One in eight childcare workers in England earn less than £5 an hour | Childcare
One in eight childcare workers in England earn less than £5 an hour, according to new research which warns that low pay, high workload and a lack of career development are having an adverse effect on the sector.
The Social Mobility Commission (SMC) report says there are signs the early years workforce is becoming increasingly unstable, warning that high staff turnover risks undermining the quality of provision and disadvantaged children’s outcomes.
There are also fears the ongoing disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is threatening the survival of many nurseries and early years settings, will further exacerbate the problems facing the sector.
Among the most striking findings in the research, which was carried out by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) on behalf of the SMC, is that as many as 13% of childcare workers are paid under £5 an hour.
The average wage in the sector is £7.42 – less than the minimum wage and significantly below the average pay for female workers at £11.37 and £12.57 for the total population – and jobs are seen as low status, according to the analysis.
Dr Sara Bonetti, report author and director of early years at the EPI, said the workforce included apprentices, students on placement, volunteers as well as childminders, hence the low hourly rates. Staff turnover is high at 13%, with one in six leaving their posts within a year, and 37% quitting within two years.
The report also highlights a lack of training opportunities for those who enter the workforce, which is 96% female, with just 17% of early years workers in receipt of job-related training. Workload is high and the job carries considerable responsibility – more than one in 10 (11%) full-time early years workers reported working more than 42 hours per week, compared to 3% of retail workers.
“This research highlights the multiple barriers that early years workers face on a daily basis, with low pay, lack of career options and negative perceptions of their profession holding them back,” said Bonetti, adding: “The pandemic now threatens to exacerbate many of these problems.”
Echoing a recent call by the children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, the SMC called on the government to introduce a comprehensive strategy for the sector, including a clear training pathway and a workforce registry with professional development at each stage.
“The early years workforce is vital in helping to narrow the development gaps between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and privileged ones,” said Steven Cooper, interim co-chair of the SMC. “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.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have invested £20m in improving the training and development available for staff working in early years settings, particularly targeted at those working in disadvantaged areas, and we are supporting their career progression through better qualifications, more apprenticeship opportunities and routes to graduate level qualifications.”