Childcare expansion will be hampered by lack of staff says education union.

If the Scottish Government wants to meet its promises to expand free childcare it will need to train more staff and increase their wages. That is the result of a comprehensive survey by UNISON Scotland of the numbers currently being trained to deliver the expansion.


Responses to Freedom of Information requests by UNISON Scotland to every council and every college in Scotland show that there are just not enough people in colleges or on in-work training courses to meet the staffing levels needed for the promised extra hours.


Audit Scotland estimated that 12,000 Whole Time Equivalent (WTE) extra staff are needed. This is a largely female workforce. Currently just over half work part-time. There is no reason to believe this will change substantially more than 12.000 people will be needed to reach the WTE figure. Currently there are only 11 702 people in training  – meaning a significant shortfall – even if every single person both completes their training and goes on to work in  childcare.


Currently there are 6983 part-time students and 3173 part-time students in our colleges on the range courses which could potentially lead to a job in childcare either with or without further study. There are also 444 modern apprentices in local authorities and 1102 people undertaking work based training that could qualify them for work in the early years. (at least 96 of those are qualified staff undertaking advanced qualifications for leadership roles).


These figures indicate the existence of a shortfall, but this is compounded when completion rates for courses and destination upon completion are factored in.  Modern Apprenticeships (MA) in childcare have a 73% completion rate. For those who complete any of the social care MAs only 81% were still working in the sector 6 months after completion.


On HNC courses related to early years only 38% went into work. These are lower than the averages for similar qualifications. (not all the college courses in our totals were at HNC level  so many would need further training for practitioner roles) Staff retention in the sector is also lower than average as a whole. The higher pay and better terms and conditions in the public sector mean that retention is higher (90%) than average (88%) there while retention in the private sector in only 78%. So these people also need to be replaced.


There is a very high risk that there will not be enough qualified staff to deliver the planned expansion.


Kay Sillars, UNISON Scotland Education Issues Group, said:


“The Scottish government urgently needs to increase the number of college places, but this isn’t enough. The key to recruiting and retaining staff in the numbers needed is to improve pay and terms and conditions across the sector. The proposed benchmark of the Living Wage is far too low. You can earn the real living wage in many supermarkets without a qualification. If the Scottish Government wants to encourage people to undertake training and the responsibilities of delivering a high quality early years service they need to value what this overwhelmingly workforce does”



There government also needs to invest in more full and part-time college places in order to ensure that there are enough qualified staff in place to deliver a high quality service.


Media Contacts

Danny Phillips M:07944 664110   T:0141 342 2877


Kay Sillars UNISON Education Issues Group T: 0141 3242 2819 M:09731556303


Figures derived from FOI responses to all local authorities and all colleges across Scotland.

A practitioner needs to be qualified to SCQF level 7 i.e HNC. Our totals include courses which would qualify people to get on the HNC course as well as in work training equivalents. So some of those counted in our totals will need longer training to reach practitioner level.

Courses/training included in totals include

SVQ3 Social Services (Children & Young People)

NC and HNC in Early Education and childcare

SVQ level 3 Social services and healthcare

Entry to early years and childcare

There are just over three and a half thousand people working towards qualifications out with local authorities. They count among the current workforce figures.