Last reviewed 5 February 2021

One in five early years practitioners are actively considering leaving the sector due to the pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new survey by the Early Years Alliance.

The survey has found that the pressures of the pandemic have affected the mental health and wellbeing of the early years workforce, alongside a lack of support and recognition from the Government.

The online survey was carried out between December 2020 and January 2021 and received nearly 3,800 responses from those working in nurseries, pre-schools and childminding settings in England. Key findings include the following.

  • One in five (20%) of respondents say that they are considering leaving the sector due to stress or mental health difficulties related to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the sector.

  • 80% of respondents have felt stressed about work because of an issue relating to the Covid-19 pandemic “somewhat often” or “very often” over the previous month.

  • Over a third do not feel able to cope with the additional pressures that the Covid-19 pandemic has placed on their early years role.

  • 72% say that they had experienced fatigue/tiredness related to the impact of the pandemic on their early years role over the past six months, while 70% had experienced anxiety and 59% had experienced insomnia.

  • One in 10 (11%) have taken time off work due to stress linked to the impact of the pandemic on their role.

  • 67 respondents (2%) said that they had thoughts of ending their own life as a result of the pressures that the pandemic has placed on their early years roles.

  • 87% of practitioners said that they do not think that the role that the early years sector has played during the pandemic has been adequately valued by the Government.

The survey also revealed that the three main sources of stress for those working in the early years sector are keeping up to date with the latest Government guidance, ensuring the safety of children and practitioners at their provision and concerns about the financial viability of their provision.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

“We know early years professionals are working hard to deliver crucial care and education to our youngest children which cannot be done remotely, and we are working closely with the sector to ensure timely guidance and support. Current evidence suggests that pre-school children under the age of five are less susceptible to infection and are unlikely to be playing a driving role in transmission.”

“Critical workers in England, including early years staff, are being prioritised for asymptomatic testing through the Community Testing Programme, which is being rolled out to all local authorities. We are working urgently to secure the most effective approach to asymptomatic testing for the whole of the early years sector and discussions continue on how to expand this. We are funding nurseries as usual and where nurseries do see a drop in income from either parent-paid fees or income from DfE, they are able to use the furlough scheme.”