Nurseries in Wales struggling to recruit Level 3 staff

More than two-thirds of nurseries in Wales have had difficulties recruiting Level 3 qualified staff, according to new research.

The National Day Nurseries Association’s (NDNA) 2018/19 Workforce Survey for Wales highlights the challenges early years settings are facing with recruitment and retention.

It comes at a time of increased demand for nursery places due to the roll-out of the Childcare Offer for Wales, which offers three- and four-year-olds of working parents 30 hours of funded childcare and early education for 48 weeks of the year.

Staff from 118 early years settings who are responsible for employing over 1,350 staff and delivering places to more than 8,000 children responded to the survey.

They revealed the greatest challenge is recruiting Level 3 qualified staff with over 66 per cent agreeing they had faced issues recruiting at this level.

NDNA Cyrmu says Wales' Childcare Offer (30 hours) could have contributed to the difficulty in recruiting staff due to the increase in occupancy.

Retention of Level 3 staff is also problematic, according to the survey, with staff qualified to this level making up almost two-thirds of all of those leaving their jobs in the non-maintained sector.

NDNA Cymru says given that Level 3 staff make up nearly 59 per cent of the overall workforce, this is to be expected. It also means that these staff are more likely to change jobs than other levels of staff, which is contributing to the recruitment challenges for employers.

Based on the number of vacancies identified by employers and the existing workforce, NDNA Cymru estimates 5.5 per cent of roles in the sector are currently vacant. It says this amounts to 935 vacancies based on the Welsh Government’s estimation of 17,000 people working in childcare across Wales.

Make up of the early years workforce

The survey found that the those with qualifications at Level 3 or above, make up 83 per cent of the workforce.

Respondents reported that close to 5 per cent of the workforce was made up of men.

More than 85 per cent of respondents reported having at least one member of staff leave over the course of a year, while 14 per cent said they had no leavers in the previous 12 months.

Based on the reported number of staff leaving during the course of the year, turnover of the workforce is estimated to be around 19 per cent.Tthis compares to a turnover rate of 24 per cent in England and 29 per cent in Scotland, according to NDNA research.

Business rates – impact of 100 per cent relief

From April, childcare businesses in Wales have been exempt from paying business rates. Respondents were surveyed in May and June about the impact of the changes.

Two-thirds (65 per cent) of those who had received the relief were able to provide positive examples of its impact on their sustainability.

Providers reported that they had been able to invest in their staff, offer more training, or keep fees for parents lower. Other respondents highlighted that it had helped them to stay afloat as a business by making up shortfalls in funding. The average saving reported was £8,204.


In light of the findings, NDNA Cymru recommends: 

  • As part of any early years recruitment campaign, that the Welsh Government considers promoting the educational impact of working in childcare within the non-maintained sector through play-based learning.
  • The Welsh Government monitor the rising costs of delivering the Childcare Offer for Wales, including above inflation staffing cost increases. This should be reviewed annually to ensure funding rates are kept in line with increasing costs.
  • The hourly rates paid through the Foundation Phase and Childcare Offer be aligned nationally to support the sustainability of the non-maintained sector and ensure they are able to offer parental choice and further invest in upskilling their workforce.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the NDNA, said, ‘Research shows that a skilled and knowledgeable early years workforce provides a strong foundation for a child’s learning and development. It’s the dedication of staff in nurseries that provide the high-quality provision which gives children the best outcomes.

‘Employers are restricted by Government funding for Foundation Phase and Childcare Offer, so many cannot reward their qualified and experienced staff in the way they would want to.

'While there is evidence that the 100 per cent business rates relief is supporting nurseries to be more sustainable, more needs to be done.

‘As minimum wages increase each year, alongside other costs, nurseries need to have the reassurance that funding rates match these rising costs. As other costs rise, it is not surprising to see that nurseries are struggling to increase their current training budgets to support upskilling the workforce.

‘We are pleased that the Welsh Government is currently undertaking a pilot in Flintshire to align the Childcare Offer and Foundation Phase rates but this needs to be addressed across Wales to support the sector nationally.’

Welsh Government response

'We recognise the significant contribution the childcare sector in Wales makes, both in supporting child development at an early age and as a significant employer. Just this week we announced funding for apprenticeships in childcare and play work.

'Our ten-year Childcare, Play and Early Years Workforce Plan sets out our vision for: developing and professionalising the childcare and play workforce, attracting the right people into the sector, ensuring they have the right skills, support to develop longer-term careers and helping childcare providers to expand their businesses.

'We already offer childcare settings 100 per cent business rates relief and are funding training opportunities through programmes including Progress for Success, supported by Welsh Government and European Social Fund.'

  • The survey findings are available here 

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