Navigating Challenges and Innovations in Early Years: October News Roundup 2023
Here at Connect Childcare, our key expertise will always lie within nursery management software. However, after helping early years’ settings maximise their potential for over 18 years, we’re always keen to share our voice on the current happenings within the sector.
Increase in national living wage could ‘spell disaster’ for early years providers
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt attended the Conservative Party conference (Monday 2nd October) and confirmed that the national minimum wage was set to increase to £11 per hour by next April, benefiting two million underpaid workers.
However, Early Years Educator has deemed the move a ‘recipe for disaster’. We of course stand behind the principle that those working within the early years deserve fair and reasonable pay, but this call for action avoids mention of adequate financial support for the sector as a whole. Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of NDNA, has said ‘a plan on how childcare funding will keep up is required, given the years of chronic underfunding.’
Nursery closures increase by half in one year
Research by the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) found an increase of 72 nurseries closed between September 2022 and 2023 — a 50 per cent increase on the previous year.
Children and Young People Now have highlighted that 14.5 per cent of nursery closures were located within the 10 per cent most deprived areas of England. This, alongside the staffing cost increase at a soaring 14 per cent against the government’s funding averaging at 3.4 per cent, creates an increased effect on the staffing and retention issue in the childcare sector, ultimately creating a catch-22 scenario that is impossible to break.
Nursery chain's concern over government's funding plans
The government has recently announced a scheme offering families in England 30 free hours of childcare a week for three and four-year-olds which will be extended to cover younger children. The scheme which will start in April 2024, will see eligible parents be offered 15 hours of free childcare a week.
BBC suggests concerns on whether there will be enough capacity within the sector to support the government’s plans. Recruitment and retention of staff within the childcare sector has been a cause for concern for many years. The immense pressure combined with the increasing workload has had a detrimental effect on the passion and desire to work within the sector. It’s vitally important that practitioners are appreciated for the crucial role they play within the early years and are rewarded appropriately.
Recruitment and retention crisis has increased the skills gap in the early years workforce
Immense pressure on setting managers’ workloads and stress levels are at a rise due to the 2 per cent increase in early years skills gap within the last five years. Nursery World revealed, in 2022 there was an increase of 4,000 job postings within the sector compared to 2017.
The recruitment and retention crisis inevitably leads to a skills gap, with experienced staff leaving and staff with little post-qualification practice stepping into management and leadership positions. NCFE identifies ‘qualifications and training’ as being the focus to tackle skill gaps within the education sector. To close the disadvantage gap, early years professionals must have access to professional development and training opportunities.
Early years math’s programme receives funding for expansion
The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has secured funding to nationally roll out a 12-month Maths Champions programme for up to 405 private, voluntary or independently maintained and school-based nurseries.
Nursery Management Today recently gave insight in n to the innovative programme which includes a range of bespoke online training, evaluative tools and resources. The aim is to increase practitioner skills, knowledge and training. Ultimately, enhancing confidence when teaching math in early years settings. The training is to level out the playing field in supporting all pupils in their development, including ones from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Training programmes and funding within the sector play a vital role in providing the right early years education transforming the futures of children.
And that’s a wrap for our October news roundup, be sure to keep an eye out for what’s coming next month.