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The stability of the early years workforce in England

Daycare
Published: August 2020

NatCen, in collaboration with lead institution the Education Policy Institute (EPI), were commissioned by the Social Mobility Commission to conduct research into the national, regional and organisational barriers to a stable early years (EY) workforce in England.

Findings

Our research suggests that the EY workforce in England faces considerable barriers to a stable workforce. These include:

  • Low pay – practitioners are, on average, better paid in the public sector than in the private sector, increasing the risk of mobility between early years providers.
  • High work demands – such as long hours, inadequate working conditions and excessive paperwork. There is strong evidence that practitioners in public settings are less likely to work long hours than colleagues in the private sector.
  • Demographic imbalance in the sector – an over-reliance on female and younger workers makes the sector vulnerable to gender-specific causes of instability such as parental leave and career breaks.
  • Inadequate training and continuing professional development – junior staff are often perceived to be underprepared for the realities of the job, and there are limited opportunities for career development and progression once qualified.
  • Societal views about the early years sector – newly qualified staff may have unrealistic expectations about the requirements of the job, while childminders are frustrated at being perceived as ‘babysitters’ by parents, friends and other EY practitioners.

Methodology

Researchers conducted a review of the relevant literature, an analysis of quantitative data covering a large representative sample of workers in England, and carried out 40 in-depth interviews with early years practitioners, setting managers and local policy-makers across the country.

Read the report