Today’s new report from Save the Children, called Untapped Potential: How England’s nursery lottery is failing too many children, highlights an acute shortage in the early years workforce.
We have found that there is a shortage of more than 10,000 early years teachers in England in the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) childcare sector. The effect is far-reaching; more than a quarter of a million three and four year olds are attending nursery settings without an early years teacher.
We carried out detailed new analysis on the consequences of this, and found that a lack of early years yeachers has a real impact on children’s outcomes: we found that a child who attends a nursery without an early years teacher, or member of staff with an equivalent qualifications, is almost 10% less likely to reach the expected level of development at age five. This might mean that they struggle with language and communication, forming relationships with others. It also makes primary school much harder – children who are behind at five are four times more likely to be behind at eleven.
In recent years, a huge amount of progress has been made in driving up the quality of childcare for children, with childcare settings around the country doing an incredible job supporting the children in their care. The reality is, however, that many are struggling to afford or find early years yeachers. This is a barrier to further progress.
Issues with the pay and status of early years teachers and a lack of progression routes for existing childcare workers to work towards this qualification are combining to create a serious shortage of early years teachers.
The statistics are very concerning. The number of applicants to early years teachers and level three courses has dropped off dramatically and the evidence suggests that between 2008 and 2013 the workforce as a whole shrunk by 10,000 people, despite growing demand and increasing numbers of children taking up childcare through the free entitlement. At a time when the government is expanding the provision of free childcare with the 30 hours offer this could seriously threaten the viability of the sector and the outcomes of thousands of children around the country.
To counter this, we’re calling on the government to:
- Introduce a workforce quality supplement in the early years funding system so that local authorities can use funding to support local nurseries to hire and retain early years teachers;
- Invest £65 million a year over the next five years into the poorest 20% of areas in the country so that PVI settings can hire and retain early years teachers;
- Publish the promised childcare workforce strategy before the end of 2016 to set out how to tackle the wider challenges in recruitment, progression and continuing professional development in the workforce.
Every child should have access to a nursery with an early years teacher, and the chance to benefit from their specialist knowledge and detailed training. The early years are such a crucial time, and a good start for every child is well worth the modest investment that would be required.