Having a motivated, well-supported and knowledgeable workforce within early years settings is key to supporting child development and wellbeing. Yet, despite its sheer importance, the early years workforce in the UK continues to face a multitude of challenges including high workloads, low pay, limited opportunities for training and career progression and a lack of funding available across the sector. Although such challenges were visible pre-pandemic, it goes without saying that the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of these issues and we need to act now to protect the future of early years education and recognise its importance.
What challenges is the Early Years sector facing?
The Early Years Workforce Commission report “A Workforce in Crisis: Saving Our Early Years”, highlights the challenges the sector continues to face: “Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 the early years sector was already facing the pressures of low recruitment levels of skilled practitioners, poor retention rates, and financial barriers to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and training.”
Evidently, the lack of funding across the early years sector means low incomes for the workforce as well as limited opportunities for employers to offer training and development. Through research conducted, it is evident employers are lacking the funds to provide substantial training for their workforce. A 2019 survey found only 8% of early years providers planned to spend more money on training and 55% planned to spend less (Education Policy Institute, 2019).
Issues such as low pay and lack of training exacerbates other challenges which directly impact our youngest of children, putting them at a clear disadvantage from a very early age. The lack of support for our early years workforce places further pressure on the sector with wider issues such as recruitment and retention. Research by the Education Policy Institute (2019), highlighted that one in six workers (15%), leave their jobs within a year.
Early years staff play a crucial role in the early development stages of a child’s life. Changing society’s attitudes towards our early year’s workforce will have a significant impact upon the economic recovery post-pandemic.
What should the future of Early Years Education look like?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question and sadly, it is unclear what changes are being made short-term and long-term. However, what we can do is continue to campaign for the sector to build a stronger future for those working on the ground, which in return will enable improved opportunities for early years children.
To continue the conversation on this incredibly important topic area, we’re bringing together a panel of renowned experts to evaluate the topic and provide inspiration and empowerment for the practitioners of today and tomorrow as we look to redefine the future of early years education.
Hear from industry experts:
- Kate Moxley, Consultant, Trainer, and Speaker specialising in wellbeing and mental health
- Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive, 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)
- Hosted by Alistair Bryce-Clegg, Early Years Consultant.