Workforce must grow by 8% to deliver funded hours expansion

The early years workforce needs to expand by 8% to meet demand linked to increased government funding, according to research.

From September 2025 working parents of children aged between nine months and two years will qualify for 30 hours per week of government funded childcare. Analysis from think tank Nesta predicts a 46% rise in the number of hours one-year-olds will spend in early education and childcare by 2028, and a 33% in two-year-old hours.

Nesta predicts 27,500 more early years professionals will be needed to meet this demand, an 8% expansion of the current workforce.

Additional demand will come from an increase in childcare hours among parents already in work, and from the 60,000 people that the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates will return to work as a result of the scheme.

Fionnuala O’Reilly, head of policy in Nesta’s fairer start team, and author of the report How many early years professionals do we need? said the funding roll-out would “massively increase demand in a sector that is already struggling.”

“This comes at a time when the sector is contracting,” she said. “Staffing levels haven’t recovered from the pandemic, the number of graduate level professionals is falling and the number of providers offering free entitlements to families is also declining. Structural changes are needed to turn the tide on these trends, starting with pay and conditions for staff.”

The report also found that median salaries for early years workers stand at between £22,500-£25,000, significantly less than median salaries in the rest of the education sector and more in line with professions like retail and hospitality.

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