James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Early years is the most crucial phase of education. If children fall behind at this stage it can prove difficult, often impossible, for them to catch up later, even with additional help. It is therefore obvious that the most cost-effective way to improve educational outcomes for all children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, is by investing in early years education.
“But we know that it is not just any early years experience that matters. Early years provision needs to be of high quality, led by qualified early years professionals, to have a positive and lasting impact on children’s outcomes.
“This report is therefore worrying, as it reveals not only that so few early years workers have higher qualifications, but also that there is a decline in them accessing training. Early years practitioners should be some of the most celebrated professionals in education, reflecting their truly vital role in a child’s development.
“The report also hints at a worrying recruitment crisis to come in the near future in early years. Childcare workers have seen a decrease in hourly pay in real terms, especially compared to other possible vocations for school leavers. If we want high quality recruits for early years we have to pay accordingly. And with Brexit looming the situation is even more uncertain. 5.1% of childcare workers are EU nationals (compared to 5.6% of NHS staff).
“In general, a diverse early years workforce can help children, especially those from deprived backgrounds, to visualise their futures and fulfil their educational potential. This report confirms that the early years workforce is still predominantly female, with only 7.4% of childcare workers being male. It’s important for all children to experience positive male role models, and to understand that men can be interested in education and caring careers. We must work to improve status and pay for early years roles, to make it an attractive and competitive career for all.”
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