Investment in early years workers is vital in reducing the attainment gap of Scotland’s children

This is the message UNISON will take to the Scottish Parliament today (Tuesday) as it presents its new research report into early learning and childcare.
Key findings from the UNISON-commissioned report, conducted by Strathclyde University, include:

**More than three quarters of early years workers (EYWs) agreed that EYWs and teachers in early learning and childcare carried out largely the same tasks, with 79% either strongly agreeing or agreeing that teachers and EYWs made equivalent contributions to child development and 78% reporting both groups did largely the same set of tasks

**While educational research has consistently highlighted the importance of GTCS-registered teachers in nursery education, there is little evidence that the quality of services has diminished in Scotland as the presence of teachers has declined. Instead, CI inspection reports present a clear picture of an ELC workforce comprising teaching and early years professionals delivering high quality services. This persists where teacher management is not present.

**More EYWs felt highly valued or valued by parents (94%) than by regulatory bodies (56%)

**Most EYWs strongly agreed or agreed (97%) that their role was essential to helping children make successful transitions to primary schools and that they made a difference to children’s attainment (89%)

**The majority of EYWs agreed they had sufficient time to reflect on the progress of children (81%); sufficient autonomy to make decisions about how best to support children (73%); that they received sufficient training (62%) and that they were happy about the quality of provision in their establishment (56%).

**Most survey respondents had concerns about the extension of entitlement to 1,140 hours including: additional administrative and working pressures on staff (25%); the pressures on children coping with long days and loss of family attachment time (21%); the potential reduction of EYWs to ‘childcare’ roles due to less time to emphasise learning if staff resources not increased accordingly; and diminished quality of service and standards (18%).

Many ELWs voiced concerns about the scale of pay disparity between EYWs engaged in learning roles in early learning and childcare and their GTCS-registered teaching colleagues. The survey data was clear that the presence or otherwise of a teacher was unrelated to the range and frequency of activities carried out by EYWs, confirming that EYWs deliver high quality pre-school education and care.

Carol Ball, chair of UNISON Scotland’s Education Issues Group, said: “This research endorses what we have always said – that early years workers need to be recognised for the vital service they provide. High quality learning and care is time and resource intensive; it is stressful and carries a high level of responsibility.

“Delivering high quality childcare needs a well qualified workforce. The public sector has fully-qualified staff whereas the private sector is much more reliant on those “working towards” their qualifications. Working with children isn’t just about the time spent with the child. Workers also have to plan, evaluate, and monitor learning and keep detailed records of each child’s progress.

“There needs to be wider recognition of what these jobs actually involve and adequate funding for the staffing levels and hours of work required to do the job. That is why it is essential we invest in our early years workers in order to maintain the high quality pre-school education and care our children deserve.”


Notes to editors

1. You can view the report online here: 

2. UNISON is the biggest trade union in Scotland and the largest representing early years workers.

3. The current ELC workforce shows a profile that is predominantly female, in early and mid-career age groups, is mainly working full-time, on permanent employment contracts and professionally qualified for their roles. UNISON supports the Scottish government’s aims of expanding “free” childcare and closing the attainments gap. Done properly these aims offer a route to tackle inequality and poverty and improve lives. However, UNISON has a number of concerns about approaches to expanding provision, including by expanding private sector provision and/or by the introduction of a voucher system, leading to a two-tier service.

4. The research will be presented in the Scottish Parliament today (Tuesday) at 1.30pm in Committee Room 6.

5. For more information see or visit our website