The NDNA and the Education Policy Institute (EPI) have published new research that reveals a significant proportion of early years settings are relying on the Government’s furlough scheme.
This has raised concerns that once the scheme ends a staffing crisis will occur, leaving many out of jobs.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the early years workforce: Staffing decisions in an uncertain environment draws upon a survey of 445 early education and care providers in England, Scotland and Wales, active between 4th-26th August.
While the month of August showed some hope of a slow down, the number of cases and deaths have increased and further restrictions imposed. This will continue to have a detrimental affect on the early years sector, causing mass disruption to providers.
Researchers have found that 4% of staff in surveyed settings have been made redundant and 7% of staff voluntarily terminated their contract, with 30% of settings reporting ‘finding alternative employment during furlough’ as the reason for termination. Indeed, settings report employing 9% fewer staff in August than in March.
The least qualified and least experienced staff have borne the brunt of the impacts of total or partial closure of settings: they are more likely to be furloughed, made redundant or to have left for other work.
The findings suggest that early years settings value experience more than qualifications, with 48% reporting that they take qualification levels into account when making furloughing decisions, compared to 68% of settings taking experience into account.
Early years settings have furloughed 71% of their staff since March
Staff most likely to be furloughed were those who held lower levels of qualifications:
- 79% of staff with no qualifications had been furloughed
- 79% of staff with level 2 qualifications had been furloughed
- 74% of staff with level 3 had been furloughed
- 59% of staff with level 6 qualifications had been furloughed
4% of early years staff have been made redundant
Staff with higher levels of qualifications were least likely to be made redundant:
- 6% of apprentices were made redundant
- 5% of staff with no qualifications were made redundant
- 2% of staff with level 4/5 qualifications were made redundant
- 1% of staff with level 6 qualifications were made redundant
Early years settings were more likely to furlough staff if they had higher redundancy rates
- Settings that had made a greater-than-average proportion of staff redundant since March also expected to furlough a greater proportion (26%) of their staff in the following three months than settings that had made a lower than average proportion of staff redundant (16%).
Commenting on the new findings, Dr Sara Bonetti, director of Early Years at the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:
‘This report highlights the striking scale of furloughing and redundancies made by early years settings from March to August of this year. In spite of most settings reopening from June, 1 in 5 staff remain on part or full time furlough, suggesting that come the end of the scheme in October, we can expect even more redundancies than we have seen to date.
‘Early years settings are facing highly uncertain operating conditions. They are expected to make staffing decisions for the coming months, despite it being difficult to predict demand for their services. This is particularly alarming, given the existing, widely publicised recruitment crisis ongoing in the childcare sector.’
Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief executive officer at the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said:
‘Prior to the pandemic the childcare sector was already facing serious workforce challenges but Covid-19 risks pushing this into a full-blown crisis. This is a time of great uncertainty for early years providers, staff and families. Childcare must be at the centre of any economic recovery as people look to return to work.
‘That’s why we’re committed to tracking the impact of the pandemic on early years and the workforce as it unfolds. This is just the first part of a year-long study but already the findings are proving important and I want to thank all the providers who took part in this survey.
‘High quality early education is crucial to giving every child the best possible start in life. Having a well-qualified, secure and motivated workforce is central to this quality of care and education. Only by having the latest data can we understand what the sector needs to ensure childcare places are available when families need them.
‘The findings so far point to a lot of uncertainty, especially with the end of the furlough scheme in sight. We’ll continue to work with the sector and governments to ensure the challenges are understood and addressed.’
The full report, The Covid-19 pandemic and the early years workforce: Staffing decisions in an uncertain environment, can be accessed here: https://epi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/The-Covid-Pandemic-early-years-workforce-Aug-2020-2.pdf