Staffing shortages the biggest problem for childcare sector

A new report shows 95% of childcare workers feel politicians don’t respect what they do.

evidence about childcare

Teacher and adorable children being creative with colorful pencils at kindergarten

Staffing shortages are now the biggest concern of childcare workers, with lack of respect for what they do fuelling falling morale, according to a new report by software platform Famly.

Its Early Years Reputation report found 95% of the 740 childcare professionals it polled don’t feel respected by politicians and policymakers. A further 70% feel they lack respect from wider society and more than half believe early years has a reputation problem (57%).

The survey found that the biggest challenge facing early years is staffing – 86% of those questioned felt this was an issue. Funding and economic policy (69%) and respect from wider society (69%) came joint second. 64% feel that “the pandemic made it more difficult to build relationships with families”. The impact of the pandemic was mixed, however, with 22% feeling it had a positive impact on people’s opinions of early years, 34% feeling like it has made it worse, but almost half saying they have noticed no change.

The survey found only 39% of respondents feel positive about working in early years while 41% have mixed feelings.  Three quarters consider it stressful and 70% say it is ‘tiring’.

The report says there has been a lot of focus on funding issues in early years, but the fundamental issue is how early years [EY] is viewed, which drives funding decisions. It says: “Negative stereotypes breed a lack of respect. That lack of respect prevents grown-up conversations about funding, stalls recruitment, makes people without proper EY expertise think they can shift early years policy. And that all just leads to a workforce further maligned and disrespected.”

While many still see it as a form of babysitting while parents work, research shows the crucial role it plays in addressing inequality. The report says that by the age of five almost half the gap between rich and poor children that is present at 16 has already emerged.

The report ends with a list of actions, including Famly’s commitment to shift the focus of its work towards making the positive case for early education and tackling negative stereotypes and the need for closer partnerships with families so that they see the benefits early years brings.

Neil Leitch, CEO of the Early Years Alliance, said: “The fact that that staffing difficulties were listed as the biggest concern for professionals highlights just how bad the current recruitment and retention crisis, which has largely been driven by both low pay and the continued lack of respect for early education in this country, has become.

“As such, we once again urge the government to commit to properly funding our sector, but also to recognise our workforce as the educators they are, and in doing so, set an example for wider society to follow.

“Early years professionals are not just ‘babysitters’ – they lay the vital foundations for a child’s future and it is high time that this was properly recognised.”

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