Underpaid, overworked and undervalued

It’s an unfortunate situation that has been raised time and time again. Those working across the early years sector are underpaid, overworked and undervalued.

Those working on the frontlines during the peak of the pandemic in the UK did not rest as they tried to navigate through the constant changes in regulations.

The Social Mobility Commission report on the early years workforce calls for more support. According to the report, low pay and a lack of career development is having a serious impact on the provision of care and education services for the under-fives,.

As many as one in eight of the early years workforce is paid under £5.00 an hour. The average wage is only £7.42 an hour, less than the minimum wage and much lower than for the average female workforce (£11.37).

The low pay directly leads to high turnover of staff, which in turn is affecting the standard of care and the productivity of the workforce.

Furthermore, the report revealed that:

  • 11% of full-time early years workers reported working more than 42 hours per week, compared to 3% of retail workers and 6% of female workers in general.
  • Only 17 % of early years workers receive job-related training.
  • While a high proportion of workers are passionate about what they do, 37% leave their employer within 2 years.

Commenting, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said:

‘We warmly welcome the Social Mobility Commission’s call for greater support for the early years sector. Research shows that the first five years of a child’s life are absolutely critical for their long-term learning and development – and yet, when it comes to education policy in this country, all too often the early years sector is still seen as the poor relation of schools.

‘Years of inadequate government investment into the early years has resulted in unacceptably low salaries across the sector, with many practitioners regularly working long hours for little or no additional pay. Is it any surprise, then, that more and more are opting to leave and seek employment  opportunities elsewhere?

‘With the huge challenges that the coronavirus pandemic has created for the childcare sector, it’s clear that much more government support is needed if providers are going to be able to not just stay afloat, but to continue to recruit and retain quality early years professionals who can deliver quality early years provision as well.

‘If the government is truly serious about improving social mobility and children’s life chances, there is no better place to start than the early years.’

The research, carried out for the Commission by the Education Policy Institute, found that the main barriers to a stable workforce are:

  • Low income.
  • High workload and responsibilities.
  • Over-reliance on female practitioners.
  • Insufficient training and career opportunities.
  • Low status and reputation.
  • A negative culture and climate within the organisation.

Steven Cooper, Interim co-chair of the Social Mobility Commission said:

‘The early years workforce is vital in helping to narrow the development gaps between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those from more privileged backgrounds.

‘We must do everything we can to ensure that childminders and nursery workers are valued more by ensuring we pay them a decent wage, give them a proper career structure and ensure their workload is reasonable.

‘The Commission will be pressing the government and employers to take urgent steps to improve the stability of childcare provision in these critical years.’

 

 

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