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Government early years policy under threat as qualified staff leave nurseries


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The NDNA have released their annual workforce survey and the findings prove stark reading:

"Qualified staff are leaving nurseries because of underfunding and endemic low pay in the sector, putting the government’s promise to provide high quality, accessible childcare under threat, National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) can reveal. 69% of L3 practitioners leave sector due to policy changes
NDNA’s latest annual Workforce Survey shows that a total of 86% of nurseries have lost staff this year and it is better qualified staff who are leaving. There are almost 20% fewer Level 3 qualified practitioners within the day nursery sector than there was in 2015. 
Of those Level 3 staff who are leaving or who have left, 80% have gone to jobs outside the sector, with almost half of graduates and early years teachers following suit. 
Two thirds of nursery managers say that they are unable to recruit suitable replacements for the qualified staff they have lost due to a lack of candidates. And this is a problem that could worsen, with a third of practitioners who remain working in nurseries saying they are considering leaving the sector, either due to low pay or because they have lost their passion for working in early years as a result of government policy changes. 
Low pay is a major issue for the sector, hitting recruitment and retention. Employers are trying to pay above minimum levels but insufficient government funding means they can’t compete with pay in other sectors. Unless the government takes action to support the sector, their social mobility agenda will be seriously undermined.

86% had staff leave in the last 12 months
Because of the recruitment and retention problems facing nurseries, NDNA’s survey found that the vast majority of practitioners (79%) are working overtime to cover for staff members who have left and in doing so, risk burn out. This has consequences for quality. 
NDNA recommends that early years funding is reviewed URGENTLY before the situation worsens and more nurseries limit funded places or go out of business. 
NDNA’s Chief Executive, Purnima Tanuku OBE, said: “The results of our survey are shocking and show the true staffing crisis in our nurseries. Although our members show passion and commitment to providing excellent early education and care, they are struggling to recruit and retain practitioners, especially at Level 3. 
“Our members are genuinely concerned that they won’t be able to deliver 30 hours of funded childcare if numbers of qualified staff continue to drop. Nurseries are having to work increasingly tightly to statutory adult to child ratios, but this has knock-on consequences for their ability to support children with behavioural or other needs for which they don’t get additional funding. 
Purnima Tanuku, NDNA CEO“Settings work efficiently and try to make funding rates work, but they have less and less room for manoeuvre. 
“Employers are becoming more cautious, making sure they have sufficient children on a waiting list before trying to recruit additional staff. Ultimately this will mean fewer childcare places for working families and could call into question the quality of delivery if not enough qualified staff are present.” 

NDNA’s recommendations:

The Department for Education (DfE) must undertake a thorough and rigorous assessment of the cost of delivery for early years settings. This must be done in partnership with nurseries, include a representative sample of the sector and include site visits in order to properly understand the cost pressures settings are working under
Early years ‘free’ entitlement funding needs to be urgently reviewed to enable settings to recruit and retain skilled staff   
The current workforce strategy must be reviewed urgently to address both short and long term recruitment and rettion pressures
Urgent action is need by Government in recruitment and retention of the workforce with financial support through an Early Years Workforce investment fund.  This must include a strong campaign to retain and attract high quality staff into the sector
Government must take action to ensure quality is not undermined as a result of minimal CPD and recruitment of non-qualified/low qualified practitioners on outcomes for children.
Other key findings from the survey include:

Sixty nine percent (69%) of Level 3 leavers were moving out of early years because they had lost passion for working in the sector due to policy changes 
Fifty one percent (51%) of those entering as unqualified workers or apprentices have left or not been retained as they were unsuited to the role
Twenty five percent (25%) of employers employ EU National staff.  Within the practitioner survey 12% of respondents told us they were EU Nationals and of these 17% were concerned about the impact of Brexit on their employment within the UK.  
A third of employers are limiting CPD to mandatory training only due to budget constraints as a result of poor funding levels
Government funded hours:

Currently, all three and four-year-olds and some two-year-olds in the UK are entitled to funded childcare. 
The funding model for funded childcare places has put the sector under enormous financial strain and this is likely to get worse. NDNA research shows that an average nursery makes a loss on each 15 hour funded place of £900 per year. This pushes fees up for parents of younger children. 
Government funding rates for 30 hours childcare for three and four-year-olds are frozen in 70% of local authority areas in 2018/19 in spite of the costs rising significantly as a result inflation, National Minimum and Living Wage increases and increases in pension contributions. 47 local authorities will receive the lowest possible childcare funding rate from central government £4.30 per hour. The impact of this is then passed on to the sector.
These financial pressures limit the sector’s ability to pay good wages, with knock on consequences for staff recruitment and retention.   
The Government published its Early Years Workforce Strategy in March 2017 which outlined its plans to help employers attract, retain and develop early years staff. These measures included broadening GCSE requirements for maths and English to include functional skills, which it was hoped would increase numbers of level 2 and 3 candidates. But over a third of respondents have told us they haven’t seen any positive change as a result.

NDNA’s survey represented 522 nurseries across England caring for more than 31,000 children. Of these, 74% were single site nurseries. An additional 315 practitioners questioned separately."

You can read the full report here

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