Achieving diversity in early learning and childcare

Big changes to childcare will come into force next year in Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon announced in 2016 that, from August 2020, the funded early learning and childcare (ELC) entitlement will increase to 1,140 hours per year for all 3 and 4 year olds, and eligible 2 year olds. This is a significant rise, almost doubling from 600 hours of funded ELC currently. This policy aims to help every child fulfil their potential and close the poverty-related attainment gap in Scotland.

The upshot of this is that ELC providers need to recruit, a lot of staff, and fast. The sector already faces challenges with attracting a pipeline of talent. It struggles particularly with being perceived as ‘women’s work’, with 97% of the current workforce being female. Many also see it as a young person’s job – the average age of ELC employees is 34, much younger the rest of the social care sector. Perceptions of low wages are also a challenge, and there is a tendency for existing ELC staff to move from the private to public sector for better pay and conditions.

To support employers and planners to recruit the staff they need to meet the expansion in ELC hours next year, it is important to understand reasons why under-represented groups (men, older people, those from ethnic minority groups and disabled people) may choose not to pursue a career in ELC. These are significant and largely untapped labour pools, which, if supported, could play a vital role in delivering the expansion of hours.

In 2019, ekosgen completed a number of research studies into Scotland’s Health and Social Care sector, for key workforce planners including the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland. See our report for Skills Development Scotland on achieving diversity in the ELC workforce here.

For more information contact Pamela Reid on 0845 120 6244 or