“Concerning” Changes to Childcare Ratios
29th January 2013
There has been no consultation with the sector and everyone is up in arms; we have had consultations coming out of our ears about funding, codes of practice, the Nutbrown review on qualifications, then they make a massive change just like this without any consultation.
The owner of a UK childcare group has voiced concerns over the Government’s proposals to increase the number of children staff can care for at one time.
Sarah Steel, Managing Director of The Old Station Nursery Group which has settings in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, says the changes being proposed are “concerning”.
Education and Childcare Minister Liz Truss has outlined plans to allow nurseries and childminders in England to be allowed to look after more children per adult. The ratio of children to child carers would rise from four two-year-olds for every one member of staff to six, while the ratio for children aged up to two will go up from three to four for every one member of staff. The increased ratios can only be introduced if carers’ qualifications meet new standards of C grades of above in GCSE English and maths.
“The whole plan has not been properly thought out,” said Sarah. “Reducing ratios will not make childcare more affordable, as the Government is also saying that staff must be better trained and better paid. That means any saving on ratios will be passed on to staff salaries, or used to offset the current losses nursery care providers make as a result of too low a rate for the Government-funded spaces for three and four year olds.
“This is not to mention the sheer practicalities of having one member of staff looking after six children aged two – everyone in the sector has been inviting Liz Truss to come and spend a day in their two-year-old rooms to see for herself how what she is suggesting will work.”
The proposals have been suggested in an attempt to cut childcare costs, increase the number of childcare spaces available and boost standards. However, Sarah feels that those working in the childcare sector should have been given a chance to put their views across about changes which affect their working practice.
“There has been no consultation with the sector and everyone is up in arms; we have had consultations coming out of our ears about funding, codes of practice, the Nutbrown review on qualifications, then they make a massive change just like this without any consultation,” she added.
“My concern is that we will lend up with a two-tier system: parents who can afford to be choosy will stick with nurseries who use the current ratios, and those who cannot afford to choose, in the most disadvantaged areas, will end up with a 'pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap' offer.”
The proposals have been announced today (Tuesday 29th January).
Notes to editors:
- Sarah Steel set up her first nursery in Faringdon, Oxfordshire, in 2002 when she left the army and was unable to find suitable childcare for her two children.
- The consultation on staff to child ratios is online at www.education.gov.uk