A recent report by the UCL Institute of Education has claimed that as the economy improves, the country could be facing a childcare staff shortage due to the attraction of better paid jobs.
The report highlights other occupations are clearly higher paid and claims low pay is often stated as the reason for high staff turnover levels in nurseries nationwide.
Working in collaboration with the Family and Childcare Trust and National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), the report found there has been a 5% decrease in childcare staff numbers in the last 10 years alone.
This has led to some concerns in the sector about the entry level requirements for childcare courses and that they may deter large numbers of potential workers from the profession.
Based upon analysis around childcare use and provision, the report found 75% of childcare staff hold NVQ Level 3 or higher, up 12% between 2005 and 2014.
Whilst qualifications are increasing, wages do not appear to be rising at the same rate. The average childcare worker, aged 21 and over, is just 10p above the national minimum wage, earning £6.60 per hour.
Antonia Simon, lead researcher for the UCL Institute of Education said: “The recession has caused a reduction in employment opportunities for young women and a lack of alternative employment could be causing these women to continue working in the sector. Recruitment will become tougher as the economy picks up and candidates move to better paid sectors, which is coming at a bad time as cover will be needed to fulfil the Government’s plans to offer 30 funded hours per week to 3 and 4 year-olds of working parents from 2017.”
There is also a difference between private and maintained early year’s settings. The report states that £5.60 per hour is the average wage per hour at private nurseries while £7.80ph is average for maintained. The sector also continues to be female dominated.
With the added extension of free childcare for working parents, it looks increasingly likely that establishments will struggle to cover the cost of providing places for children and the overall cost of nursery places could rise, if the Government fails to fund education places effectively.
The report concludes by recommending a formal review be set up to examine the issues that the childcare sector is currently facing and what other issues may arise in future. It also claims that a recruitment drive may be needed to increase the number of male childcare workers.
Claire Schofield, director of membership, policy and communications at the National Day Nurseries Association said: “This study echoes our own survey results which gives an overall view that the sector is in urgent need of reform. Our Early Years Workforce Survey shows there are already problems with recruitment and retention.”
Deborah Lawson, general secretary for the union Voice, said on the matter: “Childcare’s greatest resource is the dedicated professionals who work in it, but there are factors that make it a less attractive option such as; poor career prospects, lower wages for skilled and experiences professionals and decades of underfunding. Voice is calling for investment and coherent pay structures across the UK.”
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