How many early-years professionals do we need?
This research assesses how many early-years professionals are needed to meet increased demand following the expansion of free childcare hours to under-3s announced in the Spring Budget 2023.
The expansion of childcare entitlements announced in the UK Government’s spring budget 2023 will be welcomed by many families across England. From September 2025 working parents of children aged nine months+ will have access to 30 hours per week of funded Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) in term time.
However, from a supply perspective, this new entitlement places further burden on an already over-extended workforce. More than 7 in 10 local authorities report that ECEC settings are finding it ‘very difficult’ to recruit staff with the required qualifications and experience. Over the course of the pandemic, Early years Professionals (EYP) numbers in England dropped sharply, and have yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels.
The aim of this research is to estimate how many EYPs are required to meet this expansion of childcare hours. We separate our analysis into two parts. First, we describe the modelling used to estimate future demand for EYPs. Second, we explore current pressures on the sector more broadly, which could make the implementation of the new entitlement challenging.
Our next piece in this series on ECEC explores where future governments should invest to make the EY sector more sustainable.
- By 2028 when the scheme will be fully operational, there will be 285,000 one year olds and 323,000 two years olds eligible for the scheme.
- The number of hours spent in ECEC (early childhood education and care) will rise by 46% for 1 year olds and 33% for 2 year olds by 2028.
- 27,500 early years professionals will be needed to meet this demand, an 8% expansion of the current workforce (the sector has lost 3% of the total workforce since 2019)
- The number of graduate level professionals is falling and the number of providers offering free entitlements to families is also declining.
- Median salaries for early years workers are between £22,500-£25,000. This is significantly less than median salaries in the rest of the education sector and is more in line with professions like retail and hospitality.