There are 27,200 nurseries and pre-schools in England, offering places to 1 million children. They cover 80% of all childcare places on Ofsted’s Early Years Register (EYR). The remaining 20% of places are provided by childminders (19%) and childcare on domestic premises (less than 1%).
With more than 9 out of 10 providers judged good or outstanding, the level of quality in the sector is high. This blog looks at how staff qualifications contribute to overall quality of the sector and how that varies across different areas of deprivation. We also consider why the picture is complex and recognise the need for further work.
What does the workforce look like in England’s nurseries and pre-schools?
Ofsted collects information on staff qualifications when a provider registers and this information is updated when an inspection takes place. In order to look at the relationship between qualifications and inspection outcomes, this analysis only includes nurseries and pre-schools that had received an early years inspection.
On 31 March 2018 around 221,300 staff worked in nurseries and pre-schools that had been inspected in England. The majority of staff (74%) are qualified at level 3 or above (A level or equivalent).
What impact does a qualified workforce have?
Looking at staff qualifications and provider’s most recent overall effectiveness judgement it is clear that settings with higher proportions of staff qualified to level 3 or above are more likely to have been judged good or outstanding at their most recent inspection.
This trend is most visible when looking at outstanding providers where, for those with at least 80% of staff qualified to level 3 or above, 26% were judged outstanding. In contrast, for providers with 20% or less of staff qualified at level 3 or above, only 12% were outstanding.
Where are qualified staff working?
When looking at how staff qualifications differ between providers in differing areas of deprivation (using income deprivation affecting children index, IDACI) the largest differences are found in proportions of qualified staff between the ‘most deprived’ and ‘least deprived’ quintiles. Specifically, 49% of providers in the ‘most deprived’ areas had at least 80% of staff qualified at level 3 or above, compared with 43% of providers in the ‘least deprived’ areas.
However, despite this, providers in the ‘least deprived’ areas were more likely to be judged good or outstanding compared with those in the ‘most deprived’ areas. This highlights that staff qualifications are not the only factor influencing the quality of early years provision.
This is supported by other studies, such as a report by the Nuffield foundation, which found that a nursery having qualified teachers or early years practitioners is not a strong predictor of children’s outcomes. It appears that staff qualifications are likely to be just one part of a more complex picture when looking at the factors impacting nursery and pre-school inspection outcomes.
In April 2017, the minimum requirements for literacy and numeracy qualifications were broadened in an attempt to reduce the difficulties in recruiting staff. This may have an impact on staff numbers because more individuals may have the opportunity to gain a level 3 qualification.
The Department for Education has published the Early Years Career Pathways for staff already working in the early years sector to support their career development and for those interested in working in the sector to see the range of job roles on offer.
We will continue to develop our analysis to look at how staff qualifications and other factors influence the quality of nurseries and pre-schools. As ever, we welcome your thoughts.
To clarify, and following the initial publication of this blog, nurseries and pre-schools refer to childcare on non-domestic premises.
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