The finding comes alongside a warning that 800,000 children in England are at risk of lagging behind their peers in areas like literacy and numeracy when they start school by 2020 because of a shortage of 10,000 early years teachers, according to a report by charity Save the Children published today.
A YouGov poll commissioned by Save the Children for the ‘Early Development and Children’s Educational Outcomes’ report shows that more than a third of parents in England with children under five don’t know whether their nursery employs qualified early years teachers.
Seventy-one per cent of parents surveyed said they would prefer their child's nursery had an early years teacher to ensure their child would not start school falling behind.
The poll was carried out online in January with 3,070 parents with children aged 18 and under, 2,579 of which are in England and 944 with children aged five and under.
Save the Children are now offering parents a postcode finder tool that allows them to see how many nurseries in their area have an early years teacher and how their area ranks nationally.
Analysis by the children’s charity that a quarter of the children who don’t have access to these teachers will likely remain behind in English when they reach secondary school, while a fifth will remain behind in maths – with potentially devastating consequences for the rest of their schooling and even their careers.
Last year, just under one in three children (31 per cent) in England began primary school without reaching a good level of early development, according to the charity.
Meanwhile, parents are concerned that their own children could be at risk, according to the YouGov poll. More than a quarter (28 per cent) worry their child will start primary school behind in English and maths, and more than half (51 per cent) are worried about sending their child to a nursery without a qualified teacher.
The poll further revealed that nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of parents want the Government to ensure all of England’s nurseries have qualified teachers.
As a result of the findings Save the Children is repeating calls on the Government to urgently address the shortage by investing in an early years teacher for every nursery, starting in the most deprived areas of the country.
Kevin Watkins, chief executive of Save the Children said, ‘Nurseries do an incredible job nurturing our children, but financial constraints are leaving many of them struggling to hire the qualified early years teachers who help give children the skills and confidence they need to learn and grow.
‘The evidence clearly shows the huge and transformational difference early years teachers can make for children. That’s why we’re calling on Government to ensure every nursery has a qualified teacher. It’s an investment we must make to help every child reach their full potential.’
Children without an early years teacher are almost 10 per cent less likely to meet the expected levels of development when they start school compared to children who do have a teacher, the charity’s ‘Untapped Potential’ report had claimed in November last year.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said in a comment about the report, ‘All children, regardless of their background, should be able to have the best possible start in life, and so we welcome calls for greater investment into the early years sector to prevent young children – and particularly those from more disadvantaged backgrounds – from falling behind early in life.
‘That said, we continue to question the argument that focusing solely on increasing the number of early years teachers in the sector is the answer.
Graduate leaders who are experienced, passionate and have an in-depth knowledge of child development will undoubtedly have a positive impact on children’s outcomes, but simply having a degree in and of itself is no guarantee of this.
‘As research published by the London School of Economics this week found, quality in the early years is about more than staff academics, and so it’s important that we don’t apply overly-simplistic solutions to complex problems.’
Claire Schofield, director of membership, policy and communications at National Day Nurseries Association, said, 'All qualified nursery practitioners contribute to the early education of under 5s, but lack of funding limits nurseries' abilities to employ more early years teachers. We agree that more Government investment is needed and have been leading the way in campaigning for this.
'It was a key issue highlighted by NDNA’s Workforce Survey and the Department for Education’s much-awaited Workforce Strategy urgently needs to address it.
'The main reason that nurseries cannot employ more teachers is the chronic underfunding of ‘free’ places for three and four-year-olds. The vast majority of nurseries currently make a loss on these places – an average of £900 per year, per child - and don’t have enough overall income to pay more graduate salaries.
'The industry standard qualification for the nursery sector is level three Early Years Educator. Our most recent Workforce Survey found 75 per cent of childcare staff are qualified to this level.'
General secretary of education and childcare union Voice, the union for education professionals, said, 'We welcome the report for highlighting the importance of early years education and care in children’s development. While early years teachers play an important and key role, there are wider issues facing the early years sector.
'We know that children benefit from early years education in settings that employ professionals with a range of skills and qualifications.
'Childcare’s greatest challenge is recruiting and retaining staff in the face of a funding crisis.
'Raising the status of early years professionals, as the Government claims it is doing, must go hand-in-hand with appropriate investment and coherent pay and career structures to reflect and reward appropriately the professionals who work in childcare.
'We support the raising of standards of education and training. However, early years settings are facing a shortage of early years teachers because of low numbers on some university courses offering training for Early Years Teacher Status.
'The early years sector is expected to operate on minimum funding and maximum good will. Good will doesn’t pay the mortgage.'
- Read the Save the Children report Early Development and Children's Educational Outcomes