By Richard Fraser, Editor
A new report on the crisis in the early years workforce has revealed that without immediate intervention and drastic action, the sector is at risk of becoming unsustainable. An underpaid and undervalued workforce, combined with issues around funding, training, recruitment and retention, has resulted in a sector that is now in danger of becoming untenable.
The report was produced by the Early Years Workforce Commission, a steering group made up of representatives from key organisations including Voice Community.
Many of the challenges facing the sector’s workforce have been exacerbated by COVID-19, and weakened provision that was already experiencing challenging circumstances.
Evidence from the report shows that only 23% of the workforce felt that their job was safe following the outbreak of the virus.
44% of the early years workforce respondents feel their learning and development has been negatively impacted during the pandemic
More than 50% of the early years workforce respondents said low pay was the main factor resulting in people leaving the sector
64% of early years workforce respondents have not had a pay rise in the last one to two years or more
Key recommendations include:
- The Government should provide additional resources for settings.
- An awareness campaign should focus on the critical importance of early childhood education on a child’s development and life chances and portray the crucial role early years professionals play in supporting this. It should emphasise that this is a skilled role, equivalent to teaching in other phases of education.
- 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.
- There should be an urgent exploration and extension of accessible and flexibly offered CPD, with online and face to face options, coupled with more high-quality workplace placements and action research projects, with mentoring support across the sector.
- 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 into just one job, rather than two or more to make ends meet, as so many who work in the early years have reported having to do.
The report's recommendations on the pay, status and training of the early years workforce echo issues and concerns highlighted by Voice Community.
Impact of COVID-19 on the early years (January 2021)