Early years education is significant in addressing socio-economic issues and a highly skilled childcare workforce is a key part of this strategy.
However, there has been a lack of progress when it comes to the constraints faced by childcare employees.
The Education Policy Institute (EPI) published a new study which has been reinforced by the Nuffield Foundation. The study aims to provide more insight into the changes and challenges the childcare workforce has faced in recent years.
In an already difficult climate, financial insecurity sees childcare workers getting £8.20 per hour on average. This means they are earning 40 percent less than the working female population and less than half that of teachers.
This pay has decreased by 5 percent since the recession in 2013 for childcare employees, compared to a 2.5 percent increase for female workers, despite the need for higher level qualifications. As a result, pay is the biggest reason for those in the childcare workforce leaving the sector.
There have been consistent warnings over the financial state of the early years sector and about the promises the government make but cannot provide sufficient funds to support.
With increased business rates and lower profit margins, childcare providers are forced to choose between making the parental fees higher or lowering the wages for their staff. The former is harder to achieve due to the already high childcare fees, which leaves employers with few options.
As well as low pay, there is increased pressure to hold higher qualifications. In 2018, around 25 percent of the childcare workforce had a degree or equivalent qualification, compared to 93 percent of teachers. However, few are given the opportunity to complete training yet there is constant pressure for improvement.
Think back to the recent alterations to the GCSE requirements and the constant changes and insecurity surrounding this; as well as the lack of support to help people complete their training in order to achieve improved qualifications. This can all lead to a disincentivised workforce.
There is constant pressure to improve, but no incentives to do so. The situation for the childcare workforce needs to change, these dedicated people are the ones responsible for the development of our children, but they are not reaping the rewards for their work.
On a bigger scale, with childcare workers losing out, this has a knock-on effect for our children too.