Now that Mr Hinds has discovered the error of the ways in education when will he have the same epiphany about Early Years?

March 12th 2018

The new Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds MP has admitted that school funding is “tight” and an issue for headteachers. He agreed that it is “vital” for the education system to be “properly resourced”!  He didn’t say too much about the real cuts to education which have not been topped up by the additional funding which means the schools remain short changed.  He acknowledged that staff retention is a major problem something he hopes to tackle through his newly-announced recruitment and retention strategy. I suspect he may not be able to resolve this without looking at funding though!

Now he has had this epiphany, he might be wise to pay attention to the same issues in Early Years. Just a reminder, we have had a recruitment problem since Elizabeth Truss made the fatal decision in January 2013 to insist on A to C as an entry requirement. It was an ill-considered arrogant decision which we warned against.   We knew that it would cause a recruitment crisis that is still alive and kicking. It’s now an employer problem.  Rather serious when you think the sector brings £3billion (£685m from social sector) to the GDP.

So here we are with our dry pipeline and like schools experiencing a funding shortfall so implementing key steps of a retention strategy such as increase the status and upping the salary is hard.

The 2018 NDNA Report says:

  • Eighty six percent (86%) of nurseries have lost staff this year.
  • It is better qualified staff who are leaving with almost 20% fewer Level 3 qualified practitioners within the day nursery sector than compared to 2015.
  • Of those Level 3 staff who are leaving or who have left, 80% have gone to jobs outside the sector, with almost half of graduates and early years teachers following suit.
  • Two thirds of nursery managers say that they are unable to recruit suitable replacements for the qualified staff they have lost due to a lack of candidates.
  • Sixty nine percent (69%) of Level 3 leavers move out of early years because they have lost passion for working in the sector due to policy changes.
  • Fifty one percent (51%) of those entering as unqualified workers or apprentices have left or not been retained as they were unsuited to the role.
  • A third of employers are limiting CPD to mandatory training only due to budget constraints as a result of poor funding levels.

What can you do Mr Hinds? You have a flagship Early Years policy which promises parents an additional funded 30 childcare which they want to access. However, the sector is without staff and many of the staff available give Dorothy and the Tinman  a run for their money. They have but a beating heart.

They are not good enough, well trained enough or capable enough to do what is necessary to lead fantastic teaching. We have tried rubbing the genies’ lantern to get more staff but it doesn’t work.

We know that we need, the best staff to drive the best services.  With low funding many struggle to pay the National Living Wage and consider the challenge for those of us in London desperately trying to pay the London Living wage, which keeps going up, but our income doesn’t.

There has been no investment in training and CPD. Yet we hear your well- meaning colleagues such as Robert Halfon MP asking us to deliver Apprenticeship Degrees?  We would do so happily and more besides, but how can we make all those costs align on £4.30 an hour? There is much change coming down the line with Technical Levels which requires us to be ready to support more trainees and apprentices.  Mentoring and training is key to this but where have we space or flexibility to deliver?

Mr Hinds refers to £42m additional fund to develop a CPD fund.  Perhaps you could make it easy for us to access the funds which increases training and other learning opportunities for staff. We need staff that can run high quality nurseries and schools which are creative, well organised, educational hotbeds fizzing with love and enthusiasm.  The “beating heart” needs to connect to the brain and the emotions to create teaching super stars everywhere.  As Secretary of State you are a leader and as such will share a lot of what we value and expect from great Early Years leaders.


See if you can use some of these traits and behaviour to help us and in doing so build your credibility as a leader.

The importance of what we provide for children is paramount and cannot continue to be the political football it has become.  Do you remember Chumbawamba from the mid 80s? Our very creative Finance Director reminded me recently of their political reinterpretation of the rhyme Jack Horner from their album The Unfairy Tale (1985). The children rise up saying:

…Jack get out, don’t sell out, don’t compromise with Christmas pies. Keep shouting back, you tell ’em Jack, don’t swallow none of their crap. Calling Jack Horner’s everywhere, don’t bend to authority which doesn’t care, you know they’ll keep you in that corner ’till you’re dead.

So, Mr Hinds, what will you do?