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Early Years Workforce Strategy

Children develop rapidly in their early years and a child’s experiences between birth and age five will have a major impact on their future life chances. Good parenting and high quality early learning, that gives children a broad range of knowledge, skills and understanding, together provide the right foundation for good future progress through school and life.

This government is committed to supporting parents to access good quality early years provision that provides a safe and stimulating environment in which children can learn and develop. That is why we have committed to investing over £1 billion more per year in the early years by 2019-20, and through this strategy are committing to support employers to attract, retain and develop good quality staff.

The purpose of this strategy is to support delivery of good quality early years provision for all children from birth to five years. We also want to support early years providers to deliver free entitlement places, including delivering the manifesto commitment to provide 30 hours of childcare for eligible working parents from September 2017.

The quality of early years provision in England is impressive with 91% of settings rated by Ofsted as good or outstanding in 2016 compared to 74% in 2012. Key to this is a well-qualified workforce with 77% of group based staff in 2016 holding at least a level 3 qualification relevant to childcare and 29% at least a level 62. Evidence clearly shows that settings which employ more highly qualified staff are more likely to attract a good or outstanding rating from Ofsted3. We also know that the quality of staff is particularly important for supporting the development of disadvantaged children. The gap between the development of disadvantaged children and their peers at age 5 is narrowing, from 19.0 percentage points in 2013/14 to 17.3 percentage points in 2015/164. But there is more that must be done to make sure all children get the best start in life.

The early years workforce is both the biggest asset and biggest overhead for early years providers operating in a competitive jobs market. In 2015, government conducted the first ever review of the cost of delivering childcare5, the findings of which have informed the development of an Early Years National Funding Formula (EYNFF). The purpose of the EYNFF is to make sure that more government funding for early years entitlements reaches providers and that funding settlements are fair and transparent. As part of the formula, there will be an area cost adjustment that reflects variable staffing costs across the country.

This strategy builds on the reforms introduced through More Great Childcare, published in 2013, which set out government’s approach to raising the quality of early years provision and a response to the Nutbrown review of qualifications. Since 2013, government has developed national Early Years Educator qualification criteria to make sure that level 3 childcare qualifications prepare trainees for a level 3 job role, and introduced early years initial teacher training. We have also funded a range of voluntary and community sector (VCS) projects to support professional development. In April 2015, we introduced the Early Years Pupil Premium that providers can use to ensure their staff can effectively support the development of disadvantaged children.

We want this strategy to have a practical impact for employers and staff. We have worked with stakeholders to identify the challenges in attracting, retaining and developing good quality staff that they think government could help to overcome. We have engaged with front line staff, employers, training providers and membership organisations. The strategy is also informed by a consultation on literacy and numeracy qualifications for level 3 Early Years Educator staff that attracted over 4000 responses.

Publication of this strategy is not the end of the journey on workforce development. The government is committed to continuing to work with the sector to review the challenges they face, and to collaborating to identify and implement solutions. Following publication of the strategy, a series of events for employers and stakeholders will take place to discuss the strategy and next steps towards implementation.