Voice welcomes EPI’s early years workforce report

Voice has welcomed publication of the Education Policy Institute’s report, Early years workforce development in England, and backed its key findings.

Friday 17 January 2020

Voice: The Union for Education Professionals has welcomed publication of the Education Policy Institute’s report, Early years workforce development in England, and backed its key findings that the Government ‘should develop a strategy that incentivises the early years sector to invest in and upskill their staff’ and ‘failure to support and develop the workforce could adversely impact on the quality of early years provision’.

General Secretary Deborah Lawson said:

“I agree with the report that early years education can play a critical role in a child’s life outcomes, and that supporting and developing the early years workforce is central to delivering high quality provision for families.

“However, sadly, it is hardly surprising that the report found little evidence that government policies have improved the qualification levels of the early years workforce. 

“It’s a sad fact that many skilled early years professionals could earn more stacking supermarket shelves – which was highlighted by previous research from the Education Policy Institute and the National Day Nurseries Association – but stay in the profession because it is their vocation.

“Such pay levels are not commensurate with the skills and education required for early years professionals, especially for those at graduate level.

“However, because of unsustainably low funding levels, many settings cannot afford to retain their experienced staff, invest in their training and development – or even recruit them in the first place – and are experiencing high staff turnover as a result.

Voice’s 2015 workforce survey found that many employers rely on the ‘goodwill’ of staff to work unpaid overtime.

“In March 2017, the Department for Education produced its Early Years Workforce Strategy. The commitment was there, but we are still waiting for it to implement the commitments to develop the workforce made in that strategy. We therefore welcome the report’s recommendation that the Government should revive the Strategy.

“As the report points out, in a system based on a mixed economy of providers, the government needs to ‘renew its commitment to the development of a qualified and skilled early years workforce through a long-term vision and a strategy’.

“In July 2018, Voice, individually and with others, expressed our concern about the decision not to proceed with the graduate feasibility study, which ended the Government’s commitment to grow the graduate early years workforce – despite the findings of our joint research with PACEY into the loss of Early Years Teachers.

“Is it any wonder there’s a recruitment and retention crisis in the early years sector?

“As the report found, many studies have shown that ‘recruitment and retention problems are linked to low wages, lack of status, poor working conditions, low qualifications levels, low opportunities for continuing professional development and a lack of a clear progression path for many early years workers’.

“The Government must fully fund the expansion of early years and childcare to ensure that all types of providers are sustainable, and implement an early years and childcare workforce strategy that is supported by a clear pathway and national pay structure.”

Further information

Education Policy Institute:

Early years workforce development in England: Key ingredients and missed opportunities

Early years workforce development in England (pdf)

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