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Friday, 01 June 2018

One in four early years workers 'have condidered quitting due to stress'

Written by Alison Kershaw

One in four early years workers have considered leaving the profession due to stress and mental health issues, according to a poll.

It suggests that many nursery workers and childminders are concerned about the balance between their job and home life, while others say they have suffered issues such as fatigue, lack of motivation or anxiety.

The Pre-School Learning Alliance, which commissioned the survey, argued that the findings are confirmation that workloads and financial pressures are having an impact on the mental health of the early years workforce.

Overall, 25% of the 2,000 early years workers questioned said that they have considered leaving the sector, with a further 41% saying they have considered it, but do not think they will leave.

Some 5% have already left, or confirmed that they will be leaving.

And just one in five (21%) agreed that their work and non-work life are balanced, with 62% disagreeing.

One early years worker said: "Home life can be affected by my low mood, not allowing me to focus on the importance of family life and relationships with my daughter and husband."

Over two in five (44%) said they have felt stressed "very often" in the last month about a work-related issue, while the top three symptoms or health issues early years staff said they had experienced due to their job were fatigue (60%), loss of motivation (58%) and anxiety (57%).

Nearly one in four (23%) said they had taken time off work in the past year due to stress or mental health difficulties caused by, or related to work.

"I feel like I am not 'living', I am existing," one worker said.

"The summer holiday is the only real break and then going back in September is a big shock and so hard."

The survey, published to mark the Alliance's annual conference, did find that 44% of those polled said that they feel positive about working in the early years at the moment, with 40% saying they feel negative about it.

Neil Leitch, the Alliance's chief executive, said: "This survey serves as stark confirmation of the appalling impact that excessive workloads and severe financial pressures are having on the mental health of the early years workforce in England."

He added: "When you get to a situation where a quarter of your workforce is actively considering quitting, it's clear something needs to change.

"Those that work in the early years do what they do because they are committed to helping young children learn and develop, but when working in the sector is affecting their mental - and physical - health, impacting on their ability to do their jobs properly and, in some cases, costing them their relationships, it's hard to blame those that decide: 'Enough is enough'."

Mr Leitch said the Alliance was calling for the Government, and Ofsted to work with the profession to address workload concerns.

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: "We want those working in the early years profession to feel happy and confident about their work, which is why we are improving the assessment process to reduce burdens on staff so they can spend more time supporting children with their development.

"Our guidance is clear that assessment should not require excessive paperwork and where staff are struggling we trust managers to take action to tackle stress and provide support."

The poll questioned 2,039 early years workers, including nursery staff, childminders and nannies, as well as others, between April 23 and May 18.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Pixabay.