Open letter to Nadhim Zahawi MP - Address the early years teacher shortage

Posted On: 
25th July 2018

In an open letter to Nadhim Zahawi, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education, Save the Children has come together with leading academics, union leaders and education bodies, calling on the government to keep its promise to address the early years teacher shortage, and set out a strategy to recruit and retain these vital early years teachers.

Last week the Government announced it would be dropping a commitment to look at ways to grow the number of early years teachers. Currently there is a shortage of more than 16,000 early years teachers across England. 

In an open letter to Nadhim Zahawi, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education, Save the Children has come together with leading academics, union leaders and education bodies, including the National Association of Head Teachers, Ark academies and the National Day Nurseries Association to criticise the move. The letter calls on the government to keep its promise to address the early years teacher shortage, and set out a strategy to recruit and retain these vital early years teachers.

Steven McIntosh, Director of UK Poverty at Save the Children said:

"The government’s decision to drop this commitment is a huge setback for disadvantaged children in England. After years of inaction, this represents a failure of ambition for improving support in the early years. 
 
Graduate early years teachers are the strongest indicator of quality childcare for England’s preschool children. They play a decisive role in boosting early development and closing the early learning gap for disadvantaged children. We are already facing a critical and worsening shortage of early years teachers across the country. The government has acknowledged the problem, but abandoned its commitment to address it. 
 
Unless we see urgent investment in quality early education and increasing the number of skilled early years teachers, the government will be letting down thousands of children falling behind in their pre-school years."

 

Open letter to Nadhim Zahawi MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

Dear Minister, 

Strong early development is the foundation upon which life chances are built. Evidence shows children with poor levels of development at age five are more likely to struggle throughout primary and secondary school, impacting their chances of success well into adulthood.  

We welcome the government’s ambition to close the early learning gap for the most disadvantaged children. However, we are extremely concerned that you have decided to drop your commitment to grow the graduate early years workforce. This will deny thousands of disadvantaged children vital support that can set them up for life.  

As you know, early years practitioners work tirelessly to ensure that children have the best start to life, but they require more support from government. The evidence, and many of our organisations’ work with children and families, show that high quality early education led by specialist graduate early years teachers make a decisive difference in boosting the early development of children, particularly in literacy and for those most likely to fall behind.  

Graduate early years teachers are one of the strongest indicators of high quality education for England’s preschool children. Early years teachers are adept at supporting children to learn in a nursery setting and are skilled in observing children’s progress to best support those at risk of falling behind. They also play an important role in working with other staff and crucially parents – giving them the support they need to help with their children’s learning at home. 

There is a critical shortage of early years teachers across the country. The numbers starting early years initial teacher training have plummeted and many existing graduate level staff are approaching retirement age. With a wider retention crisis in the sector, the problem only stands to get worse, as we lose level 3 practitioners who have minimal support to progress onto graduate study and little reward or recognition when they do.  

The commitment set out in the Early Years Workforce Strategy to conduct a feasibility study into growing the graduate workforce was an important step towards addressing this problem and understanding what works in boosting recruitment and retention in early education.  

The Department is making welcome investment in identifying new approaches to supporting children’s early learning, yet we are alarmed that the Department is going backwards on what we already know works – early years provision led by early years teachers.  

If you are committed to closing the early development gap and boosting social mobility, the department should be raising its level of ambition for the quality of early years education rather than lowering it.  

Yours sincerely,  

Lydia Cuddy-Gibbs - Head of Early Years, Ark

Beatrice Merrick - Chief Executive, Early Education

Paul Whiteman - General Secretar, National Association of Head Teachers

Purnima Tanuku - Chief Executive, National Day Nurseries Association

Sandra Mathers - Senior Researcher, Oxford University

Professor Edward Melhuish - Professor of Human Development, Oxford University

Professor Kathy Sylva - Professor of Educational Psychology, Oxford University

Liz Bayram - Chief Executive, Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years

Steven McIntosh - Director of UK Poverty, Save the Children

Sally Pearse - Head of Early Years Initial Training, Sheffiled Hallam University and Early Years Lead for South Yorkshire Futures

Deborah Lawson - General Secretary, Voice the Union

Dr. Elizabeth Kilbey, Consultant Clinical Psychologist