Response to 'Quality childcare can help level up Britain'

Letter from General Secretary Deborah Lawson in The Times, Monday 20 July 2020

By Richard Fraser, Editor

Times letters, Monday 20 July 2020

Quality childcare

Sir, Philip Collins is right that “Quality childcare can help level up Britain” (July 17) and that “we pay the people who look after our children so poorly” but is not correct that “they are, for the most part, not qualified staff”. Most (52 per cent) are qualified to at least early years educator level 3, according to the National Day Nurseries Association. However, level 3 qualification has fallen from 83 per cent in 2015-16 — hardly surprising when early years professionals can earn more stacking shelves.

We are still waiting for the Department for Education to implement its 2017 early years workforce strategy, which committed to growing the graduate early years workforce. If it is to raise the status of early years professionals and solve the recruitment crisis, the government must fully fund the expansion of childcare to ensure providers are sustainable and implement and invest in a workforce strategy with a national career and pay structure.

Deborah Lawson
General Secretary, Voice: The Union for Education Professionals

Full text of letter submitted:

Philip Collins is right that “Quality childcare can help level up Britain” (Times, 17 July 2020) and that “we pay the people who look after our children so poorly”, but is not correct that “they are, for the most part, not qualified staff”. The majority (52%) are qualified to at least Early Years Educator Level 3, with 17% qualified at Level 2, according to the National Day Nurseries Association. However, Level 3 qualification has fallen from 83% in 2015/16, which is hardly surprising when qualified and experienced early years professionals can earn more stacking supermarket shelves. The decline in the number of early years degree candidates also reflects this.

 

Poor pay and status are at the heart of this decline and the early years recruitment and retention crisis. Qualified experienced early years professionals make a crucial difference to children’s development but are not rewarded for their role.

 

The early years sector has had to rely on staff goodwill for too long. It is unsustainable for the Government to expect settings to employ professionals but not to fund them to pay professional-level salaries.

 

We are still waiting for the Department for Education to implement its 2017 Early Years Workforce Strategy, and it is scandalous that Government decided not to proceed with its commitment to grow the graduate early years workforce.

 

If it is to raise the status of early years professionals and solve the recruitment and retention crisis, the Government must fully fund the expansion of childcare to ensure providers are sustainable, and implement and invest in a workforce strategy with a national career and pay structure.

Deborah Lawson
General Secretary, Voice: The Union for Education Professionals

Extracts from “Quality childcare can help level up Britain” (17 July 2020):

By Philip Collins

"The economist James Heckman has shown that a pound spent on an infant is up to seven times more effective than a pound spent on an adolescent. Yet the pattern of public spending through the life cycle is completely different. We start to spend significant sums on young people just as the returns to their life chances start to diminish."

"Policy for the early years has to serve two objectives at the same time. It has to give parents the opportunity to work. But it should not be just a warehouse for children. Good childcare that helps the least well-off has to aid the progress and development of the child. The crucial difference between Britain and Sweden, for example, is that we pay the people who look after our children so poorly. They are, for the most part, not qualified staff and, as a result, the outcomes for our children are not as good.

"The government will find out that levelling up takes a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money. The first is in plentiful supply, the second may or may not be forthcoming but the third is very hard to come by."

 

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