Staff turnover for early years sector concerning

The National Day Nurseries Association has said that more attractive retail jobs with improving pay and fewer responsibilities are luring qualified nursery practitioners away from working with young children.

The association’s sixth early years workforce survey for England revealed above-average staff turnover for the sector with experienced staff being replaced by younger, inexperienced, less qualified employees. The data shows that the number of nursery workers qualified to Level 3 has plummeted to crisis levels in the last four years, from 83 per cent of the early years workforce to 52 per cent now.

The NDNA estimates staff turnover cost £879 million in the last year alone, with nurseries admitting they were finding it harder to recruit qualified staff than previously as salaries, better hours and a loss of passion were given as the main drivers for practitioners leaving the sector.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of NDNA, said: “We know that the situation in our nursery workforce has been deteriorating over the last few years, but sadly our latest survey reveals a full-blown crisis. It’s the children who ultimately suffer. We know that high quality early education is key to giving them a strong start to their educational journey but a high staff turnover means less continuity of care, with new starters replacing well-known faces.

“Nursery staff qualified to Level 3 or above understand about child development and how best to support and nurture our children. A less qualified workforce could undermine nurseries’ efforts to drive up quality. It is vital that the early years workforce is valued, recognised and properly rewarded for the crucial role they play in society. We know that employers would love to pay their staff at the rate they deserve but are ham-strung by government underfunding for ‘free’ places which leaves childcare providers struggling to make ends meet. As a result they are finding it harder to attract the right candidates.

“The government is letting down our children by not supporting those who work tirelessly to give them the best possible start in life.”  

Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “The findings of this survey back councils’ concerns over the funding of early years childcare schemes and the need for investment in qualified nursery staff. Good quality early years education is vital in helping children get the best start in life, and despite the good intentions of the 30-hour free childcare scheme, insufficient funding is impacting on the quality of provision and support for children with special needs, as providers struggle to balance budgets.

“Our recent survey found that more than three-quarters of councils were concerned about the quality of Level 3 practitioners working in early years settings, with higher wages and improved professional development suggested as the best ways to improve this, while half felt the new early years funding formula would result in a decrease in the quality of early years practitioners in their area.

“It is vital that the government’s forthcoming Spending Review sees that early years providers are properly funded to allow them to provide sufficient numbers of qualified staff who are able to deliver the high quality childcare that families want for their children.”