ECEC shortages in England: 95% of Councils struggling for staff
The Sector > Jobs News > 95% of English councils can’t find staff: ECEC workforce crisis isn’t limited to Australia

95% of English councils can’t find staff: ECEC workforce crisis isn’t limited to Australia

by Freya Lucas

September 04, 2023

95 per cent of English councils are having difficulty recruiting early years staff “with the right skills and experience to do the job,” a recent analysis of data by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) confirmed. 


Eight in 10 local authorities described the recruitment of early years staff as “very difficult” when approached via survey, with the East of England, the West Midlands and the North East worst affected. 


As well as mirroring the Australian experience and highlighting the global challenges faced in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) workforce space, the findings lend wait to calls from the TUC for a new care workforce strategy to tackle the staffing crisis in the care sector at all sections of the lifespan. 


TUC notes that the care sector as a whole is facing issues stemming from “endemic low pay and insecure work, which hits their predominantly female workforces hard”.


In England, more than three in five early childhood educators earn less than the real living wage of £10.90 (approximately AU$21) an hour, according to the report.


Just like Australia, governments in both England and Scotland are reforming the early learning space to make it easier for families to access more subsidised care, which is driving demand up while staffing pressures remain. 


In response TUC has made several recommendations to improve recruitment and retention, calling for the health, safety, and wellbeing of care workers to be at the forefront of decision making, including ensuring that staffing levels are “based on care and education needs and not arbitrary ratios”.


The union body is also urging ministers to “introduce decent pay and conditions for all care workers including a minimum wage of £15 per hour (approximately AU$29), sick pay, secure contracts and full payment for all time worked”. 


Neil Leitch, Chief Executive of the UK’s Early Years Alliance, responded to the research by saying that “for far too long, working in the early years has meant being overworked, underpaid and undervalued. It comes as absolutely no surprise, therefore, that so many settings are finding it so difficult to attract and recruit suitable staff.”


“And of course, it’s not just an issue of recruitment,” he continued. 


“Over recent months and years, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of existing early years professionals opting to leave the sector permanently, taking with them extensive experience and expertise that we simply cannot afford to lose, especially in light of the planned expansion of the early entitlement offers.”


Access the TUC findings here. For local coverage of this story, please see here.

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