Diversity in the early years workforce: new data but more is needed

Beatrice Merrick, chief executive, Early Education
Friday, December 4, 2020

Diversity in the early years is not just about a shortage of men in the workforce, says Beatrice Merrick - we need to look at whether all communities are represented too

Beatrice Merrick: 'Far less attention has been given to the issue of whether the workforce reflects the ethnicities of the children and families it supports'
Beatrice Merrick: 'Far less attention has been given to the issue of whether the workforce reflects the ethnicities of the children and families it supports'

Discussions about diversity in the early years workforce often focus on the lack of men. 

Far less attention has been given to the issue of whether the workforce reflects the ethnicities of the children and families it supports and whether all sections of the community are equally well represented. 

The Nutbrown Review in 2012 contained a recommendation on this: 'The Department for Education should conduct research on the number of BME staff at different qualification levels, and engage with the sector to address any issues identified.' This was never followed up by Government.

Today, however, we have a small step forward. The Department for Education (DfE) have published an additional table in their Survey of Childcare and Early Years Providers 2019 (included below) on the proportions of staff by ethnicity for a small sample of providers.

The survey finds that 83 per cent of staff in group-based providers and 85 per cent of childminders were White British, compared to 80 per cent of the population in the 2011 census.  4 per cent of the workforce were Black compared to 3.4 per cent in the census, 6 per cent of group-based providers and 3 per cent of childminders were Asian compared to 7.5 per cent in the census data. 

An alternative comparison is with the ethnicity of children in early years provision, but unfortunately this data is not included in the DfE's breakdown of children in funded early years places.  However, the breakdown of children's Early Years Foundation Stage Profile results tells us that at age five, in 2018, 73 per cent of children were white, 1 per cent Chinese,11 per cent Asian, 5 per cent Black, 6 per cent Mixed.

The figures suggest that the ethnicity of the early years workforce may not be fully representative of the wider population, which should be of concern in relation to recruiting the best early years practitioners regardless of race or ethnicity.

They also suggest that the profile of staff and the profile of children and families may not be a good enough match.

But most of all, this small sample of data shows that we simply don't know enough. Key questions will remain unanswered until we have a much more comprehensive dataset addressing issues such as:

  • How does the ethnicity of staff vary regionally, and does this adequately reflect the make-up of local communities?
  • How does the qualification profile of staff vary by ethnicity? Are all staff getting equal access to opportunities for career progression?
  • How does the ethnicity of staff vary at different career stages, and crucially is sector leadership representative?
  • How do intersectional issues play out eg in relation to race, ethnicity and gender?

Recent figures for teachers have shown a drop in the number of male teachers, but an increase in the number of male BME teachers. We are a long way from understanding any similar trends in the early years. 

We call on Government to address this gap and help ensure that the we are doing all we can to open up the early years sector to all sections of the community by:

  • Collecting data on workforce ethnicity through  an annual survey  of all childminders, early years settings and early years in schools or at least a representative sample from which generalisation is possible. This should allow for analysis by staff qualification and job role, and at local and regional level.
  • Developing and funding a strategy for attracting people who identify as BAME heritage to careers in the early years.

Table 27: Ethnicity of staff as a proportion of Early Years staff, England, 2019

(With added comparative data from the UK census 2011 and EYFSP 2019)

  School-based provider offering nursery Maintained nursery school  All school-based Private group-based Voluntary group-based All group-based Childminders  Census data Children taking EYFSP 2019
White British  83% 74% 83% 81% 87% 83% 85% 80.5% 73%
White Other 7% 5% 7% 6% 4% 5% 5% 5.4%  
Mixed 2% 1% 2% 2% 1% 2% 1% 2.2% 6%
Black 2% 5% 2% 4% 3% 4% 4% 3.3% 5%
Asian 7% 12% 7% 6% 5% 6% 3% 6.8% 11%
Chinese * * * * * * * 0.7% 1%
Other  1% 2% 1% 1% 1% 1% 1% 1%  
Unweighted base 949 92 1,043 1,542 1,015 2,628 1,735
  • Source question:  How many of your paid staff/the paid staff involved in delivering your nursery provision excluding any apprentices, belong to the following ethnic groups…
  • Base: Group-based providers allocated to variant 2, school-based providers allocated to variant 1 and all childminders
  • Source: Childcare and Early Years Providers Survey 2019

Nursery World Print & Website

  • Latest print issues
  • Latest online articles
  • Archive of more than 35,000 articles
  • Free monthly activity poster
  • Themed supplements

From £11 / month

Subscribe

Nursery World Digital Membership

  • Latest digital issues
  • Latest online articles
  • Archive of more than 35,000 articles
  • Themed supplements

From £11 / month

Subscribe

© MA Education 2021. Published by MA Education Limited, St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road, Herne Hill, London SE24 0PB, a company registered in England and Wales no. 04002826. MA Education is part of the Mark Allen Group. – All Rights Reserved