Scottish workforce review calls for living wage for early years staff

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The Scottish government has pledged £1m for early years workforce development, following a review that highlighted low pay and and qualification levels.

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Scottish education secretary Angela Constance met students studying the Masters in early years pedagogue course at the University of Strathclyde

Professor Iram Siraj, who chaired the Independent Review of the Scottish Early Learning and Childcare Workforce review, called for all nursery workers to be paid the living wage or above.

There should also be a national pay scale adopted by all local authority provision, and which should also be adopted by voluntary sector and private providers that offer places for funded children.

The report found that some qualifications were more ‘fit for purpose’ than others and that the distribution patterns of highly qualified staff and high quality provision varied across Scotland.

The wide-ranging review, which was commissioned by the Scottish government, makes 31 recommendations, and calls for a strategic group to oversee a 15-year plan to develop the workforce.

In response, Scottish education secretary Angela Constance has pledged £1 million to implement some of the report’s recommendations for early years staff development.

The Scottish government will consider the recommendations with the review’s reference group to decide how the money is spent, and publish its full response in the autumn.

Professor Iram Siraj said that her review recognised the strengths of the current system and made recommendations to build on existing good practice.

There was concern regarding the content of some qualifications and professional development. Furthermore, it said that Scotland could ‘extend and broaden the degree level qualifications’, as well as increase opportunities for postgraduates.

The findings also point to ‘consistent reports’ that local authority nurseries, particularly those with a traditional nursery school model, provided a higher-level of quality than settings in partnership with local authorities.

‘Compared to other nations, Scotland has set a very exciting agenda for its children, including those in their earliest years but there is always room for improvement,’ Professor Siraj said.

‘I know that some of my recommendations will be challenging but I am confident that, when implemented, they will result in a stronger, higher-quality workforce – and that this will, in turn, improve the public’s confidence in the sector. In addition to the benefits for Scotland’s children and families, it will also have a positive impact on the wider economy.’

Ms Constance said of the review, ‘It sets out a number of thought-provoking and challenging recommendations, both for Government and for those who educate and train early learning and childcare staff.

'The early years are a crucial point in a child’s development, therefore it is vital that we invest in those tasked with caring for and educating our young children. By boosting skills and recognising the value of the early years workforce, we will attract the brightest and best to the sector.’

Jean Carwood-Edwards, CEO of Early Years Scotland, and member of the core reference group involved in the review, welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment and willingness to support it.

‘What happens in the earliest years of a child’s life determines to a large extent, the quality and direction of their future life path,' she said. ‘These first months and years are therefore critical for children, communities and society at large. It is for this reason that we must invest in children, and in so doing, must also invest in our workforce to ensure that they are valued, highly skilled, qualified and equipped for this rewarding and challenging role.’

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association, welcomed the investment, but said that she hoped the money would be used to increase the choice of setting for parents wishing to access the free hours, resulting in fewer settled children being forced to move to a different nursery.

‘It is important that high quality childcare settings are available and accessible to all and that parents can choose which nursery best meets their needs. But the majority of nurseries don’t have the opportunity to deliver the funded places.

‘NDNA agrees that there should be equity of working conditions, including adequate and better remuneration and opportunities for advancement and recognition for all. It is critical that we can recruit, train and retain a highly qualified workforce in private and third sector nurseries, so investment and partnership working will be essential for this to happen. Funding needs to be set at a level where providers can pay the living wage to their staff.’

  • Read the full report here
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