Alliance teams up with DfE and Ofsted to tackle early years workload pressures

Leading early years organisation the Pre-school Learning Alliance has announced a joint project with the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted to explore workload pressures currently facing the early years workforce, and how best to address them.

The project comes as the result of a large-scale survey carried out by the Alliance in 2018 into mental health and wellbeing in the early years, which revealed that paperwork and administration were the main source of stress for childcare practitioners.

The Minds Matter survey, which received over 2000 responses, also found that:

  • 61% of respondents didn’t feel that they had a good work-life balance.
  • 74% had regularly felt stressed about work or an issue relating to work over the previous month.
  • 25% had considered leaving the early years sector due to stress and mental health difficulties.

The primary aim of the joint project is to identify both areas where pressures could be reduced, and areas where misconceptions about what is required may be creating unnecessary work for the workforce.

As part of this initiative, the Alliance – working with the DfE and Ofsted – will be running a series of focus groups over the coming month to gather views of practitioners from across the early years sector on current workload demands. 

Practitioners who would like to take part in a focus group can register their interest at

The Alliance will also publish a sector-wide online survey in the spring to give all practitioners the opportunity to share their views on current pressures.

Commenting on the project, Neil Leitch, Chief Executive of the Alliance, said:

“Early years practitioners play an absolutely vital role in children’s early learning and development, and the passion and dedication of the workforce is something to be both admired and commended. That said, it's clear from our research that the demands of working in the sector are taking their toll, and it is simply not right that day-to-day working life should be having such a detrimental impact on practitioners’ mental and physical health, relationships and, in some cases, their ability to do their jobs properly.

"As such, we are incredibly pleased that both the Department for Education and Ofsted are supporting our efforts to address the early years sector’s workload concerns. It is crucial that any steps to help reduce unnecessary pressures on childcare practitioners are taken as a matter of priority and so we fully welcome the commitment of both organisations to work collaboratively with us to find practical, sustainable ways to tackle these issues.

 “With Ofsted’s Education Inspection Framework currently under consultation, now is an ideal opportunity for early years providers to have their say on this important issue. As such, we urge all practitioners to take part in this project ensure that their voices are part of what is an absolutely vital discussion.”

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said:

“It is really important that we help cut unnecessary workload for early years staff so they can focus on supporting children’s development. That’s why we welcome this new project led by the Pre-school Learning Alliance which will look into the type of pressures the early years workforce face and how we can best support staff. We are working with Ofsted and Pre-school Learning Alliance to facilitate this project and we encourage all early years staff to participate in the project.” 

Gill Jones, Ofsted Early Education Deputy Director, said:

"I want childminders and nurseries to focus on what matters: looking after young children in a safe environment in which they learn and develop well. We certainly don’t want anyone in an early years setting to do anything specifically for Ofsted, and which creates extra work for them. That is why we have worked hard in recent years to dispel myths about what Ofsted does and doesn’t want when we carry out inspections.

“Our draft education inspection framework is out to consultation but our approach to paperwork will remain the same: early years settings should not prepare paperwork specifically for Ofsted, and they should not bother with consultants telling them what Ofsted wants.”




  • The Alliance’s Minds Matter report is available here


  • The Pre-school Learning Alliance is the largest and most representative early years membership organisation in England. A registered educational charity, it also provides high-quality affordable childcare and education to support children and families in areas of deprivation throughout the country. 
  • The Alliance represents 14,000 member settings and supports them to deliver care and learning to more than 800,000 families every year. We deliver family learning projects, offer information and advice, produce specialist publications, run acclaimed training programmes and campaign to influence early years policy and practice.
  • The Alliance website is
  • On 18 February 2019, the Pre-school Learning Alliance will be rebranding to the Early Years Alliance.