, skills and motivation.

“There is an abundance of research that tells us that a well-trained early years workforce can make a difference to children’s longer term prospects.

“What we are seeing is the Department for Education only focussing on the volume, not quality of early years provision and as a result they are failing to put vital resources into the workforce. This lack of ambition to drive improvement is putting a glass ceiling on the aspirations of the workforce, with few or no incentives for them to progress and develop."

Some 'ill-thought policies'

June O’Sullivan, CEO of London Early Years Foundation, (Leyf) said: "Nowadays we see a gradual decline in numbers of trained staff completely aligned to decline in funding.

"The report is telling us what we know. We are not able to invest enough in staff training. This has not been helped by some additional ill thought policies such as the A to C GCSE entry requirement, which took four years and three Ministers to resolve.

"We have created an economy that requires both parents to work. In many places, parents do not have extended family networks to help them. Therefore, nurseries need to be the centre of the communities, with a clear sense of educational purpose led by a balance of experienced and well trained staff.

"At Leyf we can do this by using our social enterprise model. Indeed, we have developed our own degree with the University of Wolverhampton and can offer career opportunities to staff from apprenticeships to degree. There are others like us but that’s is not enough."

Entered Date: 
23 Jan 2019
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