Nursery schools facing 11,000 shortage of qualified teachers, figures reveal

Posted on: 2018-08-08 23:00:00

Nursery schools face a shortage of nearly 11,000 qualified early years teachers in England, figures reveal.

Hundreds of thousands of children are at risk of falling behind before they start school as the government has failed to address a “chronic” shortage of qualified teachers, a charity has warned.

It comes the week after the education secretary, Damian Hinds, said it was a “persistent scandal” that pupils are starting school unable to talk in full sentences or read simple words.

The minister pledged to halve the number of youngsters beginning their schooling without the early speaking and reading skills they need at that age by 2028.

But Save the Children warned that the government is already undermining its target by failing to get the grips with the staffing crisis.

The charity argues that all young children should be in a childcare setting that is led by at least one graduate early years professional.

However, 10,731 nurseries, playgroups and children’s centres do not have staff with qualified teacher status, early years teacher status, or early years professional status, according to data obtained through freedom of information requests.

The charity calculates that this means that more than 300,000 children are at early years facilities where there is not a staff member with one of these accreditations.

Steven McIntosh, from Save The Children, said: “Children who start behind, stay behind. But high-quality childcare, led by graduate early years teachers, can ensure children are ready for school.

“So instead of lowering ambitions for childcare quality, the government should keep its promise to address the crisis in training, recruiting and retaining these underpaid and undervalued teachers.

“All of our little ones should have access to nursery care led by an early years teacher. Without action, we’ll be letting down our next generation.”

He added: “The education secretary has set out a major new ambition to improve social mobility, starting in the early years.

“Addressing this chronic shortage of skilled early years teachers must be at the forefront of this.”

The latest statistics from the Department for Education (DfE) showed 28 per cent of four and five-year-olds lacked the early communication skills – such as being able to talk about events in the past or future – expected by the end of reception year.

A study earlier this year found that nearly half of five and six-year-olds are at risk of underperforming because they have a limited vocabulary.

In a speech on social mobility last week, Mr Hinds said: “It is a persistent scandal that we have children starting school not able to communicate in full sentences, not able to read simple words.

“This matters, because when you’re behind from the start you rarely catch up. Your peers don’t wait, the gap just widens. This has a huge impact on social mobility.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Early years provision needs to be of high quality, led by qualified early years professionals, to have a positive and lasting impact on children’s outcomes.

“Children at settings without an early years teacher could be missing out, and may struggle when they start school.”

He added: “We want to see extra money for education, including early education before children start school, and renewed investment in critical services for families.

“Without proper investment, the youngest and most vulnerable in our society will be starting off behind, with uncertain chances of catching up.”

Nadhim Zahawi, children and families minister, said“Save the Children’s claim is misleading, university study is just one route into the early years workforce. There are over 250,000 dedicated professionals in the private or voluntary early years workforce, with many coming from apprenticeship or on the job training routes.”

He added: “The quality of early years childcare has risen since 2010 with 94 per cent of providers rated good or outstanding. This government wants every child to have the best start in life which is why we are investing more than any other in supporting early years education and childcare – around £6bn a year by 2020.

“Most recently the secretary of state announced a £20m fund to provide training and professional development for early years staff in disadvantaged areas to increase their ability to support children’s early speech and language development.”

Source: Independent

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