The number of people training to become early years teachers has dropped by a third in England.
According to figures published yesterday, just 365 people are embarking on this course – a decrease of 84 per cent since 2013-14.
The drop was greeted with alarm by Save the Children. Steven McIntosh, the director of UK policy, advocacy and campaigns at the charity, said: “This steep decline in early years teacher trainees represents a crisis in the childcare workforce.
“Highly qualified early years teachers play a crucial role in helping children catch up, and are especially needed now with recent figures showing that poorer children are still so much more likely to fall behind by the time they start primary school.”
Save the Chldren said that two in five (43 per cent) of children in poverty were unable to speak in full sentences, follow basic instructions and express themselves in their first year of primary school.
The charity said that 11,000 more early years teachers are needed, and has published a report showing that teachers are leaving the sector because of poor pay, progression and conditions.
The report calls on the government to:
- Increase awareness about the support available to people to become early years teachers through current government funding
- Improve the induction and career support for those in the sector to improve retention and impact
- Target investment to support early years teachers in disadvantaged areas by trialling salary supplement schemes and early career payments.
Mr McIntosh added: “The government’s commitment to close this early learning gap is welcome, but it is failing to invest in what we know works – a highly qualified childcare workforce.
“Unless the government gets to grips with this staffing crisis, a generation of children are at risk of being left behind.”
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: “Save the Children is right to argue that more must be done to ensure the early years sector is able to both recruit and retain high-quality practitioners.
“With salaries in the sector among the lowest across all industries, and a continued lack of funding preventing many providers investing in adequate professional development and training for their staff, we are seeing far too many excellent practitioners making the difficult decision to leave the sector.”
Commenting on the report, James Bowen, director of NAHT Edge, said: “Rather than feel like they are being treated as the highly skilled and knowledgeable professionals that they are, [early years teachers] are often left feeling like second-class citizens in a system that for some inexplicable reason still appears to underestimate and undervalue the critical and complex nature of their work.”