Where are all the Early Years educators: A Famly documentary

Famly’s documentary is out on our Youtube channel. Here's what you can expect.
Famly documentary
June 25, 2024
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In a rush? Here’s the quick rundown:

  • We explore Famly's goal to support teachers and address issues in education through our new documentary.
  • We look at eye-opening stats that will change the way you see the importance of the early years of a child's life.
  • We address the lack of respect for the sector and what led to the staffing and recruitment crisis.
  • Gain a few helpful tips how to improve staff retention and create a supportive work environment.

At Famly, we talk to a lot of setting owners, early childhood educators, and experts. We've seen an overarching theme that creates many of the challenges in the sector: society often underestimates the significance of early childhood education. We're passionate about the Early Years and the amazing professionals dedicated to nurturing young minds, so we're on a mission to amplify their voices.

Famly’s software already helps the community of people raising children communicate more effectively, but we want to take it a step further. We want to spread the word that the early years are a crucial time for children, and the issues facing the sector need our attention now more than ever.

That’s why we're releasing a documentary that shines a spotlight on a pressing issue: Where are all the Early Years educators? Through this documentary, we aim to highlight the importance of early childhood education and the urgent need to support those who make it possible. We hope this film will not only raise awareness but also inspire more people to join our mission and make a difference. Together, we can show our support for early years staff, and build a brighter future for our children.

“I think we’re an invisible workforce. Everyone knows we are there but don’t fully understand what goes into being a quality educator."

- Pre-school Educator

Why are the Early Years of a child's life so important?

Here are some eye-opening stats that show just how crucial those early years are in shaping a child's future.

  • Brain development: 90% of a child's brain development happens by age 5, laying the foundation for lifelong learning, behaviour, and health.
  • Language skills: Children exposed to rich language environments from birth to age 3 can learn up to 30 million more words than those in less verbal environments, significantly impacting vocabulary and language skills.
  • Educational outcomes: High-quality early education can improve school readiness and lead to better academic performance and social outcomes later in life.
  • Social skills: Early social interactions help children develop critical social skills, with studies showing that early peer play can predict better social competence and fewer behavioural problems later on.
  • Economic impact: Research indicates that for every pound invested in high-quality early childhood education, society can save up to £13 in future costs related to remedial education, health care, and the criminal justice system.

Despite their amazing work, Early Years educators are struggling with low pay and a lack of respect from the government. This has led to a major retention and recruitment crisis that we can't ignore. It’s not just a problem for those working in the sector; it also impacts the quality of care and education young children receive.

The issue has only gotten worse with recent changes in government childcare funding. Starting in April 2024, more parents will be looking for quality childcare so they can return to work. Unfortunately, there’s a significant shortage of practitioners to meet this growing demand.

Oh and by the way, if you still have some questions regarding government funding, we’ve got you covered Head over to our article on the Funding Campaign hub where we answer 14 common questions.

Famly’s Early Years documentary is here!

Famly’s documentary is out now on our YouTube channel.

This project has been a labour of love - not just from us, but also from the educators, practitioners and experts who agreed to be in the documentary and share their experience and knowledge of the sector.

Through this documentary, we aim to amplify the voices of educators and experts in the sector, shedding light on the root causes of the staffing crisis. By sharing their stories and insights, we hope to inspire action and drive positive change within the sector.

In this article, we'll provide a glimpse into the insights we've gathered through our research and discussions with experts during the documentary production. We hope to spark your curiosity and get you ready for the upcoming release (maybe even convince you to click the notification button on our channel !).

What led to the Early Years crisis?

The shortage of Early Years educators is more than just a statistic —it's a serious challenge impacting the quality of care and education for young children.

Educators face inadequate pay, and lack of recognition and respect. These issues are chipping away at staff’s passion, dedication and hope for the future of the sector.

This crisis highlights the need to respect and value the Early Years workforce before things go beyond repair. It's a matter of urgency for recruitment and retention.

As Neil Leitch OBE, CEO of the Early Years Alliance, puts it:

“You can judge the strength of a government by the way it cares for its youngest children – but more importantly, by the way, it cares for those people who educate and care for those children.”

In October 2021, The Early Years Alliance initiated a comprehensive survey focusing on staff recruitment and retention within England's Early Years sector that explains the effects of the crisis. Gathering insights from 1,395 participants across nurseries, pre-schools, and select childminding establishments, the survey unearthed some compelling findings:

  • More than 8 in 10 settings are grappling with challenges in staff recruitment.
  • Around half of the settings surveyed had to limit new enrollments or stop admissions entirely in the six months before the survey.
  • Over a third of respondents are actively contemplating exiting the sector.
  • Alarmingly, one in six establishments are concerned that ongoing staffing shortages may prompt permanent closures within the next year.

The documentary shows how Early Years qualifications have improved through professionalisation and training, taking viewers on a journey of evolution. However, despite these advancements, recruitment challenges continue because of misconceptions and systemic barriers.

Through in-depth interviews and research, we dig into what's causing the shortage of educators and explore some potential solutions to tackle these workforce challenges.

early years educator sitting looking sad

Addressing the lack of respect for the sector

We found from Famly’s own Respect the Sector report that:

  • 95% of the Early Years staff we surveyed don’t feel respected by politicians and policymakers.
  • A further 70% feel they lack respect from wider society.
  • More than half believe the Early Years has a reputation problem (57%).

A lack of respect for the sector has made it hard to recruit new talent. Along with our "Respect the Sector" report, our upcoming documentary is here to challenge society’s beliefs on Early Years educators.

We want to recognise and appreciate the vital role they play in helping future generations grow and develop. By highlighting their daily impact and dedication, we hope to raise awareness and appreciation. This can also help attract diverse talent to the sector, ensuring a bright future for the industry.

In our upcoming documentary, we took to the streets to ask the UK public what they think about Early Years educators and the work they do. The responses were interesting and reflected the data we've seen about public perceptions.

However, we also discovered an openness to learn, and a recognition of the gap in understanding that contributes to the problem. Individuals we spoke to admitted they didn't fully grasp the importance and complexity of the role until they had their own children, highlighting a significant opportunity to educate and shift these perceptions.

Early Years expert Cathy Nutbrown explains the perception issues faced by the sector and how it contributes to the staffing crisis:

“Too often, the Early Years sector is seen as low-skilled and low-status, which has a direct impact on who wants to enrol on courses. I have heard dozens of examples of people being told to study childcare because they lacked the qualifications to enrol on other courses, or because it was the only course with places available.

Almost universally this happens to women. And this does not apply just to 16-18-year-olds; I have heard other examples of adults being encouraged into childcare as a career by the local job centre, despite having no previous experience or present inclination.”

Nutbrown review 2012

The Impact of funding:

Government funding plays a pivotal role in supporting the Early Years sector. Chronic underfunding has slowed down efforts to attract and retain qualified staff. The prospect of "30 hours of funded childcare for every child over the age of 9 months" may seem like a beacon of hope for numerous parents. Yet, the reality is far from simple.

Numerous nursery settings find themselves wrestling with underfunding, which makes it seemingly impossible to deliver quality care and education, while also meeting payroll.

With expenses on the rise, certain nurseries find themselves unable to deliver the funded hours without jeopardising quality. Both parents and managers face uncertainties about application procedures, capacity management, and confidence in governmental programs.

Given the recent updates in childcare funding from the government, nurseries across the UK may soon face the challenge of accommodating an additional 85,000 children, requiring an estimated 40,000 additional staff. However, in the middle of the current crisis, meeting these demands appears increasingly improbable.

Future solutions:

As we look to the future, our focus is on fostering positive change within the Early Years sector. Collaborating with the government and experts within the sector, we hope through

Through our documentary and ongoing conversations, we want to show that Early Years practitioners are not just babysitters. They are knowledgeable professionals shaping the future. Additionally, by advocating for improved pay, enhanced training opportunities, and recognition of their invaluable contributions, we hope to gain an increased interest and appreciation in the sector.

To be notified when the documentary is released subscribe to our YouTube channel and enable notifications. We’ll see you there.

Early Years educator high fiving a young child

Tips to improve staff retention at your setting

Although we can't solve all sector issues, managers and leaders can do small things to create a better work environment and keep staff happy. Here are a few tips:

Lead by example

To have an engaged and motivated staff, you have to lead by example and set the tone. Any team is only as good as its leader.

Working in the Early Years can be stressful, but leaders need to prioritise their mental well-being. Your attitude can impact your team, so it's crucial to maintain a positive mindset.

This means:

  • Value yourself, your input, and your own time. Set healthy boundaries and manage expectations.
  • Get adequate sleep (even - and especially - if you are stressed out)
  • Get a good balance of nutrition and physical activity
  • Maintain your own work-life balance by taking the time to enjoy some relaxing activities.

Creating a supportive culture:

Make sure to consistently recognise and appreciate your team's hard work. Create an environment where staff know you are approachable and want to help them succeed and find solutions when needed.

Promote collaboration:

Encourage collaboration and ensure everyone feels valued. Take time to connect with your team personally, even if it is just a 15-minute one-on-one conversation every two weeks. Include funds for occasional team outings in your budget plan. This will create a fun and supportive work environment and can help relieve stress.

Encourage professional development:

  • Invest in your team’s professional development by providing opportunities for continuous learning. Whether it's workshops, certifications, or mentorship programs, investing in your team's growth shows your commitment to their success, and simply, that you care.
  • Celebrate milestones and accomplishments within your team. Acknowledge their hard work and dedication, as this will boost morale and give them a sense of pride in their roles.

Encourage open communication:

  • Listen and learn: Create an environment where open communication is encouraged. Take the time to listen to your team's feedback, concerns, and suggestions, showing that their opinions and perspectives are valued.
  • Act on feedback: Actively address issues raised by your staff and work together to find solutions - key word: together.

The big ideas

download pdf
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Official Danish Government Reopening Advice

Guidance from the Danish Health Ministry, translated in full to English.

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UK Nursery Covid-19 Response Group Recommendations

The full recommendations from a working group of over 70 nursery chains in the UK.

Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.

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