From education to employment

Childcare recruitment campaign launched – with new pilot to trial £1,000 sign-on bonus

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  • Brand new recruitment campaign for early years workers launches today across TV, cinema, online, radio and out-of-home advertising
  • Recruits in 20 local authorities to receive £1,000 cash payment to join the early year’s sector as part of a new trial
  • With two months to go until 15 free hours of childcare for two-year-olds launches in April, more than 100,000 parents have registered for free childcare codes

A major new national recruitment campaign has been launched by the Department for Education today (Friday 2nd February) alongside a trial of £1,000 cash sign-on bonuses, to give nurseries and early years providers the workers they need and offer more childcare places for parents.

The recruitment drive comes as the latest data shows that 102,480 children have been registered on the system, reflecting the strength of demand across the country before the first phase of the largest-ever expansion in free childcare kicks in from April.

The rollout is set to save working parents using the full 30-hour entitlements up to £6,500 a year, doubling down on this government’s commitment to deliver a brighter future for Britain and improve economic security and opportunity for everyone.

Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan said:

“Parents shouldn’t have to choose between a career and a family and our expanded childcare offer is going to make sure of that.

“From April, hundreds of thousands of parents of two-year-olds will get 15 funded hours. This is good for families and good for the wider economy – ultimately putting more money in parents’ pockets at the end of the month.

“The fantastic nurseries, childminders and professionals across the childcare sector are central to the success of this rollout and our new recruitment campaign will support them in continuing to deliver the flexible and high-quality childcare parents need.”

The “Do Something Big” recruitment campaign is to encourage people to start a career working with small children – one part of this government’s ongoing sector support to ensure providers are in the best position to deliver the places parents need from April, September this year and next.

The campaign will look to boost recruitment across the sector by highlighting the vast array of childcare career routes and progression opportunities offering on-the-job training, flexible hours, and, most importantly, the chance to shape and support young lives. 

A £1,000 sign-on bonus for childcare workers is also being launched today to increase capacity, tackle unemployment, and offer more childcare places.

The trial – which will cover 20 local authorities across the UK – will give new starters and returners a tax-free cash payment shortly after they take up the post.

Supporting the cost of childcare and delivering a sustainable childcare sector is just one part of wider government efforts to grow the economy and reduce debt, with inflation falling from 11.1% to 4% and National Insurance by 2% in the last year alone.

This comes as new research finds half (51%) of Brits would consider working with pre-school children, and 2 in 5 (39%) agreed they would be more likely to do so if given £1,000 cash after joining.

The survey highlighted just how influential early years professionals are in a child’s development, with 97% of parents agreeing an early years professional had an impact on their child’s development, and two-thirds (66%) agreeing they are one of the most important people in their child’s life. 

Rebecca Mabey, Development Lead at a non-profit in Essex, has received her code from the Childcare Service and will be taking up 30 government-funded hours a week for her three-year-old boy from April:

“I work four days a week, and the cost of nursery fees means my partner and I have only been able to afford a limited time there, often relying on immediate family for childcare support over the last few years.

“The new hours will mean we can increase the time our little boy spends learning and socialising at nursery, give us more flexibility at work and take some of the pressure off our family who have helped so much already.

“Our second child is due in June, so the next stage of the rollout will be a huge help when baby number two comes along!”

Liam Erens, who works at a nursery in London as part of the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF), nearly let misconceptions about working in early years stop him from pursuing a career he now loves. Liam joined LEYF two years ago as part of an all-male cohort of apprentices and now works full-time as a qualified practitioner. He urges anyone considering a career in the sector to pursue it:

“‘I’ve always had an interest in childcare but I was concerned about how people may judge me […] At first, my friends commented on how I was “just” looking after children but there is so much more to the role than that.

“We are keeping children safe, nurturing them, scaffolding their learning and building the foundations for their life. An inclusive ethos is an important part of this.” 

The government has also today taken steps to provide greater funding certainty to nurseries and childcare providers. Each year, the government sets out funding rates in the autumn, to take effect in the following financial year. A window – likely to be 8 weeks – will be introduced, within which local authorities have to confirm rates, after the point the Department announces local authority rates. We will work with the sector in the coming weeks to finalise the approach.

The government has also made clear to all local authorities that they should confirm local funding rates that come into force from 01 April no later than the end of February.

Clare Roberts, Kids Planet CEO said:

“Many parents already recognise how amazing early years and childcare professionals are, but it’s time that everyone else does too, and that the sector is given the recognition and importance it deserves in the valuable job it does to shape future generations.

“To deliver the government’s expansion of childcare and for it to be successful, we need to see significant growth across the sector, and what better way than to spotlight the incredible people already supporting and shaping our children?

“I welcome the launch of this campaign and would urge anyone interested in pursuing a career in childcare to take that first step and start exploring the opportunities available.”

Minister for Employment, Jo Churchill said:

“Our Back to Work Plan is extending help for over a million people to find, stay and succeed in work. We know just how essential accessible childcare is for working parents, which is why we’ve increased the amount parents on Universal Credit can claim from £1,108 to £1,630 a month for two or more children.

“The Government’s expanded childcare offer also presents new opportunities in the sector, and we know how a career in childcare can be incredibly rewarding. Our Jobcentre teams stand ready to support those interested in early years work.

“With the expansion of free childcare, parents across the country – including those on Universal Credit – can return to work, extend their hours or look for new opportunities confident that their children are well taken care of.”

In October last year, the government allocated local authorities their share of £289m to support the expansion of wraparound childcare, so that every parent of a primary school-aged child could access childcare from 8 am to 6 pm by September 2026.

Today, four areas have confirmed they will be rolling out expanded wraparound provision from April 2024 – five months ahead of the national programme launch in September. Central Bedfordshire, the bi-borough of Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire will begin expanding provision – increasing access to flexible childcare for local working parents as part of a test and learn phase to strengthen the delivery of national rollout.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders union NAHT, said:

“Working with children in the early years can be one of the most rewarding careers in education. The development at that age is so significant and has such an impact on future life chances, that you can make a really big difference.”

“However, the reality is, that we are not paying our early years workforce enough to make it an attractive proposition, and that is a key reason we have a recruitment crisis.”

“There is also a real problem with retention, not just recruitment, as people find they cannot work in their chosen field and earn enough for (for example) families of their own. Introductory bonuses alone won’t fix long-term retention and supply enough staff. There is no real sense of an effective workforce strategy here, just attempts at sticking plaster solutions.”

“It is frustrating that the government seems to have realised quite so late in the day the issue with early years staffing. NAHT has been warning about it since the new free childcare scheme was announced. We are now left with little time to recruit new staff, even with this campaign.”

“The other huge hole in the government’s scheme is the insufficient funding behind it. There still won’t be enough settings offering enough places if they can’t afford to do so. The government needs to put appropriate funding behind this to make it work – both for recruitment, but also direct funding to nurseries for places.”

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