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The Government’s well-received strategy on school teacher recruitment shows what could be achieved if it made the same effort with early years


Natalie Perera

Last month I wrote about the need to raise the pay, parity and esteem of the early years workforce. Fast-forward a couple of weeks and the Government launched its long-awaited strategy on teacher recruitment and retention.

It was met with almost unanimous support from the teaching profession (including some of the unions) and the wider education sector – a response which is rare for any government.

The key to this success lies, undoubtedly, in the involvement of the teaching profession from the outset. Unlike many other exercises in consultation, this involvement seemed genuinely collaborative. Not only did the Government work closely with experts, but the strategy also considers recent evidence about the scale of the challenge and the effectiveness of different interventions. Rather than try to implement quick fixes, the Government has sought to identify some of the root causes of recruitment and retention problems and to tackle them through evidence-based (and, importantly, funded) interventions.

It won’t necessarily tackle all of the issues, but it is an important foundation on which Government and the profession can build.

The strategy, however, relates only to teachers working in schools, and there is nothing on the early years profession. While this probably makes sense, given the different contexts of the sectors, the lack of any strategy for the early years workforce further highlights the disparity between them. The Education Select Committee also highlighted the need for a long-term early years workforce strategy in its recent report.

I was struck by the recent announcement that the shoe shop Clarks will be training its staff to support early literacy as part of a Government drive to boost children’s development. If it wasn’t worrying enough that early years workers are now being paid the same as hairdressers and beauticians, the idea that sales assistants should be tasked with children’s early learning is risible.

Rather than fiddle around with unevidenced schemes, imagine what the Government, working with the profession, could achieve if it applied the same focus, collaboration and consideration of evidence to the early years as it has with schools.

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