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Early years staff leave sector over pay

By Rachel Lawlergirl playing early years staff

Low salaries and poor pay progression are forcing staff out of the early years sector, according to a new report from the National Centre for Social Research (NaCen).

Produced with support from the Nuffield Foundation, the report found that the early years sector is struggling to recruit and retain staff due to low pay, the status of the profession and inadequate qualifications.

Poor pay, demanding roles
Poor pay was cited as a problem both in attracting quality candidates and retaining current staff. Staff said that current pay levels were “incompatible” with the demands of their role.

Single-earner families were likely to choose a better paid profession so that they could support their family while graduates were likely to opt for a better paid sector.

Some ‘high quality’ practitioners saw the early years as a back-up option compared to reception or primary teaching roles.

Professional development
The report calls for the government to review training qualifications for the sector and to ring-fence funding for training and professional development.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “It’s clear that much more must be done to improve the recruitment and retention of early years practitioners.

"The first five years of a child’s life are absolutely vital to their long-term development, and yet this isn’t remotely reflected in the pay or recognition that the professionals who support this pivotal stage of early life receive.

“Every day we hear of more and more talented, passionate practitioners choosing to leave the sector for roles with less stress and more pay. How can we continue to provide the best possible care and education to young children if we are increasingly unable to attract and retain the high-quality workforce needed to do so?

“For far too long, we've relied on the goodwill of early years practitioners to keep them in the sector, when what they need – and deserve –  is to be able to progress in their careers, to know that they are valued and respected, and crucially, to be paid a decent wage.

"For this to be possible, the government needs to commit to better investment into the early years, and to a comprehensive and meaningful long-term early years workforce strategy. This is simply not an issue that ministers can afford to drag their feet on.”

Undervalued workforce
Dr Sara Bonetti, director of early years at the Education Policy Institute, collaborator on the report, said: “This new research provides further evidence of a low-paid and undervalued early years workforce. If the government is serious about levelling up outcomes in education, it needs to look closely at how it supports those working with children at this crucial stage in their lives.” 

Find out more
Read the report in full here