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Nearly half of early years settings have unfilled vacancies, new survey finds

By Deri Jones
45% of private and voluntary sector settings are set to have unfilled vacancies, according to a recent survey conducted by independent research company Ceeda.
The survey, which ran in July and August this year, also found that 84% of those asked said they were finding the posts difficult to fill, while more than half of those asked said they were looking for staff with a level three qualification in childcare, who are able to help meet legal requirements for adult-child ratios.
Ceeda also estimates that there are 4,180 current vacancies for apprentices, meaning that entry-level roles are also going unfilled.
Qualification change
Earlier this year, the government reversed its previous decision to require early years practitioners to have a GCSE in maths and English, instead of Functional Skills or other qualifications, in order to count in Level 3 ratios. However, the impact of this policy is still being felt, with the number of students finishing a Level 3 childcare course halving between 2014 and 2016.  
Janet King, senior subject specialist in childcare at qualification provider Cache, commented: “Following the additional of functional skills as accepted maths and English qualifications announced in the workforce strategy, settings are reporting learners progressing to level three; however, this will take time to address the recruitment issues caused by the previous GCSE requirement.”
Recruitment concerns
However, Ceeda also noted that survey respondents cited a number of other reasons behind the recruitment problems, with 34% of providers saying that job applicants lack the required disposition for a job in childcare and 27% noting that there was a general lack of interest in childcare as a career option. Other concerns raised in the survey include pay rates, potential for career progression and perceptions of a childcare as a woman’s job. Just 5% of those who responded to the survey were male.
30-hours impact
Dr Jo Verrill, managing director, warned that these challenges could put added pressure on settings as the government looks to double the number of funded hours of childcare offered to some working parents, saying: “To recruit and retain staff employers need to remain competitive. As the 30-hour childcare offer rolls out across the country, Government funding levels have an ever-increasing influence on what the sector can afford to pay its workers.”
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, added: “If the 30-hours is to have any chance of succeeding, we need to be able to attract and retain quality, experienced childcare staff – and this means paying them a fair wage for what is an absolutely vital educational role. Clearly this can only happen with adequate funding and so until the government addresses this fundamental issue, this is likely to be yet another challenge facing an already struggling sector.”
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