High staff turnover and recruitment difficulties impacting early years providers in Wales

Olivia Rook
Friday, September 6, 2019

Over two thirds of employers have reported difficulties in recruiting childcare professionals qualified to Level 3.

Based on an above average turnover of 19.4 per cent , the sector is spending £56.6m in replacing staff.
Based on an above average turnover of 19.4 per cent , the sector is spending £56.6m in replacing staff.

Childcare settings in Wales are facing recruitment challenges since the 30-hour offer was rolled out, according to the results of a survey.

As a result of the policy, providers have seen an increase in the number of children taking up places at nurseries, which means they have increased the hours of existing staff or have needed to recruit more people.

This has likely contributed to the demand for Level 3, qualified staff. According to the survey of 118 nurseries by National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) Cymru, staff at this level make up 58.8 per cent of the overall workforce. While it is to be expected there will be greater turnover at this level, they make up 64 per cent of all leavers.

Over two thirds of employers have reported difficulties in recruiting childcare professionals at this level. According to employers, there has not been the same need to recruit staff qualified in Level 4, 5, graduate or nursery manager level, which could be due to greater stability in the roles.

Based on an above average turnover of 19.4 per cent and an average advertised salary of £15,300, the sector is spending an estimated £56.6m in replacing staff. This equates to £12,300 per member of staff. The figure is based on the Welsh Government’s estimation of 17,000 working in the sector across Wales.

One nursery provider said: ‘Availability of good quality staff to meet ratios and develop all areas of nursery remains a huge problem.’

Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief executive of NDNA, commented: ‘Research shows that a skilled and knowledgeable early years workforce provides a strong foundation for a child’s learning and development. It’s the dedication of staff in nurseries that provide the high-quality provision which gives children the best outcomes.

‘Employers are restricted by government funding for Foundation Phase and Childcare Offer, so many cannot reward their qualified and experienced staff in the way they would want to.’

The NDNA survey shows that over half of early years settings expect their staffing costs to rise above the rate of inflation as a result of changes to national minimum wage and national living wage, and employers’ pension contributions rising from 2 to 3 per cent.  Almost 14 per cent of respondents believed their costs could rise by more than 12 per cent.

Ms Tanuku added: ‘As minimum wages increase each year, alongside other costs, nurseries need to have the reassurance that funding rates match these rising costs. As other costs rise, it is not surprising to see that nurseries are struggling to increase their current training budgets to support upskilling the workforce.’

The Welsh Government’s decision to make registered childcare businesses exempt from paying business rates has positively impacted settings, with two thirds of those who received the relief able to provide examples of where the money saved has been used. Providers reported greater investment in their staff, more training and keeping fees low for parents. It has also helped some businesses stay afloat by making up shortfalls in funding.

What about Brexit?
Brexit is having an effect on the childcare sector in Wales, but the survey shows that numbers remain low at present: 6.7 per cent of employers with EU staff reported that a member of staff had left the setting due to Brexit uncertainty.

Also in Wales…
It was also announced this week that Wales will be offering new childcare qualifications to improve education options to those in the sector. Alongside health and social care courses, existing childcare qualifications have been consolidated, with over 240 qualifications reduced to around 20.

The majority of the new qualifications will be introduced in September 2019, with the remainder becoming available in September 2020. There will be a transition period for students already working towards existing qualifications. 

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