The Covid-19 pandemic and the early years workforce: Nov-Feb findings

This report from UK think tank the Education Policy Institute looks at staffing decisions in an uncertain environment.

This report from UK think tank the EPI and the NDNA finds that shows the early years sector is heavily reliant on the furlough scheme, with up to 4 in 10 staff furloughed over winter. This report shows nurseries, pre-schools, and other early years settings have been heavily reliant on the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention scheme during the height of the winter lockdown. The report, which looks at how early years settings in England, Scotland and Wales were impacted by the pandemic during the winter months, shows that a lack of demand for early years education from families and financial instability in the sector led to a large proportion of staff being placed on the furlough scheme. Overall, up to around 4 in 10 (38%) early years staff were placed on full or part-time furlough between the months of November and February – nearly four times more than the sector had previously projected for this period (10%). Staff with the lowest qualification levels bore the brunt of disruption to the early years workforce, as they were more likely to be placed on full-time furlough. These staff are also at greater risk of having their hours reduced or being made redundant, with settings reporting that they consider staff qualifications and experience when making changes to their workforce. The new survey, which covers almost 800 private, voluntary, and independent (PVI) early years settings representing over 15,000 staff, also reveals stark findings on the scale of closures in the sector during the peak of the second wave of the virus. As many as three-quarters (72%) of settings in England and Wales were forced into full or partial closures over the last few months, with children’s overall attendance around a quarter less than it was in the year before this, prior to the pandemic. With lockdowns easing and demand from families for early years places set to increase again, researchers warn that without extra government support, many settings could struggle to meet these pressures, which in turn could threaten the quality of children’s early education.

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