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“Lost decade” for early years workforce

By Rachel LawlerEPI early years report

Qualification levels in the early years sector have not improved since 2011, according to a new report from the Education Policy Institute.

Early years workforce development in England says that there is little evidence that government policies have improved qualification levels in the sector and that the last policy to have a positive impact was the Graduate Leader Fund, which ended in 2011.

GCSE requirements
The report highlighted a previous government policy that required early years staff to hold a grade C GCSE in English and mathematics in order to be counted in ratios “meant that there were fewer workers available who had high enough qualification levels to meet the staff:child ratio requirements”.

The report has called for a long-term strategy and additional support to support the workforce’s qualficiation levels.

"Lost decade"
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “What does it say about the government's approach to the early years that this report found the last effective policy for improving the sector’s workforce qualifications was abandoned almost ten years ago?

“While higher qualifications are no guarantor of quality – passion, a caring disposition and an in-depth understanding of child development are all equally as vital – if the government is to argue that we should be aiming for a well-qualified workforce, there is simply no excuse for the current lack of strategy.

"Add to this the lack of adequate investment into the early years, which prevents so many businesses from paying staff the wages they deserve, and it's no surprise we have a recruitment and retention crisis. We know that almost half of the early years workforce are in receipt of benefits: if the same was true of the primary or secondary sectors, there would be an outcry - and rightly so.

“We need the best people working in this sector, and that means paying a fair wage and ensuring they have a clear route to career progression. If the government wants to avoid another lost decade, then ministers need to set out a clear strategy and start funding the early years properly.”