£1 an hour wage increase makes good nurseries outstanding, new research finds

In for a pound: The relationship between staff wages and Ofsted grades in group-based childcare provision

A new study by the Family and Childcare Trust has found a strong link between staff pay and quality in nurseries in England, with a pay increase of just under £1 an hour difference between childcare settings with a ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted grade.

The report – In for a poundfound that nurseries and pre-schools awarded ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted pay their staff an average hourly wage of £8.37 compared to £7.44 in settings that have achieved a ‘Good’ grade. Nurseries graded ‘Requires Improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’ pay an average of £6.92 an hour.

This link between pay and Ofsted grades is replicated in each of England’s nine regions, and is most pronounced in London where £2.58 an hour is the difference between ‘Outstanding’ settings and those that are ‘Inadequate’ or ‘Requires Improvement’. In the North West, this difference is reduced to £2 an hour.

Julia Margo, chief executive at the Family and Childcare Trust said:

“It is no surprise that higher pay produces higher quality provision. We know that only good quality childcare makes a positive difference to the lives of disadvantaged children which is why we are calling on the Department for Education to address low pay in its forthcoming early years’ workforce strategy.

“Longer term, we want to see a fully graduate-led workforce with a minimum professional rate of pay, bringing early years professionals in line with their school colleagues. Without this, low pay will continue to discourage highly skilled people from joining the profession and will affect the quality of care received by our children.”

Other report recommendations include:

  • Further research by Ofsted on the relationship between early years childcare provider income, staff wages and quality, to provide the Government with evidence to inform policy making.
  • An increase in the amount of dedicated funding to support training and increase the proportion of qualified early years practitioners. Funding should be made available to attract graduates to the profession and to support practitioners working towards level 3 qualifications.
  • The introduction of an admissions code for free early education to support parents’ rights.


Contact: Rebecca Griffin, rebecca@familyandchildcaretust.org Tel: 020 7940 7533 Mob: 07538 334 772


  • Our report shows that staff working in ‘Outstanding’ nursery settings are paid on average 12 per cent more than those working in ‘Good’ settings.
  • The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings estimated the gross median for nursery nurses and assistants as £7.44 per hour in 2015, while childcare workers were paid £8.26.
  • Labour Force Survey data from 2012-2104 shows that 27 per cent of England’s early years’ workforce is aged 25 and under, compared with 14 per cent of workers in non-childcare occupations..
  • Only high quality early education has the capacity to narrow development gaps disadvantaged children and their peers.
  • In for a pound is a report sponsored by Community Playthings.


  • The Family and Childcare Trust analysed the hourly pay rates in 900 job advertisements for nursery staff across the regions of England, and tracked these rates against the most recent Ofsted reports for the same settings.
  • Only nurseries in the private and voluntary sector (PVI) were analysed.
  • Pay rates for nursery managers and supervisors were not included in this research.

About the Family and Childcare Trust

The Family and Childcare Trust works to make the UK a better place for families. Our vision is of a society where government, business and communities do all they can to support every family to thrive. Through our research, campaigning and practical support we are creating a more family friendly UK.                             

The Family and Childcare Trust’s annual childcare costs survey is the definitive report on childcare costs and sufficiency in the UK and its data are used by the Department for Education and OECD. For further information, go to www.familyandchildcaretrust.org

About Community Playthings

Love for children underpins Community Playthings’ product design. Manufactured in the UK, our solid wooden furniture and equipment supports children’s creativity, learning and play in schools and nurseries across the private, voluntary and public sectors. Community Playthings has been creating child-friendly environments for over 50 years. For more information, visit www.communityplaythings.co.uk