Workload demands damaging for childcare workers

The Social Mobility Commission has released new research highlighting that the early years workforce in England is underpaid, overworked and undervalued.

The report says there are signs the early years workforce is becoming increasingly unstable, warning that high staff turnover risks undermining the quality of provision and disadvantaged children’s outcomes. It also warned that low pay is causing issues, with one in eight childcare workers in England earning less than £5 an hour.

The average wage in the sector is £7.42 – less than the minimum wage and significantly below the average pay for female workers at £11.37 and £12.57 for the total population – and jobs are seen as low status.

The report also highlights a lack of training opportunities for those who enter the workforce, with just 17 per cent of early years workers in receipt of job-related training. This is despite 11 per cent full-time early years workers reporting working more than 42 hours per week, compared to three per cent of retail workers.

There are also fears the ongoing disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which is threatening the survival of many nurseries and early years settings, will further exacerbate the problems facing the sector.

The SMC has called on the government to introduce a comprehensive strategy for the sector, including a clear training pathway and a workforce registry with professional development at each stage.

Steven Cooper, interim co-chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said: “The early years workforce is vital in helping to narrow the development gaps between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those from more privileged backgrounds. We must do everything we can to ensure that childminders and nursery workers are valued more by ensuring we pay them a decent wage, give them a proper career structure and ensure their workload is reasonable. The Commission will be pressing the government and employers to take urgent steps to improve the stability of childcare provision in these critical years.”