Low pay, poor quality applicants and changes to rules over GCSEs are creating a staff supply crisis, while existing staff are leaving to take better paid jobs in schools and even supermarkets, the report says.
A third of respondents said that there were not enough applicants for Level 3 jobs, which the NDNA said could hamper the Government's plan to increase free hours for three- and four-year-olds to 30 a week for working parents.
Nursery managers said the ‘most common barrier’ to effective recruitment at Level 3 was a lack of candidates meeting the requirement for at least a grade C in GCSE maths and English.
In addition, just under half (43 per cent) of nurseries were unable to find apprentices with the right level of qualifications. Entry rules for level 3 apprentices are set to get tougher in August when only those already having maths and English GCSE will be able to start a Government-funded apprenticeship.
The NDNA called on the Government to work with the sector on a long-term strategy for engagement, entry and retention to the sector.
Purnima Tanuku, the NDNA’s chief executive, said, ‘We’re seeing situations in which lower-grade staff who picked childcare as their career of choice are leaving because they can earn more at employers like supermarkets that offer more family-friendly hours and less pressure.
‘We are seeing Early Years Teachers (EYT) moving to school nursery settings for better pay and shorter hours. Nurseries would love to pay their staff more but funding shortfalls constrain what they can afford.’
In terms of the qualifications of the existing workforce, the survey indicated that less than half (45 per cent) of staff who hold a Level 3 qualification also hold a maths and English GCSE at grade C. When it comes to Level 2 qualified staff, 52 per cent don’t hold these ‘minimum’ GCSEs.
What’s more, the prospect of progress on this front is small. ‘Employers reported that a significant proportion of the existing workforce is unable to progress to Level 3’, the report said.
While the survey indicated that 63 per cent of the workforce currently has a Level 3 qualification, it also showed that the proportion of settings employing staff with graduate level qualifications has increased to 88 per cent from 80 per cent in 2014.
However, it also found that there were difficulties recruiting and retaining EYTs, ‘which were mainly related to hours and pay'.
Ms Tanuku added, ‘The nursery sector workforce is committed to becoming better qualified and higher in quality. But more action is needed from the Government to support nurseries in meeting the challenges ahead.’
The NDNA has called for the the GCSE requirements to be an exit requirement for an EYE, for equivalent qualifications to be accepted, and to ‘challenge the school system for failing individuals moving into FE and vocational training to improve the rates of pupils exiting with English and maths at grade C or above.’
A Department for Education spokesman said: 'This Government is helping working families across the country by giving them the security of affordable, high-quality childcare – and we make no apologies for raising standards.
'Over the last five years we have worked closely with the profession to help raise its status, and as a result the number of staff has increased, they are better paid and more providers are rated Good or Outstanding.
'But we are not complacent, which is why we are working to raise the status of the profession further and have committed to increasing the average funding rate that providers receive – a move that the NDNA has welcomed.'