Early years workforce commission set up to tackle recruitment crisis

Catherine Gaunt
Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Sector organisations and experts have joined forces to launch the Early Years Workforce Commission to carry out a review of the workforce challenges facing the sector and develop a workforce strategy.

Problems around recruitment and retention have been widely reported in the sector and are well-known.

Nurseries are struggling to retain well-qualified staff, while recent research found that many early years practitioners have left for better-paid jobs with less responsibility, such as retail.

The main aim of the sector-led commission is to ensure that the early years sector is recognised and offers a rewarding and attractive career path.

The steering group is made up of representatives from training bodies, sector membership organisations, researchers and experts (see below).

The commission said it also wants to involve providers, practitioners, parents and the wider public in the debate.

It will hold two evidence sessions, as part of its work, one on recruitment and retention, and the second on training and continuing professional development (CPD) and will publish a report later this year.

This will include solutions to:

  • Improve the basic training of those entering the sector
  • Improve quality and take-up of CPD for those already in the sector
  • Explore the implications of low levels of pay
  • Improve recruitment and retention across the workforce
  • Demonstrate the impact and crucial role of the early years workforce in society

The commission has been convened, following a round-table that was held at the House of Commons in 2018, which brought together policy makers and representatives from across the sector.

While the problems facing the sector were well-established, it was felt that evidence-based solutions were needed to tackle workforce issues.

The commission’s aim is to develop a set of recommendations that supports the long-term sustainability of the sector, and enables it to continue to deliver high-quality provision.

The commission will undertake a review of the current state of play for the early years workforce, looking at progress made since the 2012 Nutbrown Review.

This review commissioned by the coalition Government was led by Professor Cathy Nutbrown and its recommendations were published in the Foundations for Quality report.

Speaking on behalf of the commission, Julie Hyde, executive director of education and training at NCFE and CACHE, said,While these are just one part of the puzzle, we believe that an effective workforce strategy is crucial to underpin the long-term sustainability of the sector and quality of provision.

‘We hope to be able to put forward a solutions-focused plan, with key recommendations for the Government and others, to support the early years workforce be recognised as the highly professional, talented and committed individuals they are. Ultimately, we want to ensure the long-term sustainability of this sector, which plays such a crucial role in our society and economy.’

‘To enable us to develop a strong and credible set of recommendations, we will be working closely with organisations across the sector and beyond and we would encourage anyone who wants to be involved to share their ideas.’

Professor Nutbrown, who is supporting the group, said, ‘High quality Early Years provision is crucial to society. It is vital that the women and men who work with babies, toddlers and young children have the knowledge, skills, understanding and aptitude to appropriately support their learning and development. In so doing, they should be entitled to opportunities to develop successful and rewarding careers. 

She added that the 2012 review had recommended to Government the need for a well-qualified and properly remunerated workforce, which was widely welcomed by the early education and childcare sector.

‘I said at the time that resolving the problems that existed was an urgent matter, and it remains so. I therefore welcome the establishment of the Early Years Workforce Commission, which will consider the current situation and how the remaining challenges can be addressed. If the current crisis in recruitment and retention continues, it threatens much needed high-quality provision.’ 

Early Years Workforce Commission

Members include:

  • CACHE, the leading organisation for early years and childcare qualifications
  • Ceeda Research
  • Early Education
  • Early Years Alliance
  • Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY)
  • National Day Nurseries Association
  • London Early Years Foundation (LEYF)
  • Education Policy Institute
  • Sutton Trust
  • Voice, the union for education professionals


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