A new survey shows that 87% of childcare workers don’t think the role they have played in the pandemic has been properly valued by government while 20% are actively looking to leave the sector due to Covid stresses.
One in five early years practitioners are actively considering leaving the sector with Covid pressures having a significant impact, according to a new survey.
The online survey, which was carried out by the Early Years Alliance between December 2020 and January 2021 and received nearly 3,800 responses from those working in nurseries, pre-schools and childminding settings in England, found that 20% say that they are considering leaving the sector due to stress or mental health difficulties related to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the sector.
Eight in 10 (80%) have felt stressed about work because of an issue relating to the Covid-19 pandemic ‘somewhat often’ or ‘very often’ over the previous month. Over a third (36%) do not feel able to cope with the additional pressures that the Covid-19 pandemic has placed on their early years role and 72% say that they had experienced fatigue/tiredness related to the impact of the pandemic on their early years role over the past six months, while 70% had experienced anxiety and 59% had experienced insomnia.
The survey also found that one in 10 (11%) have taken time off work due to stress linked to the impact of the pandemic on their role and 67 respondents said that they had thoughts of ending their own life as a result of the pressures that the pandemic has placed on their early years roles.
The survey also found that the three main sources of stress for those working in the early years sector are: (1) Keeping up to date with the latest government guidance; (2) Ensuring the safety of children and practitioners at their provision (i.e. reducing the risk of Covid transmission); and (3) Concerns about the financial viability of their provision.
Almost nine in 10 (87%) practitioners that they don’t think that the role that the early years sector has played during the pandemic has been adequately valued by the government.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: “It is clear from these results that this is a sector at breaking point. Those working in nurseries, pre-schools and childminding settings have been asked to put their own safety, and that of their loved ones, at risk with little support and even less recognition, and so it is no surprise that this has taken such a toll on their mental health and wellbeing.
“Those in government should take a moment to reflect on how it feels to listen to ministers tell everyone how vital it is to stay at home, and to watch as hospitalisation and death rates continue to rise, and then to be asked to keep working in a close-contact environment with no support with PPE, no testing and no vaccinations. Is it any wonder that such a significant proportion of the early years workforce are considering simply walking away?”
One childcare worker commented: “I feel the sector has been treated appallingly. Staff have been expected to carry on regardless and the risk we are putting ourselves at is not really acknowledged. This really does not help with current stress levels.”