Nursery worker survey: results

Survey of members and non-members


16 November 2015 

Nurseries rely on “goodwill” of childcare staff

A survey of nursery workers across the UK has revealed that “highly-skilled” childcarers’ qualifications and experience are valued and rewarded through pay – but only at a relatively low level, with many employers relying on the “goodwill” of staff to work unpaid overtime. 

During the summer of 2015, Voice: the union for education professionals undertook a survey of its members and their colleagues working in nursery settings, following news reports (based on ONS data) (see May 2015 below) that claimed that nursery nurses and assistants earned an average of £14,305 per year and were among the worst paid jobs in the UK. 


The respondents were generally highly-skilled:

  • 47% said they were trained in excess of level 3;
  • a sixth had Qualified Teacher Status (QTS); and
  • one had an MA.

Employers seemed keen to maintain this level of qualification, with 93% offering training of some form – the most common being external training (52%). 


Fewer than 20% of respondents earned less than £15,000 for working full time, the vast majority of these in private nurseries. Of these, 32% were in the first year of their employment. This seems to suggest that qualifications and experience are valued and rewarded through pay, with 22% of respondents earning more than £20,000. 

Salaries and qualifications were comparable across all countries and regions of the UK. 

Although the responses suggest that respondents are paid above the average, the amounts are far from generous, and responses raised a number of issues of concern, including:

  • 46% worked unpaid overtime on a regular basis, demonstrating how the goodwill of a highly committed workforce is being exploited to provide cover for longer opening hours;
  • staff often cannot leave the premises due to staffing ratios, even during breaks; 
  • 5% did not have regular contracts or predictable hours; and
  • 5% reported not receiving payslips, a legal requirement. 

The survey

Voice surveyed staff working in private, independent and local authority settings across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with 335 members and their colleagues responding. (Not all respondents answered all the questions.)

Around half of the respondents worked in the North of England and Scotland and half in the South, Midlands, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

  • Almost 65% of respondents worked outside the public sector;
  • 142 worked in schools; and
  • 32% said that trade unions were not recognised by their workplace, although 75% were members of a union or membership organisation. 

Far from generous

Voice General Secretary Deborah Lawson said: 

“It will be interesting to see how far this goodwill is stretched once the free childcare scheme in England is expanded to 30 hours, putting further pressure on providers and their staff. 

“Of those who responded to our survey,  75% were over 20 and 55% between 40 and 60, dispelling the myth that the sector is made up of young, inexperienced, unqualified staff, especially when considered in conjunction with the qualifications of a predominantly older and experienced workforce.  

“Childcare’s greatest challenge is recruiting and retaining staff in a sector that, because of decades of underfunding, offers skilled and experienced professionals low wages, poor career prospects and dwindling training budgets. This does not make childcare an attractive professional career option.  

“The implications of respondents’ age profile are concerning. The majority of those with high levels of qualifications are in the upper age groups. In teaching, older professionals are leaving the profession early, so we could be heading towards the same staffing precipice within early years and childcare.  Implementing robust long-term recruitment and retention strategies now is essential to address these succession issues and the sustainability of both the profession and provision.

“Voice is calling for appropriate investment and coherent pay and career structures across the UK to reflect and reward appropriately the professionals who work in childcare and to raise the status of the sector and profession.”  

Further information

Nursery Worker Survey Raw Data (pdf)


Additional data: Age profile of full-time respondents against declared salary: 



% of full-time respondents

who earn over £15,000

% of full-time respondents

who earn over £20,000






















"Unpaid overtime props up sector":  Nursery World, 16 November 2015

29 May 2015

Nursery worker survey 

Recent reports suggest that nursery staff are among the top ten lowest earners in the UK. Voice would like to take a closer look at this to establish the facts.

We are keen to hear from both members and non-members, so if you have five minutes or so please do take the time to

complete our short survey.

All responses will be treated in strict confidence and you will not be identified in our analysis.


Te: 01332 372337
Martin Hodge
Professional Officer (Education)


Press office

01332 373 337

Voice Scotland

0131 220 8241