The Early Years Workforce

This report looks at the development of the early years workforce since 2012. In 2012, the Nutbrown Review made 19 recommendations for improvement in the sector, aimed at attracting more highly qualified candidates. The Government accepted four of these recommendations, including that there should not be a single early years qualification, but instead different routes to attain the same standard.

The report:

  • details new Government policy that has been introduced since 2012;
  • reviews evidence into what impact the policy changes have had on the early years workforce; and
  • considers how issues raised in 2012 have been addressed, and what remains to be done.

Considering recent Government policy, the report argues that it has caused a downward trend in qualification attainment for the early years workforce. For example, the Government introduced policies to provide free childcare places for disadvantaged two-year olds and a certain number of free hours for working parents of three and four-year olds. To aid with recruitment to meet the estimated increased demand, the Government removed the minimum qualification requirement of level 2 (Grace C or above) in English and maths.

The report states that this change received a mixed reaction from the sector. It argues that evidence has shown that highly skilled and well-qualified early years professionals make a proven difference to the level of development and learning attained by young children, especially children from low income and at-risk families. Consequently, the Sutton Trust has recommended that Level 3 qualifications (equivalent to A level) should be the benchmark for professionals in the sector, and support should be given to develop new recruits to reach this level. Others have argued that qualification requirements such as these put up barriers to entering the profession.

The Sutton Trust sets out a general framework for the future, which the Trust says is partly based on the previous Nutbrown recommendations but also responds to newer concerns. It argues that these priorities need to be addressed to improve the life chances of the most disadvantaged children and to enhance social mobility.

Read the full report: Sutton Trust, Early Years Workforce Review25 August 2020.  

Generation Covid

The Health Foundation analysed data gathered by various organisations, such as YouGov, the Office for National Statistics, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and University College London, to consider the short and long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic on young people. The Health Foundation considered findings across four key areas: 

  • WellbeingIt found that the mental health of young people has declined “substantially” during the pandemic. 
  • Housing Analysis from a YouGov survey showed that 16% of 18 to 24-year olds did not have access to a garden, balcony or terrace area in their homes during the lockdown period. The report raised concerns that growing up with inadequate space may cause greater health problems later.  
  • Work—It found that groups of young people were affected differently. Those in low income employment were more likely to lose their jobs or have their hours cutIn addition, young people from a minority ethnic background were twice as likely to have lost their job or to have had their hours cut, compared to their white counterparts.  
  • Relationships—60% of 16 to 29-year olds felt that lockdown has negatively affected their friendships.  

The report concludes that the pandemic has brought existing inequalities into much sharper focus. To help reduce the long-term impact of the pandemic on young people, and to prevent inequalities from widening, the Health Foundation suggests a number of priorities for policy makers. These include increasing funding for youth services and better monitoring of wellbeing in educational settings.  

Read the full report: The Health Foundation, Generation Covid-19, 30 August 2020.

Social Networks as a Safety Net

Research carried out over the last two years has suggested that support from friends and family is a useful safety net for those on low incomes. However, this support icurrently subject to change due to Covid-19. This Social Policy blog post focuses on the impact the pandemic has had on social support networks for vulnerable families.  

The author begins by outlining the scale of financial loss for families at the outbreak of the pandemic. She states that a quarter of UK households lost “all or a substantial part of their earned income” in the first three weeks of lockdown.  

She then outlines the Government support that was made available to those affected. However, she points out that the pandemic also came with additional childcare and health concerns, which further impacted families’ wellbeing.  

The author notes that, prior to the pandemic, families on low incomes had relied on social networks for support. This could be in the form of financial gifts or loans, or through childcare and moral support. She raises concerns about how the pandemic alters this support. For example, grandparents who previously looked after children may now be shielding and others who supported families may have their own financial issues to deal with 

The author argues that the Government’s additional help “tacitly recognises” that the current universal credit provision is not enough. With further research, she asks whether this could be a turning point in implementing policy which fully supports those who need help.

Read the full article: Katherine Hill, Social support networks: a new safety net in the Covid-19 crisis?’, Social Policy Blog, 17 August 2020.