25th September 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic and the early years workforce: March-August findings

New research published by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) and National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) shows that 71% of staff in early years settings were furloughed between March and August.  

The report draws on a survey of 445 early education and care providers in England, Scotland and Wales, active between 4th-26th August.

Early years education providers in the survey include private, voluntary, and independent nurseries and pre-schools.

The pandemic and economic downturn have significantly affected early years education, causing disruption to providers since the lockdown began earlier in the year.

The research finds that 4% of staff in these settings have been made redundant and 7% of staff voluntarily terminated their contract, with 30% of settings reporting ‘finding alternative employment during furlough’ as the reason for termination. Indeed, settings report employing 9% fewer staff in August than in March.

The least qualified and least experienced staff have borne the brunt of the impacts of total or partial closure of settings: they are more likely to be furloughed, made redundant or to have left for other work.

The findings suggest that early years settings value experience more than qualifications, with 48% reporting that they take qualification levels into account when making furloughing decisions, compared to 68% of settings taking experience into account.

You can download the full report here


Key findings


Early years settings have furloughed 71% of their staff since March

Staff most likely to be furloughed were those who held lower levels of qualifications:

  • 79% of staff with no qualifications had been furloughed
  • 79% of staff with level 2 qualifications had been furloughed
  • 74% of staff with level 3 had been furloughed
  • 59% of staff with level 6 qualifications had been furloughed


4% of early years staff have been made redundant

Staff with higher levels of qualifications were least likely to be made redundant:

  • 6% of apprentices were made redundant
  • 5% of staff with no qualifications were made redundant
  • 2% of staff with level 4/5 qualifications were made redundant
  • 1% of staff with level 6 qualifications were made redundant


Early years settings were more likely to furlough staff if they had higher redundancy rates

  • Settings that had made a greater-than-average proportion of staff redundant since March also expected to furlough a greater proportion (26%) of their staff in the following three months than settings that had made a lower than average proportion of staff redundant (16%).