I was contacted by constituents affected by the closure of Willow Park Montessori Nursery, which will be shutting its doors at the beginning of September due to staff recruitment issues and funding. Having written to the Minister for Children and Families about these challenges, I wanted to visit the nursery personally.
Willow Park Montessori Nursery has been providing vital care and education to their children, and it is critical that the funding is made available to the early years sector. The nursery has 22 members of staff, however struggled to recruit. I have also visited other early years providers recently who have raised the same issue.
Early years teaching is an incredibly valuable career and one which contributes greatly to society. To be able to recruit the right talent for these roles, we not only need to appreciate the real value of early years teaching and staff, but also reflect this in salaries too. Understandably if other jobs are paid more highly, early years staff are likely to leave. We need to make sure sufficient early years funding is available for nurseries to give their staff the right wages and ensure they can recruit the best from their field. It is important to make early years careers attractive, and salaries need to be higher for jobs of such significant societal value. Early years staff are fundamental to shaping the minds of young people, and evidently there is increasing awareness and recognition of the importance of earlier years but funding for things like salaries needs to follow.
No one goes into working in early years to make money. They go into it due to their passion for young people. However the salaries shouldn’t be so low they make careers in early years prohibitive.
Successful nurseries like this one should be given the funding and the tools required to give children the best opportunities possible. It is a real shame to see the loss of this nursery and early years staff moving out of the field. The nursery has been here for 20 years, and in that time has had a very positive impact on hundreds of children.
I think the Education Committee should be doing a review of the Early Years sector and this is something I will suggest in September.