A searing Public Accounts Committee report into the 30-hours entitlement noted this week that ‘The department does not have a workforce plan for the early years sector’.
The Government says a plan will be published before the end of the year, but this will do little to appease those in the sector struggling in the face of now officially-recognised recruitment shortages at both level 3 and degree level.
The report said, ‘The ‘department does not have robust plans to make sure there are enough qualified early years staff so that providers can continue to offer high quality childcare. The childcare sector has become increasingly professional with an increase in graduate-level recruits, which has had a positive impact on quality. Providers are now reporting that they are struggling to recruit high-quality staff, and there has been a decline in applicants to graduate-level qualifications.’
It also recommends that the department report by September on how it will ensure that the workforce has the necessary qualifications.
Government figures show that just 879 Early Years Teachers were recruited in 2014-5. The target of 2,400 was largely met the previous year. The PAC report also acknowledged that recruitment of qualified level 3 staff was 'a big issue' for the sector representatives it had sought evidence from.
When giving evidence to the committee about the drop in EYT numbers, Chris Wormald, Permanent Secretary, Department for Education, conceded that the government was worried about the EYT programme. He said, ‘That particular programme is a worry. Of course, that is the qualified teacher part, so that is not the vast majority of the workforce.’
He also said ‘We are publishing a workforce strategy for the early years later this year, and we do have more thinking to do around that, because the numbers speak for themselves.’
He added that there were some ‘very good things about the workforce. We have seen the qualification level of the workforce rise over the last few years.'
There has been a 5 per cent decline in the number of people working in childcare since 2005 according to UCL.
A spokesman for the DfE said that the number of graduates in the workforce 'continues to rise.' He said, 'This Government is raising the bar and making a significant investment in the early years sector, working closely with the profession to help improve its status.
'We want to continue to attract quality staff into the early years including more trained graduates. That is why we provide funding for course fees and bursaries for eligible trainees. We are developing a workforce strategy this year which is considering how career progression can be improved in the sector.'