New Report Highlights Acute Shortage Of Nursery Teachers Across England

 A new report by Save the Children highlights a shortage of 10,000 trained nursery teachers up and down the country, leading to calls for the government to invest urgently in the sector. The charity warns that more than a quarter of a million children are at greater risk of falling behind by the time they reach school – and staying behind throughout their lives – because of England’s chronic  shortage of nursery teachers. While all nurseries have staff who are trained to care for children, not all have a qualified early years teachers among their staff.

Research commissioned by the charity found that children in independent nurseries without an early years teacher are almost 10% less likely to meet the expected levels of development when they start school compared to children who do have a teacher, leaving them struggling with basic skills like speaking full sentences, using tenses, and following simple instructions. Children who start behind are also more likely to stay behind throughout their school years and beyond into their work lives.

Yet worryingly, the number of people applying for the teaching roles has dropped dramatically to 860 last year from more than 2,300 the year before - well below the number needed to fill the gaps. A shrinking number of available positions, poor salaries, and a lack of promotion opportunities is driving this chronic shortage as nurseries around the country struggle to cope with funding pressures and afford the costs of training and recruitment.

Shropshire, Hull and the London borough of Newham are the worst affected with less than 20% of children in independent settings getting access to a qualified nursery teacher. Children in Bristol, Brighton and Hove, and Sunderland have the greatest access.

While the poorest areas are generally the worst affected, even in wealthier parts like Sutton, only 28% of independent nurseries have a qualified early years teacher to help children develop their early language skills, identify those who are struggling, and help them catch up by the time they reach school.

And the problem is country-wide:

  • Over half of children in independent nurseries in the West Midlands don’t have a qualified teacher (58%)
  • In the North West, 45% of children are in independent nurseries without a qualified teacher
  • Even in the south east, 50% of children in independent nurseries don’t have a qualified teacher working with them

Early language skills are the fundamental building blocks for a child’s development, confidence and ability to learn. Previous research from the charity shows that children already behind at the age of five are four times more likely to fall below expected standards of reading by the end of primary school than those who started school on track, and are more likely to struggle to succeed in the world of work. It can also have a significant impact on their confidence, social skills, relationships, and behaviour.

In order to meet its ambitions to radically boost the chances of children who are struggling, Save the Children, along with leading child development experts, is calling on the government to reverse the trend urgently by investing in a qualified early years teacher in every independent nursery across the country, starting in the 20% most deprived areas of the country, including Blackpool, Oldham, Birmingham, and Barking.

Dr Elizabeth Kilbey, a Clinical Psychologist and expert from Channel Four’s “Secret Life of Four Year Olds” programme said: “Having an early years teacher in a nursery can make all the difference to a child’s future. We know that during the early years a child’s brain is developing at its quickest rate - and that language and communication skills are the building blocks for everything else they will learn, including subjects like maths and sciences.

“But crucially, it also gives children the tools they need to build their self-esteem and confidence, and develop positive relationships with everyone around them.  Sadly, so many nurseries are struggling to afford to hire qualified teachers, and until they can, children will continue to slip through the net.”

Gareth Jenkins, Director of UK Poverty at Save the Children said: “It’s incredibly worrying that so many children in England are at risk of falling behind by the time they start school when we know they don’t have to be.

“As a country, we need to start recognising that if we want to give every child the best chance in life – no matter what their background – they must have the support they need to learn, grow and develop in the early years of their lives.

“Nurseries do an incredible job nurturing our children, but many are struggling to afford and recruit the qualified teachers they need to give children this support and support their workforce with more training and development.

“If the government is serious about creating a country that works for everyone, it’s crucial we urgently invest in a qualified teacher for every nursery across the country – giving children the support they need to reach their full potential.”

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