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How can we overcome the challenges facing early years practitioners and change the future of childcare?

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Empowering Early Education: Championing change for the sector 

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The early years sector continues to face various challenges and pressures which have undoubtedly been exacerbated by the pandemic. As the world now recovers from the stark imprint the pandemic has left, it has become more apparent where changes are needed. 
While it’s impossible to make a positive transformation overnight, we know the importance of championing change for the future of our practitioners and the next generation. 
We are delighted to have partnered with five incredibly passionate and experienced speakers, bringing exclusive insights on this topic area. 
How can we redefine the future of early years education? and How do we envisage the sector looking 5 years from now?  
Hear from experts June O’Sullivan, Purnima Tanuku, Kate Moxley, Jamel Carly Campbell, and Alistair Bryce-Clegg as together, they look to explore this and much more.

Recruitment and retention crisis

An article by Nuffield Foundation highlights that poor pay, increasing workloads, limited training, and low status of the profession are forcing staff to leave. Ultimately, this as a collective is causing the sector to face one of the biggest recruitment and retention emergencies in decades.  
While demand for childcare is increasing rapidly, the sector is struggling to recruit and retain staff. The number of nursery workers qualified to Level 3 has plummeted in recent years, from 83% of staff in 2015 to just 52% in 2019.” (Report by the National Centre for Social Research, produced in collaboration with the Education Policy Institute and funded by the Nuffield Foundation). 
In a recent article published by The Guardian, Purnima Tanuku, the Chief Executive Officer of the NDNA, said: “Until recently, underfunding was the main reason nurseries were going out of business, but now what we are actually seeing is more nurseries unable to open because they can’t employ sufficient staff.” 
“Every closure is devastating to local communities, parents, and children. They must not lose out because the government has failed to invest in our early years workforce.”

Practitioner wellbeing 

Amongst the more tangible challenges, we shouldn’t lose sight of, is how important the wellbeing of our early years workforce is. Workload and work-life balance are two factors that cause significant pressure and added stress. Research by Anna Freud, National Centre for Children and Families, which focused particularly on staff wellbeing in the early years sector, highlighted: 

  • 52% of respondents agreed that their workload and lack of work-life balance have resulted in them feeling stressed and/or unhappy 
  • 33% of respondents agreed that a lack of funding is causing them to feel stressed and unhappy in their role. 

Adding to this pressure, the pandemic, rise in living costs, and uncertainty have exacerbated such challenges. Without this matter being taken more seriously, the sector will only continue to face the pressures it is already facing, but on a much larger scale. 

Should we be optimistic about the future of Early Years Education? 

With the right support, investment, structure, and resources, positive change is possible. While the sector is currently in a state of crisis, with the right interventions, we can build a more positive future for the early years sector. 

Ultimately, a brighter, more positive future for the sector is fundamental in ensuring children receive the correct level of provision and support at the early developmental stages.  

In a recent article on early years education funding, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:  

“Effective, high-quality early years provision makes a significant difference to young children, helping to break the cycle of disadvantage and improving social mobility.  

“Early years is an essential element of levelling up. To help the national recovery, it is vital that all parents have access to the good quality childcare they need to enable them to return to work, while ensuring that children have the support, they need to develop school readiness.  

“The underfunding, alongside a fall in income from parents during lockdowns, was a key factor in the challenges faced by early years providers throughout the pandemic as they worked hard to support children and families.  

“The forthcoming Spending Review should properly resource all early years settings so that councils and providers can support the Government’s ambition to reduce the attainment gap and ensure that every child has the best start in life.” 

More about the experts:

  • Kate Moxley, Consultant, Trainer, and Speaker specialising in wellbeing and mental health
  • Purnima Tanuku OBE, CEO of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA)
  • Jamel Carly Campbell, Early Years Educator, Consultant and Children’s Author
  • June O’Sullivan MBE, CEO of the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF)
  • Alistair Bryce-Clegg, Early Years Consultant and webinar host

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