Nursery workers consider leaving profession due to workload

Three fifths of early years graduates have considered leaving the profession in the past six months, according to a new survey.

While record numbers of stressed schoolteachers have hit headlines recently, these figures show that the proportion of early years professionals considering leaving may be on a par. Nearly the same proportion - 59% - of teachers have considered quitting in the same timeframe, according to awarding body Pearson and think tank LKMco.

The data shows the main reason for people wanting to leave was the workload, cited by 72% of early years staff, followed by low pay (38%) and lack of quality support (36%). Pre-school staff earn on average £17,000 a year, and primary school staff an average of £33,000, the Pre-School Learning Alliance said last year, yet average teachers’ perceptions of low pay was worse - with 43% saying their job didn’t pay enough.

While low pay is particularly prevalent for practitioners at the lower qualificaiton levels, most of those early years practitioners surveyed had degrees (35% having a PGCE and 34% a bachelor of education).

However, early years professionals were significantly happier with the quality of leadership and management in their workplace – just 14% per cent saying they were unhappy, as opposed to 43% of teachers across all types of education provision.

The survey also found a difference in mindset, with 95% of early years practitioners saying they went into the job because they wanted to make a difference to children’s lives. While 60% of teachers gave this reason, 93% say they take up the job was because they thought they would be good at it.

The survey also found that practical and social factors the most common reasons people move jobs. Commutability (83%), being near to family (78%) and quality of local life, (75%) were most important. However the culture and ethos of the setting also ranked at 75%.

The survey was carried out by YouGov, who surveyed 1,009 teachers from early years to primary, secondary and FE institutions so the sample size relating to early years is small.

The alliance’s Neil Leitch said it was ‘extremely concerning’ that such a high proportion of early years graduates have considered leaving the sector.

'Practitioners have long warned that workloads are becoming increasingly burdensome, with excessive paperwork and other administrative requirements limiting the time that can be spent with children and families. Add to this the fact that inadequate funding means that many early years staff regularly work beyond their official hours – unpaid – and it’s clear that, without action, this problem is likely to get worse before it gets better.

'We would urge both the Government and Ofsted to work with the sector to tackle the workload challenges raised in this survey. The sector relies on talented, passionate and committed practitioners to survive – but these are the very same practitioners we may lose if these issues aren’t addressed'.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said the highest number of people are joining the teaching profession since 2008. He said, 'This report shows why teaching continues to be such a popular career with nine out of ten teachers relishing the chance to make a difference in young people’s lives.

'While the vast majority of teachers stay in their roles for more than five years, we know unnecessary workload can detract from what matters most: teaching. That’s why we launched the Workload Challenge, and are working with the profession to understand and tackle the top issues that teachers said caused the most bureaucracy, with leading education experts taking action on key areas such as marking and lesson planning.'

Initiatives under the challenge include tracking teacher workload by carrying out a large scale survey in early spring 2016, and every two years thereafter.

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