Nursery workers leaving over GCSEs, finds survey

Nursery fees are going up, vacancies are going unfilled for months at a time and staff are leaving childcare because they can’t progress, say the majority of employers in a new survey.

More than four in five employers (88 per cent) say the combined impact of the GCSE English and maths requirements and level 3 training has resulted in Level 2 qualified staff quitting.

A survey of 656 employers, carried out by the early yeasr trailblazer group, found that nearly a third - 32 per cent - have had at least two Level 2 employees leave since September last year. Just 10 per cent say their staff are moving on to childcare jobs with higher salaries, with 58 per cent saying that their staff left because they did not believe they were able to achieve the GCSEs and close to a third (30 per cent) saying they couldn’t achieve the Level 3 qualification.

Staff at Level 3 are also being tempted out of the sector, the survey suggests. Nearly three-quarters of respondents - 70 per cent - had two or more Level 3 staff leaving in the past academic year and a third said that the number had been four or more. The majority - 58 per cent - say their staff moved out of the sector because of the poor salary.

The crisis is also leading to long periods when vacancies are unfilled. Close to a third – 29 per cent - said that their Level 3 vacancies had remained unfilled for six months and over. A third were unfilled for between three and six months (33 per cent).

As a result, salaries have been forced up in a bid to attract candidates (say 96 per cent of employers).

While the news of pay rises is good news for existing staff, this cost has been passed onto parents, say 62 per cent of employers. And the staff shortage means that nearly half of employers say they have either had to reduce the number of children on roll or turn children away.

Nursery World has already reported that the GCSE requirements are hitting recruitment of apprentices particularly hard, with training providers across the country reporting drops of up to 96 per cent.

Respondents are reporting that some training providers are now stopping offering Level 3 childcare apprenticeships altogether, while employers are  frustrated by the fact that many training providers don’t offer the GCSEs alongside childcare courses.

One said, ‘The candidate’s only option is to leave employment with us, go to college full-time and embark on an un[funded] Level 3 course and do GCSE retakes at the same time. The option is not there to retake GCSEs at college whilst doing an advanced apprenticeship with us. This completely undermines the apprenticeship programme.’

The grim picture is causing many employers to condemn the GCSE requirements, though a minority of respondents welcomed them as a means of raising standards. ‘One said, ‘I positively welcome the advent of this new requirement. This career choice should no longer be looked upon as a cop-out job.’

‘The government cannot continue to ask for a professional workforce and not put its money where its mouth is. The sector is ready to implode’ said one respondent.

And: ‘If more staff leave I will be unable to continue providing childcare as we cannot afford the demands of the new applicants and if we raise our fees further our parents will leave.’

The news comes before nurseries are expected to meet the added costs of the government’s new wage floor minimum, or ‘living wage’, pensions auto enrolment next year, and the extension of government subsidised hours from 15 to 30 in 2017.

The survey is a move by the trailblazer group, which devises the apprenticeship standards, to lobby the Government over the current recruitment crisis.

A Department for Education spokesman said: 'We welcome the publication of this survey, which follows our request for evidence on recruitment in the early years. We will look at the results and consider what they mean for the sector.

'All the evidence shows that the higher the quality of childcare; the higher the quality of a child’s learning and development.

“We are committed to working closely with the sector to produce a workforce strategy and develop apprenticeships in the early years.'

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