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Pandemic has taken a toll on staff wellbeing

By Rachel Lawlerparent and child having tea wellbeing nursery staff

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on early years practitioners’ health, with 50% feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress, according to a new survey by the Anna Freud Centre.

Less than half of providers were aware of any mental health or wellbeing policy in place at their setting. Settings without a policy in place were also found to have the highest levels of staff stress.

However, many early years staff also reported feeling that their settings were actively engaging with staff mental health and many said that they loved their work.

Improving wellbeing
The Anna Freud Centre has recommended four key areas to improve staff wellbeing in early years settings:

1.Supporting each other – Working as a team to check in on each other and sharing experiences.

2.Supportive management – Supporting staff with policies, procedures and resources as well as practical initiatives such as regular breaks.

3.Physical environments – Providing a space for staff to recover from stressful situations and the option to join in with fun activities.

4.Outside support – Training opportunities and signposting to local services.

Dr Camilla Rosan, head of early years and prevention at the Anna Freud Centre, commented: “It’s clear from this new research how much early years staff love their work, but it’s also clear that it can at times be emotionally demanding and stressful. Staff wellbeing needs to lie at the heart of nursery settings, so we can best support those who look after young children in the first years of their lives. Those early years are so critical to a child's longer-term development and happiness. That’s why we are delighted today to offer this free, practical resource to all nurseries.”

Pressure on staff
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “Low pay, long hours and excessive paperwork are all common aspects of life in the early years, so it is no surprise that staff wellbeing has been placed under severe pressure for a number of years now, or that the Covid-19 pandemic has only added to this problem.

"We want the early years workforce to be in the best possible mental and physical health not just for themselves, but also for the benefit of the children in their care, as we know that young children pick up on the stresses and strains on the adults in their lives, which can in turn affect their wellbeing too.

“Our own research suggests the vast majority of early years professionals who come forward with mental health concerns to their colleagues have those concerns taken seriously. 

“However, there is clearly more work to do to make sure every practitioner is also aware of, and has access to, the right kind of professional and practical support, should they need it – and also that settings have the support which they need to ensure this is the case.”

Find out more
Read the Alliance's Minds Matter report on mental health and wellbeing in the early years