Early years are ‘an invisible workforce’ – report

More than nine in ten childcare workers feel they are disrespected by government and policy makers, while seven in ten feel disrespected by the public, according to a survey by the childcare platform Family childhood.

Negative stereotypes are rife, including that working in the early years is ‘just babysitting’, ‘playing with toys all day’ and that ‘there’s no skill in the job’ .

More than half also believe that early childhood has a reputational problem.

Respect the industry – Early Years Reputation report is based on findings of an online survey conducted last month by Famly, which received 740 responses.

Main conclusions:

  • 95% of respondents do not feel respected by politicians or decision-makers
  • 69% feel disrespected by society at large
  • 86% currently have difficulty recruiting staff

Lack of respect fuels young workers’ opinions of their jobs, with 41% saying they have mixed feelings. Only 39 percent said they felt overall positive about working in the early years, and only 12 percent felt very positive. The majority, over 41%, have mixed feelings about their work.

“And this tension between a vocation that they love and a profession that is becoming more and more demanding, emerged clearly from the answers. “Although I love what I do,” one person said, “at the moment it’s still so negative,” the report said.

The report’s author, Matt Arnerich, acknowledges that for many, the findings about early childhood stereotypes are nothing new and will come as no surprise to many.

But he said: ‘It is time to stop the false equivalence that early childhood settings cannot juggle the twin goals of getting more women back to work and providing high quality early education in its phase. the most important. Other countries are doing it, and it’s time for the UK to find its way. Negative stereotypes breed disrespect. This lack of respect prevents adult conversations about funding and blocks recruiting. If we are serious about giving young children the best possible start in life, we must break this cycle.

One respondent said: “We are told we are professionals with professional knowledge – the front line of the EYFS says we have the most important job in the country and yet the wages are lower than those of a factory worker. ‘factory”.

Another said: ‘I think we are an invisible workforce. Everyone knows we’re here, but doesn’t quite understand what it takes to be a quality educator and provide so many opportunities and experiences for kids in a week.

These mixed feelings are reflected in the words young workers used to describe working in the sector. When asked to choose from a varied list of words, 77% said ‘rewarding’, while a similar proportion said ‘stressful’ (75%).

The other words were “tiring” (70%), “frustrating” (58%) and “fun” (50%).

But when respondents were also asked to choose their own adjectives, many were negative, with the terms ‘undervalued’, ‘underpaid’ and ‘ignored’ being common.

An anonymous respondent said: ‘[Working in early years is] soul destroyer; I earned minimum wage for eight years.

Those who worked the longest in the industry were more likely to have negative feelings about employment. Feeders said they felt “lonely” – 16%, compared to 5% of practitioners.

Recommendations from the report include using educator or teacher to refer to those who educate

  • Use ‘educator’ or teacher” to designate those who educate children from birth to five years
  • An immediate revision of financing rates to match the cost of delivery
  • Public campaigns to address the root cause – a lack of understanding of the vital importance of a child’s early years and the workers who support them.

Commenting, Neil Leitch, CEO of the Early Years Alliance, said, “It is disappointing, but sadly not at all surprising, that 95% of respondents do not feel respected by decision makers and politicians. For too long the early years sector has been treated appallingly by the government, not only in terms of the funding the sector receives, but also the way our workforce has been consistently looked down upon and under-served. assessed by decision makers.

“Despite a mountain of research highlighting how valuable early educators are in helping children develop lifelong skills and learning, the sector continues to fall lower and lower on the list of government priorities. .

“The fact that staffing challenges have been listed as the top concern for professionals shows how the current recruitment and retention crisis, which has been largely driven by both low pay and a continued lack of respect for early education in this country, has become .’

Michael A. Bynum